Recapping the Restaurant and Specialty Retail Summit
June 14, 2019
This week, the East Coast’s biggest names in restaurants gathered to discuss the current state of the industry and dispel their knowledge. The first annual Restaurant and Specialty Retail Summit, presented by Streetsense, Seyfarth Shaw, and CohnReznik brought together bright minds for informative discussions, valuable networking, and of course, great food. Here’s what the best and brightest in the industry had to say:
Tell Your Story
One of today’s buzzwords, ‘storytelling’ is big in the restaurant industry. Consumers want to know the story behind their food — how and where it was grown, how did it get to the restaurant, and the inspiration behind the menu and restaurant concept. Case in point — as District Taco CEO and co-founder, Osiris Hoil, told the crowd the restaurant chain uses his mother’s Southern Mexican recipes, the crowd let out a collective “aww.”
Explore Alternative Locations
A common theme amongst many of the brands at the conference, exploring alternative locations is a great way to spread brand awareness. Locations with heavy foot traffic like sports stadiums, restaurants, colleges, airports, and train stations get restaurants in front of new eyes. A downside to alternative locations? Placing your brand, reputation, and recipes in the hands of an alternative location’s contracted food vendor and employees, though CHIKO co-founders and chefs Scott Drewno and Danny Lee insist that frequent visits to their newest location in National’s Park will keep the outpost in line with the quality of their restaurants.
Delivery is a Necessary Evil
Though most restaurateurs let out a groan when the word ‘delivery’ arose in conversation, they all agreed it was a necessary evil. With diners wanting higher-end fare in a delivery format, most restaurants are starting to allocate space to staging areas for delivery and in-store pickup, citing up to 25% of their business coming from delivery.
Love the Brand, Not Just the Chef
In an era of creating celebrities out of chefs, many restaurateurs echoed the sentiment to create restaurants with strong brands backed by, but not reliant on, the names of talented chefs. Distinguished chef Adam Greenberg has earned the title of “all-time winningest Food Network competitor,” racking up five wins on Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay. Despite his accolades, Adam wants Coconut Club guests to flock to his restaurant for the experience and the food, not for his name.
Don’t Stop Innovating
Though the industry is booming, restaurateurs have to work smarter, harder, more efficiently, and with a targeted approach in order to get their fair share of the food industry pie. In a panel moderated by Streetsense Director of Restaurants, Adam Williamowsky, Michael Schlow of Schlow Restaurant Group cited traveling as his inspiration to stay relevant, seeking out innovation from around the world. He said, “don’t be too wedded to one concept, keep your eyes and ears open for inspiration, and never stop innovating.”
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