Nothing beats the human touch

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For years, so-called fast-casual restaurants have worked to lower costs by keeping the help behind the counter and adopting a cafeteria format that leaves much of the work to diners, who stand in line, order, pay and carry the food to a table or out the door.

[…] restaurants, from small ones like Breads Bakery to chains like Sweetgreen, are the quickest-growing segment of the dining business, combining speedy service with food that they claim is fresher and higher quality than traditional fast food. And as they battle rising competition from a new source — delivery services — workers like Fritz are the first line of defense.

Who’s Fritz? click here to find out

Small Spaces with Large Offerings

 

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New York has its fair share of tiny restaurants. Ones where you are basically sitting on top of your neighbor, listening to their conversation, basically sharing a meal with them. Ever wonder why these places were made so tiny? Why didn’t the owner just get a bigger space or design the floor plan better? Well, maybe the owner did plan better, and smarter than everyone else. Look at Talula’s Table, a 12-person restaurant in Chester County, PA. From a practical perspective, a small restaurant is also a smart restaurant. Servers here also do clean-up, saving the owner from having to pay a busboy or busgirl. Chefs also throw the towels in the laundry in the back, saving money that could have been spent on a laundry service. If the food is good enough to charge guests a little more money, a small restaurant can make a profit with less risk than a large restaurant. The rent is cheaper, the build out is cheaper, and the return comes in a little faster. To read more about the business model of a small restaurant and how they offer just as much, if not more than a large restaurant  click here.

Food Trends: An Art or Science?

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Photo: New York Times

It’s a new year which means new foods trends. Every December public relation firms come out with reports that detail what new food trends to look out for this upcoming year. According to Editor in chief Dana Cowin at Food & Wine, “A good trend list requires everything from data and science to pure intuition.”

Annika Stensson, director of research communications for the National Restaurant Association believes the perfect 2017 food trend would be a fast-casual concept serving dishes with deep, heady African flavors. The dishes would be made with locally produced ingredients. Put this African dish into a bowl and you’ve got yourself another 2017 food trend. One of the top items that users post on Pinterest – which is used by 150 million people a month – are Buddha bowls. Food is bowls is pleasing to the eye and makes a great Instagram picture – and who doesn’t love a great Instagram picture? To read more about the trends of 2017 click here.

Del Posto Says Goodbye to Mark Ladner

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Chef Mark Ladner of Del Posto will be leaving the Mario Batali owned Del Posto, in Chelsea next month to pursue his own project. Ladner will be heading into the world of upscale fast food with his new concept, Pasta Flyer. The first location, already under construction in Greenwich Village. Ladner wants to create a place where consumers can get a bowl of pasta — reasonably al dente, appropriately sauced, made with high-quality ingredients — in the same amount of time it takes a Chipotle to roll a burrito and for about the same price. As for Del Posto,the restaurant will introduce a menu in February from the new executive chef, Melissa Rodriguez, who was Mr. Ladner’s chef de cuisine. Rodriguez will be the first woman to head the kitchen of a New York City restaurant that has received four stars from The New York Times. To read more about Mark Ladner and Del Posto, click here.

Food-Delivery App, Maple struggles to Turn a Profit.

 

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When operating a restaurant there is one guaranteed expense that will haunt you until the day you close – rent. Rising rent costs have put restaurants out of business. So, any easier way to operate is by delivery service operations. Maple, a Manhattan based food-delivery start-up allows consumers to search through their daily lunch and dinner options, order with the click of a button, and have their meals delivered to their doorstep. However, just like any food operation, food-delivery services struggle too. According to a new report in Recode the delivery app is struggling to expand and make money on the food it delivers, claiming Maple “appears to have lost money on average on every meal in 2015, resulting in an operating loss of $9 million for the year on $2.7 million in gross revenue.” Food costs at Maple were at a high of 63% of revenue in 2015, 26% food waste, and 17.5% for marketing. However, this past March, Maple managed to get their food costs down and allowing the company to turn a small profit of 30 cents for each meal it delivered. To read more about the struggles of food-delivery based operations click here. Also, to sign up for Maple or just browse their site click here.

Ivan Ramen

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Their Success . . . When Ivan Orkin opened his first ramen shop in Tokyo, he was entering uncharted territory. In 2007, here was a man from Long Island, New York opening a ramen shop in its birthplace, and no one knew what to expect. After opening, Ivan Ramen only grew in popularity and soon thereafter expanded to a second location in Tokyo. The draw? Ivan Ramen offered a unique take on a classic Japanese noodle dish. From these ventures, Ivan Orkin gained quite some notoriety.

Mr. Orkin has since handed over the reins of his two Japanese ventures to his longtime chef and manager, Hisao Matsumoto. He is now entirely focused on his two New York City Ivan Ramen ventures, the Slurp Shop located in the Gotham West Market and the flagship location at 25 Clinton St. in the East Village.

The East Village location seats about 40 noodle slurpers and its aesthetic is a mélange of clean, refined décor and vivid explosions of powerful color. The space has both traditional table seating as well as two bar areas where diners can saddle up and enjoy Ivan Ramen’s offerings. The larger bar area looks onto the kitchen, which is exposed by a large cutout in the wall space. Above is a colorful mural, depicting diners thoroughly engrossed with their bowls of soup.

The food itself is Ivan Orkin’s own unique spin on the identifiably Japanese dish. Mr. Orkin combines the flavors of his Jewish heritage with the more traditional Japanese palate of taste to create something truly unique. The broth is rich and flavorful, and the noodles offer a decidedly earthier, chewy texture than of that found in more classic ramen spots. The Spicy Red Chili Ramen in particular perfectly combines the flavors of old and new, all the while offering heat that is not overwhelming.

The menu features cold and hot appetizers as well as a number of ramen varieties to choose from. Additionally, ramen add-ons are listed at the bottom of the menu, some of which are traditional and others more adventurous. While the space itself is not overly large, the kitchen is efficient and completes orders quickly. Ramen appears almost as soon as you have finished ordering. The bowls range from $15-$18, slightly expensive as far as ramen in New York City goes, but well worth it for Mr. Orkin’s unique take on the dish.

Take Aways . . . Ivan Ramen offers an experience that is simultaneously familiar and new to New York City ramen fans. The space is clean, inviting, and engaging, offering a great place to eat and hangout with friends, or quickly fill you up and get you out the door. Whatever you choose, be sure to slurp your soup for the full experience.

Ivan Ramen

25 Clinton St.

New York, New York

10002

(646)678-3859

Robbing the Rich to Feed the Poor.

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Photo: New York Times

Robin Hood. We all know the moral of the story; robbing from the rich to feed the poor. Well, this restaurant in Spain is taking that concept to real life. A Catholic charity in Spain has opened a chain of restaurants called Robin Hood. A regular operating restaurant during the day, but at 6 pm you can’t get a seat unless you’re homeless. The business model: breakfast and lunch revenue, paid for by guests, cover the free dinners. The project started about a month ago with already four locations throughout Spain. Father Ángel, the priest behind this project would like to bring the concept here to the United States, specifically Miami, not later than January. To read more click here.