Restaurant Operations

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Nachogate: A Lesson in Standards

Nachogate: A Lesson in Standards

by David Klemt

People sharing a plate of nachos

You wouldn’t think a social media post about a plate of nachos could cause a scandal but that’s exactly what’s happening, and it’s known as Nachogate.

Shockingly, this story comes to us from a luxury casino resort in Las Vegas.

A photo of a meager dish with six entire tortilla chips on it has 1.3 million views already. That’s pretty impressiveor unfortunate, depending on which side of the post you’re onconsidering the post is from this Monday.

One of the top comments on the post points out that there’s quite the disparity between chips and accompaniments.

“More condiments than chips. Wow,” reads the comment. To which the original poster responds, “They said it was so you can have the perfect bite.”

It should go without saying that every dish put in front of a guest needs to be as close to perfect as possible. If it’s on the menu, if it leaves the kitchen, it impacts the guest experience. There is no, “Well it’s only [insert item]. It’s not that big of a deal.”

That mindset simply has no place in hospitality.

No, not every dish or drink is perfect. Yes, everyone makes mistakes. The absolute lowest standard should be caring enough to catch mistakes before they affect guests.

Failing that, every operator and leadership team member needs to care enough to acknowledge mistakes that reach guests, handle them gracefully, and fix them. This includes listening to and rewarding servers, bartenders, barbacks, and hosts whenever they catch a mistake.

Of course, there’s another lesson here. When developing non-negotiable standards, aim high. Fountainbleau Las Vegas is a luxury lifestyle brand; I doubt Nachogate reflects the company’s standards.

#Nachogate Fallout

Look, it can feel good to say that we don’t have competitors in this industry, we have peers. In some ways that can be an accurate statement.

However, watch what happens when an operator makes a mistake and it blows up in spectacular fashion.

Case in point, Nachogate. Or, given how the situation went viral, #Nachogate.

It would be bad enough if The Tavern at Fountainbleau Las Vegas took a reputational hit solely with the guests it affected directly. Obviously, it gets exponentially worse when it takes off on social media and alters the perception of potential guests.

But #Nachogate got worse when the venue’s “peers” leveraged the situation to their advantage.

That’s just a handful of posts taking advantage of Fountainbleau Las Vegas’ mistake. And that’s a lot of free marketing leveraging an unforced error that transformed into a viral moment.

Resolution

Alright, so I probably haven’t made any friends at Fountainbleau for sharing this story. Well, allow me to extend an olive branch. After all, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and will make more in the future.

It appears that the issue has been addressed by the property. That says to me that there are indeed standards, and there are people who care enough to respond when they’re not met.

Again, mistakes happen. The key is to correct course and move forward. Fountainbleau has done just that.

That’s a smart move. A mistake was made, people piled on, and instead of ignoring the issue, the company acknowledged and corrected the mistake where it blew up: the public eye.

Fountainbleau Las Vegas is just over a month into serving the public. There are going to be growing pains. Indeed, anyone who has been following the casino resort is aware that there have been much larger issues. For example, the company is dealing with the departures of three high-level executives.

The point of this article isn’t to roast Fountainbleau further. Assuming the viral post is true and the nachos at The Tavern have indeed been improved, a mistake was made and was then addressed.

I’m sharing this story as an example to drive home the need for standards, for non-negotiables. That means sitting down, considering every element of operations and service, writing out standards, and training teams on those non-negotiables. It’s as important as identifying values, sharing them with the team, and adhering to them.

Sit down today and develop your standards. If you’ve done that in the past, review your standards, update them if necessary, and ensure they still have buy-in from your team.

Image: Herson Rodriguez on Unsplash

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Top 11 Pizza Styles Going Into 2024

Top 10 Pizza Styles Going Into 2024

by David Klemt

Pizza being put into a pizza oven

Pizza-centric publication Pizza Today‘s 2024 industry trends report contains an incredible amount of information, including the top pizza styles in North America.

There’s a tie for the tenth spot on their ranking, so I dive into 11 styles of pizza in this article. As you’ll see, having grown up in the area, I have a lot of thoughts on Chicago’s pizza styles.

This is one of the most fun topics I’ve ever researched and I hope you find this information helpful for your restaurant or bar.

Cheers!

Top Pizza Styles

10 Chicago Thick (tie)

Because Deep Dish is also on this list, I’m going to assume Pizza Today means Pan pizza. If this is accurate, it’s the cooking vessel that’s the big difference.

Whereas Deep Dish is cooked in a cast-iron pan, Chicago-style Pan pizza is cooked in either a cake pan or cast-iron skillet. Another difference is the resulting crust: Deep Dish features a thick, pie-like crust, while Pan has a medium-thick crust that’s similar in texture and chew to bread.

One more big difference comes down to the layering of the ingredients. In a Pan pizza, the traditional order is followed: sauce goes on the crust, cheese goes on the sauce, and additional ingredients go on top of the cheese.

10 NEOpolitan / Neo-Neapolitan (tie)

As the name implies, this is a modern variation of the classic Neapolitan or Napoletana style. It’s also sometimes referred to as Neo-Classica.

The biggest overall difference between this style and its traditional counterpart is the adherence to strict rules. NEOpolitan eschews several rules, which you’ll find further down the list in this article.

Some deviations include oven style (NEOpolitan doesn’t require a wood-burning oven); temperature (700-730° F); cook time (120-150 seconds); and ingredients (anything goes).

9 California / American Artisan

The base of a California-style pizza is an Italian- or New York-style crust. From there, the tenets of California cuisine take over.

This style focuses on highlighting fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. So, think traditional crust with nontraditional ingredients when considering this style.

As far as the American Artisan designation, California style falls into this categorization. An artisan pizza is made by hand without the use of automation, so American Artisan is a style uniquely, well, American.

8 Grandma

The Grandma-style pizza is thought to come to us from Long Island, New York.

This simple style is usually rectangular due to being cooked in a sheet pan, and the pan is oiled heavily. The order of ingredients is crust, cheese, tomato sauce. However, these pizzas are often finished with a garlic-infused olive oil, oregano, and Pecorino Romano cheese.

Grandma pizza is thicker than New York-style but nowhere near as thick as Detroit, Sicilian, or Deep Dish. It’s cut into squares before being served.

7 Detroit

According to Pizza Today, this is the fastest-growing pizza style in America.

As the story goes, this descendant of thick Sicilian-style pizza was created in a speakeasy in mid-1940s Detroit. The owner of Buddy’s Rendezvous, Gus Guerra, wanted to add something new to his neighborhood bar’s menu. The history is a bit hazy regarding where he got the recipe for a Sicilian pizza, but he cooked it in a few (hopefully unused) deep, steel industrial pans from a friend who worked in a factory.

So, a traditional Detroit pizza is a Deep Dish cooked in a deep, rectangular, steel pan. The original version calls for a rich tomato sauce and Wisconsin brick Cheddar cheese topped with pepperonis, all cooked at 230° F. As for layers, it goes crust, pepperonis, sauce, then cheese, traditionally. Once the cheese is caramelized, any additional toppings are placed on top, along with more red sauce. On the Detroit pizzas I’ve had, the red sauce on top consisted of one horizontal stripe and one vertical.

If you think things are too quiet and boring while you’re hanging out at a restaurant that serves Detroit-style or Chicago-style Deep Dish pizza, comment loudly that one is better than the other and the “true” or “superior” Deep Dish.

Fun trivia: Domino’s, Little Caesars, and Hungry Howies are all from Michigan.

6 Chicago Thin

If you want to start a passionate debate, walk into a bar serving Chicago Thin or Tavern-style pizza and say it’s the city’s true style.

Half (or perhaps more) of the Chicagoans within earshot will agree with you. Others, not so much.

At any rate, this pizza is known for its thin, cracker-like crust. It’s round and will be cut into square before being served.

Oh, and if you’d like to start another “spirited” argument, mention St. Louis when talking about Chicago Thin or Tavern-style pizza. Some people from “the Gateway to the West” like to Amedeo Fiore invented this style. However, people from the south side of Chicago will let you know in no uncertain terms that the style didn’t find its way to St. Louis until after Fiore moved there from “the Windy City.” Further, Chicago’s (original) version consists of a dough made with yeast paired with mozzarella cheese. St. Louis style is made without yeast and features Provel cheese.

5 Neapolitan / Napoletana

This is arguably the pizza style with the strictest rules. For example, these pizzas must be cooked in a word-burning oven at 800° F for 90 seconds.

All of the ingredients must originate from Italy. Additionally, no more than three ingredients may be used for a single pizza.

Further, all Neapolitan or Napoletana pizzas must be finished with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh basil.

4 Deep Dish

People outside of Chicago likely believe the city’s pizza style is called Deep Dish. Unfortunately, that’s a prevalent misconception. Of course, it doesn’t help that Deep Dish is a Chicago invention, leading to most people thinking that Chicago Style and Deep Dish are synonymous. Yes, Chicago Deep Dish is a style, but so are Stuffed and Pan.

I’m going to take a stab at understanding what Pizza Today means when they refer to Deep Dish. Forewarning: I could be wrong.

Speaking generally, a Deep Dish pizza is cooked in an oiled cast-iron pan. Essentially, it’s a pie. The flaky crust is high (two inches isn’t uncommon) and the person prepping the pizza changes the traditional order of the layers. Unlike a traditional or Pan pizza, the order for a Deep Dish pizza is crust, cheese, sauce, other toppings. This approach to layering is to avoid burning the cheese since these pizzas spend so much time in ovens.

Now, if Pizza Today means Stuffed, there’s a bit of a difference between than that and Deep Dish. First, Stuffed is made in a pan even deeper than those that produce Deep Dish pizzas. Second, an extra layer of crust covers much more cheese than you’ll find in a Deep Dish pizza, and this layer is covered in sauce. So, the order is crust, toppings, lots of cheese, crust, sauce.

3 Sicilian

This is a style of pizza originating from, you guessed it, Sicily. Moreover, it’s one of the most traditional types of pizza…when we’re talking about Sicilian versus New York Sicilian.

For the former, the pizza is characterized by a square, thick, spongy dough. The sauce is made with tomato, onion, anchovy, and herbs. From what I understand, the sauce also contains no meat.

Traditionally speaking, hard goat or sheep’s cheese is grated on top, and the pizza is also topped with breadcrumbs.

When it arrived in America, tomato sauce and mozzarella replaced the traditional sauce and hard cheeses. This development very likely comes down to the ease of finding readily available and affordable ingredients. Additionally, some people made round Sicilian pizzas rather than square.

2 Traditional American

Simply put, Traditional American pizza is just a slightly different version of New York style.

It’s a bit thicker than New York, but it still has the raised “border” encircling it. Often, this style features more cheese than its Big Apple counterpart.

A Traditional American pizza can be hand-tossed, pressed, or hand-formed.

1 New York

Unless you’re from Chicago or Detroit, this is probably what you think of when you think “pizza.”

A New York pizza is hand-tossed, large, and defined by its characteristic thin crust. The slices tend to be extra large and capable of being folded for eating on the go. In fact, I once watched two friends, one from New York and one from Chicago, almost come to blows when the former threatened to attempt to fold his slice of Deep Dish in front of the latter. They had to be separated.

Traditionally, there are just two toppings on the crust: tomato sauce and cheese. However, these pizzas are a blank slate for all manner of toppings.

Top Trending Styles

As you’ll see, there’s a tie for second place as far as the trending pizza styles in 2024, according to Pizza Today.

  1. Chicago Thin
  2. New York
  3. Sicilian
  4. Deep Dish and Grandma (tie)
  5. Detroit

Per the pizza-centric publication, this is Detroit’s second year as the reigning trending pizza style.

Now that you know the top pizza styles in North America, know this: Pizza Today’s data indicate that today’s consumer expect to be able to order multiple styles of pizza from one pizzeria. Develop your menu accordingly.

Image: Fabrizio Pullara on Unsplash

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Irish Distilleries You Need to Know

Irish Distilleries You Need to Know in 2024

by David Klemt

7-Year-Old Single Malt Mizunara Finish in Wicklow, Ireland

On Thursday, January 25, we honor a simple but delicious cocktail that can trace its roots back to Europe and the middle of the 19th century.

A bartender can serve this drink hot, chilled, or iced. And until somewhat recently, a bartender usually makes this cocktail with a spirit from one of just a few producers.

I’m talking about the venerable Irish Coffee.

Now, this could make for an interesting Drink Donnybrook. However, I’m going to focus on shining a spotlight on some Irish distilleries and labels you and your bar team should have on your radar.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with making an Irish Coffee with one of the usual suspects. Indeed, it’s perfectly acceptable—traditional, even—to make yours with Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, Redbreast, or Powers.

But while there’s nothing wrong with playing to expectations, making the choice to offer something different can set you, your team, and your venue apart.

As our buddy Chef Brian Duffy says, operators can charge premium menu prices only if they innovate. Pairing a lesser-known Irish whiskey with a local coffee roaster’s coffee would be an innovation that falls in line with Chef Duffy’s approach to pricing.

There are other ways to build an Irish Coffee as a premium cocktail. The quality of the whipped cream, for instance, is a consideration. For example, whipping the cream in front of guests is a premium touch.

Not the Usual Suspects

A lot is going on with Irish distilleries. We have more choice than we’ve had in several decades.

Check these Irish distilleries out today:

Several of these distilleries also produce other spirits, such as gin and vodka. And, of course, not every distillery produces spirits that are available to the US and Canada, currently.

Still, it’s good to be aware of these distilleries and their brands so we can encourage suppliers to bring them to North America and beyond.

To learn more about Glendalough Distillery in particular, please listen to the Bar Hacks podcast episode below:

Hot Coffee

Let’s assume you’re going to with piping hot coffee, not serve your Irish Coffee on ice or frozen.

You’re going to want to ensure your glassware is heat resistant, of course. Let’s not burn the hands of our guests.

To that heat-resistant glassware, add one-and-a-half to two ounces of Irish whiskey. Next, add two to four teaspoons of sugar, or a half- to two-thirds-ounce of demerara syrup. Add three to four ounces of hot coffee, then top with quality whipped cream. When I say add the cream, I mean an inch or so, not just a wee bit.

You’ll notice that I’m using ranges of measurements. This is because you’re going to want to play around with your Irish Coffee to make it one of your signatures. That includes selecting your sweetener, whether that translates to brown sugar, syrup, or something else.

Now, if you’re after something different, check out the Frozen Irish Coffee from Erin Rose in New Orleans, or the recipe for the Dead Rabbit‘s Irish Coffee.

Cheers!

Image: Glendalough Distillery

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Conscious Construction: Biophilic Design

Conscious Construction: Biophilic Design

by David Klemt

Overhead view of Parkroyal Collection Singapore

One term you’ll likely be hearing more of as 2024 progresses is “biophilic design,” the practice of connecting people and nature through building design.

This design methodology was developed in part by the late Stephen R. Kellert, professor emeritus at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

While Kellert didn’t coin the term “biophilia,” he is credited with coining the phrase “biophilic design.” However, the two terms share an intrinsic connection.

The biophilia hypothesis was first presented by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in the 1960s. Simply put, the idea is that humans have an inherent drive to pursue connections with nature. Edward O. Wilson, a biologist, added to Fromm’s theory in the 1970s. Per Wilson, a key element of biophilia is “the rich, natural pleasure that comes from being surrounded by living organisms.”

In the 1980s, Kellert expanded on biophilia and applied it to design. Per Kellert and fellow biophilic design advocates, humans can experience a range of physical and psychological benefits when our living, work, and leisure spaces have a connection to nature.

According to biophilic design advocates, this methodology can reduce stress, affect mood positively, and improve cognitive performance, making us more productive. There are other benefits as well, of course.

When implemented with intention, biophilic spaces are sustainable; are capable of achieving significant energy efficiency; can reduce a building’s carbon footprint; and can even regulate temperature.

Clearly, this design approach speaks to a number of guest expectations and desires.

The Six Principles

There are, according to Kellert, two key aspects of biophilic design.

One over-arching aspect is organic. This is how shapes used in the design of a building connect people and nature.

The second aspect is place-based. As the term suggests, this is how design features connect a building to the local area in which it’s situated.

Within both the organic and place-based aspects or dimensions of biophilic design are six principles.

Environmental features, such as plants, natural materials, sunlight, water, and colors.

Natural shapes and forms that simulate natural forms. Think spirals, curves, arches, and other flowing design features. Put another way, biophilic design tries to limit 90-degree angles and straight lines.

Natural patterns and processes, which may seem, at first, to be the same as natural shapes and forms. However, these features resonate with our senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, and others.

Light and space, crucial to biophilic design, whether daylight, reflected, or diffused light. Designers who really go for it will come up with lighting programs that mimic how light changes throughout the day.

Place-based relationships, which helps a person develop a personal connection with a place.

Evolved human-nature relationships to evoke a range of reactions from humans in the space. This can be a desire to explore the space, or a feeling of safety and protection.

Examples

This article is just a crash course in biophilic design. Each of the above principles, for example, contains a number of key attributes.

So, let’s take a look at some examples of biophilic design in hospitality. The following hotels and restaurants should give you a clear understanding of this approach to design.

Parkroyal Collection Pickering

To learn more about this amazing hotel, click here.

Fandi Mata

 

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A post shared by Fandi Mata (@fandimatabklyn)

Click here to learn more.

Café Lido

 

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A post shared by Mar Monte Hotel (@marmontehotel)

Learn and see more here.

The West Hollywood EDITION

To see more, click here.

Tsuki

 

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Click here for more.

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The Shrinking Globe: 2024 Food Trends

The Shrinking Globe: 2024 European Food Trends

by David Klemt

Loaded sweet potato fries bowl

It should come as no surprise that 2024 F&B trends are similar throughout Europe and the UK to those taking hold in North America.

Why do I refer to Europe and the UK separately? I’m aware that the UK is part of Europe. Regionally, one can think of the nation as northwestern Europe.

However, while geographers consider the UK part of Europe, many citizens of the UK don’t see things that simply. So, that’s why I mention the continent and nation separately.

With that out of the way: 2024 F&B trends. People like to say that the world is getting “smaller,” that the devices in our hands are making everything more accessible. That certainly seems to be the case with food and drink.

What you’ll likely notice is that the trends below follow what experts predict for North America rather closely. As David Allison says, people have far more in common with one another than they have differences.

The Consumer

Plants

I think it’s fair to say that plant-based diet mockery is defined by two characteristics.

One, people seem to aim their ridicule toward Americans. And two, it’s cliché at this point.

Much of the world already embraces plant-based diets. That doesn’t mean they’re only either vegetarian or vegan, either.

Estimates for how much of the world consists of flexitarians can reach over 40 percent. This particular diet limits or restricts the intake of animal-based foods. However, it’s not like veganism; flexitarians do consume some animal products. One can say that it’s a very individual diet. In fact, I doubt many flexitarians actually refer to themselves with that label.

Interestingly, though, plant-based brands must innovate if they’re going to succeed with consumers in Europe and the UK.

Hey, what do you know? That’s how it is in North America.

Now that plant-based protein alternatives are here to stay, people want to see innovative analogs.

They’ve seen nuggets and fingers. Burgers and patties aren’t anything new. People want plant-based counterparts for everything: seafood, steak, pork, etc.

Health & Wellness

Here’s a frighteningly hot take: People in Europe and the UK are concerned with their health. Shocking!

For the past few years, much has been made about North Americans and their “renewed” focus on their health and wellness. This is, of course, for obvious reasons.

Well, we can say the same about Europeans and Britons.

Generally speaking, people are trying to reduce their intake of processed foods. This ties to the section above in that many plant-based foods are highly processed. Brands will need to address this to achieve long-term success.

Along with avoiding processed foods, consumers in Europe and the UK are seeking out dishes that are higher in protein and fiber.

Across generations and Europe, people realize that a healthy diet is the top factor in feeling healthier.

The Operator

Happy Balance

Europeans and Britons have centuries upon centuries of history and tradition to contend with throughout their countries.

In some markets, this can lead to conflict or the misconception that operators can’t innovate.

This is, of course, an outdated way of thinking.

Whether operating in the UK or Europe, operators are embracing tech and finding ways to honor tradition while experimenting with the modern.

From the back of the house to the front, chefs and bartenders are drawing inspiration from culinary traditions. However, they’re also getting creative to put their own spins on the menu.

Perhaps more importantly, the guests they’re serving want to try these innovations.

From consumer-facing tech that enhances their visits to creative menu items that find inspiration from around the world, today’s guest is hungry and thirsty for what’s new. This is true regardless of how old and traditional a location may be.

Color

Just a few months ago, Frankfurt, Germany, played host to Food Ingredients Europe 2023.

One of the takeaways from last year’s show that stood out to me is the interest in color.

According to one market development specialist, it appears that Gen Z in Europe and the UK are over boring, bland shades. Instead, they want to be colorful.

From interior and physical menu design to food and drink items, European and British operators can deliver on that desire.

Of course, taking one’s concept in a more colorful direction necessitates knowing one’s guests. So, this is where exceptional service despite concept or category and robust tech platforms come into play.

If bold color is authentic to a concept and resonates with the guests, it could be time to reach out to an interior designer.

Speaking of reaching out, if you’re in Europe or the UK, have a concept you want to open or are already open and need some assistance, KRG Hospitality is excited to announce that we’re entering markets within both regions. Please contact uswe’re here to help.

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Welcome Back to the Culinary Arena

Welcome Back to the Culinary Arena: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

by Nathen Dubé

"2024" dessert concept

The start of a new year is an exciting time in the restaurant world, offering a unique opportunity to reassess and rejuvenate your foodservice business.

From utilizing downtime effectively to setting strategic priorities, this guide is designed to help you navigate the year ahead with confidence and creativity.

Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a budding restaurateur, these insights will equip you with the tools to make 2024 a year of remarkable culinary experiences and business growth.

Part 1: Strategic Use of Downtime

Menu Innovation and Optimization

The start of the year is ideal for re-evaluating your menu.

Begin by analyzing customer feedback and sales data from the previous year. Identify which dishes were most popular and which underperformed. Consider removing items that aren’t selling well and focus on the dishes that your customers love.

This is also an excellent time to experiment with new flavors and culinary trends. For instance, with the growing demand for plant-based options, think about introducing a few vegan or vegetarian dishes.

Keep an eye on food trends. Are there new ingredients or cooking techniques that you can incorporate into your menu? This not only keeps your offerings fresh and exciting but also shows your commitment to culinary innovation.

Remember, a well-crafted menu is a balance between popular staples and innovative dishes. It should reflect your restaurant’s identity while also appealing to your target customer base.

Consider a seasonal menu that takes advantage of fresh, local produce, which can provide inspiration for new dishes and help reduce costs.

Staff Training and Empowerment

The quieter months are a perfect opportunity for staff training and development.

Conduct a skills audit to identify areas where your team could improve or learn new competencies. This could range from culinary skills, like mastering a new cooking technique, to soft skills, such as guest service or conflict resolution.

Training doesn’t have to be formal or expensive. You can leverage online courses, in-house mentoring, or even cross-training within your team.

For instance, front-of-house staff could benefit from basic kitchen training to better understand the dishes they are serving, while kitchen staff could learn about customer service to appreciate the end-to-end dining experience.

Team building is another key aspect. Organize activities that foster communication and collaboration. This could be something as simple as a team meal or a group outing.

A cohesive team that communicates well will provide better service, leading to happier guests and a more pleasant working environment.

Finally, empower your staff by involving them in decision-making processes. This could be in menu development, process improvements, or even marketing ideas.

When staff feel valued and part of the business, they are more likely to be motivated and committed.

Facility Revitalization

Use this quieter period to assess and upgrade your facilities.

Start with a thorough cleaning and maintenance check. This includes checking kitchen equipment, dining area furniture, and the overall infrastructure of your establishment.

Evaluate your kitchen equipment and consider if anything needs to be repaired or replaced. Upgrading to more efficient equipment can improve productivity and reduce long-term costs. For instance, investing in energy-efficient appliances not only cuts down on utility bills but is also better for the environment.

Look at your dining area from a customer’s perspective. Is the seating comfortable? Is the lighting appropriate? Small changes in décor can significantly enhance the dining experience. Consider refreshing the paint, adding new artwork, or even rearranging the layout to improve flow and ambiance.

Also, think about your back-of-house operations. Is your storage area organized? Can you improve the workflow in the kitchen? An efficient back-of-house leads to smoother service and a better customer experience.

Part 2: Setting Priorities for the Year

Elevating Customer Experience

The guest experience is paramount in the food service industry. This year, make it a priority to enhance every aspect of your guest’s journey.

From the moment they walk in, to the service they receive, to the food they enjoy, each element should contribute to a memorable experience.

Focus on training your staff to provide exceptional service. This includes being knowledgeable about the menu, attentive to guest needs, and quick to resolve any issues.

Personalized service can make a big difference. Remembering regulars’ preferences or celebrating special occasions with them can turn a one-time visit into repeat patronage.

Ambiance plays a crucial role in the dining experience. The right music, lighting, and décor can create an inviting atmosphere that complements your culinary offerings. If your budget allows, consider investing in upgrades that enhance the ambiance, such as new lighting fixtures or comfortable seating.

Implementing a feedback system is also important. Encourage customers to share their experiences, whether through comment cards, online reviews, or direct conversations. This feedback is invaluable for continuous improvement and can help you address any issues promptly.

Sustainability as a Cornerstone

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers, and incorporating sustainable practices into your business can have a significant impact. Start by assessing your current practices and identifying areas for improvement.

One key area is waste reduction. Conduct a waste audit to understand where most of your waste is coming from and develop strategies to reduce it. This could involve better inventory management to prevent overordering and spoilage, composting food waste, or finding creative ways to use leftovers.

Local sourcing is another aspect of sustainability. Building relationships with local suppliers not only supports the local economy but also reduces your carbon footprint. Local ingredients are often fresher and can inspire seasonal menus.

Also, consider the sustainability of your operations. This could involve using eco-friendly packaging, reducing energy consumption, or even installing water-saving devices.

Communicating your sustainability efforts to your customers can also enhance your brand’s image and attract environmentally conscious patrons.

Innovative and Integrated Marketing Strategies

In today’s digital age, effective marketing is crucial for any business.

Utilize social media platforms to engage with your audience. Share behind-the-scenes glimpses of your kitchen, showcase your signature dishes, and highlight your team. This not only promotes your offerings but also builds a connection with your guests.

Email marketing is another powerful tool. Regular newsletters can keep your guests informed about new menu items, special events, or promotions. Personalized emails on birthdays or anniversaries can make your guests feel special and encourage repeat visits.

Don’t overlook the power of community involvement. Participate in local events, collaborate with other businesses, or sponsor local sports teams. This can increase your visibility in the community and build goodwill.

Financial Health and Diversification

Keeping a close eye on your financials is crucial.

Regularly review your costs and revenues and look for ways to optimize them. This might involve renegotiating supplier contracts, adjusting menu prices, or reducing unnecessary expenses.

Consider diversifying your revenue streams. This could include offering catering services, hosting private events, or selling branded merchandise.

These additional streams can provide a buffer during slower periods and increase your overall profitability.

Conclusion

As we look forward to 2024, let’s embrace the opportunities and challenges that come our way.

By using downtime strategically, setting clear priorities, and striving for excellence continuously, we can ensure that this year is not just successful but also fulfilling.

Remember, in the dynamic world of foodservice, adaptation and innovation are key. Let’s make this year a celebration of our culinary passion, business acumen, and commitment to our guests.

Here’s to a year of delicious discoveries and unparalleled success in the culinary world!

Image: 愚木混株 cdd20 on Unsplash

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Boutique Brand StandardX to Make Debut

Boutique Brand StandardX to Debut in February

by David Klemt

A white letter "X" painted on a black wall

Like The Standard’s logo, this letter X is upside-down.

Boutique hotel standard The Standard will debut its new brand, StandardX, in Melbourne when its first property opens in February of this year.

Not only will this new hotel be the first StandardX location to open, it’s also the first Standard hotel to open in Australia.

This new boutique hotel brand follows a growing and notable trend within the space. Many hotel groups are focusing on launching brands and imprints that focus on locality.

These brands aim to honor local cultures, striving to serve locals and their communities along with tourists. In fact, some of these brands appear more interested in locals than visitors.

Beyond staycations, these hotels work to gain buy-in from locals in several ways. One of the most obvious is through F&B programs. These new(er) brands seek to menu food and drink items that are authentic to their locations. Likewise, nightlife experiences.

However, it goes deeper than that. Many of these hotels welcome locals to use communal spaces for meetings, art installations, and more. The goal is to establish themselves as a pillars in the communities in which they operate. If done right—deeper than a thin veneer of local support—these hotels prove their locale loyalty.

All that said, only time will tell if StandardX Melbourne will find support in the brand’s chosen Melbourne neighborhood, Fitzroy. On paper, however, it should be a perfect match.

Two Decades of Cool, and Counting

The first Standard opened on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in 1999. It takes a lot of work be effortlessly cool, and the Standard Hollywood achieved that standard upon opening.

Artists, celebrities, people who wanted to see and be seen… All could be found at the Standard Hollywood. The hotel’s Rooftop bar and pool became one of LA’s hottest hotspots, a seemingly endless party featuring a seemingly endless parade of the cool and connected.

Starting life in 1967 as the Thunderbird Motel, the Standard Hollywood appears in Sex and the City, Entourage, Mortdecai, and Ocean’s Twelve. One of the property’s most notable details, one that undoubtedly generated coverage, whispers, and social media attention, was “The Box.”

This was a living art installation behind reception. Fifteen feet long, it was a box in which models lounged as guests checked in and navigated the lobby.

After a successful and impactful run of over a decade, the Standard Hollywood closed its doors at the start of 2022. While that meant the brand left California completely, the Standard operates seven properties across the globe, with plans for more standard Standards to come.

The StandardX hotels will take a minimalist approach while maximizing the Standard’s view on hospitality.

“This was an opportunity to return to raw, unbridled simplicity that was accessible to the next generation traveler looking to experience a city through the lens of The Standard brand,” said Standard International’s CEO, Amber Asher, in an interview with Travel + Leisure.

Considering how the Standard brand is associated with all things cool, it’s no surprise that their first foray into Australia is one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world.

Position, Position, Position

Yes, I know the maxim is, “Location, location, location.” Well, I’m being clever. See? See how clever I am? Am I cool yet?

Clearly, the Standard has put in the work to be positioned as one of the coolest brands in the hospitality, accommodation, travel, and leisure spaces.

So, it makes sense that they’ve done their homework and designed a brand and selected a location in keeping with that position.

We can argue whether or not being deemed “cool” makes or breaks your status as cool some other time. The fact is, Fitzroy is considered more than just one of the coolest neighborhoods in Victoria. It’s held up as more than just one of the coolest neighborhoods in Australia. Fitzroy is one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world.

The neighborhood is celebrated for its eclectic nature, local pubs, fantastic indie restaurants and boutiques, and killer nightlife. So, again, the StandardX making its debut there is fitting.

Characterized by 125 minimalist rooms, “cultural programming,” and compelling F&B, the StandardX Melbourne is clearly on a mission to establish itself as the coolest of the cool hotels in Australia.

Two F&B venues, BANG and the Roof, will serve up Thai-inspired dishes and “authentic Mexican,” with the latter accessible only to guests. That exclusivity and of itself will likely make the Roof a sought-after nightlife destination in short order.

Oh, and The Box is back. In a nod to a design feature and installation that separated the Standard from the rest, The Box is the property’s retail venue.

After Melbourne, StandardX is aiming to position itself in Bangkok, with Brooklyn and Austin to follow. Look at where the brand is headed and one thing is clear: their chasing the coolest scenes.

Image: Jen Theodore on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality. Boutique Hotels. Resorts. Properties. Consultant. Feasibility Study. Business Plan

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

The Sixth: Art of ITALICUS Returns

The Sixth: Art of ITALICUS Returns for 2024

by David Klemt

ITALICUS bottle surrounded by citrus fruits

Your bar team members have the opportunity to participate in the sixth-annual Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge and win an invaluable prize.

There are multiple prizes, really. For example, national finals winners take the title of ITALICUS Bar Artist for their country, for 2024. They also walk away with a ticket to the global finals, which take place in Rome.

After the global finals, one winner will earn the title ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year 2024. However, taking nothing away from this title, there’s another prize that I feel should drive every competitor to truly outshine their competition.

The ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year will head to the incredible Cafe La Trova in Miami to participate in a mentorship program. Given that Julio Cabrera is such an influential member of the hospitality world, this prize represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Now, as an operator or leadership team member, you may wonder what this news has to do with you. It’s simple: Encouraging your bartenders to participate in this competition and others like it shows you care about their career progression.

Bar team members who want to take part in competitions get to show off their creativity to a wider audience, become known to brands, and network with peers outside of their local communities. They can also discover and bring back tips, techniques, and lessons to your bar, restaurant, nightclub, or hotel.

In this case, one bartender will return to their bar or restaurant with lessons from the Cafe La Trova team. That’s priceless insight that will benefit their entire team.

For crucial competition details, please read the Art of the ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge press release below.

Good luck to all of the participants!

ART OF ITALICUS APERITIVO CHALLENGE RETURNS FOR 2024 IN PURSUIT OF THE BEST ART-INSPIRED APERITIVO COCKTAIL

New York, NY (January 9, 2024) – Today, The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge returns for its sixth edition, inviting bartenders from around the world to create an original and unique aperitivo cocktail inspired by any form of art and crafted using ITALICUS Rosolio di Bergamotto.

The Winner of the renowned industry challenge will be crowned ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year 2024 and win a trip to Miami for a once in a lifetime mentorship program with Cafe La Trova by Julio Cabrera. Nominated in 2023 as one of the World’s 50 Best Bars, Cafe La Trova is the true embodiment of hospitality, welcoming guests with impeccable warmth, attention to detail and service, crafting a truly memorable experience for anyone who visits. The “cantinero culture,” which is synonymous with the venue, embraces the most important values of the cocktail industry, making it the perfect inspiration for the new Art of Italicus participants. As part of the prize, the 2024 ITALICUS Bar Artist will have the opportunity to experience what makes this bar truly special and discover one of the most vibrant art cultures in Miami’s iconic surroundings.

Reflecting the brand’s passion for Italian art and design, The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge is built on the belief that bartenders are artists and offers them the opportunity to expand their creativity whilst experimenting with new ingredients, techniques and glassware to showcase the versatility of ITALICUS. Each recipe must be in an aperitivo style and can be inspired by any form of art such as sculpture, painting, fashion, music, architecture and much more.

The competition will welcome entrants from 13 countries including Croatia/Slovenia, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Swiss, United Kingdom and the United States. Bartenders from other countries will be able to apply through a Wild Card entry, offering them the opportunity to win a spot at the global final in May in Rome.

Giuseppe Gallo, founder and CEO of ITALICUS, comments:

“Now in its sixth year, The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge celebrates aperitivo culture while encouraging bartenders to express their creativity, looking to art in its various forms as way of inspiration. Meeting with the industry’s emerging talent through this program gives me a great deal of pride and is something I hope continues for many years as a way of keeping our community connected, working together and empowering one another.”

The 2024 Competition

Competitors are tasked with creating an original aperitivo cocktail using a minimum of 40ml (1.5oz in US) of ITALICUS Rosolio di Bergamotto and a maximum of five ingredients. Participating bartenders must upload their unique recipe alongside an image of their creation including measurements, garnishes and glassware recommendations to the competition website before February 20, 2024 in order to be in with a chance of winning. Competitors are also required to share their inspiration and the story behind their aperitivo cocktail and encouraged to suggest food pairings for their recipe.

Applications for The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge 2024 will be open from January 9 through February 20. Recipes can be submitted via the website: https://imbibemagazine.com/art-of-italicus/.

Entrants are also encouraged to share their creations on social media ahead of the competition, using the following hashtags: #ITALICUS #ROSOLIODIBERGAMOTTO #ARTOFITALICUS #AOI24

National Finals

The national finals will take place throughout March and April (March 4 – April 12) where the eight shortlisted bartenders will present their cocktail creation to the judging panel across eight minutes and including at least three serves. The winner of the national final will receive the title of ITALICUS Bar Artist of their country 2024 along with a ticket to participate in the global final which will be held in Rome.

Global Finals

On May 12, the national finalists will compete against one another in Rome in a bid to earn the coveted title of ITALICUS Bar Artist of the Year 2024 as well as a once in a lifetime opportunity and mentorship with one of the world’s most influential bars, Cafe La Trova by Julio Cabrera. During the trip to Miami, the winning bartender will be accompanied by a film crew who will document their experience and create a documentary video which will later be released on social media.

For further information on The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge, please visit www.artofitalicus.com.

Image: ITALICUS

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Vegas Legend Addresses F1 Impact

Legendary Las Vegas Restaurateur Addresses F1 Impact

by David Klemt

Red vintage model race car against black background

As much as I dislike the cliched slogan, what happened behind the scenes in Las Vegas during last year’s Formula 1 race is absolutely not staying in Las Vegas.

Legendary restaurant owner Gino Ferraro has written an open letter exposing the negative impact F1 had on the city’s small business owners and locals.

While the Ferraro family’s restaurant story doesn’t start in 1985, that’s when the doors to their first location opened. Since then, the Ferraro family and their team have opened and closed restaurants throughout the city.

Their Ferraro’s Ristorante flagship has been located at the intersection of Paradise Road and East Harmon Avenue since 2009. This location is directly across from the Virgin resort and casino.

The iconic restaurant, revered for its authentic Italian food and incredible wine list, was directly impacted by F1. Roads needed to be improved, which meant snarled traffic and drops in traffic for operators of all manner of Las Vegas businesses.

In his letter, Ferraro claims that “Las Vegas was crippled for nine months,” and that the restaurant on Paradise lost more than $2 million in revenue as a result. Further, he states in the letter that his employees lost 20 percent of their pay in comparison to the same time in 2022.

“Disaster”

Below, the nearly viral letter, transcribed as presented:

F-1 Las Vegas Disaster

Gino Ferraro

4480 Paradise Rd Suite # 200

Las Vegas, NV 89169

702-461-2812

Having a restaurant or any business on the tourist corridor is no longer a positive experience. Through the construction for F-1, Las Vegas was crippled for nine months. Over this period, we had thousands of tourists and locals complaining about the traffic, as well as the increased cost of cabs and Uber rides. Customer’s shared fare receipts of over $100 for a mile ride from the strip, where it took over an hour to get to their destination.

We heard from countless tourists that they will not return to Vegas during that time of the year, not to mention many locals said they will not return to the strip until all this mess is over. This not only hurt our business immensely, but many surrounding local businesses were also negatively affected as well. We at Ferraro’s have lost an excess of 2 million dollars in revenue. It begs to bring up the question, how can our Las Vegas leadership allow that to happen, local businesses struggling and suffering all for a 3-4-day event. Who profited? A few hotels, it doesn’t make sense. How do we know what the ROI is with all the money that was spent to destroy the Strip, its surroundings, and ultimately people’s lives! We employ close to 80 people and their pay was 20 percent less than last year. Who will reimburse Ferraro’s and our staff?

In speaking to other people and hearing their opinions, the track should have been built somewhere else away from the Strip. The Strip and Vegas will always get exposure no matter where the event takes place. It doesn’t make sense to tear up the Strip and surroundings to resemble a carnival. To add fuel to the fire, Las Vegas leaders have approved another 81 road upgrades. This means more traffic delays, and Uber and cab drivers not wanting to work in these areas, because it’s impossible to navigate.

I could go on for hours on the negative impact this event has created for all Las Vegas residents and our tourists. I strongly believe we need to rethink the strategy on how we can accommodate our visitors prior to the race and during. We can’t destroy the city for on weekend.

Thank you ~

Gino Ferraro

Ferraro’s Ristorante

Takeaway

For a variety of reasons, operators are often wary of criticizing city leaders publicly.

As an example, when someone opens multiple concepts and locations throughout a city, they get to know local lawmakers. Obviously, blasting their decisions in an open letter and calling their motivations into question can be risky.

So, when a respected operator uses their voice to call for change, it can be powerful.

This situation could’ve been handled quietly. Ferraro could’ve sent emails. He could’ve had private calls to politicians, perhaps an in-person meeting or two.

Instead, Ferraro sent his letter to Nevada’s governor, county officials, tourism leaders, and other state politicians.

Now, I can’t speak to the accuracy of Ferraro’s claims. I don’t how much F1 impacted the restaurant’s staff and revenue.

But I do know Ferraro was willing to confront decision makers about how he believes small business owners were negatively impacted during a massive event.

Will this lead to change? To use another cliche, only time will tell.

Image: Jonathan Cosens Photography on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality. Restaurant Business Plan. Feasibility Study. Concept. Branding. Consultant. Start-Up.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

2024 500-point Start-up Checklist

2024 KRG Hospitality 500-point Bar & Restaurant Start-up Checklist

by David Klemt

KRG Hospitality 2024 Bar & Restaurant 500-point Start-up Checklist

Opening a bar or restaurant is a daunting undertaking, with projects requiring the completion of 500 unique tasks within four phases before welcoming guests.

It takes strategic clarity along with a strong supportive team around you to ensure your dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare. To help you get ahead and start 2024 with the strongest opportunity for success, we’re giving you access to a number of free resources.

First, our 2024 Bar & Restaurant Start-up Costs Guide. If you haven’t already, download this informative guide today. And now, our 2024 500-point Bar & Restaurant Start-up Checklist.

KRG Hospitality’s feasibility studies, concept and brand development, and programming are unique and customized to every client. However, the journey from idea to grand opening is a well-worn path dotted by hundreds of waypoints.

There’s a reason we call our project plans Roadmaps to Success: we’re here to help guide our clients to and through each point on the map.

Below you’ll find 32—only six percent—of the 500 unique tasks we at KRG believe you must complete before your grand opening. Just these tasks alone should provide an idea of the enormity that is taking your concept from idea to brick and mortar.

To download your free copy of our 2024 500-point Bar & Restaurant Start-up Checklist, click here. As you’ll see once you open this checklist, it’s interactive. You can easily check off items as you complete them, and the document will save your progress.

Opening a bar or restaurant is challenging. We’re here to help make it easier.

Planning Phase

Self-assessment

  • Mindset assessment
  • Support network assessment

Feasibility Study

  • Market viability study
  • Technical viability study

Brand Strategy

  • Vision statemet
  • Frame of reference

Tech-stack Plan

  • Service technology plan
  • Payment processing technology

Project Set-up Phase

Job Scopes for Project

  • Landlord presentation
  • Equipment vendor presentation

Project Support Team Plan

  • Industry consultant
  • Legal Advisor

Menu Testing

  • Final flavor profile creation
  • Theoretical costing, food

Interior Design

  • Final choice in furniture
  • Final choice for millwork design

Operational Set-up Phase

Operational Vendors

  • Bar and kitchen smallware vendor
  • Refrigeration tech vendor
  • Hood cleaning vendor
  • Grease trap cleaning vendor

SOP Procedures/System

  • Finalize hourly operations plan
  • Application forms
  • Food safety quiz
  • Leadership team manual

Launch Phase

Marketing Execution

  • Creation of media package
  • Search engine optimization

Tech-stack execution

  • Point-of-sale systems
  • Menu management systems

Team Onboarding

  • Leadership team onboard
  • Team-building exercises

Soft Opening

  • Menu timing
  • Menu feedback

To download your free copy of our 2024 500-point Bar & Restaurant Start-up Checklist, click here now!

Image: KRG Hospitality

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