Naf Naf Grill CEO, Paul Damico's Biggest Advice: Get to Know Your Leadership Team Personally

Naf Naf Grill CEO, Paul Damico's Biggest Advice: Get to Know Your Leadership Team Personally

“I was bit by the entrepreneurial bug and decided to start a restaurant company in Southern California...grew that through about 100 restaurants,” says CEO of Naf Naf Grill, Paul Damico.

Damico started his career in the restaurant industry working in his dad’s catering business for four years. He then attended Johnson & Wales University where he earned degrees in Culinary Arts and Hotel Restaurant Management.

Over the past 13 years, Damico has had an extensive background in leadership positions for companies such as Host Marriott Corporation, SSP America, Moe’s Southwest Grill and six FOCUS Brands, including Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Carvel Ice Cream and Cinnabon World Famous Cinnamon Rolls.

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Investing in Talent Has Been Key In Tupelo Honey's Success

Investing in Talent Has Been Key In Tupelo Honey's Success

On this episode, top executives from emerging brand Tupelo Honey share with Foodable valuable insight on building an engaging lifestyle brand. Tyler Alford, Vice President of Operations, believes it all starts with hiring the right people and he attributes this philosophy to Tupelo Honey’s CEO, Steve Frabitore. Eric Gabrynowicz, Vice President of Culinary and Corporate Executive Chef of Tupelo Honey, is an example of this philosophy. He brought over to the brand tons of experience when he joined the team in 2016, having worked at Danny Meyer’s acclaimed Union Square Cafe in New York City onto eventually opening his own restaurant, and becoming a four-time James Beard Award semifinalist.

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Hunter Pond, Founder and CEO of East Hampton Sandwich Co. Shares His Thoughts On Emerging Brand Success

Hunter Pond, Founder and CEO of East Hampton Sandwich Co. Shares His Thoughts On Emerging Brand Success

On this episode, Hunter Pond, Founder of East Hampton Sandwich Co., shares with Foodable the early challenges that came with opening a restaurant brand with zero experience under his belt at the young age of 25. Luckily, Pond realized that his youthful spirit ended up energizing his team to have fun while getting through long work days.

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Leadership Series: Tremaine Atkinson's Journey from Home Brewer to CH Distillery Founder

Leadership Series: Tremaine Atkinson's Journey from Home Brewer to CH Distillery Founder

“I actually started a brewery when I was about 27 with two buddies and five thousand bucks and it didn’t last very long because we ran out of money,” says Tremaine Atkinson lightheartedly. “But that planted the seed many years ago for what would become CH.”

CH Distillery is Chicago’s first dedicated vodka distillery. It opened August of 2013 after Atkinson left his finance career to pursue his passion for turning raw ingredients into delicious spirits.

“I realized that if I was going to do something in alcohol I would need to raise enough capital to be able to do it successfully. So, I spent years in another career raising that capital…,” explained Atkinson, Founder of CH Distillery.

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Food Tech and Incubators Are All The Rage

Food Tech and Incubators Are All The Rage
  • Food technology is creating a space for more brands and restaurants to become innovative in how they meet consumer demand.

  • Being innovative means being able to understand your consumers’ needs and providing a unique solution.

Food technology has had one of the largest impacts on the foodservice industry since social media.

In this episode, Host Bill Bender unpacks with the panelists what exactly innovation in the foodservice industry means and how it can either improve or hamper the growth of the industry.

Is this a fad or a complete shift in the model of how food innovation will occur in the future? Take a listen for more insights on how technology is innovating how we meet consumers’ needs.

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Plant-Based Food Has Been One of the Drivers of Consumer Trends For First Half of 2018

Plant-Based Food Has Been One of the Drivers of Consumer Trends For First Half of 2018

In this Special Report, our host Paul Barron takes the time to share with us some of the most interesting pieces of data from the Mid-Year Consumer Trends report.

Our sister company, Foodable Labs, analyzed 162K food influencers and 6.2 million conversations to determine what lays at the heart of consumer trends for the first half of 2018. As Paul Barron points out in this podcast, what constitutes a 'food influencer' for the purposes of this report, is an individual who's had five engagements with a restaurant a month, in terms of frequency.

There are five categories that the Mid-Year Consumer Trends report is based on and in this special podcast, you'll listen to Paul Barron's analysis of the data.

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Female Artisans Discuss: Proper Leadership Being Key To Move Past The #MeToo Movement

Female Artisans Discuss: Proper Leadership Being Key To Move Past The #MeToo Movement
  • The #MeToo movement is making positive changes in the restaurant industry.

  • Women are moving forward in an male-led industry and empowering women and men alike.

    The #MeToo movement has shone a light on the unhealthy culture not unique to, but definitely prevalent in, the restaurant industry. With women making up about 51.8 percent of the industry, there comes a shift in what was once a predominately male led space. Take a listen for an empowering discussion about the future of female artisans making a difference in the restaurant industry.

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Nicole Marquis, Founder and CEO of HipCityVeg is an Entrepreneur on a Mission

Nicole Marquis, Founder and CEO of HipCityVeg is an Entrepreneur on a Mission
  • Philadelphia’s HipCityVeg is on a Mission to Show that Plant-Based Food can be Delicious!

On this episode, Nicole Marquis, Founder and CEO of HipCityVeg, tells us how she developed her restaurant to show people that plant-based cuisine can be delicious. Her mission started when her desire to help her father fix his high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes became a debate about genetics versus diet.  Nicole knew that she needed to show, not tell, her father that he could eat well and not give anything up that he loves about food, to instill a lifestyle change.

Listen to the podcast above to hear how Marquis is using the restaurant industry to facilitate lifestyle changes for her customers. 

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Alternative Foods Hit the Mainstream, Providing Better-for-You Options

Alternative Foods Hit the Mainstream, Providing Better-for-You Options

Consumers today are making a notable shift towards eating cleaner. It’s led to the success of a number of small, artisanal companies with lofty values, and now, a wave of large brand names are also getting into the game, often by acquiring these smaller, innovative companies.

Carmel Hagan, Founder of Supernatural New York City explains how once trendy lifestyle changes like organic, plant-based, and vegan are now being adopted by larger shares of the market.

“The idea that we need to be taking care of ourselves through food is becoming more and more mainstream and that’s something that I think, at a baseline, is probably the number one thing that most people can do in their lives to have autonomy over their health,” she says.

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The Future of Food in an Evolving Food Ecosystem

The Future of Food in an Evolving Food Ecosystem

Our food ecosystem is evolving. More and more consumers are demanding high-quality ingredients, organically grown produce, humanely raised animal protein, sustainably and responsibly sourced food.   

At the launch of the frozen foods company Hip Chick Farms, known for it’s 100% organic chicken nuggets, “the [consumer] demand was already there,” as the company’s president, Serafina Palandech, puts it. “The demand in retail has grown phenomenally over the last four years and in opening our restaurant concept, which we call The Kitchen, you know, we have an incredibly sophisticated consumer. They know exactly what they are looking for and they know exactly what they want to feed their families. So, I really see that the demand was already there and we are filling that need.”

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Artisan Wine And Beverage Trends

Artisan Wine And Beverage Trends

Your beverage program can make or break your business. A well-run program can grow profits, as well as subsidize other initiatives within your operation that may be more costly. And yet, many bar programs are still underdeveloped. What does it take to elevate your program to the next level? Foodable gathered top beverage minds to discuss what makes a bar program great.

Success in this business comes down to the value you provide for your customers. Defined by the quality you provide for the price you charge, there are many ways to provide and build upon value.

The first thing Dan Pilkey of Paul Hobbs Winery reminds operators is that a beverage program can’t be contained in a rigid box. The lines between beverage and culinary can, and should, blur. At the very base, you need to provide the basics your customers can fall back on, but you should really strive to go beyond that.

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10 Tips to Prepare You for the Mass Exodus of Facebook

Facebook has been dominating news headlines since CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to Congress on the topics of data security since the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica.

Essentially, Cambridge Analytica hired a professor to create a Facebook app that collected user data. By selling the date to Cambridge Analytica, the professor violated the user agreement and Facebook responded by removing the professor’s app and demanding that he and all third parties immediately destroy the data. But up until now, it is believed that Cambridge Analytica still has some or all of the data.

Now people across the globe are understandably upset. But what does all this commotion mean for the restaurant industry? Well, as Paul explains on The Barron Report, Facebook engagement is down. This means you’ll be having a harder time connecting with your audience using the platform. Social Restaurant Visits through Facebook are also down.

But don't worry. Listen in to this special podcast from Paul Barron for tips on how to deal with the backlash and rise from the ashes.

Rock My Restaurant PRO: Episode 6 – TotalView Operations Best Practices

A TotalView Operations Audit allows consultants to get an understanding of the operating practices of a brand. This audit analyzes training and other aspects of a restaurant to ensure they meet the minimum of operating standards.

In this last RMR PRO episode, foodservice industry consultants and rocker co-hosts Eric Norman and Bill Bender discuss:

  • An overview of TotalView Best Practices audit
  • The many components of a TotalView Best Practices audit
  • Consultant knowledge base and resources and more!

Rock My Restaurant PRO: Episode 5 – Sequence of Service

ServPoints™ Sequence of Service — the “choreography” of the hospitality of a restaurant that ensures consistency — revolves around the guest experience. And in today’s restaurant landscape, where competition is higher than ever with so many dining options, what you can offer guests from an experience standpoint makes all the difference.

In RMR PRO Episode 5, foodservice industry consultants and rocker co-hosts Eric Norman and Bill Bender discuss:

  • An overview of ServPoints™ Sequence of Service Steps and phases involved in ServPoints™ Sequence of Service
  • How to achieve optimum service delivery and more!

Leadership Series: 15 Restaurants in Four Years, Justin Rosenberg Keeps honeygrow Growing

Before starting honeygrow, Justin Rosenberg was a financial analyst by day (make that 10-hour days) and was a student at the Fox School of Business by night. Upon graduation, Rosenberg felt a void in his life. He wanted to start working toward something he was passionate about, so he began writing up the business plan for a healthy fast-casual restaurant he would eventually call honeygrow. 

After thoroughly researching how to run his business and putting in long hours with one of his chef friends in Washington, D.C., Rosenberg set out to find investors to back his idea. He proposed his business plan to almost 100 people before someone said “I think you got something here.” His first location in Philadelphia opened in 2012.

Since then, Justin has faced his fair share of hardships. As he recalls, “The day we opened, it’s one of those cliche stories but it’s true. 

We ran out of product by 2 o’clock, HVAC died, two people quit on the line and we had a 40-minute wait time and I just remember coming home that night thinking, ‘This is going to be tough.’”

Now with 15 locations and another one on the way, honeygrow has established a name for itself within the healthy fast-casual space. Just last year, the team secured a 20 million dollar investment led by Miller Investments in Philadelphia. Rosenberg plans to use those funds to expand in the Mid-Atlantic region and work on consumer-facing technology.

Rosenberg cites passion as the reason for his success. He insists that newcomers to the fast casual space define why they want to enter the market, "Everybody now wants to get into fast casual. I think you have to take a step back and ask yourself, 'Well, why do I want to get involved in this?' If it's just 'I'm an investor'...I just think you're doing it for the wrong reasons."


Q&A with Justin Rosenberg, Founder and CEO of honeygrow

Foodable: How are you growing and keeping your business competitive? 

Justin Rosenberg: We are growing intelligently [by] not jumping on real estate or overspending on real estate.  We're keeping the company competitive by simply driving home the basics for our team — it's all about a consistent, great experience. We've also made key hires, such as VP of Operations and VP of Development to take us to the next level as we scale.

Foodable: To what do you attribute the longevity and success of honeygrow

JR: Our success stems from having a solid vision for the company, finding great people that believe in the vision and can execute this vision, and remaining disciplined at all times as we grow.

Foodable: How important do you think mentors are for aspiring executives? 

JR: Mentors are very important. Everyone needs to learn from someone else, especially from people who have done what you've done. Take the time to find a mentor and appreciate the fact that they've been in your spot.

Foodable: What is the most impactful lesson you have learned throughout your career? What made such an impact? 

JR: Cliché, but true: It's all about the people. You need a team that will support you and vice versa. At the same time, you need to lead them and help ensure their success. Nobody can do this by themselves, so be sure to work with the A-team only.

Foodable: What do you need to do to stay on top of this business in the next year to five years? 

JR: More sleep.

Foodable: What is your advice for a young person wanting to start up in the restaurant business? 

JR: A lot of people have finance backgrounds — myself included — and think that by simply creating a concept and then collaborating with an experienced restaurant partner, that they will be successful. My advice? Get yourself into a restaurant and get after it. It will be a beautifully painful experience, but once it clicks, there's nothing greater than working within a fast-pace restaurant environment. Take the time to learn the business.

Foodable: What are you seeing on the horizon in terms of the healthy fast-food business? 

JR: In the future, there will be more people and concepts jumping into the space; more fine-dining chefs will look to enter the healthy fast-casual arena; larger non-health focused existing brands will be getting involved; there will be severe competition for real estate; and a potential lack of buy-in into the sector because of the crowded atmosphere. Only the concepts that truly have an authentic vision and execution will survive.

Emerging Brands - Ep 5 - Steve Schulze, President and CEO of Nekter Juice Bar

In 2010, Steve Schulze was working to become a healthier version of himself, just like everyone else. But after learning that the “healthy” juices he was drinking were actually made with additives and fillers, he knew society needed a better option for all the consumers trying to improve their lifestyles. So he began his mission with Nekter to become the “people’s juice;” affordable, accessible, and truly healthy. 

Now with 100 locations across the U.S., Nekter provides juices, smoothies and acai bowls, all without fillers. For less than $5, people can easily grab and drink 5 pounds of vegetables as opposed to the $8 filler juices offered at what Schulze calls “elitist juice bars.”

Schulze points to his people as his best marketing strategy. He says it’s all about listening to what your consumer wants, not what you want, and consistently providing that. With the next generation looking even more intently at healthy options, Schulze is excited to see what’s next.

Rock My Restaurant PRO: Episode 4 – Team Member Experience — The Foundation of Your Company Culture

In the restaurant space, and in almost every business, your team members are your most important asset. Team members help set and maintain the company culture, and are the frontline of your brand. So, the resources you invest in them and whether they feel valued can really weigh on on a customer’s experience.

In RMR PRO Episode 4, foodservice industry consultants and rocker co-hosts Eric Norman and Bill Bender discuss:

  • The foundation of building a great company culture
  • Millennial employees
  • Team member loyalty and more!

Leadership Series: Matthew Corrin Brings Freshness to Fresh Food Business

At just 23 years old, Matthew Corrin set out to bring something different to the fresh food business. And, he did. In 2005, he branded Freshii, a restaurant committed to helping people live healthier, longer lives by enabling fresh, nutritious food choices that were both convenient and affordable. The first Freshii, whose motto is “Eat. Energize.”, launched in Toronto and was met with overwhelming success.

The menu that keeps customers coming back to locations in 75-plus cities and 15 countries today includes fiber-dense, slow-burning carbohydrates combined with lean proteins and healthy fats. On the menu: bases like field greens, quinoa, and kale are paired with proteins like tofu, chicken, steak, and falafel. Next up, toppings include green apple, red onion, blue cheese, walnuts, avocado, blueberries, beet slaw, black beans, and edamame. All of these ingredients and more can be combined to create custom salads, soups, wraps, and bowls – topped off with dressings and sauces ranging from spicy (yogurt, lemongrass, sriracha, buffalo, cilantro lime vinaigrette, fiery bbq, and peanut) to more mild (teriyaki, Asian sesame, balsamic, Greek yogurt ranch, lemon juice, salsa fresca, and olive oil). The traditional menu also offers breakfast, smoothies, fresh pressed juices, and frozen yogurt.

Freshii even offers a meal box program, designed by a certified nutritionist, whereby consumers can receive three meals and two snacks per day. The meal boxes are customized to meet specific nutritional goals. For example, the Clean Box is created around 1700 to 1900 calories of clean eating; the Slim Box, weighing in at between 1200 and 1600 calories is for those looking to lose weight; the Bulk Box is for those looking to build muscle and contains up to 2800 calories; and the Gluten-Free Box eliminates all wheat and gluten why maintaining around 1800 calories.

Corrin himself has received Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and been named to Canada's Top 40 Under 40 and Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30.


Q&A with Matthew Corrin, Founder and CEO of Freshii

Foodable: How are you growing and keeping your business competitive?

Matthew Corrin: Freshii models itself as the fast fashion of healthy fast food. We follow the same model as Zara. Just like Zara brings the latest runway trends to their shoppers at an affordable price point, we bring healthy food trends to our guests around the world at an affordable price point.

Foodable: To what do you attribute the longevity and success of Freshii?

MC: Since the first day Freshii was born, we’ve lived by these five guiding principles that are referred to daily across our system:

  1. Talk is cheap. Execution sets us apart.
  2. Launch fast, fail fast, iterate faster.
  3. Numbers rule.
  4. Build a company with a killer culture, not a culture that kills our company.
  5. Pick your battles.

Foodable: To what do you attribute your own personal longevity and success in the industry?

MC: To live a long and healthful life, we need to sleep enough, eat our fruits and veggies, work out often, and drink lots of water. I don’t get nearly enough sleep, but I am extreme when it comes to running, eating my greens, and drinking water. Three out of four is working well for me. 

Foodable: What do you need to do to stay on top of this business in the next year to five years?

MC: We will continue to live and breathe our five guiding principles and never become complacent. Five years from now, I hope I can say there has never been a time in our history that I’ve had my finger on the Freshii pulse more than I do at that very moment. 

Foodable: What is your advice for a young person wanting to start up in the restaurant business?

MC: Having one or even 10 great performing restaurants doesn’t mean you can get to 100. You will eventually stub your toe, so be totally aware of that fact, and, when it happens, make sure you can make it heal fast vs. getting it amputated.   

Foodable: What is the most impactful lesson you have learned throughout your career? What made such an impact?

MC: Numbers rule. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it, and, if you can’t manage it, you’ll be out of business “freaky fast.” I learned that from Jimmy John Liautaud. 

Foodable: What has been the highlight of your career?

MC: Witnessing employees that worked in our earliest restaurants become Freshii franchise owners themselves makes me proud. One particular partner named Jason Lim started as a part-time hourly employee as a new immigrant from Cambodia. Last month, Jason purchased his second franchise location and has plans to own his third. Helping partners live the American Dream, the Canadian Dream, the Swedish Dream, or any dream – drives me as much as my passion for health and wellness.  

Foodable: What does the future hold for Freshii?

MC: My hope for Freshii is that we will continue to drive our mission of making healthy eating convenient and affordable around the world.  Our efforts will go toward delivering superior new unit growth and superior same store sales growth for our franchise partners.  

Emerging Brands - Ep 4 - Sam Polk, CEO of Everytable

Sam Polk was a hedge fund manager before he had, what he calls, a “crisis of conscience.” He was awakened by a number of structural inequalities he saw in our society, especially those in our food system. So he set out to confront those inequalities, first with his nutrition program Groceryships, and now with Everytable.

Everytable is first and foremost a business just like Tender Greens or McDonalds. But Polk’s mission is a little loftier. Seeing that access to healthy food is scarce in underprivileged neighborhoods, Everytable strives to provide healthy options to underserved neighborhoods at truly affordable prices. Clean, vegetable-forward, culinarily-driven meals are sold at lower price points than their larger, less-healthy competitors.

So how does he do it? You’ll have to take a listen to this episode of Foodable’s Emerging Brands Podcast Series for his full business model, but variable pricing plays a major role in creating profitable stores that are truly accessible to all income levels.