'Food Theory' Brings Massive Industry Think Tank to Chicago in May

When we first started reporting on the restaurant industry, even before the official launch of Foodable, the once seemingly ‘old boy’s club’ mentality was proof that this industry can be slow to accept change. But look around — in the past 24 months alone, chefs, independent and regional operators, bartenders, and even farmers have taken a lead on pushing food & beverage forward, taking a more transparent approach to the art and business of culinary, and — perhaps most importantly — inviting consumers to be part of the conversation.

It’s this same mentality that fueled us to create Foodable.io, the largest industry event of its kind that’s set to disrupt the restaurant industry. On May 20th at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago, history will be made as groundbreaking industry leaders and creative geniuses join forces to blow minds for the ultimate restaurant industry experience.

The three-part event kicks off at noon with Food Theory, a massive, interactive think tank discussing controversial, engaging and disruptive topics that are paving the modern-day landscape of culinary, spirits, and restaurant operations. Food Theory is comprised of five interactive panels — each outfitted with a moderator and 3-5 industry expert speakers — that will invite the audience to participate in the conversation, ask questions, and provide input. This portion of the event is more intimate than the others, and is only available to restaurant and bar industry leaders and decision-makers, as well as select media.

A cocktail party will follow Food Theory before we dive into the first-ever Foodable Film Festival in the evening. Local food influencers are invited to join us for this portion of the event. 

After the jump, we dive into the five panel topics that will lead the discussions at this year’s Food Theory segment. [Check out our lineup for the Foodable Film Festival here.]

Disruptors: Innovators Challenging the Industry

The word “disruptor” may be overused in the tech world, but our “Disruptors” panel is made up of creators and innovators in the food world who are actually walking the walk. We’ve seen a lot of disruption in the space this year — brand storytelling, new technologies, on-demand delivery, elevated stadium food, easier access to better dining experiences, and more. In this discussion, panel members including Protein Bar Founder Matt Matros, Feastly’s Noah Karesh, and Ben Metzger, the director of concessions and retail merchandise for the Miami Dolphins, will discuss who — and what — is disrupting foodservice as we know it. [Get to know the speakers here.]

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Craft Beverage & the Craft Consumer

Whether it’s beer, soda, wine, or spirits, there’s something brewing in craft beverages. From production quality and scalability to equipment and ingredients, “Craft Beverage” focuses on the cultural shift from big-label brands to artisan experts, and how consumers are helping to nudge this movement forward by raising their glasses (or cans). [Get to know the speakers here.]

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Spirits Strategy: The New Bar Minds of the Future

Mixologists and bartenders are raising the bar on cocktail reinvention. Even if it’s shaking up the classics with their own personal spin, beverage experts are keeping things new and fresh yet refined behind the bar. Cocktail culture has become more celebrated now than ever with more knowledgable consumers drinking up. Foodable.io’s “Spirits Strategy” panel is comprised of experts breaking the status quo, like the guys from Bar Lab, “Bar Rescue” Chef Expert Nick Liberato, and Chicago’s own Tremaine Atkinson, the co-founder and master distiller at CH Distillery. [Get to know all the speakers here.]

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The Tipping Point: A Fast-Casual Threat?

Tipping vs. No Tipping became the hot topic of Q4 2015 for restaurant operations, but it’s a topic that’s been rumbling throughout the industry for years. “To tip or not to tip?” — that is the question. With the lead of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, a gaggle of operators recently decided to take the plunge into the land of pay equality amongst front- and back-of-house staff. “The Tipping Point” will dive into how this continuing shift will affect the industry as a whole. With differentiators between casual, upscale casual, and fast casual becoming more blurred, what is the value proposition of no tipping? How does it affect the consumer, staff, marketing, and more? Operators from Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Tender Greens, and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises will sound off on the matter. [Get to know all the speakers here.]

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Future of Food: Innovators Shifting $1 Trillion

Between the rise of Ag Tech, more transparent food sourcing, an increase in sustainable practices like nose-to-tail utilization and more eco-conscious packaging, the foodservice industry is perking up when it comes to the future of food. With the restaurant industry approaching $1 trillion in revenue, we must continually make better choices in order to face the inevitable consequences of things like pollution, climate change, and the pressing issue of how to feed billions of hungry mouths to come. Where is foodservice heading? What new food supply systems and food sources will we uncover? How will these shifts affect generations to follow? Sustainably-focused operators, like Dig Inn’s Adam Eskin, and executives who are curating resources and tools to connect small food entrepreneurs with conscious diners, like Indie Food Hub’s Corey Hill, will be representing this panel. [Get to know all the speakers here.]

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Are you in the industry and want to attend?