What You Need to Set Up Your Own Cafe

Owning a small café or coffee shop is an aspiration of many people: having a warm, comfortable place to work, regular clientele, setting your own hours and all the coffee you can drink… it sounds like a dream come true.

It can come true, too. Like all small businesses, you’ll need money for the initial investment as well as a solid business plan. You’ll also need a location, a name, branding and some furniture. Oh, and a coffee maker and a little refrigerator. And then you’re ready to open, right?

Not exactly. Let’s go back a step to the coffee maker and the refrigerator. This isn’t like fitting appliances for your home kitchen, and before you head off to the store to pick up an espresso machine, read up on these special considerations you need to take when it comes to kitting out your café.

Power supply

Restaurant-level appliances often require higher voltages than home appliances do, so you may require the installation of special high-voltage plugs around your coffee shop. Be sure to look at the voltage requirements of the equipment you wish to buy and contract an electrician to make sure you have outlets where you need them.

Plumbing

Again, commercial appliances have different requirements than home appliances, plumbing included. Coffee makers are often designed to be hooked up to a continuous stream water, which will require a hook up to your faucet. Be sure to find out what kind of water supply your equipment will need and work with a plumber to make sure your building is fit with the appropriate plumbing.

Regulations

If you plan on serving food and drink to your customers (which is the whole point of a café), you will be scrutinised by your local board of health. You need to make sure that you are in total compliance with all of the relevant regulations and that your appliances meet these regulations. As these are different depending on location, you need to research exactly what kinds of equipment are suitable.

Size

Make sure you purchase equipment big enough to accommodate all of your customers at your busiest times. This includes having enough refrigerator space, enough heads on your coffee machine and enough capacity in your coffee bean grinder. Be realistic though! There’s no sense in wasting space and money on equipment that is bigger than you’ll ever need.

Appearance

Last but not least, you want to choose appliances that look nice and are easy to keep clean. Stainless steel is a good choice for many appliances, as it is easy to wipe down and timeless in appearance. For refrigerators, a glass front is a great option. Not only does a display chiller look great, but it’s helpful to your employees who will be able to see what’s inside without having to open them.

Chicago Loop Parking – Accessing the City’s Best Places to Eat and Drink

Chicago Loop parking gives you premier access to the city’s best restaurants and bars. You can have lunch or a quick coffee in one of the well-known little cafes or you can opt of the famous fine dining locations. With the right parking, Chicago has a full range of culinary opportunities from around the world.

Alinea Restaurant

The contemporary American food served up by the Alinea Restaurant is available not far from several Chicago Loop parking garages. Catering to vegetarians and tastes of all kinds, this fine dining opportunity falls on the high end of the scale, but as soon as you enter the door, you will easily see why. Eating at the Alinea is much more than a meal. It creates a total cultural experience that attracts people from all over the world. With this opportunity for parking, Chicago visitors will not be disappointed.

Les Nomades

If you are more interested in French cuisine, Chicago Loop parking provides you with several opportunities here as well. If you want to pair a French fine dining experience with convenient parking, Chicago’s Les Nomades is the place to go. In fact, it offers two floors of great food and one of the finest selections of wine in the city. One thing you do need to know about this restaurant, however, is that reservations are a must and cell phones are turned off at the door.

Fogo De Chao

Lovers of Brazilian and South American meals will love Fogo de Chao. Not far from Chicago Loop parking, this medium price range restaurant and steakhouse is ideal for business travelers and children as well. This location’s claim to fame is its delicious meat based meals. For dessert, don’t miss the papaya cream — one of the few places in the city to get it. They provide the customer with large servings and have fantastic customer service.

Bistro Campagne

Those needing a light lunch before heading out of the city, Chicago natives and visitors alike, enjoy stopping at Bistro Campagne. This romantic bistro and quaint outdoor seating allow you to enjoy the city’s culture and beautiful air along with some of the best meals in the city. Cheese and wine tasting are a favorite of many of the bistro’s customers. They are also well known for their desserts and friendly service.

Intelligentsia Coffee

Intelligentsia Coffee is a fantastic place to relax, grab a light meal, and a fantastic cup of coffee. In fact, this is often a necessary stop for many visitors to the city. They offer a full line of free-trade coffee and organic tea purchased from around the world from companies who are both environmentally and socially responsible. The beans are all roasted and ground locally to ensure you get the freshest coffee possible.

Chicago Loop parking gives you access to far too many eating establishments to visit in one trip. With the convenience of the parking, Chicago natives and visitors can definitely give it a valiant effort. French, South American, North American, and many other culinary opportunities await you at a full range of prices and styles that only this city can provide.

Patio Furniture and Dining

If you intend to do a lot of entertaining for your family and friends or enjoy eating out, the suitable patio furniture is a must-have. Having the appropriate furniture in the porch can make a lot of difference to make dining and tête-à-tête pleasant and wanting to have it again. You might want to check on the following furniture guide to make dining pleasurable.

The Patio Dining Table and Chairs are a must. Eating, of course, would require the presence of these two fitments. The things that you need to consider prior to buying the table is the patio size, the number of people to be accommodated and the manner you want the dining area to be arranged. If the patio is intended only for your family, then get a table which can seat all the members of the family. However, if you love to entertain a lot, then opt to have tables and chairs that can be grouped to provide spaces for socializing and eating.

The Arrangement of the Patio Dining Table must be properly thought of. The table is where the food is served and is the central figure among all other patio furniture. Therefore, the best location would be in close proximity to the kitchen’s back door. With this arrangement, filling in the platter with food will be easier. It is similarly a nice thing to have the grill near the table.

The Patio Bar Set offers more eating areas. Apart from that, a bar set also provides storage space where you can stock up your drinks and snacks or munchies supply. The bar counter can likewise be used for the appetizers.

The Cafe Patio Tables can bring a friendlier ambiance. These are the small tables that normally come with two chairs that you often see in small and sidewalk cafes. You can position these café tables in the region of the key patio table or put them together in one place. Another alternative which you can do is placing them in a snug corner with candlelight for a romantic ambiance.

The Patio Side Tables and Chairs is good to have if your patio space is not big enough to have many tables, then the patio side tables and chairs is a good option. The side table can be positioned amid two chairs which is ideal to place your drinks. You can find side tables that are sufficiently big to accommodate a plate and is good for one person. Individual chairs actually permit your visitors to go around and sit wherever they prefer as well as meet other guests.

The Patio Lounge Chair provides you a place where you can layback with your feet up and relax as well as enjoy a meal. Modern furniture has come up with lounge chairs that are accompanied with side tables.

The Patio Umbrella invigorates your courtyard but serve a lot of purpose, too. With the umbrella, you can still enjoy eating out even if it is too warm or raining.

Since the patio is an extension of your home, you need to ensure that it also reflects your personality. Deciding on the right furniture before buying is worth the wait. But bear in mind that you need to think of durability and functionality when buying patio furniture. Again, you do not need to spend a lot of money to get these two objectives to get to enjoy dining in your patio.

Go Organic to Be Healthy and Hip!

In the wake of the e-coli scare on the East Coast, many people are feeling the need to make more sound decisions about the kinds of foods they eat – in or out. Wildgreen Café, an Upper East Side health haven that offers vegetarian and organic menus, has compiled some information that may educate consumers in their neighborhood to the facts – and fictions – of organic foods, and help them make healthier choices at restaurants and grocery stores.

“The rising popularity and related expense of organically-grown foods, perceived as the ‘Holy Grail’ for health nuts, is creating a great deal of speculation about their actual health benefits,” said Michael Hur, owner of the Wildgreen Cafe. “Recent media exposure has touted that nutritional labels sometimes clash with the reality of the growth process of these foods.” Here are six things you should know about organic food.

1. Most children today grow up with pesticide build-up in their bodies.
These chemicals are a serious threat to their physical, emotional and mental development. Pesticides can also contribute to birth defects and multigenerational health problems, such as allergies, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and cancer.

2. Organic food is the best way of reducing exposure to toxins.
Toxins that are used in conventional agricultural practices include pesticides and heavy metals, which can damage nerve function and block hemoglobin production. Organically grown foods have minimal toxins and increased levels of important nutrients.

3. ‘Natural’ isn’t organic! Check the “certified organic” label.
‘Natural’ is an unregulated term that can be applied by anyone, and is therefore potentially misleading. While the commonly seen food labels, ‘all natural’, ‘free-range’ or ‘hormone-free’ signify that the food has been raised or grown humanely, only the ‘USDA Organic’ label indicates that a food is certified organic.

4. Hollywood goes organic.
Many celebrities eat organic foods and support environmental causes. Usher and Lenny Kravitz can often be seen ordering organic drinks in Hollywood. Kelly Preston and John Travolta are big fans of organic foods, and also dedicate their time to promoting environmental causes.

5. Organic food tastes great.
Well-balanced soils grow strong healthy plants that taste great. Organic oranges and vine-ripened tomatoes make for sweet and flavorful treats.

6. You can get gourmet organic food in your very own neighborhood.
You may think that organic food requires special cooking methods, or may be hard to come by when dining out. You can get gourmet organic food just around corner at the Wildgreen Café on 88th Street and 3rd Avenue. The Wildgreen Café features an organic hot and cold bar, coffee/tea, snacks, cereals and Vegetarian/Vegan Specialties.

Sources in order of appearance:

[http://www.eisc.ca/pesticide_moratorium.html]

http://www.whfoods.com/

http://www.nutiva.com

[http://www.organicauthorithy.com]

Food is Poisoning Us – Part 1

Companies are continually recalling food and drinks products due to mis-labelling or contamination. For example over the past 4 weeks:

A wine company recalled their products due to incorrect allergen labelling information. Allergen: Sulphites

A food company recalled soft dried apricots due to incorrect allergen labelling information. Allergen: Sulphites

A supermarket chain recalled a green Thai style stir fry sauce due to incorrect allergen labelling information. Allergen: Fish

A supermarket chain recalled its Indian cooking sauces because the acidity levels are too low. As the acidity levels are too low, this means micro-organisms may grow and the sauces will be past their best before the ‘best before’ date that appears on the jar.

A drinks company has withdrawn batches of soft drinks because of high levels of benzoic acid (a permitted preservative)

A supermarket chain has withdrawn two batches of its own-brand wholegrain brown rice because they might be contaminated with insects.

I’ve looked at diet and nutrition in previous articles and the role of food in that diet. What about the food itself? Apart from the nutrients it provides, what other undesirable elements are included in food?

Safe food is defined as food which is free from contaminants and will not cause illness or harm.

Food poisoning is an acute illness (quick onset) caused by the consumption of contaminated or poisonous food.

There are four classes of contaminants: Microbial, Chemical,Physical and Allergenic. All have been implicated in making people ill and causing death.

Food hygiene is defined as all practices and procedures that food handlers adopt to ensure the safety of food. Poor food hygiene practices are a major cause of food poisoning, not just in the commercial world of cafes, restaurants, take-outs and pre-prepared TV dinners, but also in our homes.

It has been conservatively estimated by food safety scientists that there are at least 6 million cases of food poisoning in the UK and 30 million cases in the USA every year; approximately 10% of their respective populations. These figures refer to the reported, and more substantially to the unreported cases of food poisoning. The latter constituting the biggest part of the cases. So why the increase, rather than decrease over the past 15 or more years?

1. Increase in the purchase of cheap, intensively farmed poultry. Poultry farmed in closed buildings. 14 birds reared in an area of 1 square metre. Each bird pecking at each other, at each others urine and faeces, causing infection. That is not to say that free range, organically raised poultry are free from disease, far from it. Free range states that chickens have access to the outside, not necessarily that they take that option! Even if they reach outside, they peck at soil and faeces, again causing infection.

2. Intensive feeding of farm animals was responsible for starting BSE in the 1980s. Farmers feeding dead, scrapie infected sheep’s’ carcasses to cattle was the probable cause. If farmers leave their sheep and cattle to graze naturally, it takes longer for them to reach maturity than if they are fed supplements. Farmers have to get their animals to market as quickly as possible. It makes good business sense, this way they will make a profit more quickly and cash flows. However,in order to bring their produce to market sooner they use supplemental feeds based on high protein, usually meat or fish derivatives. From an ethical point of view they are feeding vegetarians animal based protein? From a business point of view it also makes good sense to use the cheapest animal food they can source. Unfortunately a lot of the cheap food is not sterilised to kill microbial contaminants. This is transferred to the animals and to us.

3. There has been a dearth of ethnic food outlets sprouting up throughout all rural communities. The problem here is not one of race or ethnicity; it is not being able to provide food hygiene courses in their native tongue, which is not usually English. Many large cities will have training providers, but not the rural areas, where the eateries are located. Although food hygiene books are provided in the majority of non-English languages, people will not learn just from books, they must attend an interactive lesson or online course. Books are so easily tossed to one side to gather dust.

4. Pre-prepared foods such as ready meals, TV dinners, desserts, etc are prepared out of our control. Do you really know what has been included in the preparation, can you trust the ingredients list, and can you guarantee the personal hygiene of the food handler? My background as a chef gives me adequate knowledge to prepare my own meals from raw materials. I know what goes into the preparation and cooking. But what about the raw materials? That’s one chink in my food preparation armour.

5. Barbeques are a major source of food poisoning every year. Here we have two problems. One is the handling of raw and ready to eat food. If there is one thing you must remember about food it is this: all raw meat contains food poisoning bacteria (pathogens). This is without exception. Meat is prepared in abattoirs, which are not the most sanitary of facilities. There is a lot of splashing and spillages from intestinal fluids and faeces of the animals being prepared for the table. These residues contaminate the prepared carcasses.

If raw meat is handled and one’s hands are not washed, the meat juices, along with the pathogens, can be transferred to ready to eat food, (bread roles for example), and cause illness. Food tends to cook quickly on a barbecue, especially the outside, but not the inside, not enough to kill pathogens. Foods must be cooked to the right temperature to kill bacteria or illness will ensue.

6. More bacteria variants are mutating, causing more illnesses than ever before. The more chemicals we use to try to destroy them, the more they develop an immunity to the chemicals.

7. We tend not to let our children play in insanitary conditions, such as in mud. We feed them highly processed food, which is totally devoid of bacteria. We are not allowing them to develop an immunity to pathogens.

8. When we buy ready to eat chilled food from an outlet,it must be kept chilled. Examples are: ready to eat cold meat, filled rolls/sandwiches/baguettes, scotch eggs, pork pies. These foods will contain pathogens, in small numbers, from the food handlers, customers, environment, etc. They will also contain spores from certain pathogens. If the food is not kept cold, the spores will germinate and start to grow as bacteria,the bacteria already present will also grow. This growth will then cause illness, even if the food is placed in the fridge, on arriving at home. The damage is done, it is too late.

9. There are less chemical preservatives in foods than there used to be. Scientists have found and are still finding that certain chemical additives can cause diseases such as cancer. Manufacturers strive to use more natural preservatives such as sugar, salt, vinegar, lemon/lime juice, herbs, and spices to prevent decay.

So what should we do?

1. Cheap poultry is a good source of cheap protein, especially for families who cannot afford more expensive protein. Cheap poultry will continue to be produced until the market dictates otherwise. Ensure the meat is cooked to the right temperature to kill the pathogens. Check the thickest part of the meat to ensure the temperature is constant throughout.

2. Intensively fed animals will still be produced as families look for cheaper cuts of meat. Again any pathogens will be killed by adequate cooking. I will be covering temperatures in a further article.

3. More effort by country’s’ governments to fund courses for ethnic food outlets should be encouraged. Whilst I am on the subject of ethnic outlets, please beware of the rogue kebab takeaways. Kebab meat (lamb or chicken) is raw meat; it is therefore a harbinger of pathogens. The kebab meat is placed on a skewer which rotates in front of a heat source. The only part of the meat to be cooked is the outside surface. When the meat is sliced it is still partly raw, therefore containing bacteria. The outlet should now place the shavings of meat on a griddle to finish cooking. If not, and the meat is served straight away, it contains pathogens and will cause illness. If you drink alcohol before you order the kebab, be especially aware! Alcohol reduces your immunity to food poisoning and the end result could be twice as bad!

4. Prepare your own food from raw materials. Cut out the middle man/woman who might contaminate your food. I will be introducing video cookery lessons later in 2010, so there will be no excuses!

5. If you handle raw foods during barbeques, wash your hands before handling other foods such as bread rolls. Ensure the right temperature is achieved before serving food. Check the thickest part of the food.

6. Avoid using chemicals wherever possible. The best disinfectant (a product which kills bacteria) I know is very hot water, for example straight from a kettle.

7. Let our children develop an immunity to pathogens. Let them play outdoors (under supervision); feed them freshly prepared foods, especially raw foods.

8. Keep chilled food cold, either by packing the food in thermal boxes with ice packs or mixing your frozen foods with your chilled foods in the same bag.

9. Check labels on containers to see what storage conditions are required. It either has to be refrigerated after opening or retained in a cool storage area, such as a kitchen cupboard. Supermarkets are recalling food products almost on a daily basis due to contamination or mis-labelling. Food poisoning is on the increase due to incorrect handling of chilled food, intensive farming/feeding, language barriers with ethnic eateries, BBQs cause major problems, eating out more, eating more pre-prepared foods, more bacterial mutations. Good housekeeping and a common sense approach to eating can help prevent many cases.