The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) has a food-centric campaign as part of its 2011 activities to promote the City of Brotherly Love. The city's tourism organization has partnered with foodie social platform Foodspotting to promote local restaurants, wineries, hotels and markets to Foodspotting users.
Philadelphia will have a branded presence, contests and guides on the platform, which allows users to recommend favorite dishes and drinks by taking photos of the items and sharing them with the community via the Foodspotting site or smartphone apps.
The guides are location-based lists of recommended dishes and drinks that are mapped and accessible via mobile. GPTMC will have 12 official guides on foodspotting.com/visitphilly, and once Foodspotting members "spot" an item from the guides they get a "Visit Philly" badge that goes to their Foodspotting profile.
The branded guides cover everything from "Famous Philly Flavors" to breweries, vegetarian cuisine and Latin eateries in the region. The city's tourism organization will roll out eight more guides on Foodspotting during the summer.
GPTMC will award one grand prize and 10 first prizes to Foodspotters who participate in Visit Philly's "With Love Foodspotting Contest" this month. One person who follows "Visit Philly" on Foodspotting and completes Visit Philly's "Famous Philly Flavors" guide between May 11 and May 25 will win an overnight stay at a luxury Philadelphia hotel, a City Food Tours' Flavors of Philly excursion for two and a $100 Garces Restaurant Group gift card.
Caroline Bean, a GPTMC spokesperson and social media director, said the organization followed what nearby Bucks County had been doing in the social space. "They actually started with Foodspotting last year and were talking about it to us," she says. Bean says the city's presence on the food platform carries the same branding as the larger "Love" campaign that launched last year, and which the organization has run in places like New York's Penn Station, featuring pithy text with "XOXOXO" script in a red hue.
Bean says GPTMC will promote the food program through media outreach, bloggers and "Our own social media outlets, such as our own blog and our four Twitter and Facebook pages," she says. "Foodspotting is appropriate for us, since we know visitors and residents are savvy with phones, they know what they are doing on social media."
"Visit Philly is one of our destination partners that really gets Foodspotting. We have a dedicated community of users in the Philly area," said Fiona Tang, head of outreach at Foodspotting, in a release.
Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC), which is now 15 years old, reports in new visitor data that the Philadelphia region saw 37.4 million domestic visitors last year -- of whom 33.1 million were tourists. The numbers reflect 10 million more leisure visitors than in 1997, when GPTMC first began marketing. The organization says that every $1 spent on advertising for the "With Love" generates $100 in direct visitor spending.
In addition to the Foodspotting effort GPTMC is ramping up advertising to bring tourists to the city this summer, with ads and links to VisitPhilly.com on mobile Web sites, including philly.com and philadelphiacitysearch.com, and on mobile applications, including The Weather Channel, Go2, Where, ActiveDiner, iMaps and iLocate.
The organization is also launching a new TV spot the week of June 6 that will run in the Philadelphia, northern New Jersey and the Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York (HLLY) DMAs both online and on TV stations, including Nickelodeon, HGTV, TLC, Comedy Central and TBS.
Also, GPTMC and Victory Brewing Company are re-releasing the With Love-inspired Summer Love Ale this summer in 29 states. The effort is part of a "Summer With Love" campaign running May 16 through Sept. 4.
by Karl Greenberg
Technomic examines the future for restaurants through the lens of 40-plus years tracking the industry, and sees 11 top trends emerging in 2011.
As the nation begins to emerge from recession, restaurants are seeing lapsed customers return. Same-store sales are inching up, signaling the industry’s initial rebound to health; hiring is also up, signaling positive expectations for 2011. But this isn’t the same restaurant industry as before. Big changes are on the way—on menus, in concept development and in the competitive landscape.
Technomic, the leading foodservice research and consulting firm, examines the future for restaurants through the lens of 40-plus years tracking the industry, and sees 11 top trends emerging in 2011:
1. Action in adult beverages. As Americans decide they’re once again ready to celebrate, we’ll be seeing lots of action in “Mad Men”-style retro cocktails, high-cachet gin and bourbon, craft beers and punch (including sangria). Look for cocktails with herbal and floral ingredients; “skinny” cocktails; even more adult beverages in fast-casual eateries to set them apart from traditional limited-service competitors.
2. Beyond bricks-and-mortar. Food trucks, facilitated by social media that notify foodies of their whereabouts, were an L.A. and Manhattan fad a year ago; now they’re proliferating around the country. “Land-based” restaurants are using food trucks as brand extensions and catering aids; food-truck districts and “rodeos” are starting to appear; regulatory agencies are scrambling to keep up. Also unmooring restaurants from their traditional street corners: temporary or seasonal pop-up eateries and kiosks.
3. Farmers as celebrities. Once, it was all about celebrity operators; then star chefs rose to prominence. Now, the back-to-the-source mentality sends farmers and producers into the spotlight. Restaurants will feature their celebrity suppliers by offering special menus, inviting them to comment on blogs, even hosting visits. More often, farmers and artisans will be saluted in highly detailed menu descriptions. More attention to the supply chain also means more attention to food safety and product traceability as well as local sourcing.
4. Social media and technology: evolutionary spurt. We’ll see constant changes in applications for marketing and operations in 2011. Kiosk ordering, wine lists on iPads, tableside payment systems—which technologies will revolutionize operations? Couponing websites and location-based social media will grow, while the apps fad will continue to evolve, while facing new competition from developing formats and technologies. Front-of-house and back-of-house technology and social media are evolving so fast that rewards and risks are high—but the biggest risk of all is failure to innovate.
5. Korean and beyond. The Korean taco—an only-in-America synthesis of Korean-style fillings and a Mexican format—signals the rise of Korean barbecue and Korean food in general; multicultural tacos with world ingredients, sometimes in surprising combinations; and portable street food and small plates from around the planet.
6. Frugality fatigue. Penny-pinching was a novelty when the recession began; now it’s gotten old. Anyone who can afford it will dip back into luxury dining in 2011. Look for flashy high-end restaurants and some extravagant, indulgent specials even on staid menus. Meanwhile, the middle class will gravitate to reasonably priced but high-experience-value, thrill-a-minute concepts with memorable menus. Pricey full-service concepts will continue to push bar menus, bringing in new customers at a lower price point, and gastropubs will proliferate.
7. How low can you go? Consumers will continue to demand price deals, everywhere they eat. As food input prices heat up next year, sustaining the bottom line will continue to be a crucial issue for operators. Look for more restructuring of price deals—for example, “everyday low price” positioning favored by retailers.
8. Carefully calibrated brand action. As the restaurant industry emerges from recession and capital spending picks up, we’ll see more fast-casual brand extensions by full-service restaurants and even non-restaurant brands; more ultra-niche eateries with narrowly focused menus and high-concept ambiance; investment in brand refreshes and remodels instead of unit growth. What new units we’ll see will be smaller, sustainably built, with more efficient layouts, often in nontraditional locations.
9. Back to our roots. The durable hunger for comfort food develops an appetite for homestyle Southern fare, from grits to seafood; retro Italian, including meatballs; gourmet donuts and popsicles for dessert; family-style service formats and family-size portions that would look right at home in a Norman Rockwell print.
10. New competition from c-stores. Retailers have been encroaching on restaurant turf for some time, but now the hottest action is among convenience-store operators upgrading their foodservice, where margins are 40-60 percent instead of the 5 percent typical for gas. Consumers are responding positively to upgraded offerings, variety and ambiance.
11. Healthful vs. indulgent: the little angel says one thing, the little devil another. As federal menu labeling requirements take effect in 2011, the issue of healthful vs. indulgent fare—on the menu and in menu descriptions—gets complicated. Look for more items and detailed descriptions on “healthy” menus—including gluten-free fare as well as more “under x calories” items. Limited-time offers (including seasonal fare) will trend up, not only because they attract attention, but also because they don’t require posting nutrition data that consumers would rather not know. “Eating a little better” will translate into menu modifications such as slightly-lower-sodium, slightly-more-glamorous sea salt; “eating better some of the time” will lead to more innovations like “Meatless Mondays.”
For additional food industry trend-tracking insights from Technomic.
Tom Colicchio talks about what to avoid if you want to succeed as a restaurant owner.
Restaurant owner Tom Colicchio has won almost every major culinary prize out there—including the James Beard award for best chef in 2010. In other words, the man knows a little something about running a successful enterprise or two. But he’s also seen how restaurant owners can make painful mistakes before they even get their establishment up and running. Colicchio spoke to NEWSWEEK’s Jessica Ramirez about what new restaurateurs must avoid if the want to do well in this business. His advice:
DON’T THINK GOOD DINNER HOST EQUALS GOOD RESTAURANT OWNER You need to know that just because you’re good at some aspect of cooking doesn’t mean you can run a place. For example, some people with no restaurant experience have dinner parties at home and think maybe it’s a cool thing to do for a living. That’s not quite how it works because the expectation is different. If the air conditioner breaks at 8 p.m. and everybody’s screaming at you that your restaurant’s too hot, that’s not fun. Your friends at home at your dinner party won’t yell at you.
DON’T ASSUME THE BUSINESS END IF YOU DON’T KNOW IT You can be a great chef, but if you can’t control costs you don’t stay in business. Get the right people—like lawyers—to look over business contracts. I actually have attorneys that do it for me, partly because I’m a lousy negotiator. The other option is look for a partner who can bring those [business skills] to the table, someone who can negotiate that contract on your behalf, someone who’s not going to run the restaurant day in and day out, but who you can turn to for business advice. That’s what I did. I have a backer—his name is Robert Scott, who, before retiring, was the president of Morgan Stanley. I would always rely on him for business advice. So if you take on a partner, don’t just look for someone who’s going to give you money. You want someone who you can also go to for advice.
DON’T LEAVE LAWS AND REGULATIONS TO SOMEONE ELSE In this age, HR is so important. I’m not saying you should have an HR director at a small restaurant, but a lot of people are getting sued these days. So you really need to understand local labor laws because you don’t have to be doing something maliciously to get sued. For instance, there’s [a New York regulation that refers to what’s] called “spread of hours.” Let’s just say an employee works a split shift. So this waiter comes in and he worked three hours for the lunch service, and he takes off for three hours, and comes back and works dinner for six hours. If the spread of hours, including the break, is more than 10 hours, you have to pay [one hour of additional pay for each hour in excess of 10 hours]. So a lot of these laws are bizarre, but not knowing them can hurt you.
DON’T TRY TO BE EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE Try to figure out what you want to be and stick to that. You can’t be everything to everybody. You have to figure out your price point and figure out how to deliver quality and value at that price point. Then every decision you make is in support of that concept and that price point.
DON’T SPEND WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TO Designwise—and I learned this the hard way—you can probably spend a lot less than you think you can or than you think you need to. Once you’re presented with a design from an architect, try to take money out of it. If you don’t, then you end up spending way too much for things that really, at the end of the day, won’t make much of a difference to your bottom line.
New York has experienced many golden ages—more than any other city in the world, save perhaps Paris. And right now, we're living in the golden age of wine bars.
There are currently 237 wine bars spread across the city's five boroughs, 69 of which opened last year alone. There are wine bars that specialize in the wines of South Africa or the wines of Italy or only of France. There are wine bars that pour only organic selections—with a bit of proselytizing served alongside. There are wine bars where champagne is the focus (and the prices are accordingly high) and wine bars that refuse to serve any white wine but Riesling by the glass. There are wine bars that offer little more than pretzels or bar snacks and wine bars that serve steak dinners from menus so expansive they might as well be restaurants.
But the best part about wine bars—besides the wine—is the sense of intimacy they inspire, offering a glimpse of a neighborhood, a life.
Take for example, an encounter my friend Stephen and I had at Bin 71, a wine bar on the Upper West Side. We were drinking some good Muscadet (the 2009 Domaine de la Pepiere) when a woman next to us struck up a conversation. First, she asked if we were a couple.
Just pals from college, Stephen and I replied.
That was nice, she said, in the hurried fashion of someone who just wants to tell her own story.
She launched into her dating life in detail—all the undesirable men she'd met working "every possible Internet dating site" until she finally decided that trying to meet someone in a wine bar might be better.
How was that going?
Nothing so far, she admitted. The only single man she had met was drinking water and eating a salad. He didn't want to talk. But she remained optimistic—and had a good glass of Sauvignon Blanc at her side.
Even the people on the other side of the bottle tend to talk more with wine as a prop. At inoteca in the East Village, the waitress actually kneeled next to our table as she described to my friend Bruce and me what she liked about the 2009 Bisson Rose from Liguria.
"It's light and juicy—a really pretty wine from a top producer that's perfect for the summer."
She seemed every bit as intent on sharing her delight as she was making the sale.
But when did this conversation begin? Exactly how did this golden age get its start? Did New Yorkers suddenly develop a collective craving for Cabernet by the glass? A desire to talk about aromas and tannins? Paul Grieco, who operates two of the city's best wine bars, Terroir and Terroir Tribeca as well as Hearth restaurant in the East Village says the phenomenon has as much to do with wine as it does the economy.
"Anyone who wanted to open a restaurant in Manhattan in the past 24 to 36 months has opened a wine bar instead," said Mr. Grieco. "A white-tablecloth restaurant costs a million dollars but you can open a wine bar for only a few hundred thousand dollars." And since many wine bars, including Terroir, have sizable menus—their owners can still "act like they're running a restaurant," he said.
Wine bars have also been showing up in neighborhoods like Sunnyside and Long Island City in Queens. They're a marker of gentrification, a latter-day Starbucks of sorts. They are also a so-called attainable luxury, offering wine and food that is reasonably priced.
At Terroir Tribeca, for example, a plate of "funky beef balls" costs only $7 and sandwiches cost a few dollars more. At Hearth, a main course is under $30. And the food at all three is overseen by same chef, the talented Marco Canora.
Of course, there are reasons beyond cheap eats and small checks that draw people to wine bars—and reasons beyond attenuated ambition that people open them, too. Mandy Oser, who runs Ardesia wine bar in Hell's Kitchen with two partners (and works at Le Bernardin during the day) opened a wine bar last year because, she said, she thought it would be "fun."
Fun would certainly seem to be a reason why people show up at bars (wine or otherwise) though a wine bar also offers the possibility—or the guise—of an education.
At Ardesia, for example, there are 30 wines by the glass and any one of them, or all, can be tasted for free, accompanied by a mini-tutorial. My friend Christina tried three different wines at Ardesia and received three different disquisitions before settling on a Pinot Bianco that the bartender said had an "ocean air quality."
There's just one place bypassed by the golden age: Staten Island. The borough only has one wine bar, the Cellar. (There are three in the Bronx.) Although the Cellar has been open for three years and owner Stephanie Perno said business was solid, she had no plans for a second location.
"I don't think Staten Island can support another wine bar," she said.
On the other hand, Mr. Grieco is looking to expand into other boroughs. Including Staten Island? Mr. Grieco demurred, "I wouldn't rule it out."
“Restaurant Week” begins next month in center city Philadelphia.
Restaurateurs and officials of the Center City District promoted Restaurant Week here on the streets of Philadelphia by giving away free samples. Kristen Linker is manager of marketing and events:
“This time around for September we have over 125 restaurants participating, and you can go to any of these restaurants and get a three-course dinner for only $35. Or you can also go to some of them and get a three-course lunch for only $20.”
This upcoming Restaurant Week is actually two weeks long — it takes place September 12th through 24th (except for Saturday nights).
For a list of participating restaurants, visit www.centercityphila.org.
Linker says this is the 14th semi-annual promotion, which they’ve been doing for seven years:
“We do have a few new restaurants participating, and we have our highest number to date of participating restaurants.”
WASHINGTON — Federal food regulators took a tentative step Monday toward banning a common use of penicillin and tetracycline in the water and feed given cattle, chickens and pigs in hopes of slowing the growing scourge of killer bacteria.
But the Food and Drug Administration has tried without success for more than three decades to ban such uses. In the past, Congress has stepped in at the urging of agricultural interests and stopped the agency from acting.
In the battle between public health and agriculture, the guys with the cowboy hats generally win.
The F.D.A. released a policy document stating that agricultural uses of antibiotics should be limited to assuring animal health, and that veterinarians should be involved in the drugs’ uses.
While doing nothing to change the present oversight of antibiotics, the document is the first signal in years that the agency intends to rejoin the battle to crack down on agricultural uses of antibiotics that many infectious disease experts oppose.
Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, the agency’s principal deputy commissioner, refused at a news conference to give details about when the agency would take more concrete steps.
“We believe this is a public health issue of some urgency,” Dr. Sharfstein said. “We’re looking to see some progress soon.”
About 100,000 people die every year from hospital-acquired infections caused by bacteria that, because of overuse of antibiotics, have developed resistance to the usual remedies and cannot be killed with them. Many others die from superbugs contracted outside hospitals.
How many deaths can be attributed to agricultural uses of antibiotics?
“I don’t think anyone knows that number,” said Dr. James Johnson, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, “but I think it’s substantial.”
Antibiotics are used in agriculture for three reasons: to promote animal growth, prevent illness and treat sickness. How antibiotics in feed and water help to fatten animals is not entirely clear.
The industrialization of animal husbandry has increased processors’ dependence on antibiotics because factory farm animals tend to be sicker and feed-lot diets can encourage bacterial infections.
The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated in 2001 that 84 percent of all antibiotics were used in agriculture and that 70 percent were used simply to promote animal growth, not to treat or prevent illness. The Animal Health Institute, a trade association, estimated that 13 percent of agricultural antibiotics were used to promote growth.
Dave Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, said most agricultural antibiotics were given to healthy animals not to promote growth but to prevent illness.
The distinction is important because F.D.A. officials said they were mostly concerned with the use of antibiotics to promote growth — not to prevent or treat illnesses. If the agency some day bans growth promotion as a use, there is a chance producers would simply relabel such uses as preventative.
Mr. Warner said his organization opposed the F.D.A.’s guidance. “We think this guidance could lead to the elimination or costly review of previously approved animal health products,” he said.
The Animal Health Institute said in a statement that it welcomed the guidance and had “long supported efforts to promote judicious use of antibiotics.”
Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York and chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, said the F.D.A. had “not gone far enough or moved fast enough.” Ms. Slaughter has proposed legislation banning nontherapeutic uses of some classes of antibiotics.
By GARDINER HARRIS Published: June 28, 2010
HANOI, Vietnam—As the Gulf Coast oil spill continues to gush, U.S. seafood suppliers are turning to Asia to ensure Americans have enough shrimp for their gumbos, Creoles and cocktails this summer, but some of those overseas cupboards are low themselves. Several countries in the world's top shrimp-producing region are struggling to satisfy their own appetites for shrimp because of disease, drought and the economic crisis. The oil spill is one more factor driving prices skyward, sending a worldwide ripple through an already tight shrimp market.
The price of plump black tiger shrimp is at a 10-year high in Vietnam, selling for around $13.50 per kilogram ($6.14 per pound), said Bui Dung, a manager at Minh Phu, Vietnam's biggest shrimp exporter in the southern Mekong delta province of Ca Mau. He said heat waves along with disease outbreaks have led to smaller yields on farms. Domestic consumption has remained high, nibbling away at cold stocks normally available for export prior to August harvests.
"The demand, particularly from the U.S., is huge," Dung said. "We receive order requests from U.S. importers almost everyday, but we cannot meet all their demands."
Americans have an insatiable craving for shrimp, eating about 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) a year. And while wild Gulf shrimp provides only about 7 to 9 percent of that supply, the oil spill will likely send some U.S. restaurants and super markets into a short-term frenzy, said Fatima Ferdouse, chief
Advertisement yld_mgr.place_ad_here("adPosBox"); of trade promotion at Infofish, an intergovernmental organization for the Asia-Pacific fishery industry based in Malaysia. "It backfired because in the American market, they planned to sell ... this much domestic shrimp from the Gulf for summer, which they're not getting now," she said by phone. "So they have to fill in the gap. They panic and then the easy way to get it is to go through import—they don't have any other choice."
According to Infofish, wholesale shrimp prices have risen by about 15 to 20 percent since a BP-operated oil rig exploded 10 weeks ago, causing an undersea blowout that has spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.
Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the U.S.-based National Fisheries Institute, a trade group, said Americans might see a price increase on their plates in the short term, but he's hopeful Asian production will pick back up to keep consumers from feeling a prolonged pinch.
"It's the No. 1 most consumed seafood in America," he said. "People eat more shrimp than they do canned tuna."
Ecuador is the only country among the top five U.S. importers located outside of Asia. More than a third of the nearly 550,000 tons of shrimp imported by the U.S. last year came from Thailand, the top shipper, according to Infofish.
Thailand has remained a stable supplier, largely unaffected by a virus that has crippled stocks in Bangladesh and Indonesia, the second top supplier to the U.S. last year. For the January-April period before the Gulf oil spill, U.S. imports of Indonesia shrimp were down 30 percent from a year earlier. Imports from Thailand were up about 17 percent over the same period, Infofish data reported.
Last year was the first time the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimated a drop in worldwide shrimp aquaculture production, following the global economic crisis which forced many farmers out of business. But now, prior to the peak summer shrimp-eating season, it's a sellers' market.
Larger shrimp are in short supply, pushing prices to the highest level in two years, according to Infofish. Demand for the black tiger shrimp, which is very popular in Japan, has been particularly high, with prices increasing $1 a pound ($ 0.50 a kilogram) since early June.
"The demand worldwide is quite strong. The economic crisis seems to be over, especially the U.S. and Japanese markets are really demanding a lot of shrimp," said Helga Josupeit, a fishery industry officer at GLOBEFISH, an FAO program in Rome that tracks international fish trade and publishes price reports. "If anyone wants to invest in a shrimp farm, they probably will make some money."
Some farmers say it's ironic that the U.S. is now forced to lean more on overseas suppliers to help meet demand. In 2004, the same Gulf Coast shrimpers affected by the oil spill successfully lobbied Washington to slap antidumping tariffs on Vietnam, Thailand, India, Ecuador, Brazil and China, accusing them of flooding the U.S. market with artificially low priced shrimp.
"It's good to see U.S. shrimp importers are coming back to Vietnam," said farmer Nguyen Tat Thang. "But I care more about how much profit I earn from the farm, which I am not seeing increase because of rising production costs."
One unlikely result of the recent financial crisis is a swell of ex-bankers trying their hands at running quick serves. By Jordan Melnick
Amid the global financial crisis, with the world’s largest banks reporting losses in the billions of dollars, Duane Clark, a 24-year veteran of the commercial banking industry, did something he never expected to do: He opened a smoothie shop.
“I always swore I would never go into the restaurant business,” Clark says. “I always called it the beast. You live it, you drink it, you eat it—that’s your life.”
But in October of 2009, Clark opened a Tropical Smoothie Café in Panama City Beach, Florida. On June 12, he opened a second location further north along the Sunshine State panhandle in Pensacola.
At AmSouth Bank (now Regions Bank), Clark had helped Tropical Smoothie Café, which is based in Destin, Florida, get financing to open several locations. Over the years, he met the company’s corporate officers and gained a nuanced understanding of how Tropical Smoothie operated.
As a banker, Clark knew how to evaluate an investment, and he concluded that a concept offering low-priced food and smoothies was a winner in a down economy. He also liked Tropical Smoothie’s young, health-conscious customer base.
But above all, Clark was looking for something steady after one of the most chaotic years in the history of global finance, when giant banks teetered and some, like Lehman Brothers, toppled.
“The draw was the stability, and that quick service has shown such growth trends,” Clark says.
With a money background, Clark says he avoided a common mistake of the upstart restaurant operator: incorrectly assessing costs.
“Most people getting into it don’t understand the financing, and financing is crucial,” he says. “They don’t know how to manage their cash.”
Patrice Rice, whose firm recruits for the hospitality industry, including Yum! Brands and Arby’s, understands the appeal of the restaurant industry in the wake of the financial crisis.
“People with money are looking for ways to invest that can create income rather than gambling on the stability of the stock market,” Rice says. “They are buying restaurant franchises because it is a stable industry.”
Quick service in particular is an attractive investment, Rice says, because of the low start-up and build-out costs, limited menus, and the potential to capture the breakfast, lunch, and dinner markets.
While a finance background may help operators, restaurants and banks are very different animals and, Rice says, “You have to be smart enough to know what you don’t know.”
“If you’re going to invest that money,” she says, “invest it in a strong director of operations who can tell you what needs to be done to be successful in this business.”
John Cassity, a former commercial lender with J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America, bought the first of his six Einstein Bros. Bagels in Colorado’s Western Slope in 2008. He says it was a coincidence that he left the financial industry on the eve of catastrophe.
“We laugh about how I got out at the right time,” he says. “But that was not planned at all.”
As a banker, Cassity had worked with several quick serves, including Einstein Bros., and had a detailed understanding of the business before he became a franchisee himself.
“We peeled back the layers of the onion with every restaurant relationship that we had in order to understand the business as well or better than the operators themselves,” he says. “We knew the space that they operated in, the trends that were going on, the greatest risks they faced, and the relationship between the franchisor and the franchisees.
If you’re going to invest that money, invest it in a strong director of operations who can tell you what needs to be done to be successful in this business.” “It was very intimate,” Cassity says, “and it gave me a tremendous insight as to how I would operate my stores.”
Of all his restaurant clients, Cassity says he chose Einstein Bros. because of the “integrity of its brand.” While his banking background helps him as a franchisee, he says he has sometimes leveraged his financial acumen “to a fault” by scrutinizing food costs too closely.
“There’s a level where you have to have some breathing room and leeway, so that you don’t micromanage to the point that it’s affecting the customer’s experience,” Cassity says.
Overall, Cassity says his past life in the demanding financial world prepared him well for the high stress of the restaurant business.
“In the financial industry, there is a lot of pressure from senior management,” he says. “There are a lot of goals, a lot of pressure, a lot of tasks. So you have the right caliber of person who can handle what goes on in restaurant operations.”
Ryan Achterhoff managed six banks in Northwest Iowa before joining Hull, Iowa–based Pizza Ranch at the corporate level in 2002 and becoming a franchisee a year ago. He agrees that experience managing cash and stress makes financial professionals uniquely suited to running restaurants.
But that isn’t the main reason he left banking behind.
“When people go out to eat, they’re in a great mood,” he says. “Compare that to the medical industry, for example, where you tend to see people on their worst day. We’re seeing people on their best day.
“So a big part of it is, it’s a fun industry,” Achterhoff says. “You have a chance to serve people and give back to communities and create communities, which is why I wanted to be involved.”
Susan Spicer did not intend to be the face of the restaurant rebellion against BP over its role in the Gulf oil spill. But that’s what can happen when you file a lawsuit.
Ms. Spicer, long a respected New Orleans chef, spent most of Monday huddled with her lawyers, trying to map out a strategy after word got out that she was suing BP and several other companies on behalf of Gulf restaurant owners and seafood suppliers.
“I just hope that my motivations will not be misinterpreted,” she said from her restaurant Bayona in her first interview since the suit was filed Friday. “It’s more about solidarity in this region than about getting my piece of the pie. I can’t say I expect to see a dollar out of this thing. I am just angry.”
Ms. Spicer’s attorney, Serena Pollack, filed the suit in New Orleans federal court late Friday asking that the court grant class-action status for restaurants and seafood sellers who have suffered in the wake of the April 20 drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
The lawyers are arguing that Ms. Spicer and other chefs in Louisiana and the region have built a reputation and a business using fresh, local seafood that is specific to the Gulf of Mexico. Since the oil rig accident, that seafood has either become unavailable or significantly more expensive.
In addition, customers are and will continue to be unwilling to pay higher prices or won’t want to eat what is available for fear of contamination from petroleum or the chemicals used to manage the spill, the suit said.
Ms. Spicer decided to step forward not because her restaurant is about to go under but because other businesses are.
“I really do believe there are people that are certainly more in need than Bayona will be,” she said, adding that there is plenty of good seafood coming from Lake Pontchartrain and unaffected parts of the shoreline.
But some places are being hit harder than others, she said.
“We are already seeing casualties right and left, human casualities, business casualties, cultural casualties,” she said.
Ms. Spicer, whose company is the lead plaintiff, opened Bayona in 1990 and quickly established herself as a chef who respected the New Orleans culinary canon but was not going to be held hostage by it. At Bayona, she offers global food and serves ahi tuna and Pacific salmon. But her longtime signature dish is grilled Gulf shrimp and black bean cake, and she usually serves Gulf oysters, often stuffed with Italian sausage, spinach and fennel. Her recent cookbook, Crescent City Cooking, has dozens of recipes based on Gulf seafood.
Earlier this month she opened Mondo, a casual, pan-cultural restaurant that is as likely to serve plantains as beignets. She has also recently gained some popular cultural currency, both as a Top Chef judge and as the inspiration for the chef in the HBO series Treme who struggles to hold onto her restaurant in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Ms. Spicer is a culinary consultant for the show.
Ms. Spicer said she was taken aback by the attention the suit is getting, particularly from bloggers and journalists who have argued that she doesn’t serve that much local seafood or that she is in it for the money.
“I was a little blindsided by all of this,” she said. “But I think it needs to be done and I hope more people will join.”
It’s not clear how wide-ranging support for the suit will be. Frank Brigtsen, who runs two restaurants, would not comment on the suit. Emeril Lagasse said he was not joining at this time.
“We are continuing to closely monitor the situation and the oil leak’s impact on Emeril’s restaurant business,” Jeff Hinson, Mr. Lagasse’s public relations manager, wrote in an e-mail message to the Times.
But the movement was getting some support from smaller businesses. Franky and Johnny’s, a neighborhood po’ boy and seafood restaurant, has signed on. And JoAnn Clevenger, who for nearly 30 years has run the Upperline Restaurant, plans to jump in, too.
She wasn’t surprised larger restaurants weren’t.
“Susan is an entrepreneurial chef. She is not big business like Emeril. For her and for other owner-operated businesses, what else are we going to do?” she said.
After Hurricane Katrina, small business owners felt like they could pick up the pieces, rebuild and pitch in to help others. That’s not the case with the oil spill.
“That can-do spirit has been quashed,” she said. “But what Susan is doing can give us that spirit back.”
The suit is designed to include restaurant owners and retailers of seafood that is marketed and sold as local or from Louisiana or the Gulf of Mexico. That means the suit could extend to chefs and seafood shops in all five Gulf states, some of whom have already filed separate suits.
The next step is a hearing scheduled for July 27, when a federal panel of judges meets in Boise, Idaho, to decide whether all the claims relating to the oil spill will be consolidated and put into the hands of a special master. The panel is also expected to decide where litigation about the oil spill will be held if it is consolidated.
Plaintiffs are fighting to keep it from being consolidated in Houston, where many oil companies are headquartered.
By KIM SEVERSON
On your way home from the shore, it is impossible to miss all the fresh fruit and vegetable stands lining the back roads, but what is challenging for many people is how they'll use all that great produce when they get home before it goes bad. One local chef has some unique ideas.
Executive chef of the Joseph Ambler Inn Todd Blackney says if you haven't already, it's time to put some of that fruit on the grill! With peaches, he suggests a charred peach compote:
"They are going to take their nice fresh peaches, peel them, pull the pit out and then they are going to soak them in a little simple syrup. Then they are going to take those and on a nice clean grill, medium heat because you don't want all the sugar to burn right away. They are just going to slowly cook those on both sides."
Once the peaches are slightly charred, chop them up add a pinch of salt and a bit of orange zest:
"And that's going to be so delicious. That would go great over ice cream. That's going to go over great over a nice chicken breast."
Here are the recipes:
Brown Sugar Grilled Plums with Lemon Sorbet
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 large or 8 small halved and pitted plums
2 cups lemon sorbet
Candied peanuts and fresh mint for garnish, optional
Coat outdoor grill with cooking spray and preheat to medium high
In a small bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Brush mixture all over flesh side of plums.
Grill plums, flesh side down, 5 minutes until soft. Serve plums with lemon sorbet.
Garnish with candied peanuts and mint, if desired.
Grilled Peach Compote
6 ripe peaches, peeled, halved and depitted
1 cup simple syrup (below)
Juice and zest from one naval orange
1 pinch kosher salt
Soak peach halves in simple syrup for 30 minutes
Coat outdoor grill with cooking spray and preheat to medium high
Grill peach half halves on both sides for 5 to 6 minutes and remove from grill
Coarsely chop grilled peaches and place in small mixing bowl.
Mix in orange juice, zest and salt with peaches.
Simple Syrup Recipe
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in small sauce pan. Heat and simmer until ingredients are reduced by 1/3. Hold at room temperature.
Serve Grill Peach Compote over ice cream, or with grill chicken or fish.
by KYW's Michelle Durham
For other great ideas from Chef Todd, listen to podcast at the right.
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