Restaurant Authenticity vs. Food Safety

A recently published study in the academic journal, Management Science, alleges that consumers may be willing to disregard a restaurant’s poor restaurant rating if they feel there is a certain level to to the products and services. The report referenced Chinese restaurants in the 1980’s that stored ducks at room temperature in windows, ultimately facing health code violations. Customers objected, citing the fact that the method had been practiced for over 4,000 years.

Researchers set out to survey customer reviews over 9,700 restaurants in the Los Angeles area. While authenticity can be hard to gauge, certain key words were identified in the customer reviews. In comparing the “authenticity” score with the star rating and health grade, researchers found that unhygienic but authentic restaurants were valued similarly to their hygienic counterparts.

It brings an interesting point to the New York dining scene, were health grades are plastered in almost every restaurant window. What are your thoughts? Does authenticity trump food safety?

The Management Science report can be found here.

Olive Garden Faces Criticism from Investors

Olive Garden, the world’s largest Italian dining concept, must feel like a junior cook in Gordon Ramsey’s kitchen.  Activist hedge fund Starboard Value has been pummeling the chain’s ownership, Darden Restaurants, with changes that it feels the company needs to make in increase revenue and/or cut expenses.

Starboard released a 204-slide deck of suggestions for Olive Garden, detailing everything from board nominees to salting the pasta water.  Starboard even suggests that the concept eliminate the unlimited breadsticks program, saying that doing so could cut $5 million in waste.

Olive Garden, for their part, hasn’t taken the hits sitting down.  The company has fought back by pointing out that Starboard has built their offense with the help of former restaurants executives with a mixed track record of success.  Darden also says that many of the suggestions Starboard makes are items Darden already is implementing or has in the pipeline for the concept.

Darden and Starboard have been at war since late last year and are approaching a vote that will determine which side controls the board.  For its part, Starboard has nominated 12 new directors–including the longest-tenure CEO of Olive Garden, Brad Blum–to completely replace the current board.  Furthermore, Starboard is suggesting that Darden actually separate out the Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse brands from the full portfolio in order to boost share value, which Darden denies would be the case.

To read more, click here.  For the Starboard presentation, click here, and for Darden’s response, click here.


NYC Welcomes Meyer’s New Marta

The seats are full at Danny Meyer’s newest restaurant, Marta, located in the Martha Washington Hotel.  The new Roman-style pizzeria, on 29th between Madison and Park, officially opened September 10th, and the enthusiasm is rolling in.  The kitchen isn’t only focused on pizza, though, and the wine list is ready to pair to the wide offering.

The menu features traditional and not-so-traidional pies–from simple sauce-and-mozzarella to the fior to zucca, with zucchini blossoms, mozzarella and anchovies.  Outside of the wood-fired pizza ovens, Chef Nick Anderer is playing with a giant Infierno wood-burning grill from GrillWorks.  The entrees and sides include items such as the beer-brined and fire-roasted half chicken and ash-cooked vegetables.  Because Marta is in the Martha Washington Hotel, diners are blessed with a Marta breakfast menu, as well, with house-churned butter, a wood-fired semolina pancake, and cornettos, to name a few.

Marta was born from Nick Anderer and Maialino partner Terry Coughlin’s desire to expand the Maialino context to a pizza joint.  They went to Mr. Meyer with the idea of a Roman-style pizzeria, and while it was a first for Meyer to put a single chef in charge of multiple restaurants, he sees it as a natural progression. “It also represents an evolution in my thinking about how I run this company,” Meyer said, “It’s a way of encouraging entrepreneurial aspirations that young chefs have. And at the same time, they can also draw on Union Square resources for this project.” Marta is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week.

For more coverage on Marta, see here or here or here.

Webinar Event: Understanding The Decline In Dining Out

On September 23rd, 2014 at 2:00 EDT, an expert panel will host a live webinar titled,” Competing with the Refrigertor: Understanding the Millennial Decline in Dining Out.” The topics discussed will include how millennials form their dining decisions, what you can do to drive trial, and how to encourage long-term brand loyalty among Millennial customers. Millennials have a spending power of nearly $400 billion annually, yet they are choosing to dine out less frequently. In fact they are dining out 20% less than they did in 2007. The webinar will discuss how important it is to understand how millennials decide where and what to eat as this is the key to turning things around.

Webinar hosts include Dan Santy, President & CEO of Santy Integrated. Santy has a good understanding of the motivations that drive millennials and the marketplace has lead to intelligent strategies for an impressive roster of restaurant and multi-unit dining clients. Adam Pierno, Director of Brand Strategy and Planning at Santy Integrated will showase millennial insights in media, technology and the marketplace which lead to positive and revenue enhancing change for diners. James Bickers, Senior Editor of from Networld Media Group will also join the discussion as he has written about technology-related issued for many years both nationally and internationally.

For more information on how to join the live webinar, click here

Women in Wine with Litte Wisco

The Toklas Society is hosting an evening event this September 23rd with the all-female crew of wine directors from Gabriel Stulman’s Little Wisco restaurant group. The Toklas Society is a network of women in the hospitality industry. Through online content, meet-ups, speaker events, and workshops they aim to create opportunities not just for networking, but also for inspiration, education, and personal and professional growth.

The event will take place from 7-9pm at Montmarte; 148 8th Ave where there will be some wine tasting in the back garden. Jen Sgobbo, Erika DaSilva and Keri Levens are Little Wisco’s three wine directors and will be hosting the evening. The wine directors oversee all six of the company’s wine programs and will share some of their stories and styles in a brief talk moderated by Elena Silva, Director of Events & Guest Relations for Little Wisco. The talk will be followed by a guided tasting of six wines. The event cover is $25 and has a 24 member capacity so RSVP and ticket purchase are mandatory.


To purchase a ticket and read more about the event, click here

Meatopia X: The Carnivore’s Ball

Creekstone Farms and Michael Symon present Meatopia this October 19th, 2014 on Pier 92 on the Hudson River. Meatopia is produced in Partnership with The Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by FOOD & WINE. For the first time in 10 years the event is being hosted in Manhattan as the big closing of the New York Wine & Food Festival. Founder Josh Ozersky looks forward to the event and states, “For our tenth birthday, the Festival and I have spared nothing in putting together a dream team of carnivorous cookery.”

Chefs at the event include Paul Qui from Austin who is making Tabasco and ginger philipino chicken. Aaron Franklin is returning to the event this year to cook a beef plate, and a better version of brisket. Michael White will be preparing quail spiedini.  Alex Lee, the New York Chef, will be preparing cream soda-brined short rib pastrami on house-baked rye (yum). Matt Lightner, turning away will be cooking  grilled chicken with an amazing Alabama white sauce. British chef Richard Turner will be making bone-on prime rib-eye steaks, and Puerto Rican chef Jose Enrique will be working on an Achiote flank steak. “John “Eff You” Tesar” will be doing a sous-vide lamb rack over red oak with kim chi and Sriracha butter.

These are the chefs that will be cooking inside the tent, however as you enter the event the first thing you will see are the whole animal preparations. Bryan Voltaggio will be doing a whole side of rose veal and Michael Psilakis will be doing lamb. Seamus Mullen will be doing Spanish chickens and Anthony Goncalves will be doing Iberian spiced whole hogs. The star of the show will be the 1000 lb whole Creekstone steer which will be prepared and cooked by the “meat king;’ Mr. Pat LaFrieda.

Tickets are available now for $150 here

100% of the net proceeds from the Festival benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry and Food Bank For New York City


Elevating Traditional Breakfast

As the breakfast culture changes it is important to try and understand the different consumer segments. Playing a part in the breakfast market is an important opportunity for both restaurant chains and packaged food companies. According to research by Datassential, the millennial generation are eager to try new ‘adventurous’ food concepts including trends such as ethnically-influenced dishes and healthier breakfast options.

A noticeable trend that appealed to millennials in this research study was the elevated versions of traditional breakfasts. For example, a gourmet waffle or biscuits and gravy. Another trend millenials were drawn to is the breakfast sandwich in mini and/or “monster” versions. It is key for restaurants to note that their millennial audience often skip breakfast in the morning and eat this meal at nontraditional breakfast hours. According to Datassential, 16% of Millennials reported eating breakfast items as an afternoon snack, compared to 5% of those in Gen X, and 2% of Boomers. Maeve Webster, Datassential’s managing director, points out that this means restaurant operators should be offering breakfast foods throughout the day in order to drive Millennial consumption.

To read more about appealing to the millennial generation’s breakfast preferences, click here


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