They say the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s the place where memories are made with family around the dinner table and where friends gather to reconnect over a glass of wine. 

In her very own kitchen, Amy Hampton poured her heart into creating wine and using her soirees as inspiration. Her wine was originally served as a party favorite surrounded by music, conversation and family friends. 

“My journey into wine started as a passion for serving others,” Hampton says. “With my background in chemistry, I’m used to being in the lab and creating concoctions. In 2008, I started having parties at my home and using them as case studies to see if my wine would appeal to my guests.” 

Whether you’re a major chain, a one-off restaurant in the burbs, or the trendy venture of a serial investor with a marquee chef whose name makes people nod appreciatively, you’ve got something to say. Right?

You’ve got a proprietary process, a new idea, a craveable flavor or some kind of differentiation from the restaurants just up the way. Let’s assume you have a general idea why people like you.

Now what? Time for ads? Social media promotions? Slick packaging, stylishly rough-hewn décor, maybe some coupons in the local shoved-it-in-your-mailbox jumble-pack amongst the muffler shops and carpet cleaners? Word-of-mouth, as if people are constantly talking about restaurants their friends should try (some people are)?

After getting their first taste of Limoncello five years ago in Italy, Tom Kiefer and Linda Losey left the country not only with some fine artwork for their walls at home, but with a dream of opening their own mini-distillery and a determination to replicate that recipe.  

“We got lost in Italy and happened to find this restaurant where the chef didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Italian,” Losey remembers. “We clicked using hand signals and pointing on the menu. It was a great time and they kept trying to get us to buy the artwork on the walls. After our third bottle of wine, he brought out the Limoncello… we left with two bottles of it and the artwork off the walls.” 

The hood fire suppression system may not be the last thing on a new restaurateur’s mind, but it’s likely close to it. However, a few decisions need to be made regarding the restaurant system — as it is often called in the fire protection business — that may determine how much it costs up front and into the future. Taking a look at how chain restaurants do things can help newcomers to the business understand why they may want to consider all of their fire protection options while developing their own recipe for success.

In the eyes of many restaurateurs, possessing a chain of restaurants is the ultimate prize. Even among those who prefer the individual pride of a single successful location, no one can deny that owners of restaurant chains succeed by developing a formula for growing their business and maximizing profits. For any chain, that formula is rooted in the dollars-and-cents plan that is laid out before each location opens. Part of that plan is developing the menu, which may be the same at every location, or may vary based on local taste. 

The top social platforms are going after video in a big way. In social media, it used to be all about the photos. For years, “images are king” was the prevailing content strategy for brands in social. 

Brands flooded the feeds of Facebook and Twitter with everything from carefully crafted micro-ad images to unpolished pics with minimal branding. They developed campaigns based around meme generators and user-generated photo contests. They devised image-heavy onslaughts of content on Tumblr, dipped a toe into the Instagram stream and marveled at the website traffic that could be generated by a smartly executed, yet deceivingly simple, Pinterest pin. 

And while brands have been huddled over a product shot, trying to make it look like a box of cereal just snapped a selfie, video content has been making its move in a big way.   

At an estimated 76 million strong and comprising of approximately 33 percent of the U.S. workforce, millennial workers are experiencing some less-than-desirable labels and stereotypes from their more senior counterparts. However, much of this hype may not necessarily be accurate and many of the issues cited may simply be “stage-of-life” issues versus characteristics indicative of this generation.  

Also referred to as generation Y or the net generation, the earliest cited year of birth for millennials is 1976 and the oldest is cited as 2004. It is certainly not uncommon for older generations to display less tolerance towards the younger generations during this “learning stage of life.”

Whether a franchisee or franchisor, when starting such a partnership both parties are generally committed to a long-term and fruitful business relationship. But while focusing on getting the business up and running, many give little thought to the backbone of the successful partnership: the franchise agreement. 

It is important to carefully review and discuss important legal isues up front that will set the tone for the business partnership. For starters, using vague and overly broad terms related to royalties and other fees leave an opening for a disagreement in the future. Royalties and other fees should be tied to narrowly defined revenue sources.

In traditional franchise arrangements, royalty payments and other fees are often based on a percentage of overall sales. Clearly define net sales or gross sales, and understand what sources of revenue are included in or excluded. Pay close attention to the franchise disclosure document and whether other franchisees are working with the same terms. 

You know those composite photos where they take a dozen or so pictures of people from a certain geography and use computers to blend all the faces together and what results is an “average face,” the neutral median face of that group? 

It almost always has an overall pleasant, somewhat bland look. Someone generically attractive, but not memorable or even identifiable – you’d have trouble spotting them in a crowd because all their distinguishing features have been removed. That’s what most restaurant marketing is like: generically positive and hard to remember.

Nothing Distinguishing

Guess which restaurant recently ran an ad with a voiceover that said: “At [name of restaurant], we’re bringing new things to the table, like new [name of product], part of our 575-calories-or-less lighter menu. Enjoy fresh tossed [while showing a salad], go fish [while showing a photo of some fish], and taste the lighter side of delicious. At [name of restaurant].” Generically positive. Pleasant. Hard to remember.

Ardent Mills literally drives innovation to its customers with the Mobile Innovation Center – a fully functional bakery, culinary kitchen and meeting space designed to deliver onsite culinary and R&D creativity.

The premier flour-milling and ingredient company offered an exclusive look into its Mobile Innovation Center before the National Restaurant Association Hotel-Motel Show began. Walking up to the Ardent Mills booth, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and breathe in the smell of freshly baked bread – which was then followed by a wide-eyed reaction to the giant trailer that was parked before me.

The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are here. In most years, summer is a great time for relaxing with a beach novel and enjoying a good action movie.  But “Summer 2015” feels different. It marks the mid-point in a year of unprecedented activism impacting the food and drink industry. Here are a handful of things to watch as the remainder of the year unfolds.


Every five years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly issue the latest iteration of the federal government’s formal guidance on healthy eating, the so-called “Nutrition Guidelines.”  The guidelines form the basis for federal food and nutrition programs and policies, including the School Lunch Program and the USDA MyPlate icon. 

One of the most anticipated four-day events of the year in the food and beverage industry was held in Chicago last month when industry leaders and world-renowned chefs came together for the annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) Hotel-Motel Show.

The NRA Show is one of the largest annual gatherings of restaurant, foodservice and lodging professionals, attracting more than 63,000 attendees and visitors from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The trade show showcases the latest products, services, innovative ideas, up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues, and more growth opportunities than any other event, the NRA says. 

More than 2,000 exhibitors were ready for face-to-face interaction to take home quality leads, increase brand awareness and make better connections. “Exhibitors get back to business with an average of $1.3 million in domestic sales and $1 million international sales as a result of exhibiting,” the NRA says. 

What does your food defense strategy entail? If your eyes just glazed over from this question, I dare to say you are not alone. Although it seems we have yet to develop a clear picture of what a food defense plan should look like, industry leaders are working together to figure it out.  

Tyco Integrated Security, a company specializing in electronic security products, installation and services, hosted the 6th Annual Food Defense Strategy Exchange (FDSE) last week in Chicago. The FDSE provides a platform for food and beverage security professionals, regulators and experts to focus exclusively on food defense issues.

For a majority of us, an “authentic” Italian meal includes a box of pasta, whatever sauce we are in the mood for and Parmesan cheese, which most likely originated in Wisconsin. What most people – myself included – don’t know is that various types of pasta work best and taste best with certain sauce combinations. For example, penne pairs perfectly with a classic pasta sauce made with young and “sweet” or mild Gorgonzola cheese from Lombardy, Italy.

But where do you get those ingredients? And, didn’t the cost of my dinner just jump from around $3 to how much? 

We buy “Italian-sounding” products, which are imitations that sound or look Italian, because they are easier to find and cheaper than authentic Italian products. 

Take any and all opportunities to ask 16-year-olds what they’re currently using in social media. Depending on their interests and taste, their answers will obviously vary, but the conversation will almost always jump-start your own thinking around social platforms and how they should and will be used. 

In this instance, the conversation will spur a whole article about a profoundly popular and influential platform that, for some reason, only sparingly comes up in conversations around brand marketing. 

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