Monthly Archives: August 2018

Restaurants Kinds and Characteristics

Broadly speaking, restaurants can be segmented into a number of categories:
1-  Chain or independent (indy) and franchise restaurants. McDonald’s, Union Square Cafe, or KFC
2-  Quick service (QSR), sandwich. Burger, chicken, and so on; convenience store, noodle, pizza
3-  Fast casual. Panera Bread, Atlanta Bread Company, Au Bon Pain, and so on
4-  Family. Bob Evans, Perkins, Friendly’s, Steak ‘n Shake, Waffle House
5-  Casual. Applebee’s, Hard Rock Caf´e, Chili’s, TGI Friday’s
6-  Fine dining. Charlie Trotter’s, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Flemming’s, The Palm, Four Seasons
7-  Other. Steakhouses, seafood, ethnic, dinner houses, celebrity, and so on. Of course, some restaurants fall into more than one category. For example, an Italian restaurant could be casual and ethnic. Leading restaurant concepts in terms of sales have been tracked for years by the magazine Restaurants and
Institutions.

CHAIN OR INDEPENDENT
The impression that a few huge quick-service chains completely dominate the restaurant business is misleading. Chain restaurants have some advantages and some disadvantages over independent restaurants. The advantages include:

1-  Recognition in the marketplace
2-  Greater advertising clout
3-  Sophisticated systems development
4-  Discounted purchasing

When franchising, various kinds of assistance are available. Independent restaurants are relatively easy to open. All you need is a few thousand dollars, a knowledge of restaurant operations, and a strong desire to
succeed. The advantage for independent restaurateurs is that they can ”do their own thing” in terms of concept development, menus, decor, and so on. Unless our habits and taste change drastically, there is plenty of room for independent restaurants in certain locations. Restaurants come and go. Some independent restaurants will grow into small chains, and larger companies will buy out small chains.

Once small chains display growth and popularity, they are likely to be bought out by a larger company or will be able to acquire financing for expansion. A temptation for the beginning restaurateur is to observe large restaurants in big cities and to believe that their success can be duplicated in secondary cities. Reading the restaurant reviews in New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., or San Francisco may give the impression that unusual restaurants can be replicated in Des Moines, Kansas City, or Main Town, USA. Because of demographics, these high-style or ethnic restaurants will not click in small cities and towns.

5-  Will go for training from the bottom up and cover all areas of the restaurant’s operation Franchising involves the least financial risk in that the restaurant format, including building design, menu, and marketing plans, already have been tested in the marketplace. Franchise restaurants are less likely to go belly up than independent restaurants. The reason is that the concept is proven and the operating procedures are established with all (or most) of the kinks worked out. Training is provided, and marketing and management support are available. The increased likelihood of success does not come cheap, however.

There is a franchising fee, a royalty fee, advertising royalty, and requirements of substantial personal net worth. For those lacking substantial restaurant experience, franchising may be a way to get into the restaurant business-providing they are prepared to start at the bottom and take a crash training course. Restaurant franchisees are entrepreneurs who prefer to own, operate, develop, and extend an existing business concept through a form of contractual business arrangement called franchising.1 Several franchises have ended up with multiple stores and made the big time. Naturally, most aspiring restaurateurs want to do their own thing-they have a concept in mind and can’t wait to go for it.

Here are samples of the costs involved in franchising:

1-  A Miami Subs traditional restaurant has a $30,000 fee, a royalty of 4.5 percent, and requires at least five years’ experience as a multi-unit operator, a personal/business equity of $1 million, and a personal/business
net worth of $5 million.

2-  Chili’s requires a monthly fee based on the restaurant’s sales performance (currently a service fee of 4 percent of monthly sales) plus the greater of (a) monthly base rent or (b) percentage rent that is at least 8.5 percent of monthly sales.

3-  McDonald’s requires $200,000 of nonborrowed personal resources and an initial fee of $45,000, plus a monthly service fee based on the restaurant’s sales performance (about 4 percent) and rent, which is a
monthly base rent or a percentage of monthly sales. Equipment and preopening costs range from $461,000 to $788,500.

4-  Pizza Factory Express Units (200 to 999 square feet) require a $5,000 franchise fee, a royalty of 5 percent, and an advertising fee of 2 percent. Equipment costs range from $25,000 to $90,000, with miscellaneous costs of $3,200 to $9,000 and opening inventory of $6,000.

5-  Earl of Sandwich has options for one unit with a net worth requirement of $750,000 and liquidity of $300,000; for 5 units, a net worth of $1 million and liquidity of $500,000 is required; for 10 units, net worth
of $2 million and liquidity of $800,000. The franchise fee is $25,000 per location, and the royalty is 6 percent.

What do you get for all this money? Franchisors will provide:

1-  Help with site selection and a review of any proposed sites
2-  Assistance with the design and building preparation
3-  Help with preparation for opening
4-  Training of managers and staff
5-  Planning and implementation of pre-opening marketing strategies
6-  Unit visits and ongoing operating advice

There are hundreds of restaurant franchise concepts, and they are not without risks. The restaurant owned or leased by a franchisee may fail even though it is part of a well-known chain that is highly successful. Franchisers also fail. A case in point is the highly touted Boston Market, which was based in Golden, Colorado. In 1993, when the company’s stock was first offered to the public at $20 per share, it was eagerly bought, increasing the price to a high of $50 a share. In 1999, after the company declared bankruptcy, the share price sank to 75 cents. The contents of many of its stores were auctioned off at
a fraction of their cost.7 Fortunes were made and lost. One group that did not lose was the investment bankers who put together and sold the stock offering and received a sizable fee for services.

The offering group also did well; they were able to sell their shares while the stocks were high. Quick-service food chains as well-known as Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. have also gone through periods of red ink. Both companies, now under one owner called CKE, experienced periods as long as four years when real earnings, as a company, were negative. (Individual stores, company owned or franchised, however, may have done well during the down periods.) There is no assurance that a franchised chain will prosper.

At one time in the mid-1970s, A&W Restaurants, Inc., of Farmington Hills, Michigan, had 2,400 units. In 1995, the chain numbered a few more than 600. After a buyout that year, the chain expanded by 400 stores. Some of the expansions took place in nontraditional locations, such as kiosks, truck stops, colleges, and convenience stores, where the full-service restaurant experience is not important. A restaurant concept may do well in one region but not in another. The style of operation may be highly compatible with the personality of one operator and not another.

Most franchised operations call for a lot of hard work and long hours, which many people perceive as drudgery. If the franchisee lacks sufficient capital and leases a building or land, there is the risk of paying more for the lease than the business can support. Relations between franchisers and the franchisees are often strained, even in the largest companies. The goals of each usually differ; franchisers want maximum fees, while franchisees want maximum support in marketing and franchised service such as employee training. At times, franchise chains get involved in litigation with their franchisees.

As franchise companies have set up hundreds of franchises across America, some regions are saturated: More franchised units were built than the area can support. Current franchise holders complain that adding more franchises serves only to reduce sales of existing stores. Pizza Hut, for example, stopped selling
franchises except to well-heeled buyers who can take on a number of units. Overseas markets constitute a large source of the income of several quick-service chains. As might be expected, McDonald’s has been the leader in overseas expansions, with units in 119 countries.

With its roughly 30,000 restaurants serving some 50 million customers daily, about half of the company’s profits come from outside the United States. A number of other quick-service chains also have large numbers of franchised units abroad.While the beginning restaurateur quite rightly concentrates on being successful here and now, many bright, ambitious, and energetic restaurateurs think of future possibilities abroad. Once a concept is established, the entrepreneur may sell out to a franchiser or, with a lot of guidance, take the format overseas via the franchise. (It is folly to build or buy in a foreign country without a partner who is financially secure and well versed in the local laws and culture.).

The McDonald’s success story in the United States and abroad illustrates the importance of adaptability to local conditions. The company opens units in unlikely locations and closes those that do not do well. Abroad, menus are tailored to fit local customs. In the Indonesia crisis, for example, french fries that had to be imported were taken off the menu, and rice was substituted. Reading the life stories of big franchise winners may suggest that once a franchise is well established, the way is clear sailing. Thomas Monaghan, founder of Domino Pizza, tells a different story. At one time, the chain had accumulated a debt of $500 million. Monaghan, a devout Catholic, said that he changed his life by renouncing his greatest sin, pride, and rededicating his life to ”God, family, and pizza.”

A meeting with Pope John Paul II had changed his life and his feeling about good and evil as ”personal and abiding.” Fortunately, in Mr. Monaghan’s case, the rededication worked well. There are 7,096 Domino Pizza outlets worldwide, with sales of about $3.78 billion a year. Monaghan sold most of his interest in the company for a reported $1 billion and announced that he would use his fortune to further Catholic church causes. In the recent past, most food-service millionaires have been franchisers, yet a large number of would-be restaurateurs, especially those enrolled in university degree courses in hotel and restaurant management, are not very excited about being a quick-service franchisee.

They prefer owning or managing a full-service restaurant. Prospective franchisees should review their food experience and their access to money and decide which franchise would be appropriate for them. If they have little or no food experience, they can consider starting their restaurant career with a less expensive franchise, one that provides start-up training. For those with some experience who want a proven concept, the Friendly’s chain, which began franchising in 1999, may be a good choice. The chain has more than 700 units. The restaurants are considered family dining and feature ice cream specialties, sandwiches, soups, and quickservice meals.

Let’s emphasize this point again: Work in a restaurant you enjoy and perhaps would like to emulate in your own restaurant. If you have enough experience and money, you can strike out on your own. Better yet, work in a successful restaurant where a partnership or proprietorship might be possible or where the owner is thinking about retiring and, for tax or other reasons, may be willing to take payments over time.
Franchisees are, in effect, entrepreneurs, many of whom create chains within chains.

McDonald’s had the highest system-wide sales of a quick-service chain, followed by Burger King. Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC came next. Subway, as one among hundreds of franchisers, gained total sales of $3.9 billion. There is no doubt that 10 years from now, a listing of the companies with the highest sales will be different. Some of the current leaders will experience sales declines, and some will merge with or be bought out by other companies-some of which may be financial giants not previously engaged in the restaurant business.

Effective Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Quick Win 1: Bring ‘Em Back Restaurant Coupons

Give all first time restaurant customers a coupon with a simple offer redeemable on their next visit (perhaps a free aperitif, dessert or after dinner drink). The offer should have no conditions and should be redeemable within the next 6 months. Tell the customer to bring in the restaurant coupon and make sure to ask for information that you can add to your database. Measure the results, modify the offer if needed, and if it brings you more business, make this part of your marketing system.

Quick Win 2: Cut Restaurant Costs

Even though you are busy, it literally pays to take the time to review your restaurant costs every 6 months. An easy way to increase your bottom line is to cut costs. When did you last renegotiate your credit card charges? Are you getting the best deal from your wine merchant? Review your menu and check your profit margins – which are the dishes that give you the best margins? Create a special menu with these dishes to sell more. Eliminate your 3 worst-selling dishes and those with the worst margins. You will be surprised at how this regular housekeeping can affect your bottom line.

Quick Win 3: Increasing Restaurant Prices

“If your prices are 10% too low you have to do 3x the work to make the same profit. If your prices are 10% too high you can lose 43% of your business and still maintain the same profit.” – Larry Steinmatz

One of the quickest ways to increase your restaurant profits is to raise prices. Just a few dollars on several well-selling items will give you exponential growth immediately. That may sound like a frightening idea, but take a closer look at the psychology of pricing and buying behavior and you will understand why 80% of restaurant businesses undercharge for their services and products.

Except in some particular cases, most people do not make purchasing decisions on price alone. Don’t believe me? Just take a look around at the sunglasses people have on around you. I bet you see a lot of Ray Bans and Dolce Gabbana sunglasses. This just shows that there are other criteria for purchasing behavior than price.

So whatever you do, don’t ever reduce prices, and certainly don’t start a price war. You don’t want that to be your competitive advantage because anyone and everyone can undercut you. On the contrary, seriously consider raising your prices. Don’t let fear of competition or lack of confidence stop you. If you have true differentiation, you have targeted your audience correctly and they see a perceived value in your product that they are willing to pay for, then you can charge premium prices. Actually, they will expect a premium service and will feel privileged, and you may find yourself selling even more.

In most cases you will find that dropping prices to sell more actually loses you money, while raising prices, even if you sell less, raises your margin.

Even if it seems like a difficult thing to do, test different higher price points for various offerings. Tomorrow raise your prices by 10%. You can observe not only how the price rise affects your business (you will either lose business, gain business or stay the same), but you can then look at your profit margins and adjust accordingly.

Many of the restaurant owners that we work with have experienced the following pleasing phenomena: they raised prices and found that not only did they have more customers (the restaurant is perceived as higher quality), but they had a more reliable and less difficult clientele that also spent more money and had higher overall tickets.

Quick Win 4: Celebrate Birthdays at your Restaurant

Birthdays, by their very personal nature, are an ideal time to send out a very personalized offer. Of all occasions, this is the most effective as far as restaurant marketing campaigns go. Make sure to gather birthday and contact information in your exit surveys and start a birthday campaign. Send an email or snail mail with a restaurant coupon for a complimentary dessert, drink or meal at the end of the month preceding the individual’s birthday month. Allow them to use the restaurant coupon for the entire month of their birthday.

You can also propose additional birthday services. Think of ways that would make your customers life easier – supplying the cake at a special price, giving a special group rate, or including party favors.

A special surprise such as a complimentary piece of cake with a candle and the customer’s name and birthday wishes written on it is sure to appeal to the child within any customer. You’d be amazed at the invaluable positive word of mouth a simple gesture like that can create.

You can even use a birthday campaign as a way to recruit new customers by buying lists with birthdays and postal codes and sending out your special birthday offer as a way to introduce your restaurant.

Birthdays are very personal, and as we will learn, business is personal. Don’t pass up this fantastic opportunity to reach out to your customers and make them happy.

Quick Win 5: Referral Restaurant Gift Certificates

Try this activity now for an immediate increase in your restaurant customer numbers. At the end of a meal, give happy customers 3 different gift certificates with a certain amount off for their next meal at the restaurant (or any other offer that you feel is compelling). Then give them 2 more of the dining certificates and ask them to share the certificates with their friends. The offer should be compelling and have no conditions other than a time limit. Give the recipient enough time to redeem the certificate. Perhaps make the certificate good for 6 months, or for specific down times that you are trying to fill.

The Importance of Restaurant Location

Once you’ve decided to start a restaurant business you will have to choose a location where your new venture can thrive. Location is of great importance to the viability of a restaurant business. While you know you need a good restaurant location with plenty of space, there are a lot of other things to consider. The following offers a list of selection criteria that can be used to assess how good a specific location is.

Local Zoning Regulations

One of the first things to check out when you are selecting a location for a restaurant is exactly what uses the building is permitted to be used for under the local zoning scheme.

A Trade Off Between Restaurant Location and Rent

It is obvious that a restaurant should try to be in a prime location that has good exposure and good nearby traffic flows. However these types of locations come at a price and that is the high rent that you will have to pay. A good alternative can be to have a less prominent location such as down a side lane or on the second or third floor of a building. You will then be able to save a fortune on rent and negotiate more favorable leasing terms with the building owner. However you do need to compensate for a poor location by having a top notch marketing plan as well as food and service that encourages customers to return.

Operation Size

You should have a pretty good idea of the size of the restaurant operation that you want to establish. One of the basic requirements with a location will be that it is large enough for you to set up a restaurant of your desired size and concept. Health and safety laws will dictate how many people can occupy the building so you should find out about these requirements before you start looking at locations. You may end up deciding that the property that you thought was perfect is too small for the clientele you need to attract.

Accessibility

You will notice that restaurants are usually located in areas with good accessibility and are close to business districts and residential areas. Being accessible will ensure that you can attract the volumes of people that you need to sustain your business. Stand outside the building that you are considering using to open your restaurant. Count vehicle and foot traffic flows and compare them with other locations that you are considering.

The exception to the rule here is if you have an ‘out of the way’ location such as at a beach or a vineyard for example. Sometimes the unusual location of a restaurant can become a selling point. Keep in mind that under the right circumstances people value features such as a beach view or mountain scenery over convenience and accessibility.

Lease or Buy

You need to decide if leasing or buying premises for your restaurant would be the best move. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Most restaurant entrepreneurs start out leasing and preserve their capital for startup costs and business growth rather than investing in property at the same time.

Have some preliminary discussions with building owners and try to get an idea of how flexible they are going to be on the terms of a lease. Reaching an agreement over a lease can be a lengthy process so it helps if you can deal with building owners that you can communicate well with. The should be open to some negotiation and discussion.

Area Demographics and Market Research

Think about what kind of neighborhood your proposed restaurant space is located within. Then think about the kind of restaurant that would be suitable for the surrounding residents. Take some time to study the demographics of the area to try to find out the age, ethnic background and socio-economic status of the local population.

The Local Economy and Location Selection

People will only be eating out in restaurants if they have jobs and discretionary income to spend. Give some thought to local economic conditions before setting up your restaurant. How is business sentiment in the local area?

The local economy will also affect your choice of concept. Fast food typically remains popular in a poor economy but higher priced menu offerings will probably not work well in a town where there have been factory closures.

Competition and Other Businesses

Before deciding on a restaurant location one of the criteria that you must consider is the other businesses that are in the area. A lot of competition is not necessarily a bad thing as it means that the market is healthy and can support a lot of restaurants. However you obviously want to minimize the competition that you will have nearby your restaurant as much as you can. At least make sure that you choose a restaurant concept that is unique in the area so that you have few direct competitors.

Secondly, you should find out if there are other businesses nearby that might be complementary to a restaurant. For example, if there is a movie theater across the road from your restaurant then you may see good business from movie goers as they come in to dine before watching a film.

Parking

You should have a fairly good idea of how customers would arrive at a restaurant at your proposed location. A great restaurant will ideally have its own parking lot. Depending on your concept, nearby public parking may also be acceptable. However, keep in mind that many people will simply drive on to another restaurant if they have nowhere to park there car. Note that in some cities, proximity to public transport can be more important than parking.

Exterior and Surroundings

Take a good look at the sidewalks and other buildings that are around the location that you have in mind. They can sometimes affect a prospective diners impression of your business. You will have little control over your neighbors so you want to choose a restaurant location with surroundings that are neat, tidy and well maintained.

Renovation Costs

Different locations will have different costs associated with converting an available space into a restaurant. One big factor affecting the scale of renovations will be the buildings previous use. If the previous owner also ran a restaurant on a site then remodeling requirements should be minimal.

You should keep remodeling costs to a minimum if you are leasing a space for your restaurant. You could consider spending more if you are able to negotiate with the building owner and have them contribute to these costs. The length of your lease will also be a factor in determining how much to spend.

Take along a building inspector or some contractors who have had experience remodeling buildings for restaurant owners and ask them for their ideas on renovation costs.

When you decide to start a restaurant keep in mind that location is one of the most important factors that will determine your success. Consider the above criteria as you work through the selection process. The building that you choose should not only be in a prominent location but it should also be practical and functional to allow your restaurant to run smoothly.

Restaurant Imitation Recipes

Restaurant imitation recipes is simply a phrase that describes recipes that imitate those of a certain restaurant or restaurants. The word, imitation, defines anything that may resemble or copy that of an original or genuine article. To copy or imitate an original source is a testament to the credibility of that source for the quality it provides. If it was not of high quality, no one would even make the effort to imitate or copy it. It has also been said that the imitation of anything is a form of flattery, but not every imitation is exactly flattering.

Food is sort of boring in that the basic forms are the same. There may be certain varieties to some degree and some times highly advertised as an edge to promote it, however, chicken is chicken, beef is beef, broccoli is broccoli and so on right? How these get prepared and put together to be served though, is what truly makes the difference.

Recipes for these foods have been handed down through the generations using the basic forms of preparation from the skillet, ovens and grills, to boiling pots and now microwaves. Keen thought and purpose to introduce new combinations of spices, sauces and marinades to these basic methods help to enhance the flavors of these basic foods. This is, has and will continue to be goal of many people and certainly with restaurants to help set their style and food apart from others.

This may be a silly reflection, but highlights the points mentioned above. When I was growing up, I could not stand the taste of cauliflower. I saw no purpose for this food. To me, it was a useless vegetable that took up space on our planet. I am not joking! Later, when I actually worked in a supper club, one of the appetizers we served was deep fried cauliflower with a side of cheese sauce. Ever since then, cauliflower has become one of my favorite foods and in all of the traditional ways, from raw to steamed and I still love the deep fried method as well. If it were not for that deep fried recipe, I may never have had the pleasure of enjoying this healthy and now tasty food.

I think it is important to recognize Restaurants themselves, whether they be a fast food, independent, mom and pop, big chain type or even 5 star, all bring in millions of people every day across our nation. Their business is simply to serve and sell us as many items from their food and drink menus in an atmosphere where we can relax and enjoy. It is true though that many of these restaurants have worked hard to develop their own signature recipes, techniques and themes to set themselves apart. They spend millions on advertising their uniqueness to keep bringing customers back for more. The restaurant business is a huge business and very competitive.

How big is the restaurant industry in the U.S.?

According to the National Restaurant Association, it is estimated the industry to reach $604 billion dollars in sales for 2011. That is $1.7 billion on a typical day. There are 960,000 locations nationwide that employee approximately 12.8 million people and get this, of the dollars spent on food in the U.S., 49% is shared with the restaurant industry. I don’t know about you, but that is some serious cabbage. It is also goes to show why restaurants are certainly a credible authority and why someone may go out of their way to imitate or copy a recipe or two.

If you were to choose any one of your favorite restaurants or even one that may just be starting up, this same basic description will apply. This restaurant will make a discovery of a new method or combination of sauces or seasonings for a new food recipe. I should say, they work at making the discovery, putting in time and effort initially, so this new recipe could be tried and tested over and over until finally reaching the menu. The restaurant may advertise the new release to let the public know it has a great new recipe to come in and try out. Ideally it becomes a success and a featured item on their menu. If the public loves it, the restaurant has another source of new revenue. In the case of a new startup, it could also be a featured recipe that helps them to get noticed to help get them off the ground and running overall.

Believe it or not, restaurants themselves can be considered one of the biggest copy cat artists out there but in a way that doesn’t try to make an exact copy, They will proceed in a way that may use the same name of the dish, but pride themselves to make theirs stand out differently by adding their own signature touch and right down to what else may be included in addition to the entree to help set it apart from others.

With the exception of serve your self style of service, restaurants basically copy each other on the overall operating format of how the customers are served and taken care of right down to including “similar” items being listed on the menus. They all keep a watchful eye on each other to see what is working well and may change a menu, method of service, cost or whatever the case may be to accommodate current customers and coax new paying customers to spend money in their establishments. It is a constant see saw battle.

Regardless of these restaurants copying and competing with each other for our dollars, they clearly are the bar to which we compare the taste of our favorite foods to. They continue push each other in developing recipes, techniques and signature menus that keep us coming back for more. We all have our favorite menu items and while one person may prefer one restaurant over another for a particular entree or appetizer, the fact is, they all are a genuine article and clearly worth the effort to imitate.

Just a note, in regard to businesses (especially non-restaurant) some have to take steps and go further and get patents or licenses on their discoveries to help protect them from being copied. With restaurants, it is a little tougher as getting patents and licensing on food is much more difficult and not quite the same as building up a new technological advance like an I-pad. Restaurants may need to have some legal assistance and agreements arranged with their employees to not give up any secrets to their signature ways in effort to keep their secrets in-house should an employee decide to leave. There have been some court cases where a cook or chef leaves and starts a new restaurant using the same signature methods but calling it something else and well… more money spent to get it straightened out.

Over time, there have been many others that have tried to imitate a restaurant recipe from grocery store food suppliers, right down to good ole Mom. Ask them all and most would agree that the task may not be so easy to recreate. There are those that come up with recipes that are similar in general yet lack that signature flavor of a specific restaurant. Have you ever tried to make something just like your favorite restaurant and while it turned out ok, it just didn’t quite taste the same as what TGIF or Olive Garden serves? I know I have and it seemed like all the effort was fine, but the result, on a scale of 1 to 10, was maybe a 6 at best. To get a 9 or 10 just seems impossible and you are better off giving up and just go to the restaurant instead.

Well, guess what? As there is with anything worth while, there are those few people who do try to imitate these restaurant recipes to the Nth degree. You could almost refer to them as recipe hackers. They can be moms, dads or professionals and no matter who, these people have a goal and will put in the time and effort to break a recipe down. They want to figure out the details of that signature flavor and replicate it in a fashion that truly does imitate the original flavor. Focus, dedication and the will to succeed is a must for many of these individuals. There are also those who are simply great cooks and through their experience and intuitive nature are able to hone in on the original restaurant recipe. I have some experience cooking and can follow a recipe, but, I certainly am not a restaurant recipe hacker.

If it is a difficult task to try to copy or imitate a successful genuine article then why do others try to imitate it?

Great question.

It often times can be related to money and someone else wanting to get in on the action. There also those that will do it to see if they can save some money. Some may even look to make improvements on the original. It can be for other reasons like notoriety or personal challenge for pride and maybe even some kicks. Think about this, comedians can get more laughs if they are good at imitating some one else right? If they are really good at it, this helps bring more people to their show.

Just as is done with so many other things that are made, there is always a group of these interested individuals that like to do things themselves. These people will go out of their way to copy favorite recipes from all of these restaurants. I would venture to say that if one were to interview many of these DIY (Do It Yourself) people, it would be primarily in an effort to be able to save money as a main reason initially. Remember earlier I mentioned that 49% of the dollar spent on food is shared in the restaurant industry? That is a lot of dough that one can save!

Money or the spending of it, is actually how and why I began to take note of these restaurant imitation recipes. I have been reviewing our family spending habits and when looking at groceries vs. dining, I was actually pretty shocked. Dining out has become a habit for us and while it is one that we do enjoy, it is also one that has been adding up significantly. This is what started that flickering of the old light bulb for myself and my family.

I consider myself to be in that DIY group of people on a number of things and while I have come to enjoy doing many things myself (Not all of the time mind you.), I realize the impact of learning how to do something yourself can and has saved me a good amount of money. From car repairs to home carpentry, it also has opened my eyes to appreciate what others are doing as a business for their livelihoods. It has helped make a difference in wiser spending as well as saving money even if I do not do something myself.

Knowing that my family has developed this habit of eating out more than eating at home, getting them to eat typical home cooked meals more often is not going to be to easy. The flickering light bulb moment or idea mentioned earlier was to see about getting some recipes from the restaurants that I could cook at home with the idea of saving some money initially. I also began to see how we have lost touch with the skill of cooking. We sure have all become masters of the microwave, but the rest of the kitchen starts to get a little sketchy.

So the journey began in search of restaurant recipes. Most restaurants do not give out their recipes and why would they? They might lose a return customer if they did. I do see some restaurants that are selling some of their menu items in the grocery stores more than before, but sort of limiting it to just a few items. I have also read about a person that would ask the cooks for their recipes and how some might spill the beans once in awhile, but again, fairly limited results.

I remember one time my wife and I were at a Denny’s restaurant late one night and how much we enjoyed their marinara sauce used with the mozzarella sticks we had ordered. We asked the waitress about it and she did check with the cooks on that, but they really didn’t know much about it and we thank her for trying. When we got the check, we also got an unexpected surprise. She brought out a large vacuum sealed plastic bag of the marinara sauce from what appeared to be directly from their food supplier. We didn’t get the recipe but we sure got a large quantity of sauce to bring home. So it does pay to ask and while you may or may not get a recipe directly you never know what might happen I guess.

There are of course a good number of books, many articles online and numerous websites all claiming either access to or having themselves, restaurant secrets and copycats recipes for many favorite American restaurants. Whew, it sort of makes my head spin a bit, but in order to help me achieve this quest of mine it has been worth the effort. Many sites are recommending the same key original sources (recipe hackers) of the imitation or copycats recipes and in my experience this is usually a good hint as a reasonable place to start.

Why?

There is always someone who highlights their experience and discovery of things that have had impact on their life with how and why they did it. Many times they get even further into it and begin marketing their efforts to generate some additional income. It may be the result of a friend or family member that cheers them on, but if it is done well and the quality is there, it often times catches enough attention to make it worth the while. Plus, there are always others that have like interests. It really becomes a win-win for everyone and can spur on even more ideas and experiences from others who are interested.

As with anything, one has to dip their toes in and get a feel for it of course. I have been trying out some of these imitation restaurant recipes sources and have been truly impressed. I have been learning a lot more than first thought and it has been a lot of fun to top it off. The people who have created these copycat recipes have really done a fantastic job. My quest is to save some money of course, but making some of these recipes is also a great way to learn how to cook. Think about it for a second, one can actually learn how to cook an appetizer, entre or dessert that they know is good at their favorite restaurant and get great results for their effort right out of the gate. I don’t know about you, but I get a great sense of accomplishment when taking time to learn something and it works out.

Should you get the urge to try these imitation or secret recipes of the restaurants, I think you will be more than pleasantly surprised. I know I have been. If you want to save some money, learn how to cook or simply to get a hold of one of your favorite restaurant recipes, you won’t regret it.

I have not tried any of the “700 FREE restaurant recipes” type of sources online. They may be alright too, however, it has been my experience that if something is really worth while, there should be some cost associated for the effort of making it available. They certainly don’t have to be expensive either. Most cost about the same as a nice dinner for two and can include extra information from making wine to growing your own herbs if you are in to that. It is really pretty incredible what some have included along with the recipe books they are promoting.

Restaurants in Edinburgh Will Keep You on the Boil

Restaurants in Edinburgh are amongst the finest in the UK. I guess there are two aspects which really set the Edinburgh restaurant scene apart from the competition…

…the intense variety of international cuisine and the selection of restaurants specialising in Scottish cuisine.

Scottish cuisine you say? What on earth is that? Hideous helpings of raw meat and champagne flutes of pig’s blood?

Think again, my dear friend. Our chefs are highly adept at complementing locally sourced meat produce like Aberdeen Angus or seafood such as salmon with a sortiment of the nation’s favourite vegetables.

Scottish cheese is also a regular feature on Scottish menus alongside fruit sorbets, purees and sauces. An evening at a Scottish restaurant will have diners looking beyond the much-discussed stereotypes.

I will be telling you about the internationally admired Scottish restaurants in Edinburgh of which the locals are proud, such as the internationally-renowned James Thomson trio The Witchery by the Castle, Rhubarb in Prestonfield and The Tower above the Museum of Scotland.

I will also tell you about the much-loved Edinburgh ‘chains’ Stac Polly and Howies.

We do, of course, have an impressive range of international restaurants in Edinburgh, most of which offer extremely high culinary and service standards.

From Rome to Paris to Dehli and beyond…

The extremely popular but often one-dimensional Italian cuisine is given a refreshing make-over at Valvona and Crolla, an Italian delicatessen, wine specialist, cafe and restaurant.

The business was started in 1934 by Alfona Crolla, the present owner’s grandfather as a way to provide Italian immigrants with authentic Italian products sourced from the finest local producers in Italy.

Nowadays the delicatessen has been extended to incorporate a highly successful restaurant. The family also have a bakery and a cafe in the city centre. Specialising in the best wine and cheese Italy has to offer with an admirable family-oriented approach to their work, Valvona and Crolla is more a way-of-life than a business.

If you’re into French cuisine, you shouldn’t really miss the ultra-blue Maison Bleue restaurant, if that’s even possible!

This delightful French, North African and Scottish restaurant comes complete with stone arches and a spiral staircase to feast your eyes upon and is without doubt one of the most colourful restaurants in Edinburgh!

The unique selling point of this restaurant is its cosmopolitan staff. Maison Bleue has chefs and members of staff from France, North Africa and Scotland and this is reflected in the menu.

If you like your food particularly French in style, delve into the snails and fois gras. If you want to try out some Scottish cuisine, I would recommend the haggis balls in beer batter….that is, without doubt, my first choice!

Like things hot and spicy? Me too! Let’s check out a Mexican and an Indian restaurant.

Mariachi is generally considered the best Mexican in Edinburgh. In terms of what a Mexican restaurant really should be, relaxed, entertaining and atmospheric, Mariachi really hits the nail on the head.

Mariachi was voted the best Mexican restaurant in Edinburgh in 2009 by the Edinburgh List Food and Drink Guide. If you’re looking for a restaurant that puts a tickle in your tummy and a smile on your face, you can’t go far wrong at Mariachi.

Mother India’s Cafe coined the term ‘twist on tapas’ back in 2008. You might be thinking…tapas?! India?! The restaurant owners have taken the Spanish concept of tapas and applied it to Indian food to finger-licking effect. It is one of the most successful restaurants in Edinburgh.

It’s a frustratingly simple concept. You usually sit in front of a menu pondering what to take and you know you have to choose something. At Mother India’s Cafe, you don’t. Take as many dishes as you want. Try new things out. There ain’t much to lose.

I say frustrating because they’ve been extremely successful with this concept; so much so, they were voted the Best Indian Restaurant in Scotland. Now, why didn’t I come up with that idea?!

In the running for Best Chinese Restaurant of the Year was Loon Fung, a Cantonese restaurant specialising in seafood.

Loon Fung has been a local favourite for over 40 years and if you can see past the dated decor of the restaurant you will soon realise that the food served to you is up there with the best Chinese food you can get.

As is the case with most Chinese restaurants, the service is efficient, friendly and smiley without being overbearing. Loon Fung is well-known for its excellent seafood, especially the monkfish and its large portions, so be warned! Oh, and their crispy shredded chili beef is actually crispy…

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of Fusion Cuisine, I highly recommend trying out the Calistoga restaurant. The restaurant is a Californian grill which combines a number of different cuisines while also making use of quality Scottish produce.

The extremely talented chefs also run a number of deals at certain times of the day enabling you to sample their works of art for a reasonable price. Wine lovers will also be impressed by their selection of over 100 Californian wines…

For mermaids and rabbits…

With award-winning chef Roy Brett at the helm, seafood specialist Ondine has been a real hit of late. He finally opened his own restaurant last year after working with the country’s top chefs for many years.

The staff at Ondine are clearly passionate about seafood as their menu is adapted to suit the season and guests are invited to watch the chefs at work at the ‘Crustacean Bar’.

Ondine beat off tough competition to be crowned Best Scottish Seafood Restaurant of 2010. Another thing that speaks for this restaurant is their commitment to sourcing local seafood for their wonderful dishes.

Despite our love for all things meaty…we still have time for vegetarians! No, really! Take L’Artichaut for example…

Run by experienced French chef Jean-Michel Gauffre, L’Artichaut uses locally-sourced and imported produce to create fresh and healthy vegetarian meals with one eye on satisfying carnivores at the same time.

When I say that Monsieur Gauffre is experienced, I mean he literally has qualifications and awards coming out of his ears. He opened French restaurant La Garrigue in 2001 to great success and used to be the head chef at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. So it is definitely worth trying some artichokes for dinner!