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Monday, December 22, 2008

Mission Accomplished: Caring for Kids 2008 Results

The results are in! Thanks to YOU, we raised $322,838 to benefit local children’s hospitals. That’s a pretty incredible accomplishment, and we owe it all to our dedicated team members and compassionate guests. As you may recall, this was our 30th annual Caring for Kids Campaign, and our goal this year was to break the $7 million total contribution mark. We’re proud to announce that, together, we did just that.
We’d like to offer a sincere “THANK YOU” to our team members for all of their hard work. You organized raffles, coordinated spaghetti dinners, and even donated your hard-earned tips to the campaign. You truly worked tirelessly for the kids! Of course, we couldn’t have done it without our fantastic guests. We’re proud to be a part of your community and are grateful for your help in supporting children’s hospitals. Even though times are tough, you really rallied to help us achieve our goal. Thank You!



Here's our team at the Whitehall Eat'n Park. With Smiley's help, they raised $782 during their Tips for Tots event. Nice work!
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Monday, December 8, 2008

Customizing our menu for Celiac diets and other special needs

At Eat’n Park, our goal is to make everyone feel welcome. We want our menu to provide selections for every appetite, and our guests have often told us that we are the one place the whole family can agree on because of our broad menu.

Last year, some of our guests complimented us on some things we didn’t even know we were good at. Some of these guests had Celiac disease (an allergy to gluten), and they told us that they appreciated that we offered a gluten-free menu on our website. We also heard from people trying to cut back on calories and fat who liked our Eat’n Smart options, and from vegetarians who appreciated the multiple options we offer for them.

Though we were happy to hear this positive feedback, we also thought we could do a much better job at making our menu accessible to people with special diets. So, we redesigned the back of our menu to be especially for this purpose. This page of our menu includes sections for gluten-free items (our Celiac-Friendly menu), our Eat’n Smart selections (lower in calories, fat and cholesterol), reduced sodium selections, and vegetarian options. Our goal was to make it easy for people with special dietary needs to find the items on our menu that fit their diet. We also continually evaluate new items we introduce for how they may fit into these special sections.

We have received a lot of positive feedback on our new menu sections, and we hope everyone always feels welcome at Eat’n Park. We’re are continually looking for new menu ideas so if you feel we’re missing an item that could be your new favorite, let us know! You can pass on your suggestions by commenting here on this blog or in the Contact Us section of our website.

Thanks for listening and see you at Eat’n Park!

Kevin
Sr. VP, Marketing Share

Friday, December 5, 2008

Smiley Loves a Parade

To get in the spirit of the season, Eat’n Park recently participated in Macy’s Celebrate the Seasons Parade in downtown Pittsburgh. Smiley loves a parade and the crowd really seemed to love Smiley. To make it a little more fun, we invited Sarah Marince, rising country singer and singer of our “The Place for Smiles” jingle, to join us in the parade. She sang Christmas songs and our famous jingle. There was a big crowd watching the parade, and we all had a great time. Here are a couple pictures and a short video in case you missed the parade.

I hope everyone has a joyous season. Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! I’ll see you at Eat’n Park!

Kevin
Sr. VP, Marketing




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The Story of the Eat'n Park Christmas Star Commercial

It’s hard to believe that December is here and the holidays are already upon us. While there are busy schedules and stress that sometimes come along with this time of year, there are also long-beloved traditions that we look forward to all year long.

One long-running tradition here at Eat’n Park is our cherished Christmas Star commercial. Every year, we are moved by the comments we hear about this classic spot. Many of you have told us that it is what gets you in the holiday spirit, and that it reminds you of what the holidays are all about. We’ve even heard that the commercial has been referenced in Christmas Eve sermons!

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the commercial – and because it’s so timeless, it’s hard to believe that it has been around for so long. And just how did this classic come to be?

It all started in early 1982. Eat’n Park was just beginning to blossom into the family restaurant chain that you’re now familiar with, and the company was prospering. Our CEO at the time, Jim Broadhurst (who recently retired), wanted to create a holiday card on video to thank the city of Pittsburgh for their support of Eat’n Park.

So, Jim charged Ketchum, our ad agency at the time, with creating a message that would “last for 20 years.” Easy, right? Craig Otto, then a young Art Director, and Cathy Bowen, a fledgling Copy Writer at the time, lead the project. The pair worked for 3 weeks to generate over 30 ideas, none of which were met with approval. Eventually, they hit upon the idea of an animated commercial, but they still weren’t sure where they were going with it.

One Sunday shortly thereafter, Craig decided to come into the office. He sketched out a star, a traditional holiday image, and then stopped. “How does the star get to the top of the tree?” He played around with a few ideas until deciding that, of course, the star would need some help from the tree itself. In a fateful coincidence, Cathy had also decided to come in to the office that Sunday. So, while Craig worked out the illustrations, Cathy devised a simple, yet perfect sentiment to wrap up the commercial.

Jim immediately loved the spot, and an ageless favorite was born. Even better, the commercial has outlasted his original expectations. The idea of the relationship between the tree and the star illustrates a timeless holiday lesson – by helping another, you’re helping yourself, and you’re making the world a better place.

So, from everyone here at Eat’n Park, here’s hoping that the special lift you get this holiday season lasts all year long!


Click above to view the commercial. And please, feel free to share your thoughts and stories about it – we love hearing them!

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Black Friday at Eat'n Park

For many of you, “Black Friday” probably jump starts your holiday shopping. So, you won’t be surprised to know that that day is really busy for our restaurants. After all, shoppers need fuel in the midst of searching for great deals. Did you know that almost one-third of Black Friday shoppers hit their first shopping destination before 6 am? No wonder people are so hungry for a good breakfast!

To be ready for those of you who are at the mall before dawn, we’re opening our doors early, between 4-6 am, at most of locations located in or near shopping centers. We’re also featuring a Shoppers’ Buffet until mid-morning at most of those locations. It’s a great way to get in, get a great meal, and get back to shopping. Just click here to find out if the Shoppers’ Buffet is being offered at a location near you.

And just to show you how hungry people are on the biggest shopping day of the year, here’s a sample of what we served at Eat’n Park last year on Black Friday:
  • More than 70,000 eggs (3 times more than a typical Friday)
  • 16,000 cups of coffee and 2,500 lattes
  • More than 14,000 breakfast buffets
In addition, we have another reason to be excited about Black Friday this year: Smiley Merchandise. All of our restaurants now carry Smiley-branded gift items like coffee mugs, shoe charms, and Sarris Smiley chocolates. We’ve even stocked some of our locations with apparel, like our new sweatshirts featuring our beloved Christmas Star commercial. The apparel is only available in a few locations right now, but it’s available near many major shopping areas around Pittsburgh, including our locations in Grove City, Cranberry Twp., Robinson Twp., Monroeville, Uniontown, North Huntingdon, Center Twp., and McKnight Rd.
We think these items will make great gifts and stocking stuffers, so hopefully we can save you some time by being a one-stop-shop for not only a good meal, but also for special holiday gifts. We just hope we don’t sell out too quickly! Of course, if that does happen, you can find most of our items in our online store.
Happy Shopping! Share

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keep Your Thanksgiving From Going Fowl

Family and food have always been the cornerstone of my Thanksgiving celebrations, and I am sure it is the same with you. My family has a great tradition. Each year I plan a themed menu. I put together an entire meal of recipes using the theme in every course. The recipes are divided up amongst my siblings, and on Thanksgiving we gather at my home and share our creations. One year, the theme was apples and another it was root vegetables. This year’s theme is Italian American. This tradition of themed menus has kept my family’s Thanksgivings interesting year after year, so I thought I’d share the idea with you.

However, none of these celebrations would have been much fun if, because of unsafe food handling, we all got sick. So, here are some food safety tips you can follow to help you make the most of this holiday season:

  • Thaw the frozen turkey in the refrigerator. Allow one day for each five pounds of turkey. A twenty-pound turkey will take about four days to thaw. Hint: Remove neck & giblets from inside the bird as soon as possible to hasten thawing.
  • Do not let any juices from the turkey come into contact with any other food.
  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw poultry.
  • Wash all knives, cutting boards and utensils also after using for raw poultry.
  • Cook fresh turkeys within two days, thawed ones within four days.
  • Never slow-cook poultry overnight.
  • Use a meat thermometer that is set for an internal temperature of 165°. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to “rest” for 20 minutes before slicing.
  • If you are traveling with food, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Wrap hot foods in foil and heavy towels to keep it above 140°. Keep cold food in a cooler with ice packs to maintain 40° or below.
  • Promptly refrigerate leftovers in shallow platters instead of one large container. Remove the turkey from the bone to help it cool quicker.
  • Reheat any leftovers to an internal temperature of 165°. Gravy should be brought to a rolling boil.
  • Be sure to use up your leftovers within four days.
If you have any questions about food safety or need more details about my tips, just leave a note on the blog and I’ll get back to you.

I would like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and remind you that Eat’n Park is closed Thanksgiving Day. But, all of our locations will be open bright and early Friday morning so we can all grab breakfast before hitting those sales!

Until next time,
Regis

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Caring for Kids Campaign – Impacting lives close to home

‘Tis the season for our annual Caring for Kids Campaign. This is our 30th year raising money for children’s hospitals, and with the help of our team members and guests, we want to make it the best yet! Since the inception of the campaign, we’ve raised almost $7 million - that’s pretty amazing. This fundraising campaign benefits 13 children’s hospitals in the neighborhoods around our restaurants, but I wanted to share one story that hits particularly close to home for two of our own team members.

Let me introduce you to Davis Rees - he’s the son of Krista, who is a manager at our Robinson restaurant, and Jim, who is a cook at our Moon Township restaurant. Davis was born with a rare condition called Prune Belly Syndrome. The result of his condition caused him to have stage 5 kidney failure, and he is currently awaiting a kidney transplant.

It’s been a challenging journey for the Rees family, but the team at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has been there every step of the way. Krista says, “I cannot say enough about the doctors, nurses and overall staff at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Everyone is so caring and compassionate. When Davis first arrived there, it was the scariest time of our lives. We had never been to Children’s Hospital. We didn't at the time know what was wrong with our son, but the staff was incredible, explaining everything to us. Children’s does so much for patients' families that I am sure most people are not even aware of. Because of the work they do, we’re able to concentrate on what’s really important: our son.”

We hope that you’ll visit one of our restaurants this holiday season and help us support Davis and all of the other kids that benefit from this campaign! For more information, just click here or stop by your neighborhood Eat’n Park Restaurant for details. Share

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Recipe: Boston Brown Bread

Our beloved Boston Brown Bread….when we removed it from the menu, we found out just how much some of you liked it. Well, now you can have it any time you like! It’s baked a little differently than most breads, but I think you’ll like the results.

Boston Brown Bread

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 c. water
  • 1 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. shortening or butter
  • 3 tbsp. molasses
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 3/4 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
Directions:
  • Generously grease 2 (1 pound) coffee cans or 3 (1 lb.) vegetable or fruit cans; set aside. (The cans should only have one end removed.)
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Add raisins and walnuts, if desired. Toss to evenly coat the raisins and nuts with the flour mixture.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the oil, water, egg, vanilla, sugar, and molasses. Mix well.
  • Stir the wet mixture into the flour mixture only until dry ingredients are moistened.
  • Turn into prepared cans, filling evenly. Cover cans tightly with 2 layers of foil; secure with string or rubber band.
  • Cook with one of the two following methods:
    • #1: Place a rack in a large kettle or pot. Place the cans on rack. Place kettle/pot over low heat. Add boiling water until halfway up cans. Cover; bring water to a gentle boil. Steam bread 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Add more boiling water during steaming, if necessary.
    • #2: Place a rack in a large kettle or pot. Place cans on the rack. Add boiling water to the kettle/pot and cover with a lid. Place the kettle in a 325° oven and steam for 2 hours and 45 minutes, replacing boiling water as needed.
  • Carefully remove bread from cans. Cool on racks at least 30 minutes before slicing. Makes 2 or 3 small loaves.
VARIATIONS:
  • APRICOT BOSTON-BROWN BREAD: Substitute 1 cup finely chopped apricots or 1/2 cup chopped apricots plus 1/2 cup raisins for 1 cup raisins.
  • BAKED BROWN BREAD: Generously grease a 2 quart casserole dish or 9"x5" loaf pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Turn batter into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Get out the vote!

Presidential election years are rarely boring, and 2008 has certainly been no exception. November 4 promises to be an exciting day for America, and citizens are expected to turn out in record numbers to cast their votes for our country’s next leaders.

We’re hoping that if you’re reading this, you’re planning to make a stop at your local polling station on Tuesday to cast your own ballot. Because of the expected turnout, polls are likely to be crowded, so make sure you plan accordingly. If you aren’t sure where your polling place is, find it here by entering your address.

Because we think exercising your rights as a voter is one of the most important things you can do as a citizen, we are offering free coffee in our restaurants on November 4 to anyone who presents their voting stub or sticker. If you’re not a coffee drinker, we’ll be happy to substitute tea or a soft drink for you.

Even if you aren’t able to visit us afterward, we still hope you’ll hit the polls on election day. Get out the vote!

Kevin Share

Friday, October 24, 2008

When did Halloween become a season?

At some point since I became a father, Halloween seems to have transformed itself from a holiday into a season. At my house, the costume planning for my two grade-schoolers starts early. The good news for me is that whatever is invested in costumes (this year, my wife made the costumes) is now at least spread over multiple Halloween parties and events throughout the month of October – school, Girl Scouts, neighborhood kids’ events, and more.

At Eat’n Park, it has become a big deal as well. Our Halloween Smiley Cookie is our most popular cookie each year. Last year, our famous orange Smiley Cookie even found its way into a nationally released DVD kids’ movie, R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour: Don’t Think About It (the cookie appears in about 15 scenes in the movie, including being eaten in a sight gag by one of the stars) The movie featured two of the actors from Hannah Montana, Emily Osment and Cody Linley, which definitely upped the Halloween Smiley Cookie on the coolness meter for my kids.

This year, we’ve expanded the Halloween Smiley Cookie brand to include Halloween Smiley shoe charms (they fit into Croc brand shoes) and Halloween Smiley t-shirts. The shoe charms are available at all Eat’n Park locations, and the Halloween Smiley t-shirts are available at select Eat’n Park locations (click here to see which ones) and in our online store. Of course, you can still find Halloween Smiley cookies at all Eat’n Park locations or send them to friends and family across the USA at http://www.smileycookie.com/.

So, enjoy the season and have a happy and safe Halloween!

Kevin
Sr. VP, Marketing Share

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

rBGH-free: Eliminating artificial hormones from our milk

For the last five years, I’ve been working toward a goal that has finally come to fruition: all of Eat’n Park’s milk is now free from rBST/rBGH hormones. By eliminating these hormones, we wanted to preserve the natural credibility of our milk supply and continue to deliver a high quality product. This was not an easy task, but the farmers we work with made the change because natural milk production poses fewer health risks to their herds and will decrease the expense on medication for treating the cows.

To give you a little background, Bovine somatotropin is a naturally occurring hormone in cattle that regulates growth and milk production. When it’s produced artificially by genetic engineering techniques, it’s then called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) or recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). This hormone is administered at the farm level, and it in turn increases milk production. However, there are certain drawbacks to using rBST/rBGH (click here for more info: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/rbgh2.cfm), and for us, these outweighed the benefits of continuing to use the hormones.

To convince our partner farms that eliminating rBGH/rBST was the right thing to do, I strapped on my work boots and started visiting dairy farms in and around Western PA with Chuck Turner. Chuck is the owner of the family owned and operated Turner Dairy Farms (http://www.turnerdairy.net), which processes all of the milk that is produced by the other farms that we buy from. Chuck and I visited farms large and small – some with 30 cows, and others with 300 - most of which have been in the same family for more than three generations. After discussing the potential consequences of using artificial hormones and the benefits to eliminating them, these farmers understood why we wanted to buy milk that was free from rBST.

Side note: It was so cool to see how progressive some of our farmers were. One of them had a Palm Pilot that included all of the names of the cows, how many calves they birthed, and how many pounds of milk they produced per milking. Another was using a mixture of cow poop and other organic material to produce gas to heat their barn and house.I’m happy to report that my visits were a success! After completing the farm visits, not only did I understand dairy farming a little more, but I was also confident that our fluid milk was coming from local farm families that have chosen not to treat their herds with rBST. We’re fortunate to have suppliers who are willing to work with us to produce the highest quality products. And on that note, because of their relentless focus on quality, Turner Dairy was recently awarded First Place for Best Tasting Milk at the World Dairy Expo. Just one of the reasons that we have, in my mind, the best milkshakes anywhere!! Congratulations, Chuck and Turner Dairy!

If you’re interested in finding out more about Turner Dairy or Harrisburg Dairy, which processes the milk for our eastern locations, check out their websites below:
Turner Dairy http://www.turnerdairy.net/OurFarms.htm
Harrisburg Dairies www.harrisburgdairies.com/home.htm

Jamie

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

FAQ's: Answering the burning questions you have about Eat’n Park

Every day, our dedicated team members in guest relations receive calls and emails from curious guests seeking information about Eat’n Park that isn’t listed on our website. Well, in this posting, we’ve compiled some of the questions we hear most frequently.

Of course, we know there are more questions out there. What else do you want to know about Eat’n Park? We’d love to answer any questions we haven’t addressed here. Please, leave us a comment so we can gratify your curiosity!

Q: Why “Eat’n Park”? Wouldn’t “Park’n Eat” make more sense?
A:
Park’n Eat would have been a logical choice, but here’s the thing: Back in 1949, when our first restaurant opened, the term “park and eat” was as common as “drive thru” is today and couldn’t be copyrighted. So, to stand out, our founder reversed the words, and the rest is history.

Q: I have food allergies. Are Smiley Cookies safe for me to eat?
A:
Smiley Cookies contain the following allergens: wheat, soy, egg, and milk. It’s also important to note that while the cookie itself does not contain any nut products, these allergens are present in our restaurants, where the cookies are iced and baked.

Q: What steps is Eat’n Park taking to “go green”?
A:
We’ll be exploring this subject in-depth through Jamie’s posts on sustainability. Jamie is personally very passionate about this subject, and he’ll be providing insight on how we’re working with local farms to source fresh produce, as well as what we’re doing to reduce our ecological footprint. Check out Jamie’s posts here: http://eatnparkblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Sustainability

Q: I signed up for your email club. Why haven’t I received my coupon?
A:
That depends. There are two likely answers:
  1. If you signed up on our website, your coupon was probably emailed to you within 24 hours. However, it might be caught in your spam or junk folder. Make sure you check these folders, and then add our email address to your safe senders list so that future emails are delivered to your inbox. If you're sure that the email isn't caught in your junk folder, go here to notify us so we can investigate for you: http://www.eatnpark.com/feedback_request.asp?RequestType=General. Make sure you include the email address you registered with.

  2. If you signed up on a paper slip at one of our restaurants, it may take a couple weeks for your registration to go through, just because it takes us some time to manually enter everyone’s information. There’s also a chance that we had trouble reading your email address, and it may have been entered into our system incorrectly. In either case, why not just sign up right now on our website? http://www.eatnpark.com/join.asp
Q: My non-profit organization is having a fundraiser, and we’re looking for donations. We’d like to have Smiley cookies donated, but your website says you need 5 weeks notice. Why do you need so much time?
A: This is a great question. Five weeks seems like a lot of time. However, please consider that we receive hundreds of donation requests every week. We have to review all of them, then decide which ones we’ll be able to accommodate. (This, by the way, is the hardest part, because we receive SO MANY worthy requests!)

After this decision-making stage, we have to get in touch with everyone who’s been approved, then coordinate the details about when they’ll pick up their donation. Then, we need to communicate with our restaurant managers two weeks before the donation will be picked up, so that they have time to order the supplies needed and prepare the donation for the pickup date. When you multiply these steps by the number of requests we’re dealing with, you can see why we need so much time.

The good news is that we just recently rolled out a new online donation system, and it’s helping us streamline this process. If you’d like to request a donation, visit our donation page to get started: http://www.eatnpark.com/smiley_donation.asp Share

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Facelift for our Monroeville Eat'n Park (with an added dose of convenience)

Lately, instead of opening new locations, we've been focused on remodeling existing Eat'n Park restaurants. Our most recent project has been our Monroeville location, which we've given not only a facelift, but also a brand-new feature: our first pick-up window, which opens this Friday, October 10.

We're really excited about the level of convenience we think this will add to our guests' takeout experiences. No more having to get out of the car, only to wait in line to pay inside the restaurant. With this feature, guests will be able to call the restaurant to place their order (412-471-1111, by the way), then just drive around to the pick-up window to pay for and receive their meals.

Below are some cool before & after shots from our VP of Design and Construction, Andy Dunmire. In addition to the new pickup window, Andy and his team also added counter seating. If you've had a chance to check out the changes at the restaurant, or if you've tried the pick-up window for your takeout order, please post your comments here and let us know what you think!





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Friday, October 3, 2008

Meet Our Menu Development Team at Good Taste Pittsburgh!

Here’s your chance to meet the culinary team behind the Eat’n Park recipes you love (and sample some great food while you’re at it)! On October 18th, we’ll be cooking up a storm at this year’s Good Taste! Pittsburgh Food and Cooking Expo at the Pittsburgh Expo Mart.

You can catch me and John Frick, our Executive Chef of Menu Development, at the “What’s Cooking” stage from 11:00 to noon. Watch us recreate two of our favorite Eat’n Smart selections, Baked Lemon Sole and Rosemary Chicken, right before your eyes. Best of all, you get to sample the two dishes! Be sure to print this coupon to receive $3 off admission at the door.

Our Rosemary Chicken is a guest favorite and it’s easy to make at home. So for those of you who can’t make it out to the event to see us prepare it live, here’s the recipe - I think you’ll enjoy it.

Eat’n Park’s Rosemary Chicken

  • 1 – 5 to 6 ounce chicken breast (skin removed before cooking)
  • ¼ teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ ounce olive oil
  • 2 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 ounce Beurre Blanc sauce (recipe is below)
  • fresh chopped parsley flakes
  1. Drizzle the chicken breast with olive oil and season with the rosemary and black pepper.
  2. Bake 450° for 6 to 10 minutes until reaching an internal temperature of 165° for 15 seconds. You may also grill or sauté the chicken breast.
  3. Sautee the mushrooms for 2 to 3 minutes until they are tender.
  4. When the chicken is cooked, place it on the serving plate and top with the cooked mushrooms.
  5. Top the mushrooms with the Beurre Blanc sauce.
  6. Garnish the sauce with the chopped parsley.
BEURRE BLANC SAUCE

  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup white-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 cup butter
  1. Combine the wine, vinegar, and shallots and boil over a medium heat. Reduce to 3 tablespoons of syrup.
  2. Add the cream, salt, and white pepper and continue to boil for 1 minute.
  3. Reduce heat to low and add the butter one tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly.
  4. Pass the sauce through a mesh sieve to remove the shallots.
I’m hoping to see you at Good Taste Pittsburgh! And if you tried making the Rosemary Chicken, please return to our blog and let me know how it turned out.

Regis Share

Monday, September 29, 2008

Meatloaf – An American Institution

It’s almost October, which means that for the past couple of months, I’ve been busy perfecting our new fall specials. One of our new features is the “Mile-High Meatloaf,” and I thought a little background on the history of meatloaf would be in order.

Nobody knows exactly when meatloaf was first created. Early records show that for centuries, cooks would mince already-cooked meat by hand and re-form it into molds. Some even believe that meatloaf has its origin in scrapple, a mixture of ground pork and cornmeal served by German-Americans in Pennsylvania since Colonial times.

But it wasn’t until the Great Depression and World War II that the American public began incorporating ground meat into family meals on a widespread basis. It was critical for families to stretch food dollars as much as possible. Using an inexpensive ground meat and throwing in leftovers and other less-than-fancy ingredients along with a few spices gave cooks a way to use up things that might otherwise go to waste. This is the reason we all feel that our mom’s meatloaf is the best. There are as many different variations as there are families and generations.

Today, many hail meatloaf as the ultimate comfort food. Because of its appeal as a traditional family dinner, Americans are ordering meatloaf at restaurants in record numbers. For that reason, I invite you to try our Mile-High Meatloaf. We’ll fill your need for comfort food with four slices of our private recipe meatloaf served over a grilled slice of homemade Italian bread. To make it a Mile-High, we top it with two large scoops of fluffy mashed potatoes, savory beef gravy and crisp onion rings. You really have to see it (and eat it) to believe it.

The Mile-High Meatloaf will be featured at Eat’n Park from Monday, September 29th until Wednesday, November 26th. It is a limited time offer, so be sure to stop in and give it a try. Then come on back to the blog and let me know what you think.

Until next time,
Regis Share

Friday, September 26, 2008

Uniontown Eat’n Park Receives Community Choice Awards

Congratulations to General Manager Kim Gunsallus and her team at the Uniontown, PA, Eat’n Park! Thanks to readers of their local newspaper, the Herald Standard, our Uniontown restaurant grabbed top honors in the following categories:

-Best All-Around Restaurant
-Best Breakfast
-Best Brunch
-Best Salad Bar
-Best Health Food Menu
-Best Homemade Desserts

We’re especially proud of the award for “Best Health Food Menu.” We’ve worked hard to make our menu accessible to everyone, including those with special dietary needs like a gluten-free diet. In case you haven’t been in to one of our restaurants lately, throughout our menu, we use our “Eat’n Smart” symbol to denote items that are healthier with less calories, cholesterol, and fat. The back of the menu lists the items on our menu that will fit into celiac, reduced-sodium, and vegetarian diets.

Regardless of diet restrictions, we hope to offer something for everyone, and we want to do it with a smile. Kim and her team are clearly doing that and more for the Uniontown community. Congratulations! Share

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back to school presents challenges for family meal planning

Some life changes seem to arrive with the seasons. I have two children in grade school, and each September brings the crush of the schedule back into our life from the carefree days of summer. School and homework would be enough, but there is also football, cheerleading, soccer, piano lessons, PTA, etc. When do we eat together?!?!?

Often, this time of year, our options include more takeout. We don’t have time to cook and we don’t have time to sit down someplace, so takeout becomes our cook for the night. At Eat’n Park, we know many families face the same dilemma that mine does during this time of year, so we try to make our takeout satisfying for the whole family. Our menu already offers something for everyone, but we’re always looking for ways to improve our takeout service and food quality.

Our sandwiches and salads travel especially well, but one of our most popular takeout items is the Quart of Soup. We have chili and chicken noodle soup available every day, plus our soup of the day (like my personal favorite, potato soup on Wednesdays and Sundays).

As I mentioned earlier, we’re always striving to improve our takeout experience. So, we’d love it if you’d give our takeout a try, and comment back on this blog with what you liked and what we could do to make it even better. In fact, here’s a coupon for 20% off your next takeout order, valid through October 10, 2008 (click here). I look forward to seeing your comments!

Enjoy,
Kevin
Sr. VP, Marketing Share

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Smoke-free dining is better for our team members

On Thursday, September 11, the state of Pennsylvania is going smoke-free. More than a year ago, on May 31, 2007, we decided to make all of our restaurants smoke-free voluntarily. It wasn’t an easy decision at the time. We knew that many of our guests would love the change, but we also knew that some of our guests who smoke would be disappointed by our decision. We’re in the hospitality business. Trying to make everyone happy is what we do. It’s in our blood! This would be a choice where we would have to make some people happy and others not.

The group that was most important to us in this decision was our team members. The Eat’n Park experience is delivered every day by our more than 8,000 team members. The evidence is pretty clear that working in an environment with second-hand smoke is not good for your health. When the state of PA (Ohio had already gone smoke-free in December 2006) delayed its smoke-free legislation, we felt we couldn’t, in good conscience, continue to ask our team members to work in an environment that we knew to be hazardous to their health.

We have received tremendous positive feedback and support for our decision, and we have never regretted it. Our team members enjoy a healthier work environment, and we have heard from so many families who appreciate a place where they can dine smoke-free.

To thank you for your support, we will be serving FREE Smiley cookies with dinner on Thursday, September 11 (from 5-8 pm). So, stop by your neighborhood Eat'n Park and enjoy a great dinner and a Smiley Cookie on the house!

See you at Eat'n Park,
Kevin
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Friday, September 5, 2008

Welcome to our blog

Hello, and welcome to our blog! My name is Jeff Broadhurst, and I am the President and CEO of Eat’n Park. We’re excited about this new feature, and we are hoping that we can connect with you through the blog and incorporate you into the Eat’n Park family.

Obviously, the world we live in is constantly changing. The way we communicate today is far different from the way we did back in 1949 when our company first began, but we’ve always strived to hold on to those personal interactions that are so much a part of our history.

This blog is an extension of that goal. We hope to share a bit of our culture with you through stories, recipes, and other information that we think you’ll enjoy. More importantly, we hope you’ll share with us – we want to answer those questions you’ve always had about Eat’n Park (how did we come up with that name, anyway?) and we want to hear your ideas, feedback, and hopefully, a few compliments too!

You’ll be seeing a variety of topics here, ranging from our sustainability practices to menu development to our restaurant remodels. Some of our most innovative team members will be posting their thoughts, so expect information that you haven’t heard before. Check out the author bios on the right to see who you’ll be hearing from.

So please, take a look and let us know what you think! We’re looking forward to hearing from you and very much appreciate your business.

Keep Smiling,

Jeff

President and CEO Share

Size does matter...for tomatoes

I love tomatoes….nothing speaks local like a great tasting, juicy tomato picked at the height of ripeness!! So, of course we wanted to make sure all of our guests enjoy that home grown favorite. But as you know, these global orbs tend to also come in a variety of sizes and shapes, which makes it difficult to execute for a company with as many locations as we have. We needed to make sure our local farmers could deliver tomatoes that had a consistent size and shape.

So this past winter, with snow still falling and fields still frozen, I got in my car and visited with a few of our farmers. Two of the farmers were in western PA: Art King from Harvest Valley Farms (http://www.harvestvalleyfarms.com/) and Don Brenckle from Brenckle’s Farm and Greenhouses (http://www.brenckle.com/). During this meeting, we talked about the importance of the consistent size and shape of our tomatoes…but we also couldn't lose the fantastic, fresh taste that is the hallmark of a locally produced vegetable. As I sat at the kitchen table at Art’s house and stood in the greenhouse at Don’s, we leafed through numerous seed catalogues to find that seed that would produce the perfect tomato for Eat’n Park.

Since we have restaurants stretching from Ohio through Central PA, it was necessary to partner with a farmer in the East that would be willing to meet these same specifications. The most logical choice was Steve Groff, a farmer that I met 6 years ago at the PASA (http://www.pasafarming.org/) conference in State College, PA. Steve welcomed the business and is now supplying our eastern restaurants with tomatoes from Cedar Meadow Farms (http://www.cedarmeadowfarm.com/) in Holtwood, PA.

What I like best about featuring local tomatoes is freshness of the product. Our tomatoes go from the vine to the plate in our restaurants in less than three days!!! That is the only way to keep the wonderful fresh taste. My only regret is that the season is too short. But don’t fret; I’m working on that…

Jamie
Director of Sourcing & Sustainability Share

The story behind the voice of Eat'n Park

We are very excited to be working with a Pittsburgh-based singer to provide the musical sound of Eat’n Park. Sarah Marince, a Moon Twp., PA resident, is an aspiring country singer. She’s been opening for big name artists, including Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood, Kellie Pickler, Julianne Hough, and Reba McEntire, preparing to get her own big break.

Here’s a little history on how we hooked up with Sarah. At the beginning of 2008, we wanted to update our famous “Place for Smiles” jingle with a fresh new voice. We saw Sarah perform at the release party for her new CD and were amazed how young and old gravitated to her sound and her personality. She is truly a great person and it comes across in her performance. Add to that the fact that she has a tremendous voice! We thought she would be the perfect representative for Eat’n Park. We’ve posted the new version of our jingle and a free song from her new CD on our website so that you can hear Sarah yourself. We also recorded a video of Sarah when she was in the studio recording our new jingle. Catch it all at http://www.eatnpark.com/promo.asp

This summer, we wanted to share Sarah’s sound with our guests, so we took her on the road to perform outside various Eat’n Park restaurants. We had a blast and so did our guests. You can check one of Sarah's latest performances below, or see all of our videos here: http://www.eatnpark.com/newsVideo.asp.

We thank Sarah for helping to make Eat’n Park the place for smiles this summer!

Kevin

Senior Vice President, Marketing

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National Hamburger Festival, Part 1: The birth of our award-winning burgers

I’m sure that all of you reading this have ordered hundreds of hamburgers in your lifetime. But did you ever stop to think about where they come from, who comes up with these great flavor combinations, and how do we know which burger out there is really the best one? Well, if those thoughts have been have been weighing on your mind, you’ve come to the right place because I have all those answers and more!

First off, the hamburger ideas normally come from the imagination of the culinary equivalent of a mad scientist. Day after day, I work in our kitchen located in the Waterfront in Homestead, PA, with our manager of menu development, John Frick. We work at combining hundreds of ingredients in an effort to come up with the next big hit. Now and then, the flavors come together and a great taste sensation is created. That is the case with two of our burgers, the Black Angus Superburger and the American Grill.

Now, with all the burgers out there, how are the best burgers chosen? As it turns out, that decision is made in Akron Ohio. Yes, Akron. Ohio. For the past three years, Akron has been the host of the National Hamburger Festival. The festival has become so popular that the Food Channel filmed a half hour feature from there in 2007. So this past July 19th, armed with my two favorite burgers, I traveled to Akron to wow the judges.

I strongly feel that these are two of the best burgers I have ever eaten or created, but each has a very distinct background. The Black Angus Superburger came about partially as the result of a joke: John and I put it together just for the fun of it. We were presenting our new 6 ounce Black Angus patty to the menu development committee. To over-dramatize the size of the burger, I used two of the char-grilled patties on a double-decker bun in place of our classic Superburger patty. The resulting burger was huge. It tasted great. Everyone went wild for it. They loved it so much it went directly to the menu without any testing. That in itself was a first. The Black Angus Superburger has since become one of our most popular selections.

The American Grill was one of the first menu items I developed for Eat’n Park back in 1997. But a little secret - the idea was not completely original. The American Grill is a char-grilled patty served between two grilled slices of yellow egg bread with sautéed dices of green pepper, sweet onion, and button mushrooms, all with a hint of yellow mustard. This burger was first served in my family’s restaurant back in the 70’s under the name “the hamburger special”. How original. It was the number one burger at Holden and Hall’s Pub. I knew that if it was loved there, it would be loved at Eat’n Park, so with a minor change in the bread, it became the American Grill.

Going into the competition, we knew our guests loved our delicious burgers, but would the judges? Find out in my next post....


Regis
Senior Director of Culinary Services Share

National Hamburger Festival, Part 2: Hometown favorites conquer the world

With the National Hamburger Festival approaching quickly, the marketing department decided to enter our Black Angus Superburger in the “Best Traditional Burger” category. But I so love the American Grill that I decided to enter it into the “Best Creative Burger” category.

At an assigned time, three of each burger was to be delivered to the judges’ tent. The Black Angus Superburger was the first up at 11:45 am. I prepared the burgers and rushed them to the judges’ tent in the hopes of keeping them as fresh and hot as possible. I got to the assigned location only to find that the tent had been moved! None of the festival workers could agree as to the new location of the tent. I had to get my entries there hot and I had to get them there on time. Mere minutes later I found the tent, handed over my creations and rushed back to our concession area to prepare the American Grill for the 12:15 judging.

Standing over the hot grill, I quickly found that evenly grilling the egg bread on our rented and hard- to- regulate grills was not going to be an easy task, and I only had enough ingredients to make six American Grills. Three had to be perfect for judging. The patties cooked nicely and the vegetables were sautéed to perfection but the bread for the first two burgers burned almost immediately upon hitting the grill. More stress! Happily, I was able to grill three perfect sets of egg bread for the burgers, assemble them, and get them to the judges’ table right on-time.

My work was done. It was now time to slow down and enjoy the festival. As I walked “hamburger row” with my wife Sarah, I got my first real look at the competition. There were some local favorites like Carvers and Louie’s, but some national competition as well. There was White Castle, Quaker Steak and Lube, Steak ‘n Shake, Fatburger, and Big Boy to name a few. Half way down “hamburger row,” I stopped at a souvenir stand and purchased a National Hamburger Festival hat. I joked with the woman in the stand that if I didn’t win, I was bringing the hat back. Confident in the quality of the burgers I had served, I placed the hat on my head and continued my walk down “hamburger row.”

I am proud to share with you that by the end of the day the Black Angus Superbuger was awarded the second place silver award for the “Best Traditional Burger”. But what I am most proud of is that the old family recipe from The Pub, the American Grill, was awarded the first place gold medal as the “Most Creative Burger.”

I’d like to thank Kevin Wall from our Cuyahoga Falls restaurant for cooking, as well as the rest of our Ohio restaurant team members for their role in our success at the Festival. I am really looking forward to defending our titles in 2009. And I am sure that between now and next July, John and I can come up with another winning flavor combination. In the meantime, stop in at any Eat’n Park, try both of our delicious burgers, and award your own gold medal.

If you would like to learn more about the National Hamburger Festival, please visit
www.hamburgerfestival.com

Until next time,

Regis Share


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