Monday, November 6, 2017

What is a Brand’s Culinary Core and how is it important?

Seems like a simple question is this day and age, especially now in a climate of industry shifting and change. Some restaurant chains are starting to figure it out, most recently Chili’s. They clearly returned to their Culinary Core to revamp their business. So far no one else has said it so bluntly as they did when they said “We can’t be everything to everybody” instead they will focus on improving quality and size of the menu items that are the foundation of the brand. In essence they are returning to their Culinary Core of burgers, fajitas and ribs. Is it a big gamble? I don’t think so, having been in to recently check out the changes. Chili’s is back in a game changing way that will over the long term drive new traffic. Why because now they can deliver a better experience on the “fantastic few” menu items instead of the “mediocre many”.

In this competitive landscape getting back to a Culinary Core is key to turning the business around and growing again. The Culinary Core of any brand is there within its DNA it just needs to be uncovered after years of layer upon layer of LTO, menu additions, cost enhancements all done in the name of staying relevant with the changing consumer landscape. Invite us into the conversation and help provide you with the support to re-find your brand’s Culinary Core.  We have helped many of our clients unlock their menus to drive simplification, improve satisfaction and build sales and profits. Let us be your Strategic Culinary Consultant reach us at

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Community around food

Do you remember when every town, city or neighborhood had a place to gather around a table. This is where people came to share life with one another. Maybe we should get back to doing this, take the time to slow down, interact face to face and see how similar we all are in this world. We need real human connection to be happy, and life is about being happy, having fun and finding joy. Lets work together to reconnect on a personal level, one person at a time.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Time for Fall salads

First Fall Salad

Well it is fall (not in Houston) but hey I have fresh figs and kumquats from the garden so……

Fig Salad

10 each           Figs, trimmed and quartered
2 each             Kumquats, thin sliced
¼ cup               Fennel, shaved
1 T                   Almonds, chopped
¼ cup               Queso Fresco, crumbled
1 T                   Balsamic Vinegar
1 T                   Olive oil
1 T                   Local Honey
To taste           Kosher Salt & Pepper

1.     Scatter the figs, kumquats and fennel on a platter, arrange casually
2.     Sprinkle almonds and cheese over the platter
3.     Drizzle balsamic, olive oil and local honey over the entire platter
4.     Season with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

5.     Serve and enjoy

Monday, August 7, 2017

A case for scratch cooking in chain restaurants?

I have been fortunate over the last year to have had a successful group of clients in the restaurant industry. One constant I continue to notice when working on brands with great longevity is that they have been and are still all about the food they produce. One client has three locations that have been in their family for 70 years, and they still scratch cook everyday. Could they take short cuts, sure but their multiple generations of guests would notice.  At three locations it is much easier to scratch cook than at three hundred but it can be done. What is the key to executing consistently? One thing is straight forward recipes that are easy to make and deliver amazing quality and taste. The other secret ingredient is the long tenure of the employees. When you have kitchen managers that have been there 22 years it makes a huge difference in the ability to deliver great food. People and the culture of hospitality and “real” cooking continue to be the most important difference I see between brands that are winning right now and those that are struggling to survive. I have another client with over 100 locations and their brand again is over 50 years old. They scratch cook both in restaurant as well as at their own central kitchen. They have the ability to deliver consistent quality food from both points but the people are still the key. In the central kitchen they have employees that have been there for over 20 years making the soups and dressings day-in and day-out. These folks take great pride in knowing they are delivering amazing food to the restaurants and ultimately the guests. The in restaurant team continues to cook, really cook at least 80% of the menu from scratch. These same people also are long tenured in the brand’s back of the house. I think one formula for success in this current economic environment is the following

Culture + skills + desire = A quality experience that creates an emotional connect with the consumer

Anyone that is able to consistently execute against this formula will win in the long run. There has to be some magic in this formula based on what I continue to see and experience in our industry. It is less about scratch cooking and more about creating a caring culture that embraces teaching a group of employees that will continue to attract the right talent in a tightening labor market. When people are cared for and provided the chance to grow and gain skills we all benefit.  People are the magic and I think this is how we shift and evolve the restaurant industry for the future.