Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Farm$en$e: Farm Management tools for Financial Success

Are you looking for a farm business management class to help brush up your financial and production planning skills?  Penn State Extension’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Team will offer Farm$en$e across the state at various locations starting in December and running through early April.

Farm$en$e is a finance and production education class for Pennsylvania farm businesses.  Farming is a complex business.  The key to running a successful farm business is the ability to manage scarce financial resources and plan farm production accordingly.  This short course teaches participants how to organize and use financial records; develop and analyze financial statements; and make informed decisions regarding finances and production. The concepts covered promote better internal decisions for farm management and stronger relationships with external partners, such as lenders.  The adoption of farm records and the use of financial statements, such as the balance sheet, cash flow, and income statement significantly impact farm financial performance.  This course satisfies the requirements for borrowers of the Farm Service Agency, but is also available to borrowers and lenders of any private agricultural bank.

Farm$en$e will be offered in the following locations:

December 12th, 17th, 19th
The use of financial statements can significantly
impact a farm's financial performance. 
9:30 am to 2:30 pm

January 7th, 21st, 28th
9:30 am to 2:30 pm

January 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th
10:00 am to 2:00 pm

January 31st, February 7th, 21st, 28th
10:00 am – 2:00 pm

February 3rd, 10th, 24th
9:30 am – 2:30 pm

February 4th, 11th, 18th
9:30 am – 2:30 pm
March 3rd, 10th, 17th
9:30 am – 2:30 pm

March 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th
10:00 am – 2:00 pm

March 21st, 28th, April 3rd
9:30 am – 2:30 pm

Register online for the session in your area by clicking on the link above or by phone by calling Kathy Shaffer at 814-445-8911, ext. 7.  The cost of the program is $225 per participant, pre-registration is required for all those attending.  For more information contact Miguel Saviroff, or 814-445-8911, ext. 144.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's Trending in Restaurants for 2014?

No matter what type of retail you are in (agricultural or otherwise), it is very important to stay ahead of trends if you want to keep up with your customers' evolving wants.  It's not necessary to embrace every trend or change your business model entirely, but it is crucial to know what is trending and how these trends will affect your business.  In a recent report by Technomic (a foodservice research and consulting firm), the top 10 trends for restaurants in 2014 are listed.  Below are a few of those trends.  If you are a restauranteur, take some time to ask yourself some of the following questions as to how this trend would affect your business.

  • More information.  Listing ingredients, where they came from, and how they were prepared are all pieces of information consumers are looking for.  
    • Things to thing about: Do you need to redo your menus so they are more descriptive?
    • When looking at other restaurants' menus, what cooking terms make you want to order a certain meal (for example, chargrilled, fire roasted, caramelized, vine ripened, etc)?  Use these descriptors to develop your menu and entice your customers.   
    • Do you have a relationship with the farms you buy from?  Guests may find it interesting to know where their food is coming from.  For example, ask the farmer to write a description about the farm and the food to feature in your menu.
    • In the menu below, look at items like the Elk Creek Burger and Valley Ham + Cheddar.  Items in the dishes are described well and also list farms that source the ingredients.
Elk Creek Cafe menu.

  • Starches are back.  In previous years, carbs were put on the "naughty list" with the introduction of low carb and no carb diets, but that trend seems to be fading.  Technomic says, "Rice bowls will be big, in part because of continued fascination with Asian fare and in part because of an association with healthfulness.  Look for more in the way of flatbreads, wraps and all kinds of artisan breads including healthy whole grain varieties."
    • Things to think about: Do your dining guests  have alternatives besides bread (like wraps)
    • Do you offer healthier options like whole grains in your bread and pasta selections?  
    • Spotlight these healthier options in your menu somehow (for example place them in a special section in the menu, use an icon to highlight the healthier options, etc).
Artisan whole grain breads.

  • Eating on-the-go.  Customers want foods that are easy to eat on-the-go, including handheld foods and car-friendly packaging.  
    • Do you currently have any items that are convenient to eat on the run or are there any menu items that can be modified to fit this need?
    • What kind of packaging will you need to purchase to make your foods grab-and-go?
KFC chicken fingers and fries served in packaging that fits in a car cup holder.

As always, do your research BEFORE embracing a new trend.  What works for one restaurant may not work for you or your customers.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Using Sampling as a Marketing Tool

by Juliette Enfield, Extension Educator, Warren County

The market place is continually changing. The needs and wants of a new generation of consumers can be surprising and unintuitive. Farmers market customers want samples of fresh fruit and vegetables, and kids are more likely to eat fresh apples if they are pre-sliced.

A consumer survey conducted by the University of Kentucky found that farmers market shoppers desired samples of food more than other possible services that a farmers market could offer, including debit card acceptance and expanded market hours. The study also found that fifty five percent of the customers who tried a sample purchased the sampled product that day and another  17% planned to buy the product in the future. Fruits and vegetables products were the top items that people were willing to sample. If you are a vendor of fresh produce, you may want to consider this marketing opportunity. Incorporating sampling into your business routine may sound daunting, especially since samples should be prepared in an approved, inspected facility or prepared at the market with an approved washing facility. However, if you are able to attract new customers or stimulate sales by offering samples, it might be worth the effort.

Also along the lines of cutting up fresh fruits and vegetables, a study in Wayne County, New York found that kids are more likely to eat apples if they are sliced. Cornell Cooperative Extension launched a study to determine effective ways to boost local food consumption in middle schools. By working with school Food Service Distributors, different techniques for serving apples were tested. It was found that slicing the apples instead of offering them whole resulted in a 73% increase in apple consumption. Food Service Distributors reported that single serving packages were the most convenient way to display the apple slices in lunch lines and in vending machines. One of the researchers spoke at a conference recently about this study and a tool that she discovered during her work in Wayne County. She recommended a kitchen tool called a sectionizer, which cores and slices fresh fruit in one swift motion.
A variety of peaches to sample at a farm retail store. 

Given the new research showing that children and adults alike are looking for those freshly sliced fruits and vegetables, you may want to consider a sectionizer for your marketing and packaging.

Produce samples should be kept at 41⁰F and covered. Speak to your local food inspector about your set up in order to provide safe, fresh samples of your fruit and vegetables. Your market may be interested in trying pooled sampling, in which several samples from different vendors are prepared and offered at one table in the market. 

Sources for this blog:

Timothy Woods and Miranda Hileman, Best Practicesfor Sampling at Farmers Markets: A Practical Guide for Farmers Market Vendors, Extension Publication 2012-19 (Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky, 2012) accessed Nov 12, 2013 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Count Foot Traffic When Hosting an Event at Your Business

The number of shopping days until the fall and winter holidays are dwindling; and most likely you will host an open house or event to draw consumers to your retail outlet to do some holiday shopping.  In the past, we have offered some insight into hosting events (Events – Know When and How to Host Them and Cross Promotion: Partnering With Other Business to Better Serve Your Customers, Part III), and as a result a question you might be asking, “How will I know if the event was a success?” 

Certainly calculating gross and net sales is important but it is also important to document foot traffic – the number of people who attended the event.  It is key to know your customer counts so that you can determine if the event encouraged more consumers to visit than during an average day, or if the event needs to be redesigned to be more appealing.  Foot traffic counts also help retailers understand whether the event attracted more consumers than past events held during the same period. 

Obtaining foot traffic counts can be accomplished by: 

  • Distributing invitations that attendees bring to the event to be admitted or requiring attendees to RSVP
  • Counting attendees as they arrive at the event by either assigning an employee to manually count customers or installing an electronic sensor that tabulates the number of customers who pass through a particular doorway
  • Asking customers to sign up for a mailing list or loyalty program
  • Giving each attendee a raffle ticket and keeping track of the number handed out  

Each system has its advantages and disadvantage. 

  • If invitations or RSVPs are expected you will also need decide if “walk-ins” will be admitted and how to capture this number
  • Not all customers will sign up for your mailing list or loyalty program, or they may already be members unless you are launching these programs during the event 
  • If attendees are counted as they enter a doorway—it is possible that they could be counted more than once if they exit the store and then reenter.  It is also possible that the person counting attendees could be distracted if others ask questions or for assistance.  You will also need to determine how you will “count” attendees.  Will you count all adults or will you count families (with two or more adults) and couples as one attendee?  It will also be important to “subtract” any employees, who enter the store through the same entrance, from these counts.  

Foot traffic can also help with planning for next year’s event.  Consider counting the number of customers who visit based on the time of the day and, if it is a multi-day event, the day they visit. These numbers can help with scheduling staff as well as adjusting the hours that the event could be held in future years. Additionally, if you invite other vendors to showcase their goods and services or schedule a special entertainer to perform, use these counts to schedule their appearances when foot traffic is favorable for all involved.  
Having entertainment at your event is a great idea to set the tone.
Just be certain to schedule performers during periods when you expect high foot traffic counts

Record not only foot traffic but also the number of visitors who access your website during and after the event. Also, ask customers to participate in an online survey and ask them if they are interested in attending the event (or if they did attend), what additional vendors or attractions they would be like to see, and how they heard about the event or if they first learned about it when visiting your site.