Archive by Author

Why restaurants want you to order food on your phone

22 Nov


An order placed by an app is shown on the screen Sept. 12, 2016, at the Eastman Egg restaurant at Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago. Eastman’s app technology allows a customer to order at any time and the food is prepared only when the customer gets close to the restaurant. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

The ability to order food with the click of a few buttons on a smartphone is becoming widespread — even fast-food companies are getting in on the action. But the technology — which in some cases tracks a customer’s location and times food preparation accordingly — can vary widely. And restaurants admit that some customers are still wary about the freshness of their food when ordering ahead..

“I think some users assume (their food) would be sitting on that counter for them because that’s how most in the industry do it,” said Eastman Egg founder and CEO Hunter Swartz, who focused on a mobile app as a cornerstone of the Chicago restaurant’s development. “As much as we had to educate the public about our food, there’s been just as much education for the app.”

Mobile ordering is becoming a critical piece of many restaurants’ plans because of what it can bring in improved sales. Customers spend more and visit more often, on average, when they’re using a phone to order their food.

The first restaurants to make mobile a big part of their business were the ones that rely heavily on delivery: pizza makers. At Domino’s, you can order just by texting an emoji of pizza or opening their app; no clicking required. Pizza Hut and Papa John’s have made big advances, too, and all three credit about half their sales to mobile orders.

Few restaurants are as far along as the delivery operators, but many have advanced their own apps by leaps and bounds to capture more customers on the go.

Starbucks launched mobile pay through its app a year ago, and it now accounts for about 5 percent of sales, Chief Financial Officer Scott Maw said at a conference last week. That jumps to 20 percent of transactions at peak times at several hundred of its urban stores. It expects that number to accelerate quickly in the near future, as customers get more comfortable with the technology. A quarter of Starbucks’ customer payments already are made with its smartphone app.

Maw also said Starbucks’ app eventually will be able to use weather data to market different food and drink items to customers, like a pumpkin spice latte on a chilly October day.

In June, Dunkin’ Donuts debuted mobile ordering nationwide and Chick-fil-A launched a new app with mobile ordering capabilities. Taco Bell has had mobile ordering capabilities on its app since 2014, but sister company KFC doesn’t offer it. McDonald’s, the world’s largest burger chain, has been testing its own mobile ordering system since the spring and has said that digital initiatives are a big priority in the near future.

Among fast-food restaurants, the frequency of customer visits increases by 6 percent and average spending per visit rises by about 20 percent when technology is used to place an order, according to a Deloitte survey released this week. Visits tend to increase because technology makes it easier to repeat an order automatically, while repeat orders of custom or upgraded drinks lead to increased sales.

In addition to an expected sales boost, the data collected from mobile ordering apps can shine light on the makeup of customers.


The Age Good Food Guide 2017: Full list of award winners

18 Oct


Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year

Ticks every box. The winner does not need to receive three hats but must capture the mood of the city right now and exemplify what it means to be a world-class restaurant.

Brae, Birregurra

Where to start? New accommodation that means no driving and post-lunch playings of Marvin Gaye original pressings on your room’s record player? The fact that Dan Hunter just keeps on marching down the path of deliciousness, channelling his impressive artillery into flavour over show-off moves? How about Simon Freeman and his floor team who carry out seamless service in the most relaxed and engaging way possible, all while you look out over the Birregurra restaurant’s gardens, the aroma of woodsmoke in the air? It’s all part of it and then some. Destination dining doesn’t get better.

Best New Restaurant

The most exciting  opening in the past 12 months, this restaurant  sets the eating agenda and starts conversations. Represents everything that’s fresh, hot and interesting about eating.

Embla, Melbourne

Everyone expected big things from the Kiwi collective behind Carlton’s Town Mouse when they announced a city venue. Instead, we got huge things. And this is just the downstairs bar, with the restaurant proper still to come. Even so, it’s become a magnet for inner-city snackers as much for the heat of the hospitality (all respect to Christian McCabe, an owner who still works the door on freezing nights) as for simpler-than- Town-Mouse but still razor-sharp take on bistro from chef Dave Verheul. That means crisp-skinned chicken, stracciatella lightened with camomile, and veg-based genius in the form of salt-baked celeriac. But you might never even eat when there’s that dark bronze-toned bar to hold up and a hell of a wild wine list to investigate. Bring on phase two. We can’t wait.

Citi Chef of the Year

To acknowledge those with the craft and ability to make a real difference to the way we dine now and in the future.

Aaron Turner, Igni

He was already a gun chef, evidenced by The Age Good Food Guide 2012 Regional Restaurant of the Year award for his much-missed Drysdale restaurant Loam. When it closed he spent a year cooking in Nashville before returning to introduce Geelongsters to spice-licked Nashville-style bird at Hot Chicken Project.

But this is the year Aaron Turner discovered fire. At Igni, which opened in a former electrical goods showroom in Geelong’s backstreets in January, Turner has been cooking entirely over wood – often fruit wood such as apple and olive – making subtle adjustments to dishes daily in response to a fire that changes every day. It’s forced him to rethink his methods, stripping dishes back to their essence to let the produce shine.

“The cooking needs to be a lot more precise. There’s nothing to hide behind,” he says.

In his new digs, Turner has enjoyed experimenting with unfamiliar ingredients brought in by locals, including hamburg parsley root with a flavour like parsnip; sweet, football-shaped cumquats; and burr comb, a kind of free-form honeycomb. The resulting dishes show the chef’s innate ability to read ingredient potential so that even a potato becomes an unbelievable spaghetti-like showstopper. So many plates in the air, rarely a miss among them.

Santa Vittoria Regional Restaurant of the Year

The best outside Melbourne. The winning establishment must provide a restaurant experience comparable to anything in the city but remain uniquely regional.

Igni, Geelong

You could feel a gale of bated breath being exhaled when Igni proved to be not only as empathetic towards ingredients as chef Aaron Turner’s much-missed Loam (native and foraged meets impeccably sourced, be it pigeon and marron or grown-to-order oyster leaves), but in some ways better, with an added focus on cooking over an ironbark-fuelled grill. Add the room in its grey, charcoal and ashen palette and the soothing hospitality stylings of Andrew Hamilton and Joanne Smith (fellow ex-Loamers) and you have one heck of a new destination restaurant for Victoria (and Australia).

Young Chef of the Year

To acknowledge our best and brightest rising star of the kitchen.

Jarrod Di Blasi, Ezard

It’s the tale of slow and steady for Jarrod Di Blasi, the head chef of Ezard. Di Blasi has always believed in the long game, setting sights on working for his Michelin-starred idol, Tom Aikens, in London from the second he started his apprenticeship at 16. There he found his mission – to not only be great, but consistent, humble, produce-worshipping and above all, a teacher, so that the industry has chefs for the future. Back in Australia, Di Blasi has risen through the ranks, becoming head chef at Ezard in 2014. For our panel of judges, industry legends Alla Wolf-Tasker, Frank Camorra and Philippe Mouchel, Di Blasi is a chef they’d hire in a heartbeat.

Food for Good Award

An award celebrating innovation and charity. The winner goes above and beyond to contribute to the community.

StreetSmart Australia

In 2003 former businessman Adam Robinson started StreetSmart Australia, throwing his business and marketing smarts at the growing problem of homelessness. Since then, StreetSmart programs such as DineSmart and CafeSmart have raised more than $2 million for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, mostly through gold coin donations by diners and cafe-goers.

People’s Choice Award

A reader-driven award that allows the public to name their favourite restaurant. Voted by the people, for the people.

Ezard @ Levantine Hill, Coldstream

They come by helicopter and they come by car to this Fender Katsalidis-designed dining room among the vines. A collaboration between Yarra Valley winemaker Levantine Hill and chef Teage Ezard (Ezard, Gingerboy), it combines a cellar door, tastings in barrel-like booths, and a fine-dining restaurant.

Wine List of the Year

A diverse and high-quality  by-the-glass selection alongside an accessible bottle list that displays a good range of vintages and complements the restaurant’s food and style.

Marion, Fitzroy

In a year when the bar for drinking has never been higher, it’s the drinks list at Andrew McConnell’s Marion that’s come out on top for so easily riding the line between trends and traditional. Whatever your hot take on sulphites or biodynamic horn-burying practices, Marion has you covered, and there’s a lot to be said for that ability to challenge and cosset simultaneously. It’s truly the bar that’s there for its drinkers, staffed by a pro team who can get you where you need to be and serving everything you want to eat…

Here’s How Food Critics Lose Weight While Also Eating Tons of Delicious Food

10 Sep


“A healthy dinner.” Photo: Liz Clayman

In the latest issue of New York, restaurant critic Adam Platt goes deep on the diet regimen he recently took on. He’s not alone in wanting to shed some pounds, of course. In fact, in professional-eating circles, it’s a topic of much discussion: How does one achieve some degree of healthy intake when the job, by its nature, requires round-the-clock eating of delicious, calorie-rich food? Can a person maintain the proper level of professionalism that’s required to, say, taste-test the best steaks in New York City while also staying trim? In the case of Grub’s newly svelte colleague, he managed to keep to his reviewing schedule while dropping a bunch of weight. So, what’s the secret? That’s the topic of conversation in the newest episode of the Grub Street Podcast:

Adam Platt: I probably consume more calories than you do week in and week out, but we’re both food writers. It’s our job to eat food, so the question before us is: How do you keep from turning into a giant, floating blimp? How do you do that? There are various ways to do it. You’re a little younger than me, and I kept it together for a while by exercising. So you do it by running like a maniacal hamster in the morning for several hours, right?

Alan Sytsma: It doesn’t take me several hours, but yeah.

AP: What the Admiral also does, for those of you who don’t know him, he walks everywhere in the city. So it’s like, “Hey, I want to go uptown to try this meatball sandwich. Let’s go.” You go, “Okay, Admiral. Let’s go.” We’re walking. So off he goes. Striding up the avenues. It’s like, Wait a minute, Admiral …

AS: You’ve gotta earn the meatball sub.

AP: That meatball sub’s 50 blocks away, my good man. What about the subway? “Hell, no,” says the Admiral.

AS: Not if it’s a nice day.

AP: Also, he walks at a brisk clip. He’s walkin’ hard. Anyway, so that’s how you did it. My idea was to, not make light of the story, but I clearly needed to go on a diet. So I thought I would try and find the most prominent, most interesting, slightly outrageous dietician/nutritionist in New York City that I could. This being New York City, there are plenty of people like that. And my challenge to this professional nutritionist person was: I am 50 pounds overweight at least, a fat food writer, entering middle age, and possibly near death. I would like to keep my job, but I would like to lose between 40 and 50 pounds. Can you help me?

It seems that the professional he found — Tanya Zuckerbrot — could indeed help him with it. Listen to the whole thing to hear them talk about how they did it, either via iTunes or streaming right here.

Rio’s favelas to Brighton’s North Laine: the entrepreneurs tackling food waste

20 Aug

Situated in the run-down district of Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, Refettorio Gastromotiva is the latest venture from three Michelin-starred Italian chef Massimo Bottura, who has partnered with a social enterprise which trains chefs from disadvantaged neighbourhoods across Brazil.

The restaurant, which opened on 9 August, uses surplus food from the Olympic village to feed hungry locals, aided by a collection of superstar chefs. It’s one of a collection of social businesses across the world that are trying to tackle the food waste problem and change attitudes to waste.

The latest statistics paint a bleak picture. A third of all food produced – 1.3bn tonnes – is wasted every year, while 795 million people do not have enough to eat. Nearly half of this waste comes from homes, with the remainder from food production, food retailers and the hospitality sector.

Refettorio Gastromotiva will follow a similar business model to Bottura’s first project, Refettorio Ambrosiano, which launched last year. Ambrosiano provides paid lunches to the public in order to provide free evening meals to local homeless shelters, using donated food from Milan agricultural market and a network of supermarkets, restaurants and schools. So far it has saved 30 tonnes of food and provided 23,000 meals.

Post-Olympics, Refettorio Gastromotiva will do the same. Opening once a week initially, it will use donated waste food from a supermarket chain, fruit and vegetable wholesaler and local organic farmer to cook paid-for lunches, allowing it to provide 70 free evening meals for vulnerable Lapa residents. The kitchen will be staffed by graduates from the social enterprise Gastromotiva’s chef training scheme, who come from some of Rio’s most underprivileged communities.

Attempting to tackle the issue of food waste from the opposite direction, Silo in Brighton was billed as the first “zero-waste” restaurant in the UK and is primarily concerned with designing out food waste.

A meal served up at Silo Restaurant, Brighton. Photograph: Karen Robinson for the Observer

With a carefully planned, seasonal menu along with a root-to-tip, nose-to-tail ethos of using every available part of each ingredient, sometimes more than once, what’s left over is poured into the hi-tech composter in the corner of the restaurant, which churns out compost that is distributed to suppliers and locals, as well as used by the restaurant to grow its own mushrooms.

Tom Hunt’s Poco cafe bars in London and Bristol also take a zero-waste approach, weighing all of the food waste produced. The Bristol restaurant creates just 20.83kg of food waste a day, equating to around 0.2kg per diner, less than half that produced by the average restaurant diner according to the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

These kind of ventures are changing perceptions of food waste, says Tom Tanner from the Sustainable Restaurant Association: “Consumers have started to see [food waste] as socially and morally inexcusable and economically, businesses can see that it no longer makes sense.” With the global value of wasted food estimated to be $1tn, there is a financial opportunity.

It’s not just restaurants that are involved. Toast Ale, created by Tristram Stuart, food waste activist and founder of food waste charity Feedback, aims to turn some of this waste back into a product that can be sold. Made using one slice of surplus bread per bottle, the 32,000 bottles of ale brewed since launching in January have saved over a tonne of bread.

“In addition to using surplus, we are also raising awareness,” says Zane. “In the UK, 44% of bread produced is never eaten. To solve this, all we need to do is eat (or drink) it.” Toast Ale’s bread is donated by bakeries and sandwich manufacturers who would otherwise have to pay to dispose of the waste. There are plans to expand production to Yorkshire, Cornwall, Bristol, New York and Iceland.

Baked ham with muntrie berries and roasted vegetables

21 Dec


Serves 12

1 smoked ham (7 to 9kg net weight)
1 ½ cup muntrie berries

½ tsp saltbush
½ tsp native pepper
½ tsp sea parsley
½ tsp bush tomato, ground
50ml orange juice
½ cup honey

Roasted vegetables
6 carrots
6 parsnips
6 onions (small)
½ kg chat potatoes
½ pumpkin, sliced into four

Preheat the to oven 180C. Take the skin off the ham to expose the fat. If you take the ham straight out of the fridge, sit it in warm water for 5 minutes to soften and the skin will peel off easily. Score the fat.

To make the glaze, mix the saltbush, native pepper, sea parsley and bush tomato with the orange juice and sit for 5 minutes to let the herbs swell and release their flavours, then and honey. Brush the ham with the glaze.

Drop the oven temperature to 150C and cook the ham for 1 to 1½ hours, or up to 2 hours depending on the oven. Brush the ham every 15 to 20 minutes.

Sear the vegetables in a nonstick frying pan until they take on a bit of colour. Brush the vegetables with olive oil, place in the oven and they should be ready when the ham is cooked.

If you have any leftovers at the end of the Christmas meal, the ham can be wrapped in a clean wet cloth, placed on a tray, covered with clingwrap and stored in the fridge.

The ham can be sliced off and used in sandwiches, salads, fry-ups and ham and eggs for breakfast. Leave a bit of meat on the bones then freeze them to use later in a hearty pea and ham soup.

Pork chops with apples and black grapes

26 Nov

When placing pork chops in a pan, I often put them in on their edge, holding the chops upright with my kitchen tongs, to get a good golden colour and a little blistered crispness to the rim of fat. I then lay the chops down flat to lightly brown them.


olive oil 2 tbsp
butter 20g
pork chops 2 (250g each)
small apples 2
apple juice unfiltered 250g
sage leaves 4
black grapes 100g

Pour the oil into a shallow pan set over a moderate heat. Add the butter, then the pork chops, seasoned with salt and black pepper, and the whole apples (halving the fruits if necessary.) Leave the chops to colour lightly on the underside, then turn them over and brown the other side.

Pour in the apple juice, add the sage leaves and continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes or until the chops are cooked through.

Halve and seed the grapes, then add them to the pan. Remove the chops to a warm plate and cover with foil, to allow them to rest. Turn up the heat to let the apple juice and pork juices reduce to about half their volume. As it reduces, the liquid will become shiny. Serve the chops and apples, spooning the pan juices and grapes over the top.

Polenta, lime and fennel biscuits recipes

30 Oct

These delicate biscuits are a recipe of Roberta’s mother; their wonderful pairing of fennel and lime speaks to the unique fusion of culinary traditions in Brazil. Even better with a dollop of silky doce de leite.

Makes 40
125g fine cornmeal (polenta)
60g flour
100g icing sugar
½ tsp baking powder
100g butter
2 tsp lime zest
1 tbsp fennel seeds
doce de leite, for dolloping on top (optional)

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Rub all the ingredients together to make a rough dough. You can add an extra few drops of lime juice or water if the crumbs don’t want to stick to each other.

2 Pat out the dough to a thickness of around 2mm. Punch out small circles using a cookie cutter or a strong glass tumbler. Transfer the pastry discs to a baking tray lined with baking paper.

3 Bake the biscuits in the oven for about 10 minutes, taking care not to let them brown.

4 Let the biscuits rest for around 10 minutes on the tray before transferring to a rack to cool completely before serving. Top with a dollop of doce de leite, if desired.