How Otto's Tacos is Setting Its Business Apart

The Summer Fancy Food Show provides an opportunity for restaurants and industry operators to share new flavors, products, and ideas they hope will revolutionize the food industry. During this year’s signature Specialty Food Association (SFA) New York City event, host Paul Barron interviewed a number of emerging industry leaders on the live stage.

One of those interviews was with Otto Cedeno. Cedeno is the founder of popular fast casual Mexican chain Otto’s Tacos. The chain currently maintains four locations that can be found throughout New York City. Barron and Cedeno discussed entrepreneurship and the increasing popularity of fast casual chains.

Otto Cedeno came to New York City to attend college at New York University, and quickly found that something was missing: affordable Mexican food. In 2012, five years after graduating, he decided to create a southern California-inspired taqueria: Otto’s Tacos.

“Entrepreneurship is hot right now,” says Cedeno. “It’s easy to capitalize on great ideas.”

Maintaining a successful business model, however, can be quite difficult. New York City in particular is highly competitive and expensive. To combat this, Otto’s Tacos endeavors to keep things small. The chain only uses ingredients that are readily available and easy to access.

According to Cedano, a successful business excels in three key areas: service, hospitality, and consistent product. “If you focus on those three things,” says Cedano, “everything else can and should be forgivable.”

Third party delivery does add a wrinkle in achieving those three goals. Consumers are increasingly turning to delivery instead of making or going out to dinner, but ever-rising costs and food quality concerns are becoming significant issues for brands.

“‘Fees’ is definitely the buzzword when it comes to third parties,” Cedano affirms. “It’s such a fast-changing business with a lot of rotation. You have to keep your finger on the pulse—otherwise, you may miss a really important beat.”

Check out the video above to learn more about the future of Otto’s Tacos and its growing catering business!

VinePair on the Latest Wine and Beverage Trends

Hosted annually by the Specialty Food Association (SFA) in New York City, The Summer Fancy Food Show is the largest specialty food and beverage event in North America. The New York City event showcases hundreds of future-focused restaurants, organizations, and innovators dedicated to crafting unique menus and products that meet the ever-changing needs of consumers today.

Host Paul Barron chatted with a number of trendsetters and up-and-comers in the industry this year. Adam Teeter is the CEO and co-founder of VinePair, a publication committed to providing cutting-edge wine, beer, and cocktail content that is both informative and entertaining. Teeter shares his thoughts on current beverage trends, as well as what he sees coming next for drinks.

The former director of business and audience development at Tablet Magazine, and a frequent speaker at a number of renowned food and beverage conferences throughout the United States, Teeter has always been passionate about making drinks accessible.

“We don’t have as much of a consumer base who only drinks one drink,” says Teeter. Millennials tend to be more experimental with eating and drinking when compared with older generations. “It’s fun for the industry, as it allows for lots of growth. It’s also really hard for the industry, because you now have the Budweisers of the world being like, ‘wait, these used to be really loyal consumers and now they’re not?’ It’s challenging, but there’s a lot of opportunity.”

Teeter notes that low- and non-alcoholic wines, cocktails, and beers represent a growing trend. Consumers are looking for drinks that taste as though they are drinking alcohol, but still fit into a weekday healthy lifestyle. Prosecco, rosé, and craft beer continue to be popular, and millennials and members of Generation Z love to try wines from unfamiliar countries and styles.

Wine is especially growing in popularity, as it is perceived—somewhat erroneously—as healthier than beer and cocktails, and helps consumers feel part of a larger culture.

“The idea of single serve is becoming really popular,” adds Teeter. “We are a demographic that unfortunately has commitment fears. We want to try before we buy.” And, according to Teeter, trying is often more important than buying. “We want to be experts, but to be an expert is just knowing a little more than someone else. You just want to say you’ve had it before—it doesn’t have to be the whole bottle.”

Check out the video above to hear Teeter’s thoughts on the possibilities for canned cocktails and purchasing alcohol online—or even one day ordering a glass of wine through UberEats!

Why Data Ownership Should Be Key When It Comes to Tech in Foodservice

According to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Industry 2019 report, “more than 8 in 10 restaurant operators agree that the use of technology in a restaurant provides a competitive advantage, and many are planning to ramp up their investments in technology in 2019.

This is great news for consumers but with so many choices in the technology sector, operators can be left feeling overwhelmed.

What’s important to remember is whichever tech advancement— whether it's their POS, online ordering, smartphone app, mobile payment, or loyalty program— operators decide to prioritize, it must make sense for their type of business and unique customer needs.

Watch the video above to learn how BurgerFi accurately figured out what tech advancements make sense for their business to get a proper ROI and how data ownership must be a priority in this day and age!

Produced and Researched by:

Vanessa Rodriguez

Vanessa Rodriguez

Writter & Producer


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NYC Council Investigates Third Party Delivery Companies

This past June, the Small Business Committee within the City Council of New York conducted a hearing regarding third party delivery business practices. The investigation, entitled “The Changing Market for Food Delivery,” is arguably the first of its kind. The hearing endeavored to address the growing tensions between restaurant operators and third party delivery companies.

“New York continues to be a trailblazer,” said Committee Chairman Mark Gjonaj. “I’m proud to be part of this historic moment.”

Restaurant operators hope that the hearing will kindle new government regulations that better protect the needs of the industry. According to Robert Bookman, counsel for the local industry trade group New York City Hospitality Alliance, “We’re calling for both the federal government and the state attorney general to look into this matter.”

The Small Business Committee called on restaurant operators, third party delivery companies, and various trade groups to share their practices, concerns, and complaints. The hearing was open to the public. Discussion ran long, and largely focused on rate structures, questionable fees, and the future plans of third party delivery companies.

The difference in perspective between the restaurant operators and the third party deliverers was considerable. Operators like Robert Guarino, the co-founder of 5 Napkin Burger, argued that delivery companies have every intention of moving toward discarding restaurants and offering their own meals for delivery. Third party representatives emphatically denied this claim.

Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the Hospitality Alliance, provided the council with an extensive list of questions for third party deliverers. Some of the questions addressed:

  • If financial factors don’t determine where a restaurant is listed on a third party’s app, what variables do? How can restaurants be safeguarded against erroneous fees?

  • Who owns the information on a restaurant’s customers who order through a third party, and what happens to the data if the establishment pulls out of the arrangement?

  • Does the prominence and penetration of the big third-party delivery services constitute a restraint of trade?

Restaurant operators appear to universally agree that third party delivery companies need to interact with restaurants in a clearer and more transparent fashion, and third party representatives at the council pledged to provide that. Next steps for both sides of the industry, however, remain unclear.

Summer Fancy Food Show Highlights Plant-Based The Little Beet

The Specialty Food Association (SFA) annually hosts the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. The largest specialty food and beverage event in North America, the Summer Fancy Food Show features a growing number of restaurants and organizations focused on providing innovative menus and products.

This year, host Paul Barron interviewed a number of leaders in the industry. Becky Mulligan, a former Starbucks executive and the new CEO of The Little Beet, offered her perspective on the growing consumer demand for plant-based products.

After spending sixteen years overseeing thousands of Starbucks units, Becky Mulligan switched gears in 2018 and joined The Little Beet team.

The fast casual veggie restaurant chain just seemed like a perfect fit. “It was perfect for my lifestyle,” says Mulligan. “I was drawn to the concept immediately.”

The Little Beet recently expanded its offerings to a full service gluten-free restaurant: The Little Beet Table. According to Mulligan, the two branches work in tandem: customers continue to go to The Little Beet for a quick, healthy breakfasts and lunches, and they go to The Little Beet Table for dinner, drinks, and special occasions.

“People are becoming more educated about what they consume,” notes Mulligan. “It’s helped us to have a broader platform to talk about why it’s good to have a plant-based diet.” While she emphasizes that plant-based foods should make up the bulk of your diet, balance rather than guilt is ultimately the goal. “We want consumers to have accessible food that is good for you—and that you want to eat.”

All food at both The Little Beet and The Little Beet Table is made fresh everyday. All vegetables and ingredients are prepared from scratch, and the company avoids added sugars and non-blended oils. These prerequisites can be challenging for staff in terms of ensuring everyone is served in a timely fashion, but rewarding for the brand and customers alike.

The Little Beet currently consists of ten units, and there are four The Little Beet Table locations. Mulligan says the company hopes to double those numbers by next year. The chain is also developing a beverage platform.

Check out the video above to learn more about the future of The Little Beet and the company’s plant-based mission.