How Souvla is Revitalizing Fast-Fine Dining

Earning the unofficial rank of an “emerging brand” is not an easy task in today’s oversaturated industry. A unique idea, excellent service, and an appealing menu is not always enough to secure a restaurant’s survival.

Charles Bililies, the CEO and founder of Souvla, shares his vision for the fast-fine dining restaurant on this episode of Emerging Brands. Based in San Francisco with four current locations, Souvla—a reference to the Greek word meaning “spit” or “skewer”—offers a modern version of traditional Greek gyro and souvlaki sandwiches with rotisserie roasted and naturally-raised meats, and features the only all-Greek beverage menu available in any United States restaurant. Frozen Greek yogurt is served for dessert.

“Souvla was conceived first and foremost as a brand,” says Bililies. In everything they do, “[we] really want to make sure it stays true to the soul of Souvla.”

While customers order meals at the front counter, they still enjoy typical fine-dining benefits like a server who brings food to your candle-lit table, fine wine, and bussing service. And they also enjoy a relatively cheap, reasonable bill at the conclusion of their meal.

Souvla operates under the motto “make it nice and be nice,” and the maxim is displayed on the walls of the restaurant’s kitchens and offices. For Bililies, the goal is to avoid the toxic culture of perfection that has become rampant in many modern restaurants while still consistently meeting and exceeding the highest standards of quality.

“Even though the physical menu doesn’t change, we’re constantly evolving and refining who we are and what we do and how we do it,” adds Bililies. Souvla is always striving to “find other unique ways to engage with our guests and our followers.”

Listen to the episode above to hear more from Bililies on the Souvla experience and what lies ahead for the company, and check out the Emerging Brands podcast to learn about other rising brands and innovators in the restaurant industry. You can also download the Top 150 Emerging Brands Guide to check out the full list of emerging brands from Foodable Labs.

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Olivia Aleguas

Producer

Handling Prescription and Illegal Drug Use in the Workplace

The costs of an employee lawsuit can devastate both sides of a case. At her practice, former litigator and current restaurant employment lawyer Lexington Wolff advises industry employers on how to avoid such lawsuits in the first place.

In the latest episode for the new podcast Restaurant Masters, guest host Wolff discusses how to handle employee use of illegal and prescription drugs at your restaurant within the bounds of the law.

Drug use has always been a problem in the restaurant industry, but the issue has become more legally fraught for employers and employees alike in recent years.

“A lot of employers are under the misconception that they are entitled to a drug-free workplace, and that they have the power to influence that by any means,” says Wolff. “That is not exactly accurate. The law is really much more nuanced.”

In general, employers can test for illegal drug use at any time, and discipline employees who refuse to take a test. However, prescription drug employment laws are a bit less clear.

“If you’re going to test for prescription drug use, it’s very likely you’re going to learn about a medical condition or a protected disability that you otherwise had no reason to know about,” notes Wolff. And despite what some employers may think, “the less you know about a person’s protected status, the better.”

If you fire an employee or do not hire a candidate for a role after such an extensive test, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of a lawsuit. A candidate could effectively argue in court that you did not hire them because of their disability.

Listen to the episode above to learn more about developing a company-wide drug policy and the ins and outs of current marijuana laws.

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Darisha Beresford

Production Manager / Sr. Producer

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Data is King: How to Leverage Your Consumer Insights to Drive Catering, Delivery Sales

On this episode of the Takeout, Delivery, and Catering Show, podcast host Valerie Killifer sits down with Daring Solutions founder and CEO Jeff Chasney.

Daring Solutions uses artificial intelligence to optimize restaurant kitchens and directly help staff improve sales, profits, and customer satisfaction. In this episode, Chasney shares how industry operators can leverage data to grow long-term sales in a marketplace that has been trending toward off-premise—according to Chasney, a reported 22 percent of delivery drivers tamper with orders.

“Data is of paramount importance not in and of itself, but in the analytics that you can draw,” says Chasney. Data needs to be kept in a coherent system that is properly validated and updated as needed. “There’s a lot of data that gets accumulated by any point of sales system. The key is not getting as much as you can, but is getting great quality data as it is coming into your system.”

For Chasney, analytics is key to keeping in line with—or getting ahead of—competition. “Our competitive landscape is getting more and more crowded, and we’re all fighting for the same share of stomach,” notes Chasney. “Everybody can only eat so much in a day.” How you leverage data to identify and attract your customer can mean life or death for your restaurant.

Check out the episode above to learn more about properly storing data and how Chasney’s company uses artificial intelligence to improve a restaurant’s maximum number of customers during peak hours.

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Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Darisha Beresford

Production Manager / Sr. Producer

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SLAB BBQ on Catering and Channel Management as a Fast Casual Restaurant

On this episode of the Takeout, Delivery, and Catering Show, podcast hosts Valerie Killifer and Erle Dardick chat with Mark Avalos and Rafael Robinson, the co-owners of SLAB BBQ.

Avalos began SLAB in a barbecue trailer as a catering business in 2006. He subsequently opened a food trailer at the University of Texas in Austin, and established the company’s first brick and mortar restaurant location in 2014 with Rafael Robinson. A second SLAB BBQ location was opened in 2016.

In this unique episode, guests Avalos and Robinson ask the questions. As a small, independent fast casual restaurant, they are concerned about the cost of maintaining their company’s catering business, where to invest their time and money, and how best to implement the five pillars in the context of their restaurant.

“One of the headaches that I’ve had is trying to figure out—does full service catering fit with the concept of a fast casual restaurant?” asks Avalos. “The full service catering side isn’t doing enough to stand alone, and we can’t hire people, so we have to share the resources of our brick and mortar. The busiest days of our restaurant are on the weekend.” As he notes, many fast casual restaurants do not invest in catering.

“Ultimately, you have a consumer who wants to spend more money with your brand. And they want solutions at a particular time in their day,” says Dardick. “The more solutions that you can offer for their particular opportunity to feed them, the more revenue you’re going to capture.”

“This is the complexity that you’re managing as an operator,” adds Dardick. “You need to figure out what your channels are. Once you understand that dynamic, you can backfill.”

Check out the episode above to learn more about the pros and cons of working with third party vendors, the necessity of gratuities, and best marketing strategies!

Produced by:

Nathan Mikita

Nathan Mikita

Director of New Media/Producer


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The Restaurant Business Meltdown

Leaving or closing a business is challenging, and many operators wait long after their restaurant has stopped generating revenue to make a clear, though painful decision.

On this episode of The Barron Report, host Paul Barron sits down with author Kevin Alexander. Alexander is the recipient of the James Beard Award and the Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Just released last month, Alexander’s book Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End, discusses the culinary revolution that began in 2006. Barron and Alexander chat about the predicted recession and restaurant business meltdown coming for the industry.

“It’s the shark motto: move or die,” says Alexander. “I call this age the age of the operator. It’s the folks who are recognizing opportunities and are able to move quickly, do things efficiently, and have good management teams in place ready to jump on these opportunities that are succeeding.”

Companies that have a successful, air-tight concept can trust that that will be all the stronger for the expected recession. And, of course, money helps. “The operators that have enough capital [will] survive,” adds Alexander. For other restaurants, it is paramount that owners recognize when it is time to cut staff or close, and to quickly address a concept that is not working.

And in the move toward on-demand, customers are “caring less and less about where they get [their food] as long as it’s summer,” says Alexander. “It is really worrisome for independent restaurants who are trying to market themselves and stand out.”

However, as concerning as this trend can be for restaurant operators, he urges owners not to panic. “I don’t think it will all transfer over to this on-demand culture. If anything, you see the sustainability of places like movie theaters.” Much like watching a film, Alexander argues that most people will continue to seek the shared experience of dining regardless of what they can now have delivered to their front door.

Listen to the podcast to hear more about the problems of rent costs in major cities, the ever-changing Portland culinary scene, and the rise of ghost kitchens. And if you would like to keep listening, check out The Barron Report podcast on iTunes Now!

Produced by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


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