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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What You Don't Know About Idaho

After spending two months in Idaho this year, I have unearthed many interesting facts about a state best known for its potatoes. To wit...

Despite its beauty, Idaho is the only state that has not staked claim to the Miss America title.

Sun Valley is considered the first winter destination resort in the United States. It was built in the 1930s by railroad magnate W. Averill Harriman.

Sun Valley was the home of the world's first chairlifts. The lifts were installed on Dollar and Proctor Mountains in 1936.

The Hokey Pokey was invented in Sun Valley during the 1940s.

Elsewhere in Idaho...

Idaho is the only state with two time zones divided north and south. The state divides between Mountain and Pacific Time just north of Riggins.

Television was invented in Rigby, Idaho in the 1920s by local science prodigy and farm boy Philo Farnsworth.

Bruneau Dunes State Park is home to North America's tallest sand dune, at 470 feet.

Calling All Spuds...

Potatoes are not the top agricultural product in Idaho. Milk is.

Potatoes are the #1 crop, but are third in the agricultural product list after dairy and cattle.

And while we are on the topic, Idaho is the country’s #1 potato producer, serving up 29% of the U.S. total.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Batter Up!

This article appears in the current issue of Hotel F & B Magazine, a publication for which I serve as breakfast editor.

In keeping up with and getting ahead of the competition, hotel brands simply can’t waffle. That’s why Holiday Inn Express is mixing a compact automatic pancake-making machine into its breakfast bar.“We did follow-up research that said guests wanted something more than scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast,” says Sue Morgan, former VP of franchise F&B, InterContinental Hotels Group. “Our average stay is about 2.2 days, so guests would probably experience two different occasions to eat breakfast with us. They were very clear in what they wanted, and we needed to be just as clear in delivering for them.”During the past three years, the mid-priced, limited-service Holiday Inn Express brand has undergone an extensive re-launch, adding hallmarks such as new signage and contemporary artwork. But the change that seems to provide the biggest bang for the buck is the Popcake™ machine, which can produce several flapjacks every minute.The machine, which has been exclusive in North America to Holiday Inn Express until this fall, has been in use in various hotels in the Asia-Pacific region for the past several years. The technology crossed the ocean last year, with Holiday Inn Express testing the machine at 60 properties. It was rolled out at all 1,800 North American hotels during the first quarter of 2011.Al Reingold, director of brand management for the Holiday Inn family of brands, explains, “We are always looking for innovative ways to enhance our offerings and increase the value proposition to franchisees and our guests. The pancake machine was a timely addition to our breakfast bar, which had remained fairly consistent since the introduction of hot items five years ago. After the testing, we found it to be operationally sound. Plus, the cost structure was in line with the franchisee bottom line.”Properties don’t pay for the machine, which is on loan. Instead, they buy batter from a corporate-approved vendor. It comes in bags of pre-made mix, which, with added water, can make 35 pancakes per bag. Dollops of batter drop onto a Teflon-coated cooking belt, producing one pancake every 18 seconds. After 60 bags (enough for 2,100 pancakes) have been emptied, it’s time to change the cooking belt. Hotels receive a new easy-to-install belt free with every 60 bags of batter ordered.“Our guests love it, especially the kids. The aroma of fresh pancakes is stunning, and it’s easy to execute—similar to a tortilla machine,” says Morgan.The pancake maker allows guests to control the quantity, size, and degree of “doneness” or browning, and is in line with the overall Holiday Inn Express brand image, says Paul Snyder, VP of operations for parent company InterContinental Hotels Group, the Americas. “It is a great fit for our guest and the perfect choice for a ‘griddle’ entry versus the ubiquitous and messy waffle machine.”Kathy Tabora, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express Albany Western Avenue University in Albany, New York, is a fan and says guests have raved about the device. “It is very efficient, easy to use, and not messy,” she says. “It’s small, self-contained, and doesn’t require more staffing.”Reingold says the pancake machine has created only one hitch for Holiday Inn Express. “Lines have been the only problem with the machine, and we figure that’s a good problem to have.”