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!

SFA Live: Making Good Food Available for Everybody

The Summer Fancy Food Show offers a chance for innovators to share new flavors and products they hope will revolutionize the food industry. Host Paul Barron welcomed a number of leaders in the industry to the live stage this year during the signature Specialty Food Association (SFA) New York City event.

Two noteworthy interviews were with Dino Borri, the vice president of Global Partnerships for Italian marketplace and restaurant Eataly, and SFA President Phil Kafarakis. Barron chatted with Borri and Kafarakis about developing key partnerships and the ever-growing consumer demand for specialty products.

Dino Borri, Eataly VP of Global Partnerships

Born in a small town in Piedmont, Italy, Dino Borri has lived and traveled worldwide promoting high quality food and the Italian lifestyle.

Borri first joined the food industry in 2000 to work for Slow Food, an organization that branded itself as an Italian response to the growing popularization of fast food. The grassroots organization swiftly went global, campaigning to protect dying or forgotten local food cultures and traditions. Eight years later, Borri brought that knowledge to Eataly and began launching new branches of the combination store and restaurant in Japan and in multiple locations throughout the continental United States.

“We’re a window for small producers,” says Borri. “I’m happy when I see one of our original products in other chains and retailers. One of our goals is to expose the producer to other retailers — we’re not jailers about that. There’s so much good food in the world, and good food should be for everybody.”

Founder Oscar Farinetti designed Eataly to have the same products used by the restaurant available for purchase in its adjacent marketplace. At present, forty stores have been established worldwide — and according to Borri, another Eataly location in Texas is in the works.

Check out the video above to learn more about Eataly’s mission and Borri’s thoughts on the growing popularity of artisanal and specialty products.

Phil Kafarakis, SFA President

Phil Kafarakis handles the day-to-day operations of the SFA, overseeing the management of more than 3,400 member companies within the $120 billion specialty food industry. The Summer Fancy Food Show is the largest specialty food show in North America, with over 200,000 specialty foods featured. Hundreds of food companies were in attendance this year from states including New York, California, New Jersey, and Florida, and over fifty countries were represented. Germany was this year’s partner country.

“Our mission is to bring the community together to learn, network, and connect,” says Kafarakis. “When you leave here, we want you to feel like you did some business. There’s an outcome — not just information.”

Looking ahead, Kafarakis shares that the organization has seen “explosive growth” in the beverage industry. “Beverage is going to be a bigger part of what we do.” Specialty foods as a whole represent the fastest growing segment in the food business, growing at a rate nine times faster than traditional foods. In addition to expanding its membership policy, Kafarakis shares that the organization is eyeing international possibilities.

“You can’t do everything all at once,” he notes. “But the infrastructure has been built. We’re going to take some steps to see how the brand fits into the interests of our members.”

Check out the video above to learn more about the future of SFA and current specialty food trends!