Next Door American Eatery on Keeping Catering Consistent

On this episode of the Takeout, Delivery, and Catering Show, podcast host Valerie Killifer chats with Elyse Boule, the director of catering for casual “real food” restaurant Next Door American Eatery.

Boule joined the Next Door American Eatery team in 2018. Prior to Next Door American Eatery, Boule worked for over twenty years in event sales and operations. She credits her time working in trade shows for her attention to detail and commitment to developing and understanding process.

Boule advises start-ups and emerging brands building an off-premises strategy to do three things: listen to your customer, start slow and expand as you feel comfortable, and recognize that you can never be too deep in the details.

“Customers know what they want, and they’re extremely honest,” says Boule. “They love to be a part of things on the ground level… use those customer connections and ask for feedback. Hold focus groups before you start a new program. Test those ideas on customers and let them be a part of your solution.”

Many catering businesses fail because they try to expand too quickly. Customers expect consistency and conformity regardless of what they purchase or where they eat your product—and one bad experience can severely harm your brand.

When it comes to catering, “there are probably thirty points of failure from the time that an order comes in to the time that you deliver it to your customer,” adds Boule. “All of those little details in-between can add up to the best experience that a customer can ask for or the worst experience that could cause them to tell everyone not to use you.”

Next Door American Eatery makes sure to note its takeout, delivery, and catering options in “every piece of marketing that we have,” notes Boule. In the next few years, Boule aims to have off-premise sales represent 20 to 30 percent of the restaurant’s overall revenue.

Listen to the episode above to learn more about the restaurant’s investment in sustainable packaging, Boule’s thoughts on third party delivery, and how to develop a successful, scalable menu!

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Darisha Beresford

Production Manager / Sr. Producer

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The Core Four Elements of a Successful Restaurant Brand

A restaurant’s brand identity is more than a logo, color scheme, aesthetic, or type of food. Your brand is your foundation: successful restaurants are built on clear, concise, and comprehensive brands.

This episode of Restaurant Masters features restaurant coach and former restaurant owner Donald Burns. In part two of his series on building your restaurant brand, he offers his best tips for cultivating a successful vision and company culture for your business. He has written the acclaimed books 2017 Your Restaurant Sucks! and the 2019 Your Restaurant STILL Sucks! and was featured in restaurant software company Toast’s Top Restaurant Experts to Follow in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” says Burns. “That’s where most restaurants fail: their vision is to make money. That will never sustain you in the long term. The act of making money is the result of having a sound vision and planning practices.”

Successful restaurant brands have a clear, cohesive set of core values and vision of success, prioritize consistency over creativity, perceive the restaurant the same way their guests do, and use emotion to inspire—rather than manipulate—guests.

“People buy brands they trust,” adds Burns. “Trust is a very sacred pact between the brand and the guest. Once it’s broken, it’s a long hard road to rebuild.”

Many young chefs and business owners make the mistake of prioritizing creative products and fail to consistently provide the same quality taste. “Your brand is not what you think it is, it’s what your guests think it is,” notes Burns. “You want to make sure you’re tapping into those emotions that stimulate loyalty and inspiration and not just manipulation.” Having a novelty product is not the same as innovation, and attracting a slew of customers with a unique product does not automatically create a following.

Check out the episode above to learn more about branding for the long-term and how to design your brand identity and brand story!

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Darisha Beresford

Production Manager / Sr. Producer

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Lisa Merkle on Box Greens, Sustainability, and the Future of Hydroponic Farming

On this episode of The Barron Report, host Paul Barron sits down with Lisa Merkle, the co-founder and executive director of Box Greens. A former yoga teacher and holistic health coach, Merkle co-founded Box Greens in 2018 with business partner Cheryl Arnold. Box Greens offers urban South Florida access to hydroponic box farms filled with fresh leafy greens, herbs, and microgreens. Barron and Merkle explore the science behind hydroponic farming, the growing national interest in plant-based eating, and current adoption of agriculture technology in Florida.

“A big part of our mission is using the business as a platform to talk about sustainable farming practices,” says Merkle. Restaurants and individual consumers who use local sources for ingredients can trust that there is minimal to “no impact on the environment from the transportation of the food.”

Box Greens transforms old shipping containers into indoor hydroponic farms. Racks, an irrigation system, an HVAC system, and lighting are fully built into each container. No dirt is used—the plants are not placed in any soil, and absorb all necessary minerals from the water. Box Greens uses floating rafts to allow for a constant flow of recirculated water as farmers monitor the minerals and pH levels.

On average, a functioning container can produce about 600 to 800 heads of lettuce per week all year round, and a 320 square foot hydroponic farm yields the same amount of produce as a traditional 1-2 acre farm.

For Merkle, education is key. “One of [Florida’s] biggest economic industries is agriculture,” notes Merkle, “and it’s behind when it comes to adopting technology.” She has found that many people do not realize the lettuce they consume for lunch was likely harvested weeks ago in California, and has changed hands many times. “And in the process,” she adds, “it’s lost its nutritional value to a pretty serious degree, and flavor.”

Plant-based diets, to Merkle, are the future. “Leafy greens have the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals,” says Merkle. “Food for a lot of people comes down to access—both in terms of physical accessibility and price point.” And hydroponic farming is “an incredible opportunity to turn people on to plant-based eating.”

Check out the podcast above to learn more about how Box Greens began, using hydroponic farming with vegetables and fruits, and possible partnerships with local restaurants and research universities. And if you would like to keep listening, check out The Barron Report podcast on iTunes Now!

Produced by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


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Cowboy Chicken Goes Back to the Basics

Creating and sustaining a successful fast casual restaurant is becoming more and more of a challenge for business operators today. The market is oversaturated, and differentiating your restaurant from similar concepts can be complicated and time-consuming.

Cowboy Chicken seems to have unearthed the right recipe. The chain specializes in all-natural, wood-fired rotisserie chicken—unlike most chains, which offer fried chicken—paired with a wide variety of homestyle sides.

Founded in 1981, the premium fast casual restaurant initially struggled to find its footing. However, soon after Cowboy Chicken CEO Sean Kennedy joined the business in 2002, the company began to thrive: when Kennedy was hired, the company had dwindled to only one location. Today, the company boasts 26 total units nationwide.

“We’ve really focused on consistent execution of the basics: delicious food, genuine hospitality, and clean restaurants,” says Kennedy. “Our goal is to serve the best chicken on the planet to every guest.”

Customer needs are also changing. “Consumers continue to be attracted to something that’s different and exciting,” notes Kennedy. “The consumer is shifting to a higher expectation of delivered items and the convenience within.”

And cultivating an enjoyable work culture behind the counter is essential to ensuring that those needs are consistently met. “It takes a team to truly make a brand successful,” adds Kennedy. “Having the right team is critical to growth… you have to create a culture where people want to come to work for you and they feel value.”

For Kennedy, that means filling the team with a combination of workers who know the brand and its history, as well as experienced outsiders who approach the work without any predetermined bias and boundaries.

Check out the podcast above to hear more about how Cowboy Chicken is confronting the current challenges in the industry head-on, and what lies ahead for the fast casual chain.

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Olivia Aleguas

Producer

Nathan's Famous Updates its Catering and Delivery Channels

On this episode of the Takeout, Delivery, and Catering Show, podcast host Valerie Killifer chats with James Walker, the senior vice president of the beloved Nathan’s Famous.

Walker joined the restaurant industry as a chef back in the 1990s, and moved to the management and operations side by the end of the decade. With previous experience overseeing such brands as Baja Fresh, Cinnabon, and Subway, he joined the Nathan’s Famous team earlier this year and aims to grow the chain’s catering and delivery sales channels.

Walker sees three key disruptors for the industry at present: an increased demand for convenience, labor market challenges, and a growing outcry for higher quality products from all types of businesses.

“They are challenges, but they are also opportunities,” says Walker. And for Walker, addressing these challenges is a fairly simple process at a relatively small brand like Nathan’s Famous. “Smaller brands tend to be more agile. They may be less bureaucratic and have less considerations from a geographical footprint.”

Walker and his team were able to quickly create and implement a business plan to address the catering and delivery limitations across all of Nathan’s franchises. And Nathan’s has enjoyed sales growth both inside the restaurant and with delivery this year.

“I’ve been watching a lot of videos of our founder back in 1916,” adds Walker. According to Walker, co-founder Nathan Handwerker was primarily focused on convenience and excellent customer service. “I think from that standpoint, the delivery mechanism—the way that we get our product in the hands of our guests—will be different, but the goal will still be the same,” says Walker. “Take care of the guests in the way they want as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’ll just be in their home.”

Check out the episode above to learn more about how to implement and fully capitalize on off-premises catering, and how to select the right third party integration providers without damaging or preventing other potentially lucrative partnerships.

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Olivia Aleguas

Producer