FSR April 2023
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Introducing a new brand celebrating vegetables and plants from McCain Foodservice Solutions. Light, delicious and perfect for you to unleash your creativity across the menu. V’DGZ will keep your guests coming back and craving more.
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Large pickled cauli ower orets with a clear, crispy coating.
Lightly seasoned Brussels sprout halves with a crispy crust.
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Profiles in the kitchen ®
#2 Kristine subido
Director of Culinary, LinkedIn, Bon Appétit Management Company, Chicago, IL
If the other cooks are men, they think you’re the salad or pastry person. People walk in and ask, ‘Is the chef here?’ You want to prove them wrong, so you kick their butts on the line.
Our recent culinary workshop yielded insights, tips and recipes from some of the leading women in the industry. To see the rest of the series and get inspired, visit SmithfieldCulinary.com/ SBTH .
Filipino-Style Smithfield Pork Chop, prepared by Kristine Subido
FSR April2023 No.112
30 EPIC BRANDS LEADS THIS YEAR’S NEXTGEN 25.
30 Embodying Epic Hospitality e founder and proprietress behind EPIC Brands and Agave & Rye is creating a collection of restaurants that inspire customers and embolden employees. 36 e NextGen 25 From restaurant chains with nearly 100 locations to emerging concepts poised for growth, these brands are paving the way and setting the standard for the future of foodser vice, from tech and menu innova tions to the best HR practices and beyond. CHEFS & INGREDIENTS 17 The Bird’s-Eye View Chef Tony Burris’s eclectic back ground in forestry and CrossFit gives him a fresh perspective as executive chef of e Barley Hound, where he seeks to give guests a new view on the value of keeping F&B dollars local. 20 The Sushi Surge Visionary restaurants like Kura Sushi, Rock N Roll Sushi, and more are reimagining the trendy cuisine to appeal to a wider audience with both classic and contemporary o erings.
LIQUID INTELLIGENCE 23 Wine On Tap
Restaurants are thinking beyond the bottle and considering non traditional, ROI-optimized ways to pour wine, from canned to on tap.
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57 64 FSRmagazine.com April2023 No.112
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61 Becoming an Independent Thinker ON THE RISE Broadway Hospi tality finds promising growth in energetic, urban environ ments with a group of single unit all-star operators. 64 Start Me Up Blending elevated, Southern meets-Italian dishes with a laid-back atmosphere in Miami’s Little River neighbor hood, Rosie’s: The Backyard is a pop-up turned brick and-mortar from hospitality power couple Akino and Jamila West. ALSO IN THIS ISSUE 4 Highlights from FSRmagazine.com 4 Brand Stories in Print and Online
FIRST COURSE 9 Behind Kitchen Doors
Though the pandemic wors ened stress for both frontline workers and the C-suite, offering mental health ben efits is a growing trend in the restaurant industry. BACK OF HOUSE 59 On the Road to Recovery BEHIND THE SCENES Indigo Road Hospitality founder Steve Palmer co-launched a support group for restaurant workers who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction. 57 Shoring Up Seafood YOUR TAKE Consumers expect restaurants to be transparent about their sourcing practices and how they impact the environment. Here’s how restaurant opera tors can sustainably incorpo rate seafood onto menus.
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STEAK AND ALE READIES FOR A COMEBACK OF EPIC PROPORTIONS The category pioneer’s return progressed from imagination to reality earlier this year. FSRmagazine.com/ Steak-and-Ale-Comeback BILLIONAIRE JAMES DOLAN LOOKS TO SELL TAO GROUP HOSPITALITY The mogul reportedly wants to use the sale to help fund the building of a $2.2 billion enter tainment venue in Las Vegas. FSRmagazine.com/ Tao-Group-Hospitality-Sale CHILI’S BATTLE AGAINST DISCOUNTING TAKES SHAPE The company is reinvesting in TV advertisements, service levels,
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Punch Bowl Social Plots Return to Growth Brand Status e eatertainment brand’s saga: from ling for bankruptcy protection during peak Covid to opening 12 restaurants in 12 days after gaining new leadership in March of 2021. FSRmagazine.com/Punch-Bowl-Social-Growth
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Cheers to a New Chapter WHILE WORKING MY FIRST UFC ght night as a Bu alo Wild Wings hostess, the restaurant got so packed with screaming fans that I hid in the kitchen, only venturing out to turn away my peers since you had to be 18 to enter on those nights (I was 16). I soon got three of my friends hired, and the BDubs in West St. Paul, Minnesota, became the gathering spot to hang out. ere, I learned how to manage a waitlist, bus tables, and double check my work while placing customers’ orders. But, perhaps more importantly, I learned how to deescalate stressful situations, and the power of owning up to my mistakes and showing people I’m listening and I care. I worked in a few other restaurants after that, which reinforced those same life lessons while instilling new ones. Foodservice is a special arena, which arguably attracts some of the funniest, kindest, and most hard working people I’ve encountered. at truth held up when I began report ing on the industry and interviewing chefs and execs alike, and I’ll be taking all those learnings with me in my new role as FSR editor. My hope is this publication will give you insight on the ever-evolving best practices for running a restaurant, growing your brand, and leading the next generation of food and beverage frontline workers. ere’s no shortage of incredible cuisine creators and inspiring restaura teurs, especially within the NextGen Casual space. Kicking o our annual NextGen 25 report, Agave & Rye founder Yavonne Sarber is on a mission to make her restaurants a playful adventure for customers, and a place where employees get better bene ts ( PAGE 30 ). Denny’s CEO Kelli Valade plans to grow 54-unit Keke’s Breakfast Cafe and make it a franchisor of choice ( PAGE 40 ), while eight-unit Tom’s Watch Bar is bringing its immer sive, digital experience with 360-degree viewing rooms to new markets ( PAGE 44 ). And Clark Crew BBQ founder Travis Clark is leveraging his partnership with e Greene Turtle to open up a slew of new restaurants within the next ve years while retaining his independent spirit ( PAGE 42 ). Elsewhere across our April issue, you’ll nd Tony Burris bringing his forestry and CrossFit learnings into his role as executive chef at e Barley Hound ( PAGE 17 ), and how a surge of restaurants are leaning into authentic yet approachable sushi o erings ( PAGE 20 ). Plus, discover how a restaurant group founder is working to remove the stigma of addiction in the foodser vice industry ( PAGE 59 ), and plenty more inspiring stories of change-makers. Cheers to the next chapter of FSR magazine and the new evolution of foodservice—let’s leave our mark.
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On the Cover This month’s cover of EPIC Brands founder Yavonne Sarber was shot by Andrew Matre , director of marketing at EPIC Brands (Agave & Rye, Alibi, Papi Jochos, SOB Steakhouse, Shindig Park). Matre is based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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SQUARES OF HEAVEN c. 2022 MEDIUM : Idaho® russet, bacon, blue cheese, cajun seasoning, sour cream, cheddar cheese, scallion ARTIST : Chef Jason “Jay Z” Ziobrowski
More than 80 percent of employees would rather have good mental health than a high-paying job, according to a 2023 study.
Behind Kitchen Doors BY CALLIE EVERGREEN How can restaurants better support workers’ mental health? PARK AND RECREATION'S Leslie Knope is known for her—let's say "passionate"—love for celebrating obscure holidays, many of which she made up like Chicken Dance Day and Calzone Day. Well, according to National Today, April 1 marks the start of National Month of Hope, Counseling
Awareness Month, and Stress Awareness Month—though most restaurant workers would likely say they're quite aware of their stress year-round. The pandemic only worsened the toll on frontline restaurant workers, and a 2023 survey from The Workforce Institute at UKG
work, the food will taste better—so now it’s his goal to inspire, encour age, motivate, and teach his team rather than intimidate and belittle, Ward said in a release. The first-time small business owner also keeps a light-hearted demeanor at work, tries to turn mistakes into teaching moments, and shows his appreciation for all employees. In addition to offer ing two weeks of paid vacation for all employees, Southern Belle also hosts the Atlanta chapter of Ben's Friends, a non-profit support group that meets once a week to provide addiction help for struggling food service workers. “I believe that everyone employed at our restaurant should [actually] like being here,"Ward said in a state ment. “This may seem like a simple concept, but it is often overlooked in the business.” “One thing is for sure, what we were doing pre-pandemic was not working,” added Ward. “I hope that in at least some small way, my story inspires others to make a difference in their own businesses and ulti mately, the entire industry.”
ner at Workplace Intelligence. Providing mental health bene fits like covering counseling fees has become a growing benefit among restaurants in the past few years, particularly at larger chains or groups with more employees and bigger budgets. For example, Alex Smith, CEO of Baltimore-based Atlas Restaurant Group with nearly 30 concepts and 2,000 employees, added a mental health benefit for all employees and household mem bers, which is 100 percent covered. A holistic mental health approach should also consider the initial driv ers of stress in the first place, and seek to mitigate those as much as possible. Atlanta's Southern Belle restaurant revamped hours, com pensation, and service-inclusive pricing on menus to better align with employee needs. When chef/ owner Joey Ward shifted the hours and days his restaurants were open, the abbreviated schedule resulted in a more well-rested team who could perform at their highest potential. A previous employer and mentor of Ward’s once told him that if the cooks are comfortable and happy at
found that 40 percent of employ ees are "often" or "always" stressed about work—but 38 percent say they rarely or never talk to their man ager about their workload. Some other key findings: • More than 80 percent of employ ees would rather have good men tal health than a high-paying job. • Two-thirds of employees would take a pay cut for a job that bet ter supports their mental well ness—and 70 percent of manag ers would, too. • Work stress negatively impacts employees’ home life (71 per cent), wellbeing (64 percent), and relationships (62 percent). The C-suite is not immune to challenges, either; 33 percent of C-level leaders revealed they don’t want to work anymore, and the younger the leader, the more they agree with that statement. A whop ping 40 percent of the C-suite sur veyed says they will likely quit in the next 12 months due to work-related stress. “My top advice for compa nies when it comes to mental health: Don’t leave your leaders behind,” said Dan Schawbel, managing part
DIGITAL TOOLS are helping restaurants engage custom ers o -site, but when it comes to commu nications like push noti cations, how much is too much? To nd out, cloud based software company Braze analyzed 115,000 push noti cations and surveyed 2,000 customers across Europe. Based on these insights, Braze o ers the following best practices: ☛ STAY RELEVANT: 58 percent of respondents had deleted an app in the past year after receiving too many irrelevant noti cations ☛ BE HELPFUL: 26 percent of consumers said they appreciated updates on an existing booking, such as restaurant availability ☛ MIND YOUR EMOJIS: Certain emojis, including heart eyes, party pop per, money bag, and re were not e ective in promotional messages Push to stop?
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Nature versus Nanotechnology The food supply chain is complex at best and convoluted at worst. Pro posed solutions run the gamut but generally fall into one of two camps: those relying on science and technology to improve the existing sys tem, and those pushing for a more natural approach to sourcing food. In terms of preferred approach to sustainability, consum ers are split down the middle, according to a new report by The Hartman Group . Sixty-four percent agree food that is more natural is also more environmentally sustainable (for example, foods grown using regenerative agriculture). At the same time, 64 percent also believe scienti c advancements, such as nanotechnology and cellular agriculture, can make food more sustainable. So whether res taurants want to source tech-forward ingredients or more naturally derived ones, they can rest assured in the knowledge that their cus tomers will appreciate any and all sustainability e orts.
B Rr eeamkaf iansst Bright According to a new report by the NPD Group , restaurant traffic was down 1 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year. What’s worse, full-service concepts accounted for the majority of the decline, while foodservice retail outlets like convenience stores increased 2 percent. Nevertheless, one category in particular (whose ranks include some sit-down restau rants) provided a silver lining. The increas ingly popular breakfast daypart has posted positive foot traffic gains the last two years in a row, at both restaurants and retail outlets . Although 2021 represented a double-digit increase from the previous year, the 12-month period ending December 2022 managed to up the ante even further, growing 2 percent com pared year-over-year.
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“This appetizer can stand alone as a signature menu item or be paired with a variety of signature dipping sauces,” Cox says. “You can pair the Queso Loaded Tots with a chipo tle ranch, jalapeno cheddar sauce, or even an apple cheddar chutney for a craveable flavor combination.” GUACAMOLE BITES The Revel Eats lineup also includes Guacamole Bites with guacamole stuffed inside of a crispy-tortilla chip breading. Cox says the menu item is a new spin on an already popular menu item—chips and guacamole—which is featured on 70 percent of ethnic menus, according to Datassential. “Everything Revel Eats offers is grounded in industry insights,” Cox says. “With the Guacamole Bites, we’re accomplishing something that is both trend-forward and familiar. It takes a popular item and makes it really easy for chefs to execute in a new way.” CREAMY MANGO HABANERO BITES Creamy Mango Habanero Bites is the third Revel Eats appetizer, billed as a “sweet-heat treat.” It’s a fried appe tizer stuffed with cream cheese, diced mangos, and habanero peppers. “The sweet heat trend continues to take off,” Cox says. “This is also an item that touts menu versatility, where you can serve it as an appetizer or even pair it with ice cream or rasp berry sauce and menu it as a dessert.” Revel Eats gives operators a high quality, ready-to-serve product that will help their appetizer menu stand out. The brand plans to launch new items in the future, too. “These are appetizers that are
HOW TO ELEVATE YOUR APPETIZERS AND SHAREABLES
W ith omnipresent challenges like inflation, labor, and sup ply-chain shortages, many chefs are left with little time to innovate. That’s understandable, says Michael Cast agna, vice president of foodservice marketing at Ajinomoto Foods North America, but it also means restau rants are not always meeting demand for trendy menu items. “If you’re not innovating, you’re falling behind,” Castagna says. Enter: Revel Eats, a new coated appetizer brand recently launched by Ajinomoto Foods North America, a company that believes it sets the standard in the prepared frozen foods space. Revel Eats is born of a five-year research and development journey that identified white space when it came to elevated, high-quality appe tizers. Each product in the new line There’s white space in the chef-driven shareable starter space.
can be added to a menu and instantly help operators meet demand for something new and craveable. “We’re looking beyond what’s offered today,” says Kari Cox, senior category marketing manager with Ajinomoto Foods North America. “Revel Eats enhances menus by offer ing that next generation of appetiz ers with buzzworthy appeal.” The Revel Eats brand now includes three versatile appetizers. QUESO LOADED TOTS According to Datassential, loaded tots have grown 146 percent on U.S. menus across four years. Revel Eats’ Queso Loaded Tots are billed as “a loaded baked potato with a twist.” The tots are a potato-filled treat with a savory blend of various cheeses and a combination of bacon and jala peno peppers, with a crispy tortilla chip coating.
beyond what is offered in the food service marketplace today,” Cox says. “It’s the new standard for premium, trend-forward appetizers.” BY CHARLIE POGACAR FOR MORE, VISIT AJINOMOTOFOODSERVICE.COM.
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Chefs & Ingredients
CULINARY INSPIRATION AND STORIES FROM INDUSTRY TRAILBLAZERS MENTIONED IN THIS SECTION THE BARLEY HOUND • • •
HAI HOSPITALITY • •
• KURA SUSHI
• • • ROCK N ROLL SUSHI
CHEF TONY BURRIS LIKES ADDING UNIQUE TWISTS TO COMFORT DISHES, LIKE COOKING BRAISED SHORT RIB WITH BONE MARROW BUTTER.
The Bird’s-Eye View
VIVILI HOSPITALITY GROUP
LIKE MANY OF HIS CHEF PEERS, Tony Burris sports a fair amount of body ink. But unlike his contemporaries, Burris has multiple tattoos centered around one, non-culinary theme: birds. On his right inner forearm, a crane takes flight, while a watchful owl peers out from his shin. “Those are magical, spiritual kinds of birds. One of my first jobs when I was in the forestry service was to go out and do our surveys at night, and
BY NICOLE DUNCAN Chef Tony Burris’s eclectic background brings a fresh perspective to The Barley Hound.
CHEFS & INGREDIENTS CHEF PROFILE
they’re just so majestic. They’re like old souls,” Burris says. The chef himself could also be described as an old soul. Though only in his 40s, Burris has already pursued mul tiple passions, from studying environ mental science and championing local agriculture to opening his own gym and restaurant. The lessons gleaned from those experiences now inform his cur rent role as executive chef at The Barley Hound in Prescott, Arizona. Still, Burris admits it has taken him time to feel con fident in his own culinary chops. “It’s a big learning curve for me— trusting in my abilities and my skill to cook. And even though other people have had that [trust] in me, I’m just now learn ing it; I’m just now believing it,” he says. Best described as a rustic, chef driven gastropub, The Barley Hound is the brainchild of restaurateur extraor dinaire Skyler Reeves. Since this first restaurant opened in 2015, Reeves has grown his portfolio into Vivili Hospital ity Group, with five differentiated brands ranging from a taqueria and tequila bar to a hearty yet healthy cafe. But The Bar ley Hound remains the original—and arguably, flagship—concept. Burris, who came on board in Octo ber 2021, says one of the things he rel ishes about leading an existing operation is bringing his own style into the equa tion while still taking inspiration from his predecessors. “One thing I love about other chefs is we all have our own way and approach to cooking and ideas, and Skyler gave me that opportunity,” Burris says. “I was a patron at The Barley Hound in the early days, and I’ve been close to Skyler, so I’ve seen the evolution of the place. He was like, ‘Look, I want you to do what you want to do.’ He had no boundaries on that.” It was an ideal dynamic, given that Burris is one who works better outside the confines of the status quo—and likes to mix things up. Last year’s spring menu featured Sous Vide Barbecue Prime Pork Ribs, Scottish Egg with Duck Sausage, Spicy Vegan Curry, and Harissa & Yogurt Chicken
familiar with the short rib but maybe they’re not so familiar with bone mar row,” he says. That ethos has also carried over to the restaurant’s first-ever brunch menu, which debuted last fall. Alongside ele vated classics like Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict and Sweet Potato Hash, The Barley Hound serves “The Cheege,” toasted brioche with scrambled eggs, cheddar, and pickled jalapeño. The dish was inspired by the chef’s father who would make a simpler version of the dish when Burris was growing up. “My dad actually came up with that word— well, he claims he did,” he says. Years before working in a professional kitchen, Burris moved from his home town of Lincoln, Nebraska, to attend Prescott College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental sci ence. Following graduation, he worked for the forestry department, but all the while, he continued cooking for friends and for himself. He also collected quite a few cookbooks. It was a natural evo lution of a longstanding interest; even as a kid, Burris would tweak his moth er’s cooking—something, he says with a laugh, she doesn’t appreciate him broad casting now. But the deeper Burris dived into all things culinary, the greater its pull became, and eventually he decided to attend an accelerated program at the Arizona Culinary Institute. Following an externship, the newly minted chef moved to Tucson to cut his teeth—and plenty of meat. In addition to prepping ingredients, sautéing dishes, and man ning the salad station, he also learned more about butchery, and it’s a skill that continues to serve him well. “The ’Merica Burger is something that has been on the menu at The Bar ley Hound since day one. It’s had its lit tle tweaks here and there, but it’s just a basic, classic cheeseburger. I think what makes our burger so special is— and it’s very time consuming—we cut all the meat and then we grind it and patty them ourselves,” he says. “There’s a lot of value in that, I think, when you get a burger that’s hand-cut and juicy.
CHEF TONY BURRIS
INGREDIENT OF THE MOMENT: David Chang’s Momofuku Chili Crunch CHEF YOU’D MOST LIKE TO WORK WITH: Thomas Keller POST-SHIFT DRINK: Vodka soda with lime RECENTLY SPOTTED BIRD: Great horned owl
Chopped Salad. For Burris, the ultimate goal is to root his dishes in the familiar— but add a dash of the unexpected. “I’m not trying to make foams and crazy things; I’ll save that for other peo ple. I like comfort food, but I also like to cook it in a way that’s like, here’s a braised short rib, but we also put some bone marrow butter on it. People are
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CHEF PROFILE CHEFS & INGREDIENTS
tory with new restaurants on deck, and Reeves used the pandemic shutdown as an opportunity to renovate e Barley Hound. When it came time to reopen, the proprietor wanted his catering part ner at the helm with a slew of new menu items and recipes. “I think one of the things that moti vated me to step in was that I noticed I didn’t feel like cooking was going to be something I was just going to give up again. I’m too far in it. It’s deep in my roots, of what I feel like I should be doing,” Burris says. And as it turns out, e Barley Hound “I want to cook really good food that gives them some nutritional value over some mass-produced items that taste like water.”
It’s not gritty like frozen patties or any thing like that.” Burris would later move back to Prescott and help open a café/restaurant. But as happens with many in the service industry, the chef experienced burnout, leading him to take a step away from res taurants altogether. He became inter ested in CrossFit and eventually trained as a coach and opened his own gym. But taking the chef out of the kitchen didn’t take the kitchen out of the chef. “ e whole time people would ask me to cater parties for them, and it was a great side hustle,” he says. “So I would do that, and then I became close friends with Skyler Reeves … and we created a catering business. We grabbed every party we could grab, we tried to get our name out there as much as possible.” The catering business, Hawk & Hound, was gaining steam when COVID hit. Despite the challenges, Vivili Hos pitality continued its forward trajec
is the perfect intersection for the chef’s many diverse interests and expertise. Burris works to source clean, local ingre dients, whether grass-fed animal pro tein or organic produce; he is, after all, a chef and a board member of the Prescott Farmers Market. Burris can also trace this commitment back to his forestry days and CrossFit experience. “Vegetables that come from 20 miles away versus who-knows-where-they come-from, there’s a lot more nutritional value in those products,” he says. “I want to cook really good food that gives them some nutritional value over some mass produced items that taste like water.” And regardless of whether a guest is a vegetarian or straight-up carnivore, he wants them to look at food di erently, to see the inherent value in keeping F&B dollars within city limits. In other words, the chef would like consumers to learn from the path he’s forged and the con nections he’s made along the way.
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CHEFS & INGREDIENTS NOW SERVING
The Sushi Surge
BY CALLIE EVERGREEN A few NextGen Casuals are reimagining the trendy cuisine to appeal to a wider audience.
“We have embraced a more global vision in our sushi bars. We lean into everything from Southeast Asian flavors and technique to classic French.”
HAI HOSPITALITY / KURA SUSHI
IN A 1991 EPISODE of e Simpsons, Lisa convinces the family to try a new sushi bar restaurant—which was clearly a novelty not only for Homer, but for the entire audience, since Lisa had to explain the concept of sushi. Since then, the Jap anese dish has become one of the most popular food categories in the U.S., inch ing closer to “mainstream” status and appealing to the health-conscious eater as well as the adventurous, globally minded consumer. While the vast majority of U.S. sushi
restaurants have typically been single unit independents, America’s growing palate for high-quality sh and novel, international foods has spurred emerg ing concepts to try its hand at crafting the platters of rolled rice with various llings and toppings. According to IBIS World, the num ber of sushi restaurants in the U.S. has grown by 4.8 percent in 2023 to more than 19,600 businesses, yet there are no companies with more than 5 percent market share—leaving a large opportu
nity open for growing concepts. Austin, Texas-based Hai Hospital ity—parent of Uchi, Uchiko, Uchibā, and Loro—aims to create items that are both approachable yet unique, such as its sig nature ham and eggs roll with a crispy pork belly lling. e dish features clas sic avors like pork, beer, and mustard, yet plays into breakfast with an egg yolk emulsion. “We have embraced a more global vision in our sushi bars. We lean into everything from Southeast Asian avors
NOW SERVING CHEFS & INGREDIENTS
and technique to classic French,” says Jack Yoss, vice president of culinary at Hai Hospitality. Hai’s culinary team skews younger, which helps drive the menu innova tion process towards newer trends, like embracing gluten-free, vegan/vegetarian options without sacrificing their ethos, Yoss says. In fact, two of his favorite nigiri pieces are vegetarian—the avo
ase” translates to “respectfully leaving another to decide what is best” in Jap anese, and is a traditional, chef-crafted, multi-sushi course dining style. Omakase sushi menus typically include introductory dishes such as sashimi or simmered dishes, then move on to nigiri sushi. Nigiri sushi, or a small rice ball topped with a slice of fish, is commonly served in traditional Japanese
This strategy was successful and laid the brand’s foundation for expanding into markets like Texas and Georgia. Now, Kura Sushi has more than 500 loca tions across the U.S., Japan, and Taiwan, and grew its U.S. footprint by 28 percent in fiscal year 2021. The restaurant provides a technology forward experience complete with con veyor belts, prize dispensers, and sushi servers, Uba says. “Our technology has allowed us to fully automate work traditionally per formed by executive chefs. We reinvest these labor savings back into our food, and we only use ingredients that are free from artificial colorings, sweeteners, pre servatives, and seasonings,” Uba says. “Not only does our technology create a truly unique dining experience, but it allows us to serve higher quality food than your typical mom-and-pop sushi restaurant, and at more affordable prices, as well.” Meanwhile, Rock N Roll Sushi’s approach involves playing Metallica, AC/DC, and Van Halen in restaurants to make construction workers and peo ple with kids feel welcome, says Chris Kramolis, who joined the company as a franchisee before being named CEO in October 2020. The brand also puts an American ized twist on sushi by frying and bak ing rolls as an entry point for the sushi shy or sushi-curious—with names like the VIP Roll, Punk Rock Roll, and the British Invasion Roll—while also offer ing traditional sashimi and nigiri sushi. Since opening in Mobile, Alabama, in 2010 and franchising since 2015, the concept has grown to more than 60 locations. Rock N Roll Sushi plans to be “aggressive” in its expansion and is set to “destroy in the Midwest,” Kramolis adds, as they’re looking at opening new loca tions in Michigan and Ohio. “[Rock N Roll Sushi] has made sushi approachable and brought this food to regular Americans that possibly have been interested, but really weren’t invited to the game, because sushi was typically at a higher price in a higher-end place,” Kramolis adds.
and fine sushi dining, as opposed to the more popular sushi roll in the U.S. However, nigiri sushi will likely become more main stream in the U.S. market and appear with a lower price point in different types of restaurants and on to-go menus, predicts Taka Tanaka, CEO of commer cial sushi robot provider, Autec. “A rise in sushi consumption, even in landlocked states, has influenced chefs to be more cre ative with culinary styles and environmental conscientious ness,” Tanaka says. He predicts modern consumers’ attention to sustainable practices will lead restaurants to be more inten tional about sourcing sustain able seafood. When trying to grow sushi concepts across U.S. markets, embracing a more inviting and basic take for guests less famil iar with the cuisine can lead to greater (and faster) adoption. For example, when Japanese founded Kura Sushi was entering its first market outside of Califor nia, the team made a deliberate
AS MORE U.S. CONSUMERS SEEK OUT HEALTH-CONSCIOUS, ADVENTUROUS NEW FOODS, SUSHI CONTINUES TO RISE IN POPULARITY—FROM CLASSICS LIKE NIGIRI TO AMERICANIZED
VERSIONS WITH MORE FAMILIAR INGREDIENTS.
cado and kinoko (mushroom nigiri). “Ten or 15 years ago, no one used fish sauce outside of authentic SE Asian res taurants, and we were making a fish caramel and using fish sauce to season meats and vegetables. Now, fish sauce has become so popular, you see it every where,” Yoss says about shifting sushi trends. “It’s the same thing with kim chi. It is much more popular now than it was a decade ago.” But the hottest trend on the rise in 2023 is the omakase room. “Omak
effort to build out a side menu with noo dle bowls, rice dishes, and fried chicken to appeal to more customers, says Hai jime “Jimmy” Uba, CEO and president. “Looking at our overall menu, practi cally everything that we serve has been tailored to the American palate, and the only menu items we have in common with our parent would be basic nigiri sushi,” Uba says. “At the same time, we maintain our authenticity by using the same ingredients and cooking methods as we use in Japan.”
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TRENDS AND CREATIVE APPROACHES TO SPIRITS, WINE, AND BEER. MENTIONED IN THIS STORY SIXTY VINES • • • THE MATHESON • • •
FARM AND FERMENT
WINE TAPS OFFER SURPRISING BENEFITS FOR BOTH RESTAURANTS AND GUESTS, AND CAN ELEVATE THE DINING EXPERIENCE WITH MORE CUSTOMIZED, HIGH-QUALITY WINE PAIRINGS.
Wine ON TAP
NONTRADITIONAL WINE PACKAGING continues to overcome dated and mis guided stereotypes thanks to strik ing benefits like quality preservation, boosted bottom lines and return on investment ( ROI ), cost-effectiveness,
and sustainability. No matter if wine is on tap or canned, guests taste pours at their temperature-controlled best at approachable venues and prices. For both low- and high-volume restaurants, these nontraditional by the glass ( BTG )
BY MANDY ELLIS Restaurants are thinking beyond the bottle when serving wine.
services stay exible enough for superior dining experiences and smart enough to sell all pours with zero product souring. “First, you can actually make money doing this, and second, if you’re not pay ing attention to the role of sustainability in trying to keep our world from burst ing into ames, you didn’t get the mes sage,” explains Gordon Drysdale, culi nary director and chef at Scoma’s in San
Chetcuti says. “We see cans as novel and as a really distinct package that kind of sells itself; we like it, and think it’s neat to play on di erent sizes and diameters of cans. I mean, Francis Coppola’s daugh ter’s been canning sparkling wine, called Sophia, for 25 years.” At The Matheson, the 88 taps on their Wine Wall are powered by high tech machines that use argon gas to
value or high-production wines; consum ers get the best quality wine tied to the restaurant’s cuisine, he adds. “Regular BTG programs, you expose yourself to a certain amount of risk because you put a shelf life on that wine as soon as you open it. It informs own ers’ choices about what they can pour that makes sense for the business; this technology helps us get around that,” explains Jon McCarthy, Wine and Bev erage Director at e Matheson. For Sixty Vines in Dallas, Texas, CEO Jeff Carcara says no matter the wine, “they’re coming out at the proper tem perature the winemaker wants always, and that one reason alone [is worth it]. It’s a competitive advantage.” Sixty Vines also ran tests on keg wines that sat for a year and found there wasn’t “a lot of rec ognizable change. And we’ve had some very prominent winemakers walk in, try wine on tap for the very rst time, and they’re blown away,” he adds. With wine on tap and cans, the qual ity is preserved to winemaker standards, and Carcara says a three to six tap pro gram with two to three wine ights can start up for “less than $5,000”—an ideal price point for smaller venues or those with lower wine orders. And if you’re larger, McCarthy says implementing 20 to 30 wine taps sees ROI and bottom line bene ts in the uptick of consumer spend on glasses of wine, and increased engagement and visits. When you open a bottle and fail to sell every drop, you’re just pouring all of your pro t down the drain, but with the tap system, every drop is perfect and pro table, explains Drysdale. And he’s “been singing praises everywhere I go for canned wine” because his pre vious restaurant didn’t have space for a tap system, but still wanted a non-stu y, approachable BTG program. There’s a dramatic savings in the switch to wine on tap and canned wine, says Chetcuti, which allows restaurants’ programs to be more cost-e ective and sharply reduce waste. “If a bottle’s not open, guess what? You open it up and now you have to sell that whole bottle, but on tap, I can
IMPLEMENTING WINE TAPS OR CANNED WINES CAN RESULT IN ROI AND BOTTOM-LINE BENEFITS, WHILE ALSO REDUCING WASTE AND CUTTING COSTS.
SIXTY VINES (2) “We’ve had some very prominent winemakers walk in, try wine on tap for the very first time, and they’re blown away.”
Francisco, California, which has about 30 wines on tap. Canned wines and wines on tap o er cost savings and reduction in waste since you can keg wines and utilize reusable packaging, says Michael Chetcuti, princi pal of Farm and Ferment, which umbrel las several restaurants experimenting with taps and cans across Michigan. “We’re always watching trends and looking at ways for not only us as restau rateurs, but other restaurateurs, too, to save money, real estate, waste, and cost,”
push wine out and preserve pours, which can be dispensed in one, two-and-a-half, and half or full glasses. When you have a wine on tap program, you have more “diamond-in-the-rough” artisanal choices and opportunities for sommelier exi bility, says Dustin Valette, chef, vintner, and owner at e Matheson in Healds burg, California. e taps show the best of a region or brand, provide customized wine pair ings, and elevate the dining experience since consumers aren’t limited to high
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more places adopt tap wine programs in a wider variety of spaces.” Less waste lowers costs and improves margins, but experts say it also impacts restaurant sustainability. “One of the strong things about cans, besides envi ronmental impact, is reduced shipping costs and storage space, and ease of recy cling,” McCarthy says. Chetcuti agrees nontraditional pack aging helps restaurant sustainability, and in under five years the tech will improve to “get the most out of those systems and recycle 100 percent and have almost zero waste,” he says. Since the 2015 start of their tap pro gram, Drysdale adds, they’ve pulled 35,000 bottles annually from recycling systems plus removed cardboard, dump sters, glass, and wine transport and fuel costs. “We can talk about sustainability with 28 bottles being saved from the land ll because when they’re throwing glass into the recycling bin, only about 20 percent gets recycled,” says Carcara. “We’re using reusable kegs or fully recy clable kegs and we have partnerships to make sure they’re picked up and recy cled … and aluminum cans are recycled at about 100 percent.” Getting started with best practices comes easier with canned wines because, as Drysdale says, if you have storage, your distributor can likely deliver it tomorrow. “And it’s an interesting, out of-the-ordinary approach and appropri ate for younger clientele who think it’s fun,” he adds. “With a wine tap program, you gotta brace yourself for the initial cost, which comes down to how many handles, but you’re looking at thousands of dollars for entry-level.” Consider your concept type and cli entele thoroughly before starting, Cohen advises. “We’re always trying to be cre ative, and younger generations are more open to experimentation and non-con ventional options so this is fun, keep it interesting. ere’s something more casual, less stuffy about this type of wine service for consumers who might be intimidated by formal wine service presentations or models.”
age, says Molly Cohen, director of Wine and Spirits at e Smith and corporate director of Wine and Spirits at Corner Table Res taurants, which has locations in New York City, Washington D.C., and Chicago. “There’s a huge impact in WITH 88 TAPS ON ITS WINE WALL, THE MATHESON APPRECIATES THE GREATER FLEXIBIILITY TO SWAP OUT ARTISANAL CHOICES.
THE MATHESON (2)
crank that tap all day long for an ounce, a half ounce, two ounces, 10 ounces; I can crank it all day long and I’m not los ing,” explains Carcara. is also includes reduction in labor costs with sta spending less time open ing, carrying, and managing wine boxes. Plus, it lowers your carbon footprint, and helps eliminate storage woes and pres sure on the post-pandemic glass short
terms of waste reduction so that trans lates into cost, so there’s definitely a nancial incentive for restaurateurs to look at this, but it’s not a one size ts all,” explains Cohen, where e Smith operates about six taps. “I’ve noticed in the last ve to 10 years, public percep tion is changing for the better, so con cerns restaurant owners might have had before, that’s changing, and you’re seeing
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