The Latest in Food Innovation Trends

Today’s most creative restaurants keep guests coming back for more. They are always pushing the envelope or keeping the guests on their toes with food innovations.

On the IOChangeMakers live stream, we sat down with three food innovators– Jeff Drake, CEO of Protein Bar, Diana Dávila, chef and owner of Mi Tocaya Antojera and Zach Engel, executive chef and Owner of Galit to see how they are constantly keeping things exciting at their restaurants.

As Chef Dávila points out the culinary landscape is much more diverse today. The European structure is being broken down. Instead, chefs are embracing their cultural backgrounds.

"I find that in my kitchen people have to unlearn what they know about cooking in general because the European structure doesn't fit the Mexican techniques," says Dávila.

Chef Engel helms the kitchen at Galit, where the dining experience is also much different from the traditional European structure. The Middle Eastern restaurant in Chicago has two menus.

"We have the menu and on the back is what we call the other menu. The other menu is four-courses, it's not like a boujie prix fixe menu with tasting portions and all that, it's family style. This is the concept of how we want people to experience cuisine. We want you to have a giant meal with bread, hummus, Salatin, and all sorts of plates with big entrees with bold grains," says Engel.

Jeff Drake, on the other hand, is a food innovator in the fast casual segment. This sector has been disrupting the traditional culinary structure for years.

Protein Bar was a pioneer in the segment by serving unique ingredients guests couldn't get anywhere else, but now with the saturated market, the concept has had to up its game.

"When Matt the founder started Protein Bar, he was one of the first people to put quinoa on the menu. When he put quinoa on the menu 10 years ago, people didn't know what it was or how to say it.," says Drake. "Over the last 2.5 years, we have gotten back to focusing on ingredients and bringing interesting ingredients or boosts onto our menu."

Want more insights from these food innovators? Check out the video above or the full interview is also now exclusively available on Foodable On-Demand here.

Restaurant Industry Forecast with CEO of Firehouse Subs

It was a big week for restaurant industry professionals in Chicago. As usual, Foodable Network was on the ground floor talking to the greatest innovators in the foodservice sector. 

On Monday, we held the IO ChangeMakers live stream during the 2019 NRA show where we interviewed operators, chefs, and brand leaders "The Change Makers" to discuss the challenges and opportunities that are setting our industry up for success.

To kick off the event, we spoke with Don Fox, CEO of Firehouse Subs about what the future holds for the restaurant industry. 

Although there are countless headlines claiming that the restaurant industry is doomed, the industry's revenue has been on a steady incline over the last 10 years. The revenue in the past decade has increased from $379 billion to an estimated overall $863 billion in 2019 and this growth is being driven by millennials.

"They are just more inclined to add variety in their meal occasions. But I have seen reporting on an absence in brand loyalty in years past. The biggest brands are vulnerable to that. They are looking for a set of attributions and experiences that the largest brands can't provide. So that just pecks away at those large brands occasions," says Fox. 

Watch the video above to get a taste of this informative interview. 

Want to see the full video? It's available exclusively now for On-Demand members. Learn more about Foodable On-Demand now. 

Why the Food Scene in “Forgotten Cities” Is As Important As Those in New York, Chicago, and L.A.

On this episode of Chef AF, our host Chef Jim Berman sits down with Chef Derek Stevens— a Steel City “burning star,” as he calls him, for shining bright in the local food scene. Stevens is the co-owner and executive chef of Pittsburgh’s Union Standard. Both gentlemen are Pittsburgh-natives and they focus their conversation around those cites that seem “forgotten” in the food world.

The two agree that as chefs they are always on the hunt for honest food. Chef Stevens is candid about his favorite Pittsburgh food spots, highlighting establishments like LeoGretta located in the Carnegie neighborhood and ran by Chef Greg Alauzen; as well as, DiAnoia’s Eatery in the Strip District and ran by Chef Dave DiAnoia.

“When I talk about those chefs… when I eat their food, I think ‘Damn, I wish I could cook like this guy’ you know?,” says Chef Stevens. “It’s really heartwarming in a way, you know? They really got it figured out. And sometimes they’re thinking the same thing [about other chefs].”

Listen to the podcast above to hear the full conversation, Chef Steven’s thoughts on the resurgence of downtown areas in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee, and how to cultivate interest for a local food scene in a “forgotten city.”


Show Notes:

  • 1:55 - Chef Derek Stevens’ Background

  • 4:07 - Favorite Pittsburgh food spots

  • 7:37 - Comfort Food vs. Fine-Dining

  • 12:47 - Cultivating Interest for local food scene

  • 17:19 - Incubators and the food scene

  • 23:13 - Labor Shortage

Hosted by:

Jim Berman

JIM BERMAN

Expert Columnist / Show Host


VIEW BIO
 
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Big Food is Fostering Innovation

Large corporations have been noticing how consumers have been favoring products made by independent startup food companies, since a good chunk of those provide craft, high-quality, niche, and, a lot of times, healthier products.

Needless to say, big food wants in. Especially, since this specialty food segment has a tremendous growth potential.

So, how is big food seeking innovation?

Companies like Campbell Soup, Chobani, Kellogg, Kraft Heinz, Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Tyson Foods are creating innovation centers and/or partnering with existing incubators to help niche brands grow and flourish.

PepsiCo

Pepsico’s new center for innovation is called “The Hive.”

According to Food Dive, “this incubator will be a separate entrepreneurial group outside of the core headquarters that will help nurture niche products already in the portfolio,” like for example Stubborn Soda.

As Foodable has reported in the past, PepsiCo also partnered with a Chicago-based, food and beverage incubator, The Hatchery, in order to look at other startup brands that have the potential of becoming a possible venture for the beverage giant.

Tyson Foods

Earlier this year, Tyson Foods announced that it will be working with two incubators—Plug and Play and 1871—linking the food giant to innovation hailing from Silicon Valley and Chicago.

That’s not the first time Tyson showed it’s commitment for innovation. In fact, the company launched a venture capital fund in late 2016 “to invest in companies developing breakthrough technologies, business models and products to sustainably feed the growing world population,” according to the company website.

Since then, Tyson has invested in brands like for example Beyond Meat, that promote sustainability and others that promote the internet of food, like FoodLogiq.

Tyson is spearheading innovation through its own brand, ¡Yappah!, which aims to fight food waste by utilizing “forgotten” ingredients like rescued vegetable puree and spent grain to make protein crisps, and investments in companies like Future Meat Technologies, an Israel-based “biotechnology company aiming to transform global meat production through distributive manufacturing of fat and muscle cells, increasing food safety and reducing ecological impact worldwide,” as stated in the company’s website.

Chobani

Chobani is another company looking to foster innovation through its Food Tech Residency. The company set out specific challenges in the food and agriculture value chain they would like to tackle (like food waste, food safety, water conservation, logistics, etc.) and invites like-minded, early-stage tech and agriculture startups to apply for funding.

Currently, the brand is hosting it’s fourth incubator class, since it launched the program in 2016, with companies developing products like tea, hummus and allergen-free baking ingredients. Alongside the food startups, two tech companies will be participating in Chobani’s inaugural Tech Residency Program—CinderBio and Skyven Technologies.

Watch the video above to learn more and stay tuned to other Industry Pulse episodes to keep up with all the innovation happening around your business! To learn about other consumer trends involving sustainability like plant-based meals, watch the video below:

The Restaurant Industry Downturn Looms

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Today's restaurant market is so saturated that it gives guests so many options to choose from. But from an operator standpoint, it's wildly competitive.

Even Emerging Brands, like honeygrow, are struggling in certain markets. The fast casual salad chain will be closing three locations in Chicago next week.

Honeygrow entered the Chi-town market less than a year ago but has already determined that it's not the right time to keep some of the stores in the city open.

According to the fast casual's founder Justin Rosenberg, the Chicago stores “didn’t see the sales take off.” Honey is closing three locations, one in the Fulton Market neighborhood and downtown and then a Minigrow concept in the Loop.

One location in Schaumburg, a northwestern suburb of Chicago will remain open.

But the chain is going to try to expand in the city in the future.

“It’s a total bummer,” said Rosenberg on Thursday. “Like any market, it’s very competitive and we need to come back with our A-game.”

Back in 2017, we visited the tech-focused concept to see what sets this restaurant apart from the others in the market. Watch the episode of Fast Casual Nation below to learn more about honeygrow’s growth plan.

The fast casual segment continues to appeal to operators looking to cater to today's consumers which are looking for affordable yet high-quality food options.

However, not every concept is able to survive in a market with a lot of competition.

“The fast-casual segment attracts a huge number of startup brands that try to capitalize on the next big trend by attracting a lot of investment and saturating markets early,” said Mike Kostyo of Datassential. “It's inevitable that some brands are going to survive and others won't.”

Taco Bueno, a Southern taco fast-food chain, just filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy but isn't giving up just yet.

"We are implementing this plan through a court-supervised financial restructuring, and I want to emphasize that during this process, your local Taco Bueno restaurants are open and eager to serve you," said Omar Junjua, Taco Bueno CEO.

The chain was also acquired by Taco Supremo. Learn more about the taco chain's announcement at "Business Insider."