EATERY PULSE NEWS HOW TO PICK A DISTRIBUTOR Top Protein Trends Organic Growth
2018 DRINK TRENDS Gin Renaissance RAMW Trainings
CANNABIS IN FOODSERVICE Two Thriving Restaurant Groups WINTER 2018 | VOL V | FRESH. FOCUSED. INSPIRED (BY YOU).
EDITOR'S NOTE The beginning of the year is a great opportunity to assess where our businesses are. For restaurateurs, it is a great time to evaluate how the holidays impacted business and the year-to-year comparable sales performance (same store sales) of the past season. It’s also a moment of reflection on the partnerships that restaurant owners have and how they help their businesses. One big relationship that foodservice businesses root from is the distributor relationship. How do you know you’re getting the best deal or how reliable is the distributor you are using? I took the time to reflect on this in an highly-meaningful op-ed piece on page 29. With so much going on, restaurateurs rely heavily on distributors and count on them to be reliable and knowledgeable. If it’s time to change distributors, what are some of the most important attributes of a distributor and what does the supply chain landscape offer currently? Please take a look at some of the attributes of a good distributor and see if you agree with my take on what’s important. Our assessment of key restaurant relationships will continue throughout the year and you should see more on associations, city/county resources and business networks in the coming months.
3 | EATERY PULSE NEWS
DRINK TRENDS Three drink trends to
watch in 2018
TWO RESTAURANT GROUPS In Arlington, two groups
battle for dominance
2018 RAMMYS The RAMMYS are fast
approaching. Check out the preview.
CANNABIS FOODSERVICE What is cannabis bringing to foodserivce and restaurants?
IN THIS ISSUE
SEEKING ORGANIC Consumers still seek
organic food products
HOW TO PICK A DISTRIBUTOR Opportunities abound,
but the answer's complex
GIN RENAISSANCE D.C. welcomes a rebirth
of the classic drink
It’s exciting to be a part of the local industry and bring so many resources to both D.C. and the national landscape. Our new upcoming magazines—Swizzle Chill and Restaurant C-Suite, are nearly here, and the former’s arrival is in April. We’ve democratized access to foodservice news within the DMV area, in addition to increasing content and video marketing opportunities for our clients on the consulting side. Eatery Pulse and Studio Solutions recently started a promotion to help food business owners start their own captivating, beautiful, video marketing programs in 4K UHD—even on a budget. With new writers added to our magazines and new team members joining our Internet broadcast series, we are locked and loaded to continue expanding our impact on restaurants. Stay tuned and make sure you are on our mailing list (subscribe.eaterypulse.tv).
STAFF Ashley McCarty,
We created Eatery Pulse News to help you make your business more successful. How will you make 2018 your most successful year? We have included some very onpoint food and drink trends in this issue. Check out page 6 and page 37. Speaking of trends, what about Gin’s Renaissance (page 34) and the impact of Cannabis cuisine on the foodservice industry (page 20)? This issue is one of our leaner ones that can be digested from cover to cover, while delivering the important news and trends we're known for.
Eatery Pulse TV Director
Best wishes for success,
Rick Zambrano EXECUTIVE EDITOR
4 | EATERY PULSE NEWS
Eatery Pulse News magazine is published five times per year for the restaurant industry in the Metro D.C. market. Eatery Pulse News Media, an information services and content marketing firm, publishes Eatery Pulse News and Swizzle Chill Magazine. Eatery Pulse News Media was created to increase access to highly-meaningful and compelling food-related news, content and video-based stories across the D.C. area and nationwide. Eatery Pulse and Studio Solutions EP are Crown Rio Ventures.
COVER PHOTO: FOODS ON THE TABLE, PHOTO CREDIT: V. KOONYOSYING THIS PAGE: LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS COCKTAIL, CREATED BY JENN KNOTT, PHOTO CREDIT: M. VANOVIC, KIMPTON HOTELS AND RESTAURANTS (SEE GIN RENAISSANCE, P. 34..)
Three Drink Trends for 2018
PHOTO CREDIT: THE HUMMUS & PITA CO.
s the new year has gotten into full swing, we’ve already seen some new trends permeating through the food industry. While much attention is being given to restaurant trends and exotic new foods, we thought it was time to showcase the best new beverage trends Below, find three of the most exciting new healthy beverage trends for 2018. Healthier ingredients in drinks, juices, shakes, and smoothies Already enjoying massive popularity due to testimonials from health food advocates
and social media influencers, juices and smoothies don’t really need any more help in the advertising department. However, demonstrating the ever-changing nature of the health food craze, regular fruits and additions are starting to be swapped for truly unique ingredients, such as avocados, spices like moringa, and superfruits like pomegranate. The Hummus & Pita Co., an authentic N.Y. City Mediterranean chain, is gaining a lot of attention for its newest menu addition: a hummus shake. Made 100-percent vegan with chickpeas, bananas, tahini, dates, cinnamon, and a splash of almond milk, this drink packs
incredible flavor, nutrients, and trendiness into a fun portable package. It’s not only smoothie mix-ins that are getting revamped this year, but also the liquids used to blend them. A January article in Westchester Magazine highlights plant-based milks made from oats, flax, and pili nut, a South Pacific, highlynutritious type of nut. Those with lactose intolerance, vegetarian or vegan diets, or sensitive stomachs will want to take advantage of these ingredients as they are gentle on the body but powerful in the nutrients they provide. The rise of the mocktail Cocktails are another wellpublicized category of drinks. However, those who choose to avoid alcohol often find it difficult to discover new flavor profiles, since it’s the liquor that is usually the star of the show. Around the country, bartenders and restaurateurs are experimenting with new ways to beat the booze without sacrificing on flavor. Red Star Tavern’s Head Bartender, Brandon Lockman, is known for taking traditional cocktails and “reverseengineering” them without alcohol. Take for example one of his specialties, "The CONTINUED PAGE 9
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PILLOW, RED TAVERN PHOTO CREDIT: KIMPTON HOTELS.
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Other Side of the Pillow,” made with agave, lemon juice, jasmine pearl tea, and elderflower tonic. The addition of the latter two exotic, “feel-good” ingredients should put this drink on the list of any mocktail or cocktail aficionado. Not your grandmother’s tea Perhaps one of the most surprising ingredients on our list, tea is destined to dazzle this year. Thanks to a dedicated network of hip brewers, tea is transforming into much more than a light afternoon drink. Tasting Table, a food and lifestyle publication, did a profile of new tea trends in February 2017. As popularity and awareness of this drink’s potential has increased, you can be sure to expect it to take on many more variations and flavors this year. Among the trends highlighted in the feature, some of the most exciting include cold-brew tea, bottled matcha, and tea subscription boxes. What’s interesting to note is that all three of these trends take existing trends and apply them to tea. Coldbrew coffee has gained tremendous attention and is now available in nearly every cafe you find. Matcha, now enjoying its fourth year of intense attention, is touted as a delicious and nutritious ingredient, but is often difficult to prepare correctly. Finally, if there’s “an app for that,” there’s a subscription box as well. It’s only fitting that tea was included in these new developments.
MARTCHABAR POURED AND BOTTLED BEVERAGES PHOTO CREDIT: MATCHABAR
A TALE OF TWO RESTAURANT GROUPS BY MAX TESTA Don Tito's front bar Photo credit: Don Tito's
iners in Arlington, Va. have benefited from a string of successful new restaurant openings over the last few years. The city has developed as one of the most exciting food cities in America, as local restaurant groups aggressively expand and bring new concepts to the area. Although the momentum of new restaurants has slowed a bit in the last few years, two major restaurant groups are continuing to grow and develop new locations in Arlington. With Scott Parker, Jason Fisher, Ryan DeMagistris, Nick Cordero and Mike Cordero at is helm, the MacNac Hospitality Group has made a name for itself in Northern Virginia for its diverse offerings and consistent growth. A-Town Bar and Grill, which MacNac opened in 2012, has become a staple of Arlington’s bar scene. It is well known as a lively
10 | EATERY PULSE NEWS
feature of Arlington’s nightlife. In 2016, MacNac opened two more restaurants in Arlington; Mexicaninspired cantina Don Tito, and upscale bourbon bar and restaurant Barley Mac, in partnership with Jonathan Rennich, which offers more than 50 selections of bourbon. Barley Mac, which Eatery Pulse TV has previously reported on, has drawn considerable attention for its diverse bourbon offerings and creative cocktails. In addition to more than 50 bourbons, Barley Mac also puts forward an Italian-American comfort food menu that puts a twist on familiar dishes. The brunch menu, for example, includes breakfast gnocchi and breakfast pizza. MacNac also operates The G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All
Both Social Restaurant Group and MacNac Hospitality Group have cultivated a broad variety of restaurant concepts, drawing from many cultural influences in each of their restaurants. And both groups have stuck to a strategy of continual growth. But while the two groups are similar in many respects, MacNac seems to be geared more toward nightlife than SRG. DON TACO, ALEXANDRIA, VA. PHOTO CREDIT: DON TACO
One of SRG’s popular locations in Arlington is Pamplona, a Spanish tapas restaurant and sangria bar which SRG opened in 2017 in Arlington. SRG also operates Bar Bao, an Asian fusion restaurant, and The Stand, a food court that involves a rotation of local vendors, all located in Arlington. Social Restaurant Group has recently announced plans for a new location in Arlington called The Lot. This will be an impressive outdoor beer garden, which SRG plans to open in Spring of 2018. SRG has already secured a location for The Lot on the site of a former used car dealership.
PAMPLONA, ARLINGTON, VA. PHOTO CREDIT: PAMPLONA
THRIVING VIA GROWTH Time), which it launched with Ramesh Chopra, according to Arlington Magazine, in Arlington, and Don Taco in Alexandria. The former is a massive 350 seat sports bar that has had considerable success. The G.O.A.T, which MacNac opened in 2017, provides classic American comfort food options and entertainment to Arlington sports fans. MacNac Hospitality Group is not the only major player in Arlington’s growing restaurant scene. Locally-based Social Restaurant Group (SRG) made its appearance in the area over the last few years with several openings in the D.C. area, and three restaurants in Arlington alone, with more on the way.
Between them, Social Restaurant Group and MacNac Hospitality Group cover the broad spectrum of restaurant concepts. Both groups have continued to innovate and develop new restaurant ideas without much overlap. But recently, SRG announced plans for a food hall location in Arlington. This project has many similarities to MacNac Hospitality’s The Stand, as both will incorporate local vendors into a shared space. Besides the similarity in concept, not many details on this project are available, and repeated inquiries to SRG’s press representative received no response. The greatest similarity between these two restaurant groups is the momentum for growth of innovative new restaurants. Both MacNac and Social Restaurant Group have pushed boundaries in Arlington, bringing new concepts to the county. As the Suburban Virginia restaurant scene continues to evolve, these two successful restaurant groups will likely continue to expand beyond D.C. and Virginia's urban enclaves.
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KATHY E. HOLLINGER, RAMW PRESIDENT & CEO PHOTO CREDIT: M.T. ROBINSON
2018 RAMMYS D.C. RESTAURANT INDUSTRY PREPARES FOR PREMIER GALA
he Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) has announced the annual RAMMY Awards Gala for 2018. One of the most exciting industry events comes in the form of an evening dedicated to honoring the best of local Washington, D.C.-area foodservice industry and will be held Sunday, June 10, 2018, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. RAMW members will be awarded in 20 different categories and within two different segments, depending on the award.
12 | EATERY PULSE NEWS
One set of awards is voted on by a panel comprising volunteer judges, food & dining journalists, educators and foodservice professionals, and another segment of awards is chosen by the voting public. The RAMW executive committee will award the Joan Hisoaka Associate Member of the Year Award, presented to an allied member for its support of RAMW. The Duke Ziebert Capital Achievement Award celebrates members demonstrating leadership that helps transform the local restaurant scene into a thriving industry.
CONTINUED PAGE 14
"...a celebration of the D.C. restaurant industry like no other."
More information about the RAMMY Award celebration and nominations can be obtained at the RAMMYS website at therammys.org. Interested companies looking to sponsor the event can email the firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202.331.5990. Stay tuned for our ongoing pre-show and live coverage of the RAMMYS this year.
FOOD EVENTS AROUND D.C. OSCAR VIEWING PARTY MARCH 3, 2018 BRAVO BRAVO RESTAURANT CHANCE FOR LIFE BALL MARCH 10, 2018 MGM NATIONAL HARBOR HTTP://CHANCEFORLIFE.NET/CHANCE-FOR-LIFE2018/ NATIONAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL MARCH 27 - APRIL 15, 2018 HTTPS://WWW.NATIONALCHERRYBLOSSOMFESTIV AL.ORG/ THE RAMMYS D.C RESTAURANT AWARDS GALA JUNE 10, 2018 WALTER E. WASHINGTON CONVENTION CENTER HTTP://WWW.THERAMMYS.ORG/
PHOTO CREDIT: EATERY PULSE NEWS
RESTAURANT OPENINGS Ooey Gooey , crispy grilled cheese eatery, is set to replace Righteous Cheese at Union Market. Second D.C. location of Blue Bottle Coffee to open at Union Market this spring. Pepperoni Chic is coming to 5111 Georgia Ave in March or April. Cherry Blossom Pub pop-up to open March 1 at 1841 7th St Northwest. Jinya Ramen Bar and Nada Mexican Restaurant will open at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda, Md. in summer 2018. Chef and CEO Christina Tossia, a two-time James Beard award winner, will open a Milk Bar location at The Wharf in D.C. in Febrruary. Sources: Bethesda Magazine, Popville
RAMW EVENTS RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION OF METROPOLITAN WASHINGTON Alcohol Manager 9:30 a.m .- 2:30 p.m. Thursday, February 8 Tuesday, February 20 Tuesday, March 6 Thursday, March 22 Food Safety Manager 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 21 Monday, March 5 Wednesday, March 21
PHOTO CREDIT: N. STAHL
Register for courses here: http://www.ramw.org//register-course
D.C.R.A. SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCE EVENTS https://dcra.dc.gov/page/dcra-events-calendar The Business Planning Process Thursday, March 8, 2018 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. 1100 4th Street Southwest, Room E-4302 Washington, D.C. 20024-4451 Entrepreneur’s Pathway to Licensing your Business in D.C. Thursday, March 1, 2018 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. 1100 4th Street Southwest Washington, D.C 20024
PHOTO CREDIT: R. ZAMBRANO
SBA SCORE EVENTS Tips on negotiating a commercial lease Tuesday, February 20, 2018 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. McLean Bible Church 8925 Leesburg Pike Vienna, Va., 22182
Financing your small business 9:30 a.m. | March 21, 2018 WeWork Apollo 810 7th Street Northeast Washington, D.C. 20002 Washington, D.C 2002
Marketing to grow your business workshop Thursday, March 15, 2018 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. NeoSystems 1861 International Drive, Suite 200 Tysons Corner, Va. 22102
GWHCC: Small Business Expo 1,500 attendees | 170+ exhibitors http://signatureevents.gwhcc.org Friday, March 16, 2018 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Walter E. Washington Convention Center 801 Mount Vernon Place Northwest Washington, D.C. 20001
PHOTO CREDIT: J. YAP
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GROWING IMPACT ON FOODSERVICE: CANNABIS
PHOTO CREDIT: M. BRODEUR
FOODSERVICE TRENDS: CANNABIS
n early January, a different type of news headline rocked the press. California had become the eighth state to legalize recreational marijuana use. In the coming years, we can expect the number of states permitting recreational use to continue to grow. This has big implications for many industries across the country, especially foodservice. For now, the sale of cannabis products remains illegal under federal law, but that hasn’t stopped publications, such as Forbes from including cannabis on its 2018 trends list this month. When the political tide turns, you can expect restaurants across the board to begin featuring cannabis creations in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. Coffee shops, for example, currently already casual places to relax, read, and study, could take this lounge atmosphere up a notch and become social spots for those who want to do all of the above, while enjoying a smoke or an edible with friends.
Restaurants too can be expected to get involved in this trend by incorporating cannabis into dishes and offering unique private “tasting experiences” for those who wish to further refine their palate. Currently, chefs and managers must work to constantly change menus and use new ingredients in ways never before seen. The introduction of cannabis into this process will allow for infinitely more flavor and dish combinations, many of which will require research and testing to get right. From there, it’s possible that well-known chefs could begin offering master classes for those entering or currently working in the culinary field to learn how to incorporate cannabis into dishes effectively. CCD Innovation, a California food and beverage consulting agency, recently released its 2018 Food Trends That Matter report in December, which featured cannabis as one of the nine published trends. We spoke with CCD’s VP of Trends & Marketing, Kara Nielsen, about the effect cannabis could have on the food industry and what the path will look like to widespread availability in eateries across the U.S. According to Nielsen, one trend is that edible
KIVA CONFECTIONS IN RETAIL PHOTO CREDIT: KIVA
cannabis products have already evolved from the traditional offering of brownies and “cannabutter” into cold brew coffees, sodas, puddings, granola, and even olive oil. The elevation of cannabis into more sophisticated mediums has resulted in increased creativity, writing, and dialogue on this ingredient. When asked what it would take for cannabis to be propelled into the mainstream, Nielsen suggested that, as with many products and services, celebrity endorsements could really help boost its popularity and sway. When asked what it would take for cannabis to be propelled into the mainstream, Nielsen suggested that, as with many products and services, celebrity endorsements could really help boost its popularity and sway more of the general public to vote for legalization in their states. Surely enough, Whoopi Goldberg became one of the first celebrities to throw her name behind cannabis by collaborating with Om Edibles founder, Maya Elisabeth. The two have joined forces to create “Whoopi & Maya,” a line of
PHOTO CREDIT: M.T. ROBINSON
medical cannabis products designed for women’s relief from menstrual pain. Although not focused on food, Goldberg’s star-power is sure to create buzz around cannabis and its myriad uses. Until more endorsements come through, Nielsen noted that on the local scale, “potrepreneurs” are hard at work in legalized jurisdictions opening small artisanal shops to sell their cannabis creations. Restaurateurs can learn a lot from eateries in states like Denver, where cannabis has been PHOTO CREDIT: M.T. ROBINSON legal for almost six years. For one, eateries will have to make a choice between serving alcohol and serving cannabis as state the law prohibits the sale of both in one location. This can create financial problems if owners sacrifice alcohol revenues in hopes of higher cannabis inflows that are never realized. Additionally, eateries must be cognizant of how they are offering cannabis to customers. An April 2015 article from OpenTable Business writes how a Denver “Bud & Breakfast” owner
CANNABIS GROWING PHOTO CREDIT: A. LYNN
"...WOULD RESULT IN ALMOST $132B IN FEDERAL TAX REVENUE AND OVER ONE MILLION NEW JOBS OVER THE NEXT SEVEN YEARS. -New Frontier Data's 2017 Annual Report
was fined providing samples of cannabis to customers. Even though the samples were free, the city government viewed the act as dispensing marijuana and ordered the owner to cease. The legalization of cannabis has economic implications as well. New Frontier Data’s 2017 Annual Report calculates that legalizing cannabis would result in almost $132 billion in federal tax revenue and over one million new jobs over the next seven years. Restaurants that purchase cannabis for use in their products will pay a tax for their orders, as will customers who frequent these places of business. While the tax benefits for the government will be beneficial, restaurant owners will need to factor tax prices into their business planning to determine if cannabis is something that they can afford to introduce and in what quantities. As social and political attitudes around cannabis shift over the next few years, both restaurateurs and customers should look forward to the ways in which this highlypublicized ingredient will transform their dishes and palates. .
- ROSHAN THOMAS CAKE (TOP), CANNABIS PLANT (BOTTOM) PHOTO CREDIT: H .BE (TOP), C. QUEBEC (BOTTOM)
24 | EATERY PULSE NEWS
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SEEKING ORGANIC THE
BY MAX TESTA
he organic food industry has grown rapidly in recent years and the growth trajectory continues to rise, as organic ingredients begin to find a place in the broader feel-good food trend. The industry has recently reached $50 billion dollars in annual total organic product sales and is predicted to continue growing rapidly, with average growth in the double
Organic market in 2017: $50B
digits for the past five years, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2017 Organic Industry Survey. The value of the organic industry will likely continue to thrive as more restaurants begin to access its previously untapped potential. The D.C. metro area is a hub for innovative restaurant operators who have already capitalized on this surge of interest in organic ingredients, with local favorites Sweetgreen and Founding Farmers emphasizing the role of organic and responsibly-sourced ingredients in their strategies for success. Nationally, Panera Bread
26 | EATERY PULSE NEWS
The move toward organic ingredients has mirrored the market trend toward healthier food is also beginning to expand its use use of organic ingredients, having previously achieved a 100 percent clean ingredient menu. The move toward organic ingredients has mirrored the market trend toward healthier food. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2017 State of the Industry Report, Seven out of 10 consumers now say that the real or perceived healthiness of the menu is enough for them to make them choose one restaurant over another. The explosive growth in organic foods in the last few years mirrors this growth in the interest of healthier restaurant options, and the feel-good food trend doesn’t stop here. As this movement continues to grow in popularity with consumers, and restaurants continue to accommodate this change, the role of organic products will continue to grow as well. The feel-good food trend reflects consumer beliefs about what is or isn’t healthy, and the way that restaurant operators anticipate and respond to those beliefs. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2018 Culinary Forecast, restaurant operators rated locally sourced ingredients, organic ingredients, and clean-label menus as equally important in appealing to customers. Because of the success restaurant operators have had in these other categories, they are now turning to organic ingredients to gain even more from the feel-good food trend. PHOTO CREDIT: J. WATTERS
Both Sweetgreen and Founding Farmers make use of as many organic ingredients as possible, while also emphasizing that ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible. Neither business is able to use 100-percent organic or locally-sourced ingredients; according to a statement on Founding Farmers’ website, “The ‘as much as possible’ prefix is important; we want to provide transparency, and acknowledging that it isn’t feasible to promise we know the source of every morsel is important.” When restaurant operators utilize organic ingredients in addition to local sources and clean-label foods, they have the best chance of appealing to a broad range of health oriented consumers. While no major local or national restaurant chain will achieve a menu that is entirely certified organic, Panera Bread, Founding Farmers, and Sweetgreen have all begun to incorporate organic ingredients in various degrees, in order to tap into the benefits of this rapidly developing market segment. The fast-casual segment has been the industry leader in sales growth for several years, according to research firm Technomic, and continues to grow rapidly. Some of the menu advances there reflect the acceptance and desire of the consumer for better food. The peppering of organic incredients on the menu is a way to benefit from its "better-for-you" perception. Sweetgreen's winter bowls and warm bowls, for example, include organic ingredients without being entirely organic. The Curry ChickPea, Shroomami and Harvest Bowl all contain organic ingredients.
SWEETGREEN'S SEASONAL WINTER BOWLS PHOTO CREDIT: SWEETGREEN
The lesson here is that restaurant chains and independent restaurants can benefit from the use or organic incrediients without having to make an "all-in" commitment to using them throughout the menu. The benefit is the perception of wholesomeness and better food on the menu, which appeals to a good number of consumers. Sweetgreen and Panera Bread both follow the fast-casual model, and Founding Farmers is an exception rather than the rule, providing a full-service dining experience while also embracing the new popularity of locally sourced and organic ingredients The fast casual model also utilizes technology in ways that full service options do not, often bringing customers better information about their food as a result. For example, at Panera Bread customers are able to access the full nutritional information of every menu item online while ordering from their tables on their smartphones. The use of organic ingredients in popular local and national restaurant chains shows strong signs of leading this new food trend. As the fast-casual scene continues to tap into the feelgood food trend, organics will play an ever increasing role, as savvy restaurant operators continue to look for ways to differentiate their restaurants and appeal to an ever growing health-oriented customer base.
he food distribution game is changing rapidly and suppliers and distributors are preparing themselves for an ever-changing global market. As consumers look for better food and ingredients that are locally sourced, the future of the food market becomes a lot more malleable On one end, restaurants continue to find smaller, local supplier relationships attractive because they may access foods that may be grown or prepared locally. On the other end, broadline distributors, including U.S. Foods and Sysco, are investing more in solutions that reflect the most desired attributes of today —organic, natural and clean-label, to make sure restaurants have a breadth of menu selections that satisfy the needs of today’s consumer.
OP-ED BY RICK ZAMBRANO
HOW TO PICK A DISTRIBUTOR
29 | EATRY PULSE NEWS
A CHANGING DISTRIBUTION LANDSCAPE Restaurant owners find themselves in a better bargaining position, but some of the biggest considerations in selecting the right distributor partnershipÂ have become more complex. Competitive pricing, reliability, distributor perks, convenience and industry know-how are reflective of some of the most important considerations to help decide which distributor is the right one. A report by consultancy Pentallect found that independent restaurant growth is a big opportunity for distributors. Independent restaurants will outpace chain sales growth by nearly doubleÂ
(independents to grow +4 to +5percent) over the next three years. Distributors are already focusing in on this opportunity and answering tough questions from analysts and investors on how they plan to capitalize on this. The threat of the likes of Amazon and Webstaurant Store, for example, is a way in which the future is changing and a top trend and game changer in foodservice logistics, according to foodservice consultancy Techonomic, Inc. and publisher Winsight. How will independent restaurant owners make their decision on how to pick distributors as national and regional supply chain players battle forÂ
PHOTO CREDIT: J. PEASE
markets. They have appeared and are winning over many customers due to the rock-bottom invoicing restaurant customers are seeing. But what is true for consumers as grocery customers applies also to foodservice: No one player can possibly have the lowest price for every item every single week. Prices fluctuate based on supply and demand and also depend on the leverage a distributor has in negotiating with key suppliers and manufacturers. Warehouse distributors have also been able to provide attracting pricing due to lower distribution, storage and logistics costs, although a share of transportation and stocking costs are passed on to the restaurants in less transparent ways.
PHOTO CREDIT: N. KARVOUNIS
Price is also reflective of how a distributor makes investments. If margins are tight, what are ways distributors opt to save on their own costs? Are they investing less in technology, customer service, food storage imperatives or the condition of their own fleets? If low pricing isn’t derived from a distributor’s leverage, how is it being achieved and can it signal there is cost-cutting on the part of that distributor in other key areas?
their business? Distributor know-how Competitive pricing One of the biggest pieces of the equation is definitely pricing. At what cost will product come into the restaurants and who has the better price on the goods and supplies a restaurant needs? Many restaurateurs have relied on moving from distributor to distributor, and supplier to supplier, to get better pricing and to take advantage of special rebates and incentives when they sign up as new customers. To bounce back and forth between distributors is a tricky strategy. Although these “new customer” incentives may be enticing, the longer-term relationship with the distributor could be jeopardized upon every change. The converse can also be true. Restaurant owners can cling to a distributor that appears to offer the lower possible pricing. Some restaurant operators are so focused on price that a move to other distributors is considered almost impossible. In the D.C. area, bargain distributors have appeared and have started to gain market share, as in other
For restaurants, a single, razor-like focus on pricing may not be a viable long-term strategy. What about the information that distributors can provide to restaurants regarding the forecast or outlook of changing prices, particularly for seasonal food products, which can have spiking prices? Being familiar with what future pricing might look like can be valuable to a restaurant company. Restaurants that can employ a more predictive approach on pricing can manage their menu better. This, combined with smart purchasing behavior in the restaurant can help some operations rise above others. A recent example of this is chicken wings. The restaurants that were able to respond to spiking chicken wing prices because of the short supply situation and manage their menus better were most likely those who were better informed and had better partners in distribution. During a period of higher prices, these restaurants were able to eliminate certain specials on chicken wings and 31 | EATERY PULSE NEWS
PHOTO CREDIT: ELLI O
better manage portions and menu offerings to offset the higher cost of the wings. Distributor perks and efficiencies Another area that restaurants may want to look at is how a distributor will be able to help restaurant owners save time and create efficiencies. One way in which this is done is through perks and referral services. Some distributors are able to provide certain services to restaurants either free of charge or at lower cost. US Foods, for example, has a set of value-added services, ranging from menu costing software to sales tracking tools, reservations, website design and more. These partnerships are some of the examples that many of the large national and regional foodservice distributors offer to their customers. Website and marketing services are particularly helpful as we are seeing the restaurant landscape become increasingly more competitive and saturated. Marketing is an area in which restaurants
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can get skimpy. In fact, a TripAdvisor study indicated that half of restaurants spend less than 10 percent of their time on marketing activities, (Street Fight magazine). Only 17 percent of restaurant respondents indicated having a dedicated marketing staff and only one percent of respondents had hired an external marketing consultant. To this end, distributors continue to add new programs and services. Distributors are also forming partnerships with a variety of vendors to enable a longer-term relationship with restaurant operators much in the same way that restaurant associations have been able to partner with vendors to provide their members with discounts and meaningful services. With more than 80 percent of restaurants telling TripAdvisor they could be doing more to market their businesses, these types of relationships that distributors are offering are very comprehensive and can lead to an overall increase in profitability and the creation of certain efficiencies.
In the D.C. area, FoodPro has its Core Advantage program. It offers certain benefits to members who pledge “allegiance,” according to its website. “FoodPro is proud to offer a distinctly different approach to fair and equitable pricing, as well as a consultative sales approach and additional marketing and business resources for our partners.” This is another example of how distributors can help restaurants expand access to services and programs at low cost and increase efficiencies in finding solutions for their customers’ businesses. Reliability and consultation The reliability of a distributor is often measured by how punctual food products are delivered and it is an essential part of the restaurant-distributor relationship and is one of the most important to those who manage a restaurant. Having reliable, on-time deliveries can help a restaurant stay efficient and manage food & labor costs. As I’ve worked in the restaurant industry, I have come to discover that this is an area in which restaurant owners and managers can be very vocal and one in which they put a lot of emphasis. Consultation is an important feature that distributors are emphasizing, and from which restaurateurs can benefit. U.S. Foods and Sysco are making big investments in their websites, converting them into resource guides and knowledge-based tools. Additionally, U.S. Foods has recently been favoring and seeking sales teams and partners that offer a more consultative approach and have a more long-term customer relationship perspective. Distributors can help guide restaurant owners to successful food management and menu management strategies. In the end, it is an important part of a strategy to build long-term business. Group purchasing organizations, or GPOs, are part of the changing distributor landscape and highly meaningful in the supply chain business. While certain facets of foodservice distribution are at maturation, GPOs and power buyers are starting to gain ground, according to a Pentallect Go-to-
Market 2025 report. GPOs are part of the future, and can offer more than just reduced pricing to customers (as a result of heir huge buying leverage)—they can also provide a consultative approach. Axis Purchasing is an example of a GPO that employs a comprehensive, consultative approach to help restaurant owners lower the overall cost of food products and supplies. So, what’s the best strategy? Restaurants that focus on a strategy that considers lowest food prices alone is not the right approach. Not that a distributor that provides low pricing will not have “perks” or loyalty benefits; but a sole emphasis on pricing may prevent restaurateurs from the discovery of significant set of resources, vendor referrals, and hands-on assistance. And chasing the lowest price or the latest incentive every year can be disruptive to a restaurant’s operations. In the age of digital revolution, many of the bargain-price distributors may also see market share slip in the future as new, larger players with business leverage enter the arena. Gen Y and Z— the new generations of restaurant owners— will respond favorably to a changing and disruptive distribution landscape. They are certainly more willing to adopt digitally-based solutions for their businesses, particularly as they offer not only lower prices but some competitive advantages. And the younger generations expect the kind of price transparency that the digital disruptors will bring. The most appealing solution is the one that offers owners and managers the most support and best available financial, long-term incentives. Choosing a distributor for the overall relationship profitability, including resources, access to technology solutions and marketing services, is a smart play, and one that should be adopted by restaurant owners. Time and staff are quite limited in the world of restaurants and having a balance of competitive pricing and access to additional technology and marketing can go a long way in delivering to a restaurateur the most value.
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Hank's Cocktail Bar: It's a Membership to the Jelly of the Month Club: Plum preserves, Allspice, Spring 44 Gin, Rum, Cinnamon, Walnut bitters
GIN RENAISSANCE BY ROSHAN THOMAS
f you’ve been out to any bars within the past year, there is a good chance that either you or someone you were with ordered a cocktail with gin. Previously thought of as a traditional, gentleman’s drink, gin has experienced a rise in popularity during recent years and can now be found in diverse recipes at bars around the country. Specifically, this spirit has blossomed locally, with the DMV (D.C.Md.-Va.) region being home now to over five gin distilleries. Below, we explore some of the factors behind gin’s recent upswing. Ease of craft Although you may not guess from its complex taste, gin is quite easy to produce. Instead of waiting months or years to mature, as with other fine spirits,
gin can be produced from start to finish in 24-48 hours. According to master distiller, Brian Prewitt, of A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Va., gin’s quick production time makes it a favorite of new distillers who find that they can churn out cases much faster than other spirits. Flavor flexibility Gin’s unique production process allows for infinite flavor combinations. Prior to distillation, flavor combinations of “botanicals” are created and can include notable local ingredients as a homage to the town of distillation. Popular botanicals in some popular gins include: Bombay Dry Gin: lemon peel, angelica and orris root, cassia bark, licorice, and
almonds. Baltimore Shot Tower Gin: bitter orange peel, jasmine flower, green tea, angelica root, gentian root, and cinnamon Green Hat Distillery Summer Cup: citrus, rosehips, cucumber, black tea, verbena, and lavender Most botanical combinations include citrus, herbs, and a special ingredient (tea, flowers, nuts, etc.). The quantity of each addition is a closely-guarded secret and depends on the desired flavor profile of the end product.
Timeless tastes As dynamic as the world of spirits is, there are some bold flavors like gin that are just timeless. Jessica Weinstein of Hank’s Cocktail Bar in Washington, D.C. believes that we are currently in the midst of a movement to return to the classic spirits. The resurgence of gin, as Weinstein puts it, is a “fun nod to earlier times.” Bars all across the area are experimenting with gin in both traditional and nontraditional ways. Marcel’s in the heart of D.C. boasts an arugula martini, with agave nectar, fresh lime juice, St-Germain, and Hendrix gin. District Commons debuted a twist on the famous Gin Rickey, dubbed the “Plum Rickey,” which gets its name from a healthy splash of Damson plum gin, lemon and lime juice, and lavender bitters. The increase in gin’s prevalence isn’t just a fad that is taking place at local haunts. Rather, it is a trend that is backed by national data. Eric Schmidt of Beverage Marketing Corporation, a global beverage data supplier, has noticed that gin has experienced a resurgence in major metropolitan markets, such as D.C., New York, and Los Angeles.
In 2016, over 70 million cases of vodka were produced in the U.S. while just over 10 million cases of gin were produced. Nevertheless, craft distilling has helped to boost gin’s popularity in various regional pockets, and 2017 looked to show an overall increase in gin production and consumption nationally. 1.0 OZ BALTIMORE SHOT TOWER GIN 1.0 OZ CHARTREUSE 0.5 OZ LIME JUICE 0.5 OZ LUXARDO MARASCHINO LIQUEUR
33 | TRIPMAG.COM
Higher-end brands have done very well in past years, with Hendrix showing a 20 percent per year growth over the past five years, Plymouth growing five percent per year, and Bombay rising at 3.5 percent per year. Eric notes that gin has not exploded in every market—there are still bartenders across Middle America that would not know what you meant if you ordered a negroni—and still isn’t selling at the level other spirits are.
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THREE PROTEIN TRENDS TO WATCH BY ERIC NOMIS
CHICKPEA SALAD PHOTO CREDIT: D. MACEY
Asian Island cuisine embodies the current trajectory of a trend that has legs, according to foodservice consultancy Technomic, inc. (Restaurant Business), including Indoensian, Malaysian and Singaporean cooking and flavors. The world might be our oyster, but the island nations of Southeast and Eastern Asia are, more specifically, the source of today’s popular delicacies. Many top independent and chain restaurants are drawing from Southeast Asian influence to add excitement to their menus. Experts like consultancy Baum+Whiteman cite spicy Korean, Filipino adobo, and Javanese curry chicken as examples of what may soon be permanent options across international and PanAsian restaurants in the U.S. due to their growing popularity. Hainanese chicken rice with laska and indulgent chicken from the Izakaya (chicken karaage and chicken teba: Japan) are also trend manifestations that are expected to rise in notoriety and visibility.
ASIAN ISLAND CHICKEN FOODS ON THE TABLE PHOTO: V. KOONYOSING
PULSES LENTIL SALAD PHOTO CREDIT: J. SUTTON
Pulses are gaining attention because of the density of protein and nutrition found in these foods. After all, 2016 was the “Year of the Pulse” per a U.N. designation. Because pulses are free of soy, dairy and gluten, they are carefully adopted in food products at the manufacturing level, notes a 2017 Food Business News article, Pulses include chickpeas, lentils, beans and peas, and their popularity isn't just found in food products. You’ll notice increases at quick-service and sit-down restaurants. A winter seasonal salad at True Food Kitchen comprises brussels sprout, butternut squash, cauliflower, white bean, pomegranate, toasted mulberry, and horseradish vinaigrette. The hearty Dakota Smashed Pea & Barley soup at California Pizza Kitchen is a warm mix of barley, carrots, onions, savory herbs and scallions. Expect restaurateurs to find more ways to incorporate pulses in future food menu development.
Plant-based proteins are part of one of the fastest-moving trends: As vegetarian and flexitarian lifestyles increase for a variety of reasons, restaurants and foodservice companies are responding to these consumers’ needs. According to the International Food & Industry Council, more than 70 percent of consumers consider a diet of plant-based proteins healthier. Baum+Whiteman cited plant-based proteins as a top trend for 2018. The consultancy says, “83 percent of U.S. consumers are adding plantbased foods to their diets to improve health and nutrition, while 62 percent do so for weight management.” Vegetarian dishes can now be hefty: At Arroz in D.C., the Winter Vegetables Bomba Rice is a robust medley of rice, foraged mushrooms, smoked cauliflower, farm egg, and pimenton aioli, packing good protein. Meatless
proteins, including burgers that emulate the texture and appearance of real meat, are on the rise. Restaurant chains, for example, are increasingly turning to manufacturers, like Beyond Meat, for their meatless burgers that use beet juice to “bleed.”
THE BEYONDBURGER PHOTO CREDIT: BEYOND MEAT
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