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This podcast will share ideas from restaurant innovators on leadership, food trends, technology and ... more

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Latest Episodes

4

June 24, 2021 00:24:03
How Taco Bell’s social edge to convenience technology gave them an edge during the pandemic

How Taco Bell’s social edge to convenience technology gave them an edge during the pandemic

Taco Bell’s success in 2020 was tied directly to the brand’s eagerness to combine convenience technology investment with customer engagement. In this interview, vice president of global digital and omnichannel product experiences Zip Allen discusses the company’s loyalty program revamp, new store prototypes, and digital marketing rollouts in 2020 that helped them stand out. ...

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3

June 23, 2021 00:15:02
Tim McEnery on the continued diversification of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant

Tim McEnery on the continued diversification of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant

One of few full-service brands to report both sales and unit growth in 2020, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants began positioning itself as a lifestyle brand with multiple revenue streams long before the pandemic. The full-service restaurant and wine bar is also part wine maker. The brand has a wine club with more than half a million members, who have access to monthly wine dinners and group trips to travel to wine-making regions of the world. That diversification built around a loyal fan base was a driving factor for Cooper’s Hawk’s success through 2020, when the Downer’s Grove, Ill.-based chain recorded sales of $385.4 million, up 12.5%, according to Datassential’s Firefly 500 report. Founder and CEO Tim McEnery said the chain was forced to pivot during the pandemic, like most restaurants across the country. “Our operators became good at opening and closing the restaurants, so it was great for me that they were handling that aspect of the business so I could help navigate a way out of it for us,” he said. About six months into the pandemic, he said the company made some big decisions. “We were going to grab ahold of our future,” said McEnery. “We started investing in talent, technology, digital, data warehousing, really everything that would help Cooper’s Hawk live up to its potential over these next few years.” Hear McEnery look back on those decisions and how they have set the brand up for more-accelerated growth this year and beyond. ...

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2

June 22, 2021 00:30:41
Tropical Smoothie is chasing the industry titans — and it’s quickly catching up

Tropical Smoothie is chasing the industry titans — and it’s quickly catching up

Tropical Smoothie Cafe CEO Charles Watson admits that his brand isn’t always at the leading edge when it comes to technology innovation. It is, however, a “darn good chaser,” he said — and that was a big reason why Tropical Smoothie closed 2020 up 11.3% in sales, according to NRN’s Top 500 report, published in partnership with Datassential. Watson spoke with NRN editor in chief Sam Oches about how Tropical Smoothie leveraged innovation and its relationships with its franchisees to defy the odds in the pandemic. ...

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1

June 21, 2021 00:24:20
Raising Cane’s finds focus leads to sales, unit growth in 2020

Raising Cane’s finds focus leads to sales, unit growth in 2020

During the 2020 pandemic year, Datassential tracked Raising Cane’s to a 12.1% growth in units and 7% growth in sales. AJ Kumaran, co-CEO of the Baton Rouge, La.-based fast-casual brand, said he expects “2021 is going to be even bigger and better” for the limited-service chicken tender concept. “We have aspirations to build about another 85 new restaurants and enter about 15 to 20 new markets in the next 12 months, which is incredible growth,” he said. “We are entering our 31st state [Wisconsin] coming up here soon in Milwaukee.” Raising Cane’s, which was founded in 1996 by co-CEO Todd Graves, has honed in on its spare menu for the past 25 years. “People call it simple. But it's not simple, it's focused,” Kumaran said. “And focus is hard. Focus is not easy.” ...

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June 18, 2021 00:38:14
Shake Shack's culinary director discusses menu development and growth

Shake Shack's culinary director discusses menu development and growth

Mark Rosati has been culinary director of Shake Shack since it was a single hotdog stand in New York City’s Madison Square Park. He wasn’t sure he should take the job. He’d been cooking at Danny Meyer’s and Tom Colicchio’s fine-dining restaurant Gramercy Tavern, and running a takeout kiosk seemed like a step down. Would his chef friends even speak to him anymore? But Rosati said that he appreciated that Shake Shack used the same ingredients and cooking techniques that Meyer’s fine-dining restaurant used — in fact, prep for “The Shack” initially took place across the street at Eleven Madison Park, which was part of Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group at the time. Shake Shack has come a long way since then, with around 330 locations worldwide and its own test kitchen, and Rosati has relocated to Los Angeles for ease in travel as more shacks open in East Asia. His chef friends still speak with him. In this podcast, Rosati discusses how Shake Shack has evolved and how the research & development process as changed, including how he and his team have had to adjust during the pandemic. ...

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June 04, 2021 00:21:35
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Lettuce Entertain You president sees the future of restaurants as brick and mortar, not virtual

As Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) marks its fiftieth year in business, president RJ Melman doesn’t see any signs of slowing down. The multiconcept operator has over 150 restaurants in several states across the country ranging from fast-casual to fine-dining and, during the pandemic, brought some closed concepts back as virtual restaurants. Melman, however, does not think virtual restaurants are the future of the industry despite the Chicago-based company’s massive success with them over the past few years. LEYE is a family business for Melman. His father Rich co-founded the company back in 1971 and RJ has been with the company all his life, learning from his father. It’s one of the reasons he thinks brick-and-mortar units are still the way of the future. Earlier this week, LEYE announced it would be opening Aba, a concept already in Austin and Chicago, in South Florida – something Melman hints at in our podcast, which was recorded before the news broke. That expansion marks the company’s first Florida unit and is set to open in 2022. ...

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