By Cathy Nash Holley
July 8, 2020
The past four months have truly tested the limits of our industry. Operators have been digging deep to find their bearings in this unfamiliar landscape, and their grit and ingenuity in the face of such disruption and hardship is nothing short of inspiring.
In this issue, Katie Ayoub features in-depth conversations with 10 high-volume chefs who share their reflections and plans going forward in What Comes Next? This is an important and inspirational read that not only offers keen insights on the strategies in play, but highlights the resiliency and quick thinking that large brands are capable of. The chefs profiled here demonstrate the tenacity and innovative spirit needed for these times, unafraid of pursuing far-reaching ideas that would have been preposterous just four months ago.
This article also explores the mindset shift necessary for success today. In markets where the majority of orders remain off-premise, the value proposition of the dine-in restaurant experience has largely vanished—for the time being, anyway. As grim as this scenario is for restaurant operators, it does present unique opportunities. It’s as if the slate of guest expectations has been wiped clean. The door has been opened to consumers, inviting them to interact with brands differently and create their own experiences—outside of the restaurant’s four walls. They’re reinterpreting a restaurant and its offerings to fit their new need states. As a case study, see how customers are interacting with fine-dining concept Fleming’s.
Despite the ongoing recalibration of menu planning and reassessment of consumer preferences, flavor innovation abounds, as evidenced throughout this issue. Maeve Webster highlights the timely comfort of a pasta classic, while Rob Corliss profiles clever spins on the familiar formats of both waffles and sausages.
Gerry Ludwig and Nicholas Gonring offer Part 2 of their trends tour, sparking ideas to keep the innovation pipeline stimulated.
The beverage world has not lost its edge either, and the ingenuity in adaptation demonstrated in the last few months is incredible. Charles Watson offers a primer for the new frontier of takeout cocktails, Noah Burgess discusses Juice It Up!’s focus on protein as an immunity booster in beverage development, and we offer up a list of 10 trend-forward fruit-based beverage pairings.
While we’re still too early in to assemble a toolkit of takeaways from these times, we are seeing blueprints for the road ahead being mapped out—that much has been made clear from the candid stories shared by the operators featured in this issue. But beyond the practicalities of strategy, introspection is perhaps the most critical takeaway. Operators are looking internally at all systems, optimizing those that work and drawing attention to any lapses as well.
It’s a time to learn about ourselves and our brands, and of reinforcing relations with both suppliers and customers through this process, as these connections are the ones that will help our industry endure.
Cathy Nash Holley
email@example.com | @GetFlavor