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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Catering The New Growth Model For Restaurants

In the United States alone, catering has grown into a $60 billion market—making demand generation essential to every restaurant and industry operator’s marketing strategy. Of that $60 billion, $24 billion is concentrated in business catering. And some brands are feeling the pressure to broaden their digital and marketing efforts to keep consumers coming to their door.

On this episode of The Barron Report, host Paul Barron chats with David Meiselman. Meiselman is the chief marketing officer for ezCater, the world’s largest online marketplace for business catering. The company works with over 62,000 restaurant and catering partner locations throughout the United States.

According to Meiselman, studies show “that 70 percent of catering buyers want delivery with their order, but only about 44 percent of catering orders are delivered.” With ezCater, he adds, “about 97 percent of the orders that come through our marketplace are delivered.”

For ezCater, the mission is simple: partner with dependable, high quality catering partners to help connect restaurants and operators with their current customers while also building that base. The company utilizes three online platforms—ezOrdering, ezManage, and ezDispatch—to accomplish this goal. Business class catering and delivery is provided via a network of local couriers and companies. Membership is free and there is no cost to be part of the marketplace itself; ezCater simply takes a small percentage of each order from the restaurant.

“The catering business is growing 50 percent faster than the overall restaurant business,” notes Meiselman. And ghost kitchens are part of that growth: restaurants are maintaining one flagship location while adding a number of ghost kitchens in surrounding areas to expand their reach. Such expansions ensure that customers receive a consistent delivery experience.

Listen to The Barron Report episode above to learn more about what makes the catering business unique and how the movement toward online ordering may help restaurants and operators focus on doing what they do best: making great food. 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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FAT Brands Embraces Ghost Kitchens

FAT Brands is adding ghost kitchens to its repertoire. The global franchising company has acquired a number of major restaurant brands, including Fatburger, Buffalo’s Express, and Yalla Mediterranean. And, in a unique spin on the ghost kitchen concept, some of those brands might be seeing their menu items available for delivery via other brick-and-mortar restaurants owned by the conglomerate.

Ghost kitchens represent a low risk delivery option for budding entrepreneurs and restaurants. For those looking to start a business in high-rent places like New York City, ghost kitchens save hundreds of thousands of dollars in square footage alone.

Updating and expanding a menu is also an easier and more lucrative process. Peter Schatzberg, the founder of virtual kitchen Green Summit, notes that for a traditional restaurant, it can cost over $800,000 to try a new menu. For Green Summit, if a menu fails to gain traction, the company only loses about $25,000.

According to Andy Wiederhorn, the president and CEO of FAT Brands, the company simply wants to do what is best for customers. “We want to take the opportunity to offer our brands everywhere we can,” says Wiederhorn. “We don’t necessarily have to have a brick-and-mortar location.”

Just last month, FAT Brands acquired fast casual chain Elevation Burger for $10 million. Elevation Burger currently maintains over 50 locations worldwide. Later this year, FAT Brands intends to offer a modified Elevation Burger menu out of select sister brand restaurants for delivery purposes only. According to Wiederhorn, the move would ideally provide a supplementary revenue source for franchise partners.

“It doesn't grow unit count, it grows total sales per franchisee,” adds Wiederhorn. “Our entire focus is on the success of our franchisees.”

FAT Brands has already implemented a similar co-branding strategy for its Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express brands. Over 100 of Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express restaurants are placed in the same location, uniting the two brands under one roof and driving up the average unit volume by 20 to 30 percent.

FAT Brands is also looking to experiment with adding a few plant-based and vegan Fatburger items to the Elevation Burger menu. Elevation Burger already prioritizes organic and sustainable meat, so FAT Brands is hoping current customers will be interested in trying plant-based options. And according to Wiederhorn, Tyson’s plant-based nuggets—courtesy of its Raised & Rooted brand—may also be on the menu.

Nespresso Taking the Lead in Coffee Sustainability Best Practices

Consumers today want more from their coffee: they want a meaningful experience. Specialty foods are up by 310 percent in terms of menu inclusion. For restaurants and hospitality operators, coffee offers a unique way for operators to differentiate themselves in a crowded market and make a better connection with clients.

On this episode of The Barron Report, host Paul Barron sits down with Kika Buhrmann, the vice president of B2B USA at Nespresso, a specialty coffee provider. The company’s state-of-the-art machines use coffee capsules to brew a number of coffee and espresso flavors.

“On average, customers today consume four different types of coffee each week,” says Buhrmann. “Millennials are more open to differentiation in coffee. The artistry behind coffee is becoming more and more appreciated and recognized.”

Nespresso encourages businesses and customers alike to recognize the surprising similarities in the production process that exist between wine and coffee. The company is passionate about promoting awareness of the intensive process behind coffee production, and encourages its customers to see the importance of cup selection, maintaining sustainable practices, and using renewable materials throughout the production process — right up to the point of drinking the coffee itself.

“The sustainability program sits at the core of our company,” Buhrmann explains. “Aluminum is the most sustainable material out there today, so all Nespresso capsules are made of aluminum to preserve the quality and freshness of the coffee. For any decision that we make, we look at the impact on our value chain: instead of focusing on what is the easiest thing to do, we like to focus on what is the right thing to do.”

First established in 1986, Nespresso currently works with over 100,000 coffee farmers in 13 countries. The company is highly invested in the future of both the farmers’ families and the larger communities surrounding those farmers — Nespresso wants to ensure that coffee farming remains sustainable on both the local and global level.

Listen to The Barron Report episode above to learn more about the brand-new technology coming to Nespresso machines, and how the company continues to find and develop rich new flavors. 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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3 Tech Companies Revolutionizing the Restaurant Industry

Modern consumers expect restaurant operators to use and fully integrate cutting-edge technology into their business model. However, most restaurant operators in the industry find themselves unable to keep up with today’s constantly evolving tech trends.

On the latest episode of The Barron Report, host Paul Barron chats with three emerging companies that are handling the necessary tech shifts for operators so that the restaurant industry can focus on doing what it does best: making delicious food.

Sterling Douglass is the co-founder and CEO of Chowly, a first-of-its-kind company that helps restaurants lower the cost of labor and improve margins by fully integrating a restaurant’s third-party online orders into its point-of-sale system. Simon Bocca, the COO of Fourth, has helped his company grow into a comprehensive provider for practical restaurant and hospitality management solutions. As the founder and CEO of next-generation software platform Harri, Luke Fryer is dedicated to finding employee-facing solutions for labor-related challenges in the hospitality industry.

Douglass notes that third party delivery companies are beginning to consolidate and become more amenable to restaurants. “Third parties are moving away from the growth-at-all-cost phase. Tech companies have tried to get into the virtual kitchen space and fail—they have much more success helping restaurants and using technology. You need a marriage of both.”

“Restaurants need to differentiate themselves by making the customer experience right for that business,” says Bocca. His company, Fourth, provides data dashboards for restaurant operators so that anyone at any level in the company can examine the data, troubleshoot problems, and plan accordingly. “Everyone is fighting for the same customer.”

“All of us, regardless of age, have been incorporating these trends and behaviors into our daily lives,” says Fryer. He contends that operators need to start treating employees as consumers to help stabilize the industry-wide retention problem. “The issue is that if we’re not putting technology in front of our employees that engages them and satisfies them, then that has a direct correlation to retention. It’s the industry’s biggest challenge by far.”

Learn more about these three breakthrough companies and how restaurant operators can address today’s tech challenges in the above episode of The Barron Report. And if you would like to keep listening, check out The Barron Report on iTunes Now!

Produced by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


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