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This month we look at: tomato prices, how to make training new staff simpler, prioritizing mental health in the restaurant industry, inflation and national restaurant sales trends from May.

Did you watch (or attend!) one of the biggest nights in food this week? It's a restaurant event I look forward to every year, and the 2024 James Beard Awards were no exception. I think owner and bartender Chris Hannah from Jewel of the South in New Orleans said it best while accepting the award for Outstanding Bar that it's, "A room with so many people who care exactly as much as we care and it's fantastic!"

Truly, one of the best parts of this industry is how much this community cares. Tons of amazing chefs, writers, and industry folks were recognized and awarded for their hard work - and even though most of us aren't here just for an award - it's still absolutely a time for celebration. 

With the highs can come the lows (and no, I'm not talking about the US only getting two spots on the World's 50 Best a few weeks ago). Along with it being restaurant award season, June is also Men's Mental Health Month, so we wanted to talk about a few ways to prioritize your mental health while working in our industry.

And though it may be Men's Mental Health Month, burnout in the restaurant business absolutely applies to the badass women and nonbinary folks here too. Scroll down to our 'Tis the Season section below to read more.

We'll see you in July!

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Rachel & the MarginEdge team

P.S. If you took our very, very accurate Restaurant Personality Type quiz last month, your June mantras are here!

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Overall sales by segment MAY 24

Full Service and Fast Casual ended the month -2% down from May 2023's numbers. 

White asparagus topped our Droppers list with an average -57% price drop across MarginEdge customers in May, followed by white onions (April's biggest dropper).

The average food category costs as a percentage of sales decreased for MarginEdge customers last month, with food costs averaging 28% of sales. 

Dig into the full report.





Few things beat a good tomato sandwich in the summer (lots of mayo and black pepper, please), and we have some good news about our favorite isn't-it-technically-a-fruit friends. Prices for cherry and Roma tomatoes have been dropping just in time to showcase their seasonal prime on restaurant menus. 

Good weather and positive demand are to thank for the Roma varietal's drop, and prices are expected to stabilize if not continue to drop as production picks up throughout the summer. This is great news, as tomato price increases last winter were so contentious the Florida Tomato Exchange petitioned to terminate a long-standing agreement governing Mexican tomato imports in the US. 

Cherry tomatoes in particular have seen big drops, decreasing prices by 52% from their February peak for MarginEdge customers. The current median price is $2.21 per container.

And while heirlooms are the only kind that belongs on tomato sandwiches (fight me), their prices haven't seen the same volatility or recent decreases. This is likely due to producers taking greater measures to ensure yield, as they're less hardy and predictable than commercial varietals. 

Cherry tomato prices JUN 24-1Roma tomato prices Jun 24-1heirloom tomato prices JUN24-1 



Snappy's Small Bar | Washington, D.C.


We hire more staff for the summer, how can I make training them easier?

Training new staff can be challenging but is crucial for maintaining high standards of service and efficiency, especially as business heats up over the summer months. Successful training programs equip new hires with the necessary skills and inspire confidence and commitment.

It really comes down to four strategies: dynamic training, using technology to help, creating a positive onboarding experience, and constantly optimizing your process. Here are a few key reasons why these strategies make training new restaurant staff easier and more effective.

Why Tailored, Dynamic Training Matters:

  • Individual Learning Styles: Some staff members prefer hands-on training, while others excel with visual aids or written instructions. Assessing these preferences early on can help tailor the training approach.
  • Adaptability: The restaurant industry is dynamic, and training programs must be flexible to incorporate new trends, regulations, and technologies. Regular updates to the curriculum ensure all staff are current with the latest standards.

Benefits of Technology in Training:

  • Interactive Modules: Online training that includes quizzes, videos, and simulations can make learning more interactive and enjoyable. There are even platforms like TalentLMS and Trainual that offer customizable courses tailored to your restaurant's needs.
  • Accessibility: Digital training materials like digital recipe books with photos and technique videos can be accessed anytime, anywhere, allowing new hires to learn at their own pace. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for part-time staff or those balancing training with other commitments.

Impact of Positive Onboarding:

  • Retention Rates: Employees who undergo a positive onboarding experience are more likely to stay with the company long-term, reducing turnover and saving resources spent on recruiting and training new staff.

Importance of Making Continuous Improvements

  • Feedback Loops: Regularly solicit feedback from new hires about the training process. This provides valuable insights into what's working and what needs improvement.
  • Success Metrics: Define clear metrics for success, such as speed to proficiency, job performance, and employee satisfaction. Regularly review these metrics to identify areas for enhancement. 

As Kitchensync Business Development partner Alistair Levine said, "The best training programs identify the gaps in onboarding, development and ongoing reinforcement for the various members of the team." Incorporating these strategies into your training program can lead to a more competent, confident, and cohesive team, ultimately enhancing the overall service quality at your restaurant. 

💬 Ask [me] anything!
Really. Each month we’ll take a look at the questions we get and answer one here. Have a question about our product, accounting, or restaurant operations in general? 💌 Email me or message us on our social media channels.


ModernSteak-Restaurant (9)-600x399-e879c09

ModernSteak | Calgary, AB, Canada


Order Inflation Flat

Just like waiting on a test result from your doctor, no news is good news when it comes to May's inflation report because the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) came in unchanged.

Food away from home showed a 0.4% change, up slightly from last month, with overall food inflation seeing no change. So basically grocery store prices are starting to drop, but restaurants are still adjusting and increasing menu prices.

Year-over-year, food away from home prices are up 4%, so still trending down albeit slowly. Limited Service meals are 4.5% higher, and Full Service meals are up 3.5% YOY. 

The overall index sits at 3.3% up year-over-year, which is now on a downward trend from March's report. High rent costs are still the biggest culprit to overall inflation, but both gasoline and service costs dropped last month making that September (and potentially December) rate cut look like we've got a preeeetty good shot at the moment!

Tl;dr - food away from home came up a little last month, but overall inflation had no increase.



Acropolis Greek Taverna | Tampa, FL


Avoiding burnout & prioritizing mental health

Burnout in the restaurant industry is all too common. It's an incredibly pressing issue that isn't talked about openly enough. Even with the stigma around discussing mental health easing in recent years, there's often a pervasive sense of peer pressure and pride in always appearing tough and like nothing phases you, making this topic even more difficult to talk about in our community.

How often do you hear about someone working 14 hours on the line with one break, and eating their meal hovering over a trashcan? There's no doubt they're tough and a hard worker - but at what cost?

All of these things along with longer hours and less time off create the perfect recipe for burnout. And burnout just doesn't set you up to have a long-term career in an industry you love.

So what can you do for yourself and if you lead a team? It starts with having access to and providing helpful resources like an employee mental health program, and creating an open environment to talk about what's going on. Mr. Rogers said it best, "If it's mentionable, it's manageable."  

When it comes to having a healthy workplace environment, here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Open Communication: Foster an open and supportive communication culture where employees feel heard and valued. Regular check-ins and feedback sessions can help address concerns early.
  • Encourage Breaks: Ensure that staff take their scheduled breaks. Even short breaks can reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
  • Positive Work Culture: Promote a positive and inclusive workplace culture. Recognize and reward employees' efforts, creating a sense of appreciation and motivation. You catch more flies with honey.

I also asked our team at MarginEdge for their recs on mental health resources for food service industry folks and compiled a list below. These programs offer everything from financial assistance to counseling, to mentorship and more. 

The Giving Kitchen - Atlanta, GA - They provide emergency assistance for food service workers through financial support and a network of community resources.

Southern Smoke - CA, IL, LA, NY, TX, and coming Summer 2024, ME, MA, SC, TN, VA, and Washington D.C. - Through their mental health program, Behind You, Southern Smoke provides access to no-cost counseling for food and beverage workers.

Project Black and Blue - Nationwide - From the people at Craftmade Aprons, half of all revenue from the B&B line of products funds donations that have direct and positive impacts on industry workers who are dealing with mental, physical, and/or financial stress.

I Got Your Back - Sacramento, CA - I Got Your Back teaches employees to be aware & self-aware of warning signs of distress with resources, health insurance help, and restaurant mental health training.

Restaurant After Hours - Brooklyn, NY and Nationwide - Their goal is to raise mental health awareness, create a safe community, and begin to help hospitality workers structure their personal and professional lives. 

Serving Those Serving - Saint Paul, MN and Nationwide - They provide education, training, and connection to resources for employers and employees alike, including an employee assistance plan and no-cost mental health therapy.

Ben's Friends - Nationwide - They offer community, hope and a path forward for those struggling with substance abuse and addiction in the restaurant industry.


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