Lululemon Enters the Restaurant Industry with Fuel

Lululemon is no longer just an athletic apparel company: the retailer is opening a new restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Called Fuel, the food and beverage concept boasts a full kitchen and offers smoothies, salads, and protein boxes as well as burgers and beer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant is part of a larger 20,000 square foot Lululemon store with two fitness studios.

According to Maureen Erickson, the vice president of experiential retail for Lululemon, this was a natural transition. “Our guests want everything under one roof,” says Erickson. “Building community through connection has always been at the heart of Lululemon. Both online and offline, and Lincoln Park is the physical manifestation of the heart and soul of Lululemon.”

Fuel evokes a fast casual feel with grab-and-go options as well as bar seating and dining tables. An additional space called the “connection room” is designated for Lululemon patrons looking to have a snack or drink after finishing a class.

“Food fuels you, but good food fuels you emotionally, too,” adds Erickson.

Lululemon is not alone in this endeavor: other retailers have been making similar ventures. Crate and Barrel also just opened a full service restaurant this month. Called Table at Crate, the restaurant is designed to showcase Crate and Barrel furniture, plates, and silverware for customers.

Table at Crate is “Crate and Barrel come to life,” says Bill Kim, the chef for Table at Crate. “This is an interactive experience.”

The executive chef of Fuel, Paul Larson, suggests that Lululemon has a different approach. “We want to make sure we always stay on trend with what they need.” The overall Fuel experience does not overtly reference the retailer’s products. The menu is, however, designed with Lululemon’s typical customers in mind.

The menu caters to a number of diets. According to Erickson, Lululemon has a number of vegetarian and vegan patrons as well as burger-loving customers. She stresses that Fuel is “also for people like me who like to work out so I can eat a good cheeseburger.” The goal is flexibility.

Private Equity Firm Ares Management Acquires Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk has been acquired by Ares Management for over $700 million. Some estimates suggest the purchase price approached $800 million—an unthinkable number for many burgeoning restaurant chains.

Cooper’s Hawk offers consumers a unique restaurant-winery experience. The Chicago-based restaurant crafts its own premium wine with 50 unique blends. The wine is made in the chain’s suburban Woodridge production facility.

According to data from Restaurant Business, the deal is likely worth about 23 to 26 times that of the restaurant’s 2018 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). Chicago Business estimated lower, calculating the deal to be worth 17.5 times that of the restaurant’s income last year. Cooper’s Hawk reported $31 million in earnings in 2018.

Experts compare the move to Fidelity investing $200 million in Sweetgreen in late 2018. The investment implied a billion dollar valuation for Sweetgreen, surprising some in the industry.

Current owners and operators Tim and Dana McEnery founded the first Cooper’s Hawk restaurant in 2005. The chain is understood to be the first restaurant-winery hybrid of its kind in the state. It remains unclear what the McEnerys’ role will be after the deal is completed.

Cooper’s Hawk currently operates more than 35 restaurants in ten states. The chain just opened a new location in Rockville, Maryland. Cooper’s Hawk also features a wine club that is now comprised of over 400,000 members. Club members pay $19.99 a month for a total of twelve company branded wines each year.

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
 
CAF-Show_Page-01.jpg