Barbecue and high-end sushi are two under-represented cuisines in the restaurant landscape, according to David Chang.
The celebrity chef, TV star and producer, media mogul, founder of award-winning Momofuku and owner of a 16-location restaurant group that includes fine-dining eateries, casual noodle and ssam bars, and multi-city chains Milk Bar and Fuku, made this pronouncement during the opening session of the 2022 Restaurant Leadership Conference held this week in Phoenix.
Chang’s thoughts were just one of many culinary currents running through the three-day conference. But most of the menu discussions centered on one theme: The pandemic has reshaped the way culinary directors, chefs and marketers innovate the menu.
Over the last two years, menu R&D teams have been forced to adapt to supply chain and labor challenges, the surge in takeout and delivery, outdoor dining, digital ordering, and ever-evolving technology. Many of the changes are now integral to running a restaurant kitchen. But the industry leaders presenting at RLC’s forums and sessions aren’t stopping here: These changes are paving the way for more innovation.
Back to barbecue and sushi. Chang thinks the time is right for these two culinary concepts to take off. “There are only 10 to 15 bespoke sushi restaurants in the U.S.,” said Chang, referring to the tiny and expensive spots where a highly skilled sushi chef prepares a multi-course curated tasting menu in front of six to eight guests sitting at the counter. “That’s only about 90 seats in total,” he said.
That kind of dining is as much about the experience as the food. The same with barbecue—but it is much less formal and can reach far more customers.
“Barbecue is about celebration, and for the next five years or so, people are going to want to celebrate in restaurants and have fun,” Chang told Editor-at-Large Peter Romeo during their on-stage conversation at RLC. He cited an Oakland, Calif., restaurant in a junkyard that offers a communal barbecue experience and routinely has a three-hour wait.
After a long quarantine, people are now seeking ambiance and experience along with good food more than ever, Chang said.
Demand for experiential dining built during the pandemic, but Damola Adamolekun started focusing on the dine-in experience as soon as he and his investment partners purchased P.F. Chang’s in 2019, he said during a one-on-one conversation with Senior Editor Joe Guszkowski on RLC’s main stage.
He began by freshening up the decor.
Adamolekun borrowed design elements from upscale Tao—a high-grossing Asian independent withseveral locations—with the goal of creating “a Tao for the middle class,” he said. “I took pieces of Tao and incorporated them into P.F. Chang’s.”
The CEO changed up the serving ware too, swapping in stone plates for a more dramatic presentation. “Our signature fried dumplings used to come out on white plates,” he said. “Now they are plated on contrasting stoneware drizzled with soy sauce to make them sizzle as they come to the table.”
That small change ramped up Instagram posts and sales. The presentation turned heads in the restaurants and spurred orders from customers at other tables, Adamolekun said.
He also worked with the culinary team to trim the menu, reducing the number of items by 30%. “We took off dishes that strayed too far from P.F. Chang’s core and comfort zone, like Asian mac and cheese,” he said.
Menu shrinking became a necessity during COVID, with many chains and independents cutting back on the selection. Two years later, labor and supply chain challenges are keeping those menus smaller, and operators continue to streamline menus down to best sellers, must-haves and seasonal items.
Limited-time offers are taking up the slack.
During an RLC innovation forum on LTOs, Shane Schaibly, SVP of culinary strategy and corporate chef at First Watch said “we use LTOs to maintain relevancy and keep the menu fresh in front of our customers.” He plans a constant rotation of one entree and three fresh juices every 10 weeks.
At the 435-unit breakfast-and-lunch chain, limited-time offers rely on seasonal produce, and Schaibly starts working with vendors up to 24 months ahead to lock in supply. Two of First Watch’s most successful LTOs are returning this summer: the Watermelon Wake-Up, juiced daily from fresh watermelon, and Elote Mexican Street Corn Hash, made with summer corn.
But rounding out the hash are avocados, potatoes, cheese and eggs—staples First Watch always has in steady supply from its distributor.
In addition to being fresh and seasonal, Schaibly strives for colors and formats that make an LTO “newsy,» he said. «Instagram helps drive the success of an LTO.»
At Papa Gino’s Pizzeria, “we are currently brainstorming LTOs that will run with products we already have on hand,” said Deena McKinley, chief experience officer for the regional New England chain. Two types of cheese may be combined for a pizza topping, with tomatoes and broccoli from the salad section added on, too. This strategy assures consistent supply.
If a new SKU is essential to create a limited-time special at Zoup! Eatery, it has to be there for the long term, said Jason Valentine, president of the fast-casual chain. “We make sure a new ingredient will work across all menu categories and can make it to the permanent menu,” Valentine said.
Whether chefs are developing an LTO, introducing a new item to the regular menu or refreshing an old favorite, it now has to be tested for both on- and off-premise consumption.
Takeout and delivery became the only game in town during COVID’s early days, but now those channels are a permanent part of most operations—even those that never did it before.
“From a menu perspective, you have to look at both on- and off-premise,” said Kieran Donahue, CMO of IHOP, during a session on redefining marketing. The family-dining chain pivoted overnight to off-premise in 2020, she said, and has since developed a lineup of travel-friendly bowls and burritos. “Portability is so important now,” Donahue said.
Alice Crowder, CMO of Krystal Restaurants and a member of the same marketing panel, agreed. The QSR now does bifurcated marketing tests of menu items. “We taste the product immediately after it comes off the line, and taste it again 30 minutes later to see how it holds up after an Uber Eats delivery,” she said.
While Chinese restaurants have always done a robust takeout business, P.F. Chang’s went all in with the launch of P.F. Chang’s To Go. The new offshoot of the full-service Asian chain focuses on delivery, with about 12 of the stores now operating in urban areas and more to come, said Adamolekun. The menu includes bowls, stir-fried entrees, noodle dishes and appetizers—in individual or family-size portions.
RLC also included a lively exhibit area, and this year, new iterations of plant-based foods made their debut. A vegan tuna product composed of winter melon and other plants—but no soy or pea protein—had the color and texture of raw tuna and made a credible substitute in sushi, poke and ceviche.
There was also plant-based shrimp, shaped like the shrimp we get from the sea. Once fried and sauced, it was pretty similar to the seafood version. And while there are several breaded chicken alternatives on the market, the thicker, filet-shaped product on exhibit made for a fried “chicken” sandwich closer to the popular real ones.
Robot servers and automated bartenders also stood out on the crowded floor. In fact, the bulk of exhibitors were tech companies, underscoring the increasing role of data in menu development, kitchen efficiencies, order accuracy and food waste.
Panelists in a conference session on artificial intelligence pointed to the two types that can benefit restaurants: Vison AI and conversational AI. Advancements in this technology can alert an operator to toss cooked food that has been sitting out too long, eliminating potential health hazard. Or cut down on food waste by identifying fresh ingredients that are starting to spoil.
But the breakthroughs in conversational AI are more customer facing, taking order accuracy, upselling and customization to another level. Drive-thrus, fast casuals and restaurants with digital menus are already benefiting from tech enhancements, but David Chang sees perks for fine dining on the horizon.
The next iteration of data collection will make customization much more precise, he said. “Before a guest walks in the door, the front of house will know he or she wants to order Chablis wine or sparkling water, and we’re going to open the wine or have the water ready,” said Chang.
What else does Chang see as having an impact in the future? “I’m still figuring it out,” he said, but came up with a few insights:
• You have to take remote workers into consideration when developing a menu now
• Food trucks don’t make sense. “Why have something that’s mobile and park it? Something that’s moving around may be the next big thing.”
• Social media is a key recipe ingredient. When Chang launched Fuku, his fast-casual chicken sandwich concept, “dark meat sandwiches were not a thing. So I hand cut thighs and made them ridiculously large. Social media made it popular,” he said. “I engineered the size and spice level so people would talk about it.”
•Keep an open mind. While data can help drive menu development, “if it excites me to start selling chili dogs or snow cones instead of ssam, I will.”
The annual Restaurant Leadership Conference is presented by Winsight Media, the parent company of Restaurant Business.
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Leo Horacio: A Successful Entrepreneur in the Ecommerce and Online Sales Industry
Leo Horacio is a name that resonates in the world of entrepreneurship and ecommerce.
His journey is a testament to determination and success, and his story inspires many.
As an immigrant who arrived in the United States at the age of 11 after losing his father in a tragic car accident, Leo faced significant challenges from a young age. However, his entrepreneurial spirit led him to create his first business at the astonishing age of 17. Surprisingly, before turning 22, he had already reached his first million dollars. With over 10 years of experience in the ecommerce and online sales industry, Leo Horacio has founded and led four multi-million-dollar companies in the United States.
One of his most notable achievements has been the establishment of a company dedicated to managing ecommerce brands, which generated $10 million in its first 12 months and contributed to $125 million in sales for its clients. Furthermore, he has assisted over 450 investors in earning automated monthly incomes of $6,000 to $8,000 through his team.
But Leo has not only excelled in the business world. He has also shown his social commitment by donating to local foundations that rescue abandoned dogs and provide toys for needy children.
Leo’s motivation for entering the ecommerce industry is clear: it is a trillion-dollar industry that continues to grow, and more Latin American countries are adapting to online sales. This means that opportunities continue to expand every day.
His achievements have earned him recognition and awards, including plaques for taking eight stores to reach $1 million in less than 12 months. Additionally, in 2023, he will receive an award for reaching the astounding figure of $25 million in sales in a single year.
Leo’s personal experience as an immigrant in the United States, where he had to leave school to work and support his family after losing his father, has been a fundamental influence on his journey.
Leo’s impact in his field and in society is undeniable. He has been invited to major conferences where he has inspired hundreds of thousands of Latin American entrepreneurs with his story and impressive results.
Looking to the future, in 2024, Leo plans to expand his foundation to build homes for needy families in low-resource countries and continue growing his personal brand to share his story and expertise with a wider audience.
You can follow Leo Horacio on his social media platforms, where he shares his vision and knowledge in the world of ecommerce and entrepreneurship. His story is a testament to the power of entrepreneurship and determination to overcome challenges and achieve success.
Mehdi Manoochehrzadeh: A Visionary Language Educator Transforming English Learning with Puzzling Method
Meet Mehdi Manoochehrzadeh, a pioneering language educator whose relentless pursuit of native-like proficiency in English led to the creation of a revolutionary teaching method known as the Puzzling Method. As a native Persian speaker, Mehdi’s determination and innovative approach have empowered over a hundred thousand language learners to master English in record time.
From the ages of 8 to 11, Mehdi attended various language classes in pursuit of his dream to become fluent in English. He believed he had attained a high level of proficiency during those years. However, his first encounter with an English-speaking person at the age of 11 exposed a glaring flaw in the traditional language education system—the materials he had learned were of little practical use, leaving him unable to form even a basic sentence in English. This experience ignited a passion within Mehdi to find a more effective way of learning the language.
In his quest for a better approach, Mehdi discovered the Grammar Translation Method (GTM), a teaching method that resonated with him. Embracing the GTM, he experienced a remarkable transformation, achieving fluency in English within just six months and shedding all his negative feelings and insecurities.
Recognizing that many of his friends faced similar challenges in their language learning journey, Mehdi took it upon himself to help them. He began teaching English to his friends using the GTM, and to his delight, they too experienced rapid progress and newfound confidence in their language skills.
Fueled by his friends’ success and driven by a growing demand for effective language learning methods, Mehdi was inspired to refine the GTM.
He created the Puzzling Method to address the shortcomings of conventional language teaching. This groundbreaking approach focuses on practical communication skills, encourages active student engagement and interaction, and provides a more immersive cultural experience.
The Puzzling Method has since proven to be a game-changer in the world of language education. Mehdi’s unique approach allows learners to visualize their progress after each session, encouraging motivation and dedication. Instead of directly learning English grammar, learners construct sentences in their native language and then translate them into English using puzzle pieces.
In 2010, Mehdi’s unwavering commitment to effective language education led him to establish the Manoochehrzadeh Language Academy. Through this institution, he has successfully taught English to over a hundred thousand language learners, providing comprehensive educational packages tailored to individual needs.
Mehdi’s contributions to the field of language education have not gone unnoticed. He has been recognized and celebrated for his achievements, earning accolades and awards throughout his career. Some of his notable milestones include:
- Education Management Certificate from LEEDS University, England in 2014.
- Establishment of the Manoochehrzadeh publishing company in 2016.
- TTC Certificate from Petrel College, Canada, in 2017.
- Paper Presentation Certificate at the International NTELT Conference in 2018.
- Article Publication and Presentation at NTELT titled «Exploring the Relationship between EFL Learners’ Self-Efficacy Belief and their Language Proficiency: The Case of Reading Comprehension in Focus,» in 2018.
- Article Publication Certificate in the LTRQ Journal in 2019.
- Article Publication and Presentation at ICSLS exploring the interplay between Iranian EFL teachers’ perceptions of research and their academic degrees in 2019.
- Article Publication and Presentation at SSYJ titled «The Interplay between Young Learners’ Sense of Self-Efficacy in Reading Comprehension and English Language Proficiency» in 2019.
- Book Publication: «Fundamental Terms in Language Teaching Methodology» explaining English language teaching terminology, published by Society Publications in Canada in 2021.
- Book Publication: «Syllabus Design and Material Development» regarding curriculum design, published by Society Publications in Canada in 2021.
- Book Publication: «101 Key Points in Language Teaching Methodology» about various language teaching methods, published by Lambert Publishing in Germany in 2022.
Mehdi’s commitment to continuous improvement and future endeavors is evident in his dedication to learning and developing other languages. He remains focused on expanding his expertise and knowledge in language education to empower even more learners worldwide.
Stay connected with Mehdi and his transformative Puzzling Method on Instagram, where he shares valuable insights and updates @demanoochehrzadeh. For more information and to explore Mehdi’s work, visit his official website at drmanoochehrzadeh.com.
Through his exceptional contributions to language education, Mehdi Manoochehrzadeh is leaving an indelible mark on the world of English learning, making proficiency achievable and accessible for learners of all backgrounds.
Flavio Esteban Calvo: A Role Model in Psychology and Mental Health
Dr. Flavio Esteban Calvo’s journey is an inspiring testament to perseverance, passion, and a deep commitment to mental health. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, specializing in cognitive and systemic psychology, and a Ph.D. in systemic, cognitive, and neurosciences, Dr. Calvo has become a prominent figure in his field.
His career extends beyond the classroom, as he has shared his expertise as a university lecturer in Argentina and in postgraduate programs in Ecuador, Chile, and Spain. His contribution to the education of future professionals is undeniable.
In addition to his academic work, Dr. Calvo is the author of two significant books: «Better Decisions» and «Boost Your Finances.» These works reflect his dedication to improving people’s quality of life through psychology and conscious decision-making.
Dr. Calvo’s impact transcends borders, having been recognized both in Argentine and international media. His focus on systemic and cognitive psychology has earned him respect in the psychotherapy community.
One of the most notable achievements in his career is the recognition awarded by the Ecuadorian Association of Psychotherapy in 2022. This accolade is a testament to his dedication and contribution to psychology and mental health.
When asked about his most significant accomplishments, Dr. Calvo emphasizes that beyond academic and professional successes, what fills his heart is witnessing transformed lives through his work. The stories of people he has supported in overcoming challenges are his greatest reward.
For him, the most important moment of his career is always the present. Currently, he feels fortunate to teach in different countries, lead a team of over 30 professionals at Dynamos, and continue to support individuals through conferences and personal therapy.
Dr. Calvo has developed a comprehensive program for managing anxiety, panic attacks, and stress, which has had a positive impact on the lives of those who have followed it. This effort adds to his commitment to enhancing people’s quality of life.
Regarding his role as «Motivational Influencer of the Year,» Dr. Calvo sees himself as someone who seeks to inspire and promote healthy discussions through his content. His authenticity and desire to contribute to the world drive him forward.
His advice to young entrepreneurs is clear: consistency is key, and authenticity sets you apart in a world where many imitate others.
Looking to the future, Dr. Calvo dreams of becoming a reference in research, teaching, and treatment of anxiety, panic attacks, and stress. His mission is to help those who suffer regain a high-quality life.
In summary, Dr. Flavio Esteban Calvo is a prominent figure in psychology and mental health. His human-centered approach and passion for personal growth and the well-being of others serve as an example to follow. You can connect with him through his social media or website to learn more about his activities and contributions to the community.
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