One Line from Beyonce Sends Red Lobster Sales Skyrocketing

Now that Superbowl 50 is over and done, there’s still time this week for the post-game (and post-halftime show) analysis. A fair amount of this analysis is without a doubt centered on Beyoncé, who performed her brand new single Formation just after surprise-releasing it to the general public. But the biggest surprise of all might have been the unexpected result of that single – on Red Lobster’s sales.

beyonce-formation[1].jpgThe song, now watched almost three million times on YouTube, includes an (explicitly worded) line about visiting Red Lobster after sex. That line immediately (and perhaps predictably) blew up social media with references to the seafood chain. The phenomenon might have ended with a few tweets, but instead Red Lobster’s sales actually spiked 33% according to CNN. Of course, that kind of publicity may only provide a flash in the pan, but if you’re looking for flash, nobody brings it better than Beyoncé.

 

Retail Spotlight – Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen

o.jpgTheir Success… In a city with sky-high rents and rising expenses, it can be hard to make ends meet on coffee alone. Blank Slate has increased its sales by bridging the gap between coffee shop and restaurant, creating a hybrid best described as a “Café-table” that is the best of both worlds. This concept works on an old premise that is becoming increasingly popular as labor and operational costs increase. In it, guests order from a single point of sale, then take a number to indicate their table as they seat themselves. When the food is ready, a runner brings it out, clears dishes, and attends to guests.

Walking into Blank Slate, guests are greeted with high ceilings and a bright, modern space. During the busiest lunch hour, this space can fill up quickly; tables are laid out to maximize seating with longer shared table spce in the middle and a banquette along the wall. The espresso machine is front and center behind the counter, promising all the caffeine fixes you would expect from a coffee shop, but the large menu on the wall behind makes it clear that Blank Slate wants to keep you fed as well as energized. This menu, which is impossible to miss as you walk up to order,  focuses entirely on prepared food; beverages are listed on a smaller side menu, and there are none of the pastries or baked goods that are usually on display in a coffee shop. Guests who come in in the morning may not be able to get a quick muffin with their coffee, but they can get sweet toast with whipped ricotta and candied bacon, or an egg sandwich with truffled goat cheese.

The breakfast menu is available late on weekends to appeal to midtown brunch-ers, but in the afternoon the selection switches over to salads, sandwiches, and small plates. These offerings are all thoughtfully curated and described on the menu – there are basics (like a rustic chicken sandwich or a Mediterranean salad), but they often have small twists to add a layer of appeal (the caesar salad is made with brussel sprouts, and the meatball sub is made with lamb, mint, and pecorino). The desserts are also in line with what you would expect from a sit down restaurant, including molten chocolate cake with vanilla gelato, and you can pair any of the food with wine or beer offered on tap.

While the menu itself would be at home in an upscale sit-down restaurant, the front of house operations are much more streamlined. Guests order from the register in a single line from which they can get coffee to go or a table number to seat themselves and wait for food. From there, staff members bring orders, fill water, and bus dishes – but ordering and payment is all taken care of.

Take Aways…Blank Slate fills all the needs of a neighborhood coffee shop in a neighborhood that needs plenty of coffee shops, but a finely tuned menu of savory foods (and a streamlined system for serving them) helps Blank Slate do double-duty as a lunch, brunch, and early dinner spot as well. This combo is the heart of the Café-table concept: fill two needs at once, and your morning regulars may just become your most satisfied lunch guests as well.

 

Tea Makes a Stir in New York City

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Christopher Day at EMP

In the past tea has not always been though of as a trendy drink but now the industry is noticing an increase in demand. Loose leaf teas from around the world, tea preparation classes and artisan teaware are now available from a myriad of online purveyors and tea salons. Chain stores are also popping up nationwide as Starbucks purchased Teavana in 2012 and now has expanded to 301 stores across the country. According to the Tea Association of the USA in 2014, Americans consumed over 80 billion servings of tea, or more than 3.60 billion gallons.

These days, tea is also making a stir in New York Restaurants.  New York’s elite are now offering extensive tea lists and some even offer matching tasting notes. Tea programs are now offered at Eleven Madison Park, Atera, Blanca and Betony providing diners a chance to experience some of the world’s best teas. Eleven Madison Park’s tea program currently offers a seasonal menu of 32 types of teas served by the pot. Christopher Day, the man behind Eleven Madison Park’s tea program told Eater “”tea represents more than a beverage meant to be drunk at the end of a meal…We regard it as with wine, spirits, and coffee — as something to be selected and prepared with the same attention to detail and concern for excellence as any aspect of the menu.”

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Iced Matcha Teas at MatchaBar

Fast causal concepts are also appearing across the city offering different variations of the beverage. Flushing’s Fang Gourmet Tea offers 70 teas at $5 to $10. In Williamsburg New Yorkers can enjoy the city’s first speciality matcha cafe at MatchaBar where they offer everything from classic matcha to specialty  seasonal drinks such as Iced Mint Matcha Lemonade.

To read more from the New York Times click here

Mother’s Day Dining Trends

Mother’s Day is the most popular holiday of the year to dine out and new research from the National Restaurant Association shows that nearly half of Americans will choose to eat out for this holiday. American’s might see this day as a chance to give mom a break from cooking but it appears that the rest of the family does not plan on picking up the slack in the kitchen.

The survey done by the National Restaurant Association shows that 38% of consumers plan to dine out while 7% plan to get take out or delivery. Families with children increase that statistic revealing that 45% of these families will dine out and 10% will bring in food. Additionally, the survey shows that there is a correlation to the age of a child as the older the children, the more likely the family will dine out. Some individuals even announced plans to dine or order out multiple times this upcoming Sunday.

The National Restaurant Association has also found that of the Americans that will be spending their Mother’s Day in a restaurant 83% made their plans to do so less than one month ago.

To read more from the National Restaurant Association, click here

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Growing Interest in Specialty Bread

With the rise of gluten free dining and carb-eschewing diets like Paleo, bread has been getting beaten up lately.  Now that bread is seen more as an indulgence, consumers are treating the sandwich staple with more revere, and expecting better options.  Jana Mann, senior director of menu research firm Datassential, noted that consumers are drawn to breads that evoke freshness, speciality or ethnicity, or seem in some way to be premium products.

Baking bread in house in nothing new, but larger chains are getting into the swing of things by product smaller, easier breads like pretzels and focaccia in house.  “Pretzel” was the fastest growing bread descriptor on menus in 2014 and for good reason.  Ms. Mann notes that pretzels have an approachable but also ethnic heritage, and can work in both sweet and savory applications.  Wendy’s recently launched a Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger as a limited-time offer, but it was so popular that the brand returned the item to the menu permanently.

Datassential’s Mann notes that like pretzels, other ethnic breads such as bao buns, Indian naan, and Mexican telera rolls can be used to add a slightly exotic feel to familiar foods.  “Consumers can’t eat two things they don’t know, but pairing something unfamiliar with something familiar grounds it,” she said.  It’s not much different from adding unfamiliar or unconventional toppings to pizza, she added.

To read more, click here.

New Talde Opens In Jersey City

Last night American Chef Dale Talde opened the second location of his restaurant Talde. The first outpost is very successful in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and has now been brought over to the other side of the Hudson in Jersey City, NJ at 8 Erie Street. Talde is is a casual Asian-American restaurant and bar famous for creative dim sum dishes such as the bacon pad Thai and dumplings galore, including flavors such as pretzel, pork and chive. The new location will be introducing a few new dishes and dim sum options including the McBao, a bun with a boneless char sou ribs and pickles.

The design of the new space is slightly more modern that its counterpart in Park Slope with exposed brick walls, booths that each have heavy wooden tables and concrete floors. The decor consists of pieces like porcelain dolls, Buddha head art and an attention grabbing installation of large lanterns hanging over the bar. To check out pictures of the new space or to download a copy of the menu at the new Jersey City location of Talde, click here. 

 

Restaurant Finance and Development Conference 2014

Every November, TaraPaige heads to Las Vegas to attend the annual Restaurant Finance and Development Conference. The conference is attended by restaurant CEO’s, owners, operators, and finance professionals from all over the country. Attendees have the opportunity to meet, mingle and learn from investment firms, real estate developers, and other financial firms to source financing, make deals, and locate new business opportunities. Each year brings a new set of hot topics regarding the current lending and investment environment for food enterprises.

As we begin 2015, we would like to share with you a few of TaraPaige’s key takeaways from this year’s conference.

  1. Markets Are Still Strong! Contrary to popular belief, recent markets conditions are still promising for the restaurant industry. It is understood that restaurant sales follow consumer discretionary income and with recent index highs, increased household income, and more diverse dining options than ever before, we can expect total restaurant sales to benefit. Even since 2009, the U.S. restaurant industry has returned to historical growth rates, with total sales rising about 3 percent a year, slightly ahead of inflation.
  1. Capital Raising – Know Your Audience: Raising capital for your enterprise is never an easy feat, but knowing the stage of growth for your business is key. First time owners and operators will typically source initial funding from friends, family or themselves as banks and institutional investors are often weary of new concepts without a proven business model. For institutional capital, lenders and investors like to see a clear path for growth, strong cash flow, and established operations. This is also geared towards later-stage growth companies looking for larger capital commitments. High net worth individuals may be another financing opportunity for those who have the right concept, created the connection, and are looking for a substantial investment and partnership.
  1. Casual Dining Revival: Perhaps the forsaken stepchild of recent years, casual dining is at an interesting turning point. After seeing a significant evolution from family dining, to the popularization of ethnic foods and a focus on healthy cuisine, owners and operators are looking to reset and restart growth in this category. Strong brand positioning, concept differentiation, target market knowledge, and end-to-end engagement across the organization will contribute to positive growth. After all, consumers will make their choice by brands and experiences, not based on industry dining segments.
  1. Future Food Trends: By the time you’ve nailed down the current food trends, it’s likely the industry has already moved on. However, there are a number of movements that have made their way across dining segments and different concepts across the country. Ever since the explosion of ethnic and fusion cuisine, flavor and more specifically, spice is here to stay. Consequently, menu differentiation and chef-driven concepts have soared in popularity. Seasonality and local-sourcing now play a large role in menu items while non-traditional menu structures such as small and shared plates are popping up everywhere.

The restaurant industry is constantly evolving, with new opportunities for growth and investment each year. The Restaurant Finance and Development Conference offers great networking opportunities, but also insight into practical operational and financial topics presented by the top experts in the industry. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and will see you again next year!