Imagine sitting down at your favourite restaurant and browsing the menu on a tablet, which you then use to make your menu selections and pay your bill, all with the swipe of your finger. This is very possibly the future of the restaurant experience.
Banks, debit and credit card companies and mobile marketing firms are currently working in a global effort to combine new communication products, such as smartphones and tablets, with cutting-edge payment methods in an effort to improve convenience for consumers and business owners.
In today’s marketplace, wireless terminals with debit and credit card capabilities are continuing to gain popularity, specifically within the foodservices industry where the convenience of paying at the table is highly valued by customers. Jeff van Duynhoven, president of TD Merchant Services, says that wireless terminals are evolving to deal with signal issues experienced by some long-range wireless services.
“We’ve moved to short-range devices like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi-type devices, so there are still changes happening in that regard within the industry for pay at the table. If a merchant has a [payment] solution they’re not happy with, the technology may have advanced since then, so I would encourage people to look around because the technology continues to get better in that space,” he says.
Another payment technology that is rising on the popularity metre is contactless payments. Consumers possessing a card with contactless capabilities simply flash their card in front the corresponding reader to complete a purchase, making this payment method extremely quick and convenient. With Visa and MasterCard having already launched contactless credit cards, Interac Association is following suit with a debit card known as Interac Flash. “Interac Flash is rolling out now with Scotiabank and RBC. We have a number of merchants already signed up and announcements will be forthcoming about who will be accepting Interac Flash,” says Caroline Hubberstey, director of public affairs for Interac Association.
Van Duynhoven believes that Interac Flash will become a big player in the months to come as more issuers support the technology. “What merchants found is that the whole chip and pin process was a little slower, so in places like pizza restaurants when it’s a busy time and there’s a lineup, contactless technology can make a huge difference. Quick-service restaurants are a primary targeted area for that,” he says.
Hubberstey notes that restaurant owners who employ wireless or contactless devices in their businesses are also offering an added safety measure for their delivery drivers, as they will essentially be carrying limited amounts of cash.
As adoption of contactless payment methods increases, industry insiders are busily working on the next revolutionary payment technology. Within the next couple of years, consumers will begin to see the emergence of mobile payment options. The concept of mobile payments is that consumers will have a wallet on their smartphones that they can simply tap against a contactless reader to make a purchase. Visa is currently working with TD Canada Trust on a mobile wallet, while MasterCard and Google are developing the Google Wallet. Van Duynhoven says the details of mobile payments are still being hammered out amongst industry players, including mobile network operators, mobile phone manufacturers and the banks.
The main obstacle at the moment is the availability of near-field communication (NFC) phones in Canada, which have the technology required to carry out mobile payments. Van Duynhoven predicts that mobile payments won’t see any kind of mass deployment in the Canadian market until at least 2013 or beyond. “I can say right now it’s probably more sizzle than substance. The whole aspect of NFC phones still needs a little bit more time. The challenge is there’s not that many native phones that have that same contactless capability,” he explains.
Hubberstey confirms that Interac Association is also actively developing mobile technology for debit purchases. “We’re certainly looking to that for 2012 on the debit side. We’re moving first to Interac Flash and will use that as the foundation to move to mobile and NFC payments as proximity payments,” she says.
Pizza Pizza is having great success with the mobile payment technology craze in Canada by launching a multi-award-winning iPhone app earlier this year. The innovative end-to-end ordering system developed by Plastic Mobile allows users to view all Pizza Pizza products and specials, place an order and pay using their credit card or at the door. The application is also location based, using a geo-locator to find the nearest Pizza Pizza location.
Within the first two weeks of launching the iPhone app, it had 75,000 downloads and was reaching a new customer base. “It was amazing. We tapped into a new market and that’s what every marketer wants: to acquire new market shares through new channels,” says Salome Sallehy, marketing director of Plastic Mobile.
The Pizza Pizza iPhone app has continued to impress, with mobile orders increasing 15 to 35 per cent month over month as well as bolstering 10 per cent more repeat customers per month than the pizza chain’s online ordering option.
Plastic Mobile has received six awards for their innovative app so far this year, including a Webby Award in the category of Mobile Shopping for smartphones. “It was great because with our business we’re constantly pushing back to convince CEOs to embrace something new and create innovations. Nobody really wants to be the first, so when we’re able to overcome that first obstacle of convincing a client, it’s a huge accomplishment. We’ve gotten a lot of kudos for this application,” Sallehy explains.
Maggie Adhami, program director with Plastic Mobile, says the biggest challenge with mobile payment technology is gaining the trust of customers. “It’s really just adoption, getting people to trust and move towards mobile payments. We’ve been using the Internet for payment for 10 years. I think mobile is the next evolution. When it comes from a trusted brand, I think people are more inclined to order,” she says.
While mobile wallets are still a few years away, it will be interesting to see if Canadians are quick to embrace the technology once it is available. “Canadians are interesting adopters of technology. We tend to be not necessarily leading edge, but close to it. Once we do adopt, we adopt quickly and Interac Debit would be a prime example. We weren’t necessarily the first out with pin-based debit, but once it took off, it really took off. We’re now amongst the highest users of debit in the world,” Hubberstey says.
For business owners, payment technology is a fascinating area of operations that, if due diligence is done, can lead to increased convenience for customers and an even bigger client base.
Julie Fitz-Gerald is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Canadian Pizza magazine
By definition, extra-virgin olive oil is the product of crushed green olives, and is not refined by heat, by chemical solvents or in any other way.
Many chefs are confident in what the label reads when it comes to purchasing food and ingredients. Extra virgin olive oil and mozzarella cheese are two products that are probably widely used in your operation, but do you know if you’re getting what you’re paying for?
Food fraud (formally known as economic adulteration) happens in different forms, including diluting or substituting a product with a lesser-value ingredient and mislabelling. Although the issue seems to have been making recent headlines, food fraud is nothing new.
“If you go back to biblical times, there was the adulteration of wine – water dilution,” says Dr. Nicholas Low, a professor of food and bioproduct sciences at the University of Saskatchewan who is researching a commercially viable tracing system in hopes of ending food fraud. Low lists some of the earliest recorded instances of adulteration, including treating tea leaves with black lead to change the colour, leading people to believe the tea leaves were fresh. Lead was also added to candy at one time to give it bright colours, causing lead poisoning.
More recently, Low says, food fraud isn’t typically a human health concern. “It’s really economic fraud that is the major issue,” he says, noting that although there have been cases where an adulterant has been used in a food product that has caused injury or death, these instances are few and far between. “I’m certainly not saying that adulteration can’t cause health problems, but, in general, it’s really that the consumer is just not getting what they’re paying for.”
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)'s primary focus is to ensure that Canadians consume safe food. However, in an e-mail interview, Lisa Gauthier, with the CFIA's media relations department, said the agency is also responsible for the administration of food labelling policies related to misrepresentation and fraud in respect to food labelling, packaging and advertising. Gauthier said the CFIA "protects consumers form economic fraud and product misrepresentation, and assists them in making informed product choices." Among others, CFIA activities including establishing and enforcing standards for net quantity and labelling, advertising and product claims, and composition, substitution and adulteration.
Low has seen several cases of economic adulteration in his 25 years of experience in the field. “It’s a real scientific challenge to take a look at a product and determine if it’s what it’s supposed to be – or, at least, what it declares itself to be,” he says. After working with the European Union (EU) in Italy for a year, Low became familiar with the potential for adulteration of mozzarella cheese. “I thought I had been exposed to mozzarella cheese in North America, and I hadn’t been,” he says. “Mozzarella cheese is really a very soft cheese, and it’s made from water buffalo milk, and the mozzarella that we get here is made from bovine milk or from vegetable oil and milk casing.” Low notes instances where nut protein has been used to create cheese instead of milk protein, causing health issues for people with nut allergies, but is hesitant to call this economic adulteration. The CFIA is vigilant when it comes to investigating economic adulteration in cheese. Gauthier said a CFIA inspector will verify labels, ingredients and compositional compliance at registered facilities that produce cheese. "If there is a suspicion that a cheese has been adulterated, it can be sent for analysis to ensure no additives or undeclared ingredients are present above the permitted level. A CFIA inspector verifies that a company claiming to use cheese is actually using cheese and not a 'dairy pizza topping' or another ingredient."
The extra-virgin scandal
The flavour and health benefits of olive oil have made it a popular ingredient among chefs of late. But as Tom Mueller, an American journalist living in Italy, has discovered, there is much more to olive oil than what the label reads. Mueller released a book in November, titled, <i>Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil</i>, in which he explores olive oil fraud. For his book, Mueller interviewed olive oil producers in Italy about the history and frequency of fraud in their coveted product. One producer told him that 50 per cent of olive oil sold in the United States is adulterated in one way or another.
By definition, extra-virgin olive oil is the product of crushed green olives, and is not refined by heat, by chemical solvents or in any other way. Extra virgin is the highest grade of olive oil. To pass certification as extra virgin, each batch of olive oil must meet a series of chemical standards established by the International Olive Council (IOC) and the European Union. Many of the extra-virgin olive oils available on grocery store shelves in North America don't meet these requirements and are diluted with other types of oil, such as canola or sunflower. The CFIA closely monitors olive oil through facility inspections, label reviews and product testing, including verification of the product's composition, Gauthier said. "Samples taken are analyzed to check for misrepresentation of other oils as olive oil and to verify the standards for virgin and extra-virgin olive oil are met." Between January 2009 and December 2011, the CFIA tested 111 products and the results concluded that 10 per cent of the products were misrepresented as olive oil, not meeting the IOC standards for olive oil or extra-virgin olive oil. Gauthier noted that the CFIA usually targets inspections, and some products are sampled because they are the subject of consumer or trade complaints of potential adulteration. "When a product is found to be adulterated, inspectors may expand the sampling to other olive oil brands and products carried by the same importer, or products coming from the same broker or country of origin as the adulterated sample."
You say tomato . . .
A case of tomato fraud recently made headlines in the United States: Scott Salyer, the former owner of a California-based processed-tomato company, pleaded guilty to federal charges of racketeering and price fixing in March. SK Foods “sold substandard product at fraudulently inflated prices,” according to a recent newspaper article. Salyer admitted to ordering former employees to falsify tomato paste grading factors, and the company lied about the percentage of natural tomato soluble solids, mould count, product date and organic status of its product, according to Salyer’s plea agreement. Salyer was awaiting sentencing at press time. The CFIA verifies fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada, whether imported or domestically grown and traded, by inspecting products for their safety and inspecting packages for compliance with the federal grade, packaging and labelling requirements. Gauthier said labelling inspections of fresh fruits and vegetables would be conducted by the CFIA in response to possible violations of the Food and Drug Act.
Can you spot the difference?
There are different ways to tell if a product has been adulterated – colour, or taste, for example. But it’s also possible that an adulterated product won’t appear any different. Both Low and the CFIA say the best way to tell is by looking at the price. “If the price is too good to be true, red flags should come up and warning bells should go off,” Low says.
Dr. Nicholas Low, professor of food and bioproduct sciences at the University of Saskatchewan, and Dr. Robert Hanner, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of Guelph, have been working on a way to trade food products internally. “A company could put an internal tracer in a food product and could monitor the food product from farm to fork,” Low says. When the real product is compared to a potentially adulterated similar product, the company would be able to tell which one they produced. “Secondly, a company could also take a look at their ingredients . . . and could say ‘we added this tag to our ingredient, or our product,’” he adds. If, during inspection, the tag isn’t there, the company will know its product has been adulterated. The project is about two years along, Low says, and pilot studies have been completed.
You are probably familiar with the concept of pairing wine with food items; for example, there is white wine with fish and red wine with everything else. Now, the coffee experts say that there is no reason we shouldn`t take the same approach with coffee.
A great pairing makes both the coffee and the food taste better. The unique nuances of the coffee can even enhance the flavors in savory dishes. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting the best coffee for a meal and a few tips on how to pair coffee with pizza.
Factors to consider when selecting a coffee
Coffee, much like wine, has complex flavor profiles. To successfully pair coffee with pizza requires some understanding of those profiles, including the meaning of aroma, acidity, body and flavor.
The aroma gives you the first hint of how a specific coffee will taste. Flavor perception is strongly related to the sense of smell, so you should note the initial aroma to experience the full taste of the coffee.
When it comes to coffee, acidity doesn`t mean bitter or sour. Instead, a coffee with a high acidity is considered tangy, lively or crisp, while a coffee with a lower acidity feels smooth in your mouth.
Body is defined as the thickness or weight of the coffee in your mouth. Body is typically described as light, medium or full. Flavor is the final melding of body, acidity and aroma that creates the overall lasting impression of a coffee.
Roast styles range from light to very dark. The roast affects all of the aspects of a coffee`s flavor and you should take the roast profile into account whenever pairing coffee with food items.
Lighter roasts are typically bright and crisp, often working well with lighter breakfast items. Darker roasts tend to pair better with richer, more indulgent foods like meats, chocolates, nuts and pizza.
Coffee by the region
Where a coffee is grown also affects how it tastes and what foods it best complements. Coffee roasters typically divide the coffee-producing areas into three main geographic regions.
Latin American coffees come to us from Central and South America. These coffees generally have a great balance, light to medium body and medium to high acidity. The bright, tangy notes make these coffees perfect for pairing with sweet and tangy foods.
African and Arabian coffees have a crisp acidity and a fruity, spicy flavor that makes them an exciting pairing for various foods. These coffees have a medium to full body and go well with fruits, chocolate and savory dishes that contain cinnamon or cardamom.
The earthy, full-bodied Asian and Pacific coffees are known for their low acidity, robust body and smoothness. These coffees tend to best complement salty or savory dishes, including pizza.
Pairing coffee with pizza
The type of coffee you should use depends on what type of toppings you choose for your pizza. A pie covered with grilled chicken, a mild sauce and subtle spices should match up well with a dark, bold coffee with high acidity, such as a rich Haitian blend.
If you are having a pizza with Indian or Thai spices, you want a coffee that enhances those spices. Look for an African coffee blend to give you an intense flavor profile.
More traditional pizzas featuring tomatoes, cheese and pepperoni or Canadian bacon require an earthier blend for pairing. A full, smoky Sumatran coffee should help bring out the flavors of your meal.
A pizza with Greek ingredients often goes well with a light Latin American coffee. If your pizza contains more pungent goat cheese, select a stronger Sumatra blend.
With today`s trend toward pairing coffee and pizzas, many pizza restaurant owners are purchasing specialty coffee shop equipment. Helping your customers successfully pair coffee and pizzas will give you the edge over other pizzerias, build your client base and bring in more money.
Many fine-dining pizzerias have their pizza oven on display as an advertisement of their pizza`s great taste and authenticity. Using your own pizza oven might well be the key to making the pizza you love and crave at home.
Several different kinds of pizza ovens exist on the market today. Each type comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Brick pizza oven
Brick pizza ovens are once again popular due to the green technology trend and the current back to nature movement. Brick pizza ovens have a brick exterior and a stone or ceramic tile deck on the bottom of the oven.
You slide the pizza inside using a wooden paddle and the radiating heat from the deck gives the pizza a nice, crispy crust. Brick pizza ovens use less power and offer faster cooking times than other kinds of ovens.
Another advantage of a brick oven is that it can maintain a steady temperature for hours. The simple construction of the oven means that it is easy to clean and has no moving, breakable parts.
Brick pizza ovens are typically cheaper than other kinds of ovens. However, these ovens aren`t ideal for beginners. It takes time to learn how to cook the pizzas and how to shuffle the pies so they cook evenly.
Another downside is that most brick pizza ovens tend to be fairly large. Apartment dwellers and homeowners with little kitchen space probably won`t be able to squeeze a full-sized brick oven into their homes.
Deck ovens are rectangular cooking devices that offer up to six separate oven chambers. The food cooks directly inside the chamber on flat decks made from brick, stone or ceramic.
Deck ovens use oil, steam or combustion to heat the cooking components, which absorb the heat and radiate that heat back. This makes for a more even cooking temperature.
Deck ovens cook the pizza from the bottom up. This results in a crispy bottom crust and a golden-brown top.
Deck ovens are fairly inexpensive to purchase and maintain. However, you must rotate the pizzas during cooking to achieve an even bake. Every time you open the oven doors, heat escapes from the baking chamber. This means that deck ovens put out more heat than other types of ovens.
Another drawback includes the fact that they are harder to use than other types of ovens. Deck ovens also need up to 60 minutes to preheat before you can start using them.
A convection oven consists of three individual heating elements going along the back, top and bottom of the cooking space. A fan forces the air to circulate the heat around the cooking area evenly and results in an even bake.
The forced air of a convection oven helps to reduce the overall cooking time, saves energy and allows roasted foods to retain more moisture. The circulating air also browns the outer layers of the pizza while keeping the internal dough layers light and moist.
The bad news is that there is a bit of a learning curve when you first start using a convection oven. Convection ovens might save you money in energy in the long run, but the units themselves are typically more expensive than standard ovens. Convection ovens also need to be cleaned after every use.
A conveyor oven is basically a long oven with a conveyor belt inside. You place your pizza at one end of the belt and it carries your pie along the inside of the oven until it reaches the other side.
The main advantage of using a conveyor oven is its efficiency. The pizzas cook evenly and for the exact, specified amount of time as they move along the belt and through the oven. Conveyor ovens also heat up in only 15 to 20 minutes and cool down easily once you turn the oven off.
The main disadvantage of a conveyor oven is that it is a relatively complicated piece of machinery. This means that it is prone to unexpected breakdowns and is typically hard to clean. Conveyor ovens are also larger and more expensive than other types of ovens.
If your catering company is becoming known for its fabulous pizzas, perhaps it is time to invest in a pizza oven of your own. Look for special deals offered by reputable catering equipment companies such as www.cs-catering-equipment.co.uk.