The Bloody Mary was always one of the most difficult cocktails for the restaurant and bar industry because consistency in taste was difficult to achieve and it was time-consuming to make. That all changed in 1996, when Zing Zang founder Richard Krohn bottled his signature Bloody Mary recipe and began distributing it throughout the country. 

“We had a sale because of the taste,” National Sales Manager T.M. Ashcraft says. “I have been in the restaurant business all my life and we had used mixes prior to Zing Zang, but you always had to add things. With Zing Zang all you need is ice, vodka and a paying customer.” Zing Zang was formally introduced in 1997 at the National Restaurant Association’s annual show in Chicago. One year later, the Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix took first place in a blind Bloody Mary tasting at the Fiery Food Challenge in Albuquerque, N.M.

Today, the Zing Zang team of seven sells its nine drink mixes in 50 states and Canada. The product is used in the finest restaurants, bars and country clubs. It can also be found on the shelves at local liquor and grocery stores. “Since its inception, the growth curve has been amazing,” Krohn’s son and Zing Zang President John Krohn says. “Every year the company has been growing approximately 20 percent on average. The goal and the vision are to keep the company on a similar growth curve and try to introduce Zing Zang to as many people as possible.”

After enjoying sustained success in Canada, Wok Box fresh asian kitchen is now expanding south of the border into the United States and other international sites.

“We focus our brand on offering something that is just not really out there in the current market,” CEO Lawrence Eade says. “It’s healthy and quickly prepared with high-quality ingredients. There is low sodium and gluten-free options, and vegan and vegetarian items are part of the main menu mix.” 

The premium fast-casual Asian concept started in Edmonton in 2004 and has since grown to 60 locations and growing daily. It started in western Canada, then expanded into eastern Canada, followed by international expansion into the United States as well as Qatar and Lebanon. 

Wok Box’s Asian palette includes flavors and spices inspired by countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, Korea, China, Japan, India, Cambodia and Vietnam. Food is prepared for customers in three to five minutes without table service. Restaurants are typically  1,500 to 1,800 square feet in size.

Experience matters in the restaurant industry. Led by President Frank Westermajer and his 30 years of restaurant experience, Westar has grown over the past seven years by providing an experience and environment that keeps customers coming back.

Westar consists of Westar Foods Inc., West Partners Inc. and Café Foods Inc.  In addition to Westermajer, leading the company are business partners Steven Barrett, Ronald Damiana and Wayne Glasser. The organization was founded in 2007, investing in a number of Hardee’s franchises at a time when Hardee’s was looking for franchisees to take on some corporate-owned locations. 

“At the time, I was a regional vice president with Hardee’s and thought it would be a good time to get into the franchising side of the business,” Westermajer says. “We started with 18 stores that ranged in size from 3,000 to 3,500 square feet.”

Westar has grown to own and operate 33 Hardee’s franchised restaurants throughout Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois. The company has taken advantage of the strength of the Hardee’s brand while also ensuring its locations offer the best experience and amenities possible. 

Our restaurants are about passion,” says Tony Vallone, one of the top restaurateurs in the U.S. today and one of the leading authorities on fine dining. “Whether it’s my flagship Tony’s, my casual Italian restaurant Ciao Bello, or my newly opened Vallone’s, my focus is on quality ingredients, attention to detail and a creative dining experience for my guests.

“Many restaurants today are chef-driven or ingredient-driven,” he says. “My restaurants are guest-driven.”

As Houston has grown to be America’s third-largest city and one of the country’s centers for the arts, its restaurant scene has flourished. “Between the energy and medical industries,” Vallone says, “there is more growth and business opportunity here than ever before. Our guests are highly sophisticated diners and travelers who know great cuisine and service.”

Tony Vallone is the man who “virtually defined fine dining” in Houston, as a Houston Chronicle restaurant critic put it. He introduced authentic Italian cuisine to Houston at a time when Americans had an entirely different perception of Italian food. With nearly 50 years in the business, he has cooked for seven sitting presidents and a who’s-who list of international celebrities and business leaders. “When I opened my first restaurant,” Vallone says, “I used to have to go down to the bait shops to find calamari. No one was using it for cooking.”

Michael Pruitt started busing tables in the restaurant industry when he was 14. After studying hospitality management at Kendall College and culinary arts at the College of Lake County, he opened his bar and restaurant concept called The Vine - Martini & Wine Bar in September 2006. “From the time I was 14 until I opened the doors of The Vine when I was 22, I had eight years of hands-on experience where I had to learn a lot on my own,” says Pruitt.

Despite his education and experience, he concedes it was daunting when he pitched his concept to potential investors. “Originally, I approached my parents to be partners,” Pruitt recalls. “They were skeptical, having their 21-year-old say, ‘I want to open a bar.’ That’s not a conversation you want to have with them. They were good about it.”

Chef and experienced spice blender Philip Abbott always thought his dream was to open his own restaurant. That aspiration changed in November 2001, however, when he stepped out of the kitchen to open Terra Spice Co. 

“You have a vision you head towards and the vision I realized was not a restaurant – it was a spice company,” Abbott says. Terra Spice – a producer of original and custom blend spices – opened in January 2002 to satisfy a niche market in restaurants that Abbott felt was overlooked. Chefs spend hours finding the best produce and meats for dishes in their restaurants, so Abbott tried to fill a niche by providing top-of-the-line spices and blends with Terra Spice, he says. 

Terra Spice stocks and sells only the cleanest and most natural products available, catering to culinary professionals around the world. Products are packaged to order and are available in restaurant containers, bulk, case sizes and retail packaging. “We want to continue to blend the same way we do now,” Abbott says. “We want to maintain that feel of a small company and really focus on the integrity of products.” 

Candy and dessert enthusiasts throughout the United States have more than likely eaten products that were packaged or distributed by Tarrier Foods Corp. - though they probably don’t know it. “We’re probably one of the biggest companies no one has ever heard of, and that’s intentional,” says Chuck Ziegler, general manager of the Columbus, Ohio-based company. “We fly under the radar; we’re not in this business for our own glorification, we do this to help other people, which in turn helps us.”

Tarrier Foods has steadily grown its business and capabilities since Ann Tarrier and her son Tim established it in 1978 as a snack mix packager. The company today specializes in chopping, packaging and distributing candies, trail mixes, salad toppings, ice cream toppings and inclusions, roasted nuts and granola products. “You can’t pigeonhole us as being just one type of company – we do different things, and that’s what makes us successful,” Ziegler says.

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