Jennifer and Michele Kaminski are sisters and cofounders of 2 Korean Girls, a ghost kitchen that opened in Miami during the pandemic. The two had been planning the virtual concept for three years, offering a menu of delivery-friendly Korean-style bowls in an area devoid of Korean restaurants.
Their mom, Sunny, owns a Korean restaurant in Indiana and helped the pair develop the menu, but her daughters added modern, whimsical touches to the recipes, like a heart-shaped egg on top of their best-selling bibimbap. Renowned Florida chef Allen Susser serves as their mentor and consultant—a vital member of the team for novice entrepreneurs, say the Kaminskis.
Listen as they talk about their take on Korean food, cultivating digital hospitality and growing 2 Korean Girls into the future.
Peter Farrand, chief food and beverage innovation officer at Smokey Bones, felt that customers needed a little more variety to complement the restaurant’s signature barbecue items.
So he diversified the menu, creating what he calls a “protein candy store,” where guests have the choice of many different cuts, global flavor profiles and formats. He also added more seafood choices and a veggie burger, as well as helped develop two virtual brands that provide additional platforms for experimentation.
Listen as Farrand describes Smokey Bones’ new culinary direction and shares how he is controlling costs and managing supply, with meat prices and sourcing challenges on the rise.
Passavant Community is a senior-living complex in Zelienople, Pa., managed by Cura Hospitality, an Elior company. General Manager Barbara Ferguson, a former fine-dining chef, oversees Passavant’s dining program, which includes restaurants, retail outlets, catering and Cura’s newest initiative—Fresh at Home meal kits.
Listen as she describes the impact of this initiative and many of the other innovations she’s launched at the retirement community to engage both staff and residents.
Piada Italian Street Food takes its name from the piada, a flatbread dough that’s baked on a stone grill and hand-rolled with a variety of fresh, authentic fillings. But Matthew Harding, senior VP and culinary director for the 38-location fast casual, has taken the menu way beyond its namesake.
Chef Harding trains his teams to make sure every dish leaves the line with a “chef’s touch.” Listen as he shares how Piada is expanding into new markets with a new footprint and how he continues to innovate the menu as the fast-casual concept grows.
The Melt Shop grew from a concept serving best-of-class grilled cheese sandwiches and melts to offer fried chicken, mac and cheese, and wings. Throughout the brand’s growth, new menu extensions had to fit founder and CEO Spencer Rubin’s basic criteria: How do we “Melt Shopify” it with big, bold flavors and other points of differentiation?
Listen as Rubin talks about The Melt Shop’s evolution and how he is growing and positioning the concept for a post-pandemic world.
Chris Simms is founder and CEO of Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, a casual-dining chain with 39 locations. Simms and his team strive to make Lazy Dog the “next generation of casual dining” by delivering a unique experience through its menu mix, ambience and hospitality.
Culver’s has grown from a Wisconsin chain of family-owned quick-service restaurants to an 800-unit brand with locations in 25 states. Director of Menu Development Quinn Adkins joined Culver’s in 2015, helping to drive that growth with slow but steady menu innovation.
Listen as Adkins talks about Culver’s longtime mission of partnering with Wisconsin farmers and how he brings culinary flair to a quick-service menu.
Another Broken Egg, a breakfast, brunch and lunch chain with 75 locations, boasts a seasonally driven menu with a balance of indulgent and healthy dishes.
Vice President of Culinary Jason Knoll shares his strategy for creating crowd-pleasing dishes by listening to guests and incorporating their feedback. He focuses on signatures consumers can’t easily make at home and pays equal attention to the beverage side, crafting cocktails and juices that reflect the flavors and ingredients that drive the food menu.
During the last year, Just Salad continued to prioritize menu innovation by launching warm bowls, introducing marinated chicken thighs as a protein option and creating meal kits for consumers cooking at home.
Jhonny Castro, culinary director of the 42-unit fast casual, describes his culinary journey from the prep line to head chef, collaborating with the Just Salad team to set the health-focused fast casual apart from its competitors.
Bartaco’s Mexican beach vibe attracts a lively crowd drawn by the brand’s fresh, made-to-order drinks and authentic tacos. During the pandemic, Beverage Director Nicole Quist launched a successful cocktails-to-go program—a challenge to put in place across 20 locations in 11 states with different sets of regulations.
Listen as she shares her excitement about the beverage program at Bartaco.
Avec has built a large following with its inspired small plates menu and welcoming vibe, or what chef Perry Hendrix refers to “as the dinner party you’d like to throw in your own home.” Hendrix transitioned the concept into a fast-casual rotisserie during the pandemic, serving up Middle Eastern-influenced roast chickens and sides. Listen as Hendrix talks about the iconic restaurant’s evolution, menu and future.
It’s not easy to offer authentic pit-smoked barbecue in New York City and other urban centers, but Mighty Quinn’s has found a winning formula. During the last year, the restaurants did a brisk off-premise business, and are especially busy when events like the Super Bowl are on the calendar.
Listen as co-founder Christos Gourmos talks about how Mighty Quinn’s differentiates its menu with low-and-slow cooking technique and inspired side dishes, and how he is positioning the fast casual for growth.
The company’s dining programs have a strong focus on regionality, wellness and contemporary culinary trends, with menus that “make the healthy choice, the easy choice.” Listen as Eric Goldberg, corporate executive chef for Cura Hospitality, shares his ideas for successful senior dining and talks about how innovations that came out of the pandemic are powering the program forward. .
Gumption Coffee, an independent coffee shop and roastery in New York City, has its roots in Australia. Cofounder and partner Hazel de los Reyes brought the concept to New York two years ago, first setting up a roasting facility in Brooklyn’s Industry City, then opening a cafe in Manhattan this past fall.
Listen as she talks about her quest to source, roast and brew the best beans, the “gumption” required to open her first U.S. cafe during a global pandemic and how she positions Gumption as an accessible but differentiated coffee experience.
Torchys Tacos began as a food truck, selling elevated street tacos throughout Austin, Texas. The chain has now grown to 83 brick-and-mortar locations, but authenticity, creativity and providing “a damn good experience” are still at the heart of the concept, says CMO Scott Hudler. Listen as he shares how Torchys stays true to its mission while providing the speed, convenience and value of a fast-casual restaurant.
Chef Shane Schaibly initially came to First Watch to push the culinary envelope, elevating the food to meet the brand’s level of service and design. As VP of culinary strategy for the full-service breakfast and brunch chain, he has since evolved the brand and its menu, introducing a fresh juice program across 400 locations, pioneering on-trend items such as avocado toast and elote, and launching a batch cocktail program.
Bob Raymond, vice president of Procurement and Dining Services for Commonwealth Senior Living, isn’t afraid to experiment with what he admits can be “crazy ideas.”
From hydroponic microfarms installed in the dining rooms, to using robots to bus tables and deliver mail, this innovative thinker is putting his ideas into action at Commonwealth’s 35 communities.
Listen as chef-partner Brendan Collins describes how he created a British gastropub menu infused with California spirit that lures customers, especially with his unique take on Sunday Roast—the U.K. tradition of enjoying roasted meat and hearty sides with friends and family on Sunday afternoons.
Aaron Staudenmaier brings years of fine-dining experience to his role as concept chef for Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar, a growing casual-dining chain based in Texas. His cooking focuses on ingredients from local ranchers, farmers and artisans and flavor-infused techniques—with some whimsical touches thrown in.
Listen as chef Staudenmaier shares how he strives to create “revved up” American dishes that set chain’s menu apart and position it for growth.
Toups' Meatery chef-owner Isaac Toups was born and raised in Louisiana, and his family has roots in the two sides of Cajun cuisine—Prairie Cajun and Coastal Cajun.
Listen as he shares how those two styles infuse his menu and hospitality, and how the resilience of the New Orleans community is a constant inspiration.
Listen as chef Adam Grafton relates how a close relationship with his grandparents inspired him to forge a connection with seniors, and how he sees endless opportunities for innovation in senior dining.
Restaurateur Ahktar Nawab started his culinary journey 25 years ago, working his way up in restaurant kitchens to behind the stove at New York City’s renowned Gramercy Tavern and Craft.
Listen as Nawab shares how the ups and downs of his career are helping him cope with the pandemic, plan new projects and remain optimistic about the future.
Chef Sarah Stegner opened Prairie Grass Cafe 15 years ago in Northbrook, Ill., establishing a deep local connection with customers and farmers.
Listen as chef Stegner talks about the creative initiatives she and her team have launched and how her focus on taste recognition has solidified her restaurant’s identity.
Seattle restaurant Addo has been closed to dine-in business since March, but chef-owner Eric Rivera has channeled his creativity into creating interactive at-home experiences.
Listen as chef Rivera shares how he is moving takeout into a whole new dimension.
With four locations in New York and two in Washington, D.C., Boqueria recently made a move to Chicago, opening its first outpost in the Midwest. Listen as Yann de Rochefort, Boqueria’s founder and CEO, talks about how the seasonally rotating menu of tapas, paella and drinks aims to reflect local markets.
Ocean Prime, an upscale seafood and steak concept in Cameron Mitchell Restaurants’ portfolio, stays on trend by frequently refreshing the menu. Listen as Ian Rough, Ocean Prime’s corporate chef, and Jason Shelley, executive chef at the Chicago location, describe how they are keeping up with the tastes of today’s diners.