67 episodes

A weekly podcast that feeds food and beverage brands with insights, ideas, trends, and anecdotes discussed with restaurant, hospitality, and beverage industry leaders.

Forktales Vigor

    • Business
    • 5.0 • 2 Ratings

A weekly podcast that feeds food and beverage brands with insights, ideas, trends, and anecdotes discussed with restaurant, hospitality, and beverage industry leaders.

    Troy Guard / Chef & Founder of TAG Restaurant Group

    Troy Guard / Chef & Founder of TAG Restaurant Group

    Troy was born in Hawaii. His family goes back five generations in Hawaii and was among some of the first missionaries to arrive on the islands. He started as a 14-year-old dishwasher in Maui and eventually worked his way up to a sous chef working with his mentor, Chef Roy Yamaguchi.

    Hawaiian culture emphasizes “ohana” which means family. Troy has worked hard to embrace that same family atmosphere in his restaurants.

    It’s difficult to maintain a restaurant culture as a restaurant grows. Owners often find themselves having to choose between managers who are a good cultural fit but underperform as managers or vice versa.

    Taking care of guests is critical and is the foundation of any restaurant’s success.

    Troy’s vision for TAG Restaurant Group changed during COVID. His new steak restaurant in Houston opened three months before COVID and struggled in 2020 and 2021, but rebounded in 2022 to become a successful location today.


    “(When it comes to ingredients), I was taught early on working in California, Hawaii, New York and Hong Kong that you utilize what you can from where you’re from.” (Troy)

    “Authentic and real. I think everyone can see when something is genuine. We try to hire people who are genuinely hospitable. Even if they don’t know how to cook but they have a good attitude and want to, we like those types of people.” (Troy)

    “The days of people staying for 10 plus years are probably long gone.” (Troy)

    “Pay is, of course, one factor, but it’s not THE factor.” (Joseph)

    “Our core values are passion, imagination, courage, caring, humility, harmony and ownership. That’s what I want to see in people. I want to give them ownership to do what they think is best.” (Troy)

    “It’s really tough to foster a culture when you spread out (to multiple locations).” (Joseph)

    “Two weeks in (at my first restaurant), we were $40,000 in the hole. My investors said if you don’t change we’ll have to close. The second month we lost $20,000. The third we broke even. And the fourth – I swear to God – we made $40,000. We made an $80,000 swing in four months by just focusing and working together. ” (Troy)

    “Marketing can get people to visit once. It’s the restaurant’s job to get them to come back.” (Joseph)
    Everyone today I'm joined by chef troy guard from tag restaurant group which you're going to learn all about if you're not already familiar. Um Troy say hello give a little bit of backstory.

    Chef Troy Guard
    good morning good afternoon good evening whatever time we're listening to here. It's March Seventeenth St Patrick's day and I'm just chilling in my marketing's ah my marketers' room right now. So talking to Joseph in the. Excited to be on board. Thanks for having me.

    Awesome! Well Troy so you grew up in Hawaii um, which it's islands that I absolutely love and now you find yourself imp possibly the complete opposite. You're a mile up in the air in Denver.

    Chef Troy Guard
    Um, you know.

    Um, what led you to Denver from Hawaii and and how have those roots from the islands influenced your cooking and your outlook on life.

    Chef Troy Guard
    Yeah, thank you so yup board on the islands we're 5 generations of being in Hawaii even though we're white where you know some of the first missionaries to come over there which is kind of cool. Um, great stories back there. Um I left when I was. You know, 21 and just kind of just went all over the place and it's funny now that you just said that that I never even kind of realized I knew I traded the ocean for the mountains but being at sea level and then a mile up. That's pretty crazy and it's the first first place. Anywhere in my life that I was landlocked I've always lived by an ocean. So I've been here 21 years now so the last twenty one years no ocean but it's kind of cool I get to go on vacation to the ocean. So ah, I'm a

    • 35 min
    Sterling Douglass / Co-founder & CEO of Chowly

    Sterling Douglass / Co-founder & CEO of Chowly

    Chowly is a cloud-based solution that helps restaurants of all sizes integrate third-party online ordering systems into point-of-sale (POS) systems to manage orders, payments, billing, and more.The end result is a technology that saves restaurants time and money.

    Earlier this year, Chowly launched its Restaurant Control Center, which serves as a centralized hub for integrations and empowers restaurants with consolidated data and business insights.

    Sterling found that a lot of online ordering systems had great consumer experiences or great operations and back-end experiences for restaurants, but not both. Chowly’s acquisition of Koala allowed them to offer superior experiences to both consumers and restaurants.

    Sterling predicts that dynamic pricing will take off in 2023, with companies like Sauce, Pricing and Juicer leading the way.

    Apps need to provide an intrinsic value. They can’t just be used to check a box.

    Dynamic pricing will be a shaky system at first, but after 18-24 months, it will have found its footing and be widely accepted by consumers.


    “Co-opetition is wild in the restaurant space. The amount of overlap of features from point-of-sale to online ordering companies to loyalty systems to marketing systems – everyone’s got overlap of features.” (Sterling)

    “I feel like the restaurant industry is going through a bundling cycle right now. It’s not uncommon to see industries go through bundling and unbundling cycles.” (Sterling)

    “The consolidation has to make sense. It has to pair well together. Consolidation for consolidation’s sake isn’t helpful to anyone.” (Sterling)

    “The first question to ask is, ‘Do I need another app on my phone?’ I’m at the point now where the only time an app really matters is if it’s completely built with the customer in mind.” (Joseph)

    “Half of the restaurant industry is small operators and independents. We don’t have the same big-player mentality (as the travel industry).” (Sterling)

    “You can’t commoditize a really great burger. The airlines are very much commoditized. The experiences are very similar. In a restaurant, they’re completely different.” (Sterling)

    “As digital threatens the viability of restaurant dining rooms, the question becomes, ‘What makes my dining room worth sitting in?’” (Joseph)

    “Restaurants need to meet consumers where they are. I don’t think on-premise is going away, no matter how much I love the convenience of getting my food delivered to me.” (Sterling)
    Hey guys today I'm joined by my new friend sterling Douglas he's the co-founder and Ceo of Chali which we're gonna dive into a lot so many things happening over there and just so you know we've been chatting for about 10 minutes on all things. So I think it's gonna be great episode. Ah. Sterling say hello and give up a backstory.

    Sterling _Chowly_
    Hey Joseph thanks for having me on I'm excited to kind of dive into a bunch of these topics that we were getting into yeah cofounder Ceo Chali where digital platform that enables restaurants to expand their off-prem capabilities before. Chaey I used to be an actuary deep into data analytics and just found that data really wasn't moving cleanly between restaurants and you know that really prompted kind of the founding for chaey so that we could take data from you know uber eats grubhubs of the world and help restaurants kind of adopt this new technology without. You know the operational headaches that a lot of them break.

    Yeah,, that's Amazing. So Let's actually just dig right into that founding a little bit. Um, suffice to say online ordering and the tech that you got into there's a lot of players out there. So what. Really prompted because it seems like a big risk right? It's like I'm going to launch another online ordering platform you're going into a C of a lot of varying degrees of competition from the old guard to the

    • 35 min
    David Jones / President of the Excellence Advisory coach of winning restaurants

    David Jones / President of the Excellence Advisory coach of winning restaurants

    David is a performance excellence coach focused on teaching, consulting and executive coaching for small to medium sized businesses, including many restaurants.

    David spent six years as a business/excellence coach for Pal’s Excellence Institute. Pal’s – or Pal’s Suddenly Service – is a drive-through only 31-location restaurant chain located in northeast Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. The restaurant is known for its speed, hospitality, cleanliness and people.

    Pal’s relies heavily on word-of-mouth marketing. That word-of-mouth allows Pal’s to spend roughly half as much on marketing as some of its similar competitors.

    According to David, COVID gave restaurants a second chance to make a first impression. Restaurants that were struggling before the pandemic were struggling after the pandemic, pointing to an internal flaw that contributes to that struggle.

    Some restaurants used the pandemic as a chance to reset and improve themselves to make a second first impression and win over new customers after the pandemic ended.
    “What we see now is a lot of sculptures and spokescharacters have been discontinued. Architecturally speaking, we’re getting modern boxes that don’t have much life.” (Joseph)

    “If you look at the new (restaurant) designs, they’re all basically the same. You really want to stand out in a sea of sameness.” (David)

    “How often in life do you get a second chance to make a first impression? If customers are coming back (after the pandemic), we have a chance to win them over and leave all that past behind.” (David)

    “If people aren’t buying it, it’s because they don’t want it.” (Joseph)

    “If you think about a restaurant and what it does, it’s really a manufacturing operation. You’re manufacturing food in real time for a specific order based on your menu.” (David)

    “Systems are one thing, but activating them tends to be where the rubber meets the road and where most people hit the road.” (Joseph)

    “Twenty percent of the effort is putting a system in place and 80% of the effort is sustaining it. You have to make it a habit. You have to change in a way that it’s harder to go back than it is to go forward.” (David)
    Everyone today I'm joined by my friend David Jones he's the president of a company called the excellence advisory which we'll get into in a little bit. Um, but before we do David why don't you say hello and give a little bit of backstory.

    David M_ Jones
    Well hello joseph and thanks for having me on today I considered a personal and professional honor to be here with you speaking to your audience and I'm actually an engineer by training 25 years in corporate America and then I had the great blessing and ability to work with. Pals through their business excellence institute which I hope we get to talk about and did that for 7 years and ah and today I do teaching consulting and coaching executive coaching for small to medium sized businesses including a lot of restaurants.

    That's awesome. Yeah, so pals is um, essentially what prompted our connection on Linkedin. Um, and honestly it's a concept I had never heard of they're they're not here in Georgia or in Central Pennsylvania so I just never come across them. But what really grabbed my attention and prompted our discussion was. Um, pal's sudden service is what it's called has these amazing huge sculptures on their buildings sculptures of their food like hamburgers and drinks and all kinds of things and this just struck me as such an amazing thing. Um. Before we get into why they're doing that can you give us just a little bit of a rundown about what pals is all about.

    David M_ Jones
    Oh absolutely. Yeah, it's so it's a drive through only 31 unit chain in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia they are known for their speed their hospitality, their service, their cleanliness, their value. And they're people. They're a

    • 34 min
    Meredith Sandland / CEO of Empower Delivery & Digital Restaurant Dynamo

    Meredith Sandland / CEO of Empower Delivery & Digital Restaurant Dynamo

    Meredith is the CEO of Empower Delivery. The company’s software combines the consumer journey, the product journey, and the logistics journey into one integrated piece of software. The software enables all restaurants to profitably and sustainably serve the growing consumer demand for delivered meals.

    Meredith is also the co-author of “Delivering the Digital Restaurant,” a book that explores the world of off-premise food and the massive disruption facing American restaurants through first-hand accounts of restaurateurs, food industry veterans and start-up entrepreneurs.

    Many restaurants face complexity in the number of tools and apps they use to manage their day-to-day operations.

    The restaurant industry is showing unprecedented levels of technological innovation – particularly when it comes to ordering – which makes third-party apps and aggregators important for streamlining incoming orders.

    Innovation is also being seen in restaurant loyalty programs, which have come a long way since the Subway punch cards of the past.


    “A lot of restaurant brands were forced into adopting delivery (during the pandemic) when maybe they otherwise didn’t want to.” (Meredith)

    “For operations, it’s really about eliminating complexity. There are so many channels and consumers are coming in so many different ways that it creates complexity. As you eliminate complexity, you will find that you have better financial outcomes.” (Meredith)

    “Every facet of the restaurant industry is being revolutionized by technology.” (Joseph)

    “Not every server can be the best, but technology can take the elements of that best server and make them consistent across every server. Technology used well in that setting should make the experience better.” (Meredith)

    “The restaurant industry is one of the only industries where all five senses are engaged.” (Joseph)

    “A really sophisticated digital restaurant is using 15-20 pieces of software.” (Meredith)
    Everyone today I'm joined by my friend Meredith Sandlin she's the Ceo of empowered delivery and the co-author of delivering the digital restaurant if you are on Linkedin Chances are you have seen her or heard from her because she is out there rocking it. In the media talking about digital or delivery digital. All that stuff. So Marilyn before we hop in while you say hello and give a little bit of backstory.

    Hi there. Well so good to be on the show. Um I've been listening and it is such a good podcast. So I'm excited to be part of it. Um, so yeah, my name is Meredith Sandland and I am the Ceo of empower delivery as well as the co-author of. Delivering the digital restaurant. Ah, your roadmap to the future of food and also the forthcoming delivering the digital restaurant the path to digital maturity which will be out in a couple of weeks here maybe by the time this podcast hears I don't know we'll find out.

    Dad's awesome if it is. We'll definitely have a link to it or at the very least have a link to pre-order I'm excited to get my hands on it. Um, you probably can't really see it folks but right back here and on my bookshelf is the book and so um I'm excited to read the new one. Um.

    Um, if you think awesome.

    So delivery. It's acing it is just like a really big challenge for restaurant brands large and small. So I think before the pandemic a lot were sort of adverse to it because they didn't really see the value. Ah their format wasn't set up for delivery so on and so forth all all the excuses and then um.

    Move on this.

    One day we won't mention the pandemic in these things but it's still we're still in the after effects and what we know is it sort of slingshot at everyone to have to adopt immediately. Um, but it has become a begrudging necessity for a lot of restaurant leaders. Um.


    • 39 min
    Zach Anderson / Brand Partner at Seasoned.co & Restaurant Talent Rainmaker

    Zach Anderson / Brand Partner at Seasoned.co & Restaurant Talent Rainmaker

    Seasoned is the only social community exclusively for service industry workers. The app allows hospitality workers to connect and share insights and experiences. It’s also a job listing resource that connects restaurants looking for staff members with potential employees looking for work.

    Traditional hiring websites aren’t well suited for hourly jobs and careers in the hospitality industry. Seasoned solves that.

    When it comes to hiring, the hospitality industry faces challenges from other hourly sectors, which often offer jobs that are less stressful than restaurant work.

    It’s essential for restaurants to focus on the benefits that they can provide to their employees in order to attract and retain quality workers.

    Centralized ownership, not franchise ownership, often does a better job of creating a successful HR and hiring model.


    “The pandemic had a historic impact. It slingshotted all of us past the laziness and apprehension and forced us to change and one big change is the labor market.” (Joseph)

    “If you look at the actual things that you gain from working in a restaurant, there’s an incredible number of attractive qualities that you gain from working in a restaurant. The skills that you build in a restaurant are going to help you wherever you go.” (Zach)

    “I was a busser for six months, and to this day whenever I have a bad day I think to myself, ‘At least I’m not bussing tables.’” (Joseph)

    “With younger workers, what you’re hiring for is attitude, reliability and coachability. You can teach anyone to do the job within the restaurant, but having those attributes [...] you can teach anyone to be great.” (Zach)

    “Instead of ‘You work for us,’ it’s ‘We work for you.’ That shift is really impactful (when hiring and retaining talent).” (Zach)
    Everyone today I'm joined by my friend Zach Anderson he's brand partner at seasoned a system that we're going to dive into here in a bit but before we do Zach say hello give a little bit of backstory on yourself.

    Zach Anderson
    Thanks Joseph hi next meet everyone. My name's Zach Anderson my like Joseph mentioned I'm a brand partner over it seasoned I've been in the restaurant space for about 15 years across a mix of both operations as well as on the vendor and supplier side working in. Various capacities across things like ad media to voice ai kiosk hardware and most recently I've been over here at season working on our mission to help bring the service industry together by offering a community-based product for restaurant workers to engage each other and find great jobs.

    That's amazing. Yeah I'm really excited to pry in I'm I'm kind of holding myself back because we will get to it but I do want to talk about the the big l word right now which is the labor issues that we're challenged with in the industry. Um, from my point of view. It's kind of a long time coming. Um, anybody that thought we you know restaurants could continue to operate the the way that they had for as long as they have just really was blinding themselves in a lot of ways. So I'm going to use the pw word now I'm getting sick of saying it. But since the pandemic you know the pandemic had this historic impact I think it's slingshot at all of us. Ah. Past the laziness or apprehension and just forced us to change and 1 big change is the labor market not just the availability of people but the people willingness to work the work ethic and the passion for the industry that used to be there. Um. And and it's persisted so. It's not going away behaviors have successfully changed I would say so what do you think is leading this to be permanent. Um, and how do we start to chip away at rethinking the employee experience for restaurant brands.

    Zach Anderson
    Certainly the the recovery from where we were at from staffing hasn't hit to where we were um, we're still probably somewhere between I thi

    • 33 min
    Zach Goldstein / CEO of Thanx, loyalty leader and restaurant money-maker

    Zach Goldstein / CEO of Thanx, loyalty leader and restaurant money-maker

    Thanx is a leading loyalty and guest engagement platform for restaurants. The company, founded by Zach Goldstein in 2011, helps businesses embrace digital purchasing, capture greater customer data, and take action on that information to personalize guest engagement.

    Restaurants can take a page from the Delta playbook – which includes the potential for free first class upgrades (a perk that costs nothing to Delta) – including the use of secret menu items.

    Loyalty programs should not be dependent upon an app because most consumers won’t download the app. Instead, the loyalty program should be embedded in the web ordering experience. The app is still useful, as users of a restaurant’s app have high lifetime value.

    Consumers respond to non-discount offers quite effectively. For example, a restaurant can offer loyal customers a VIP experience that allows those customers to try new menu items (along with a non-VIP friend) before the items are available publicly.

    The entry point into a loyalty program shouldn’t be by downloading an app. What Thanx does is builds the loyalty enrollment into the digital ordering experience because 70% of online ordering comes via the restaurant’s website, not via an app.


    “The playbook is pretty simple. You need to own the relationship with your customer, because if you sacrifice that to the third party, then you have no control over their lifetime value.” (Zach)

    “Loyalty is no longer about just rote rewards programs and discounts and more around personalization. That really matters, because as you deliver more personalization, you become less dependent on discounts as your loyalty mechanism and can still be effective.” (Zach)

    “Can you imagine what McDonald’s top one percent customers would do if they had year round McRibs? That’s the type of thing people care about.” (Zach)

    “There are a lot of restaurant leaders who have been convinced that the app is the answer. It’s actually not the answer. It’s one answer to a bigger need.” (Joseph)

    “Data is king. At the end of the day, you have to have data. And there’s no other way in the restaurant business to capture that data unless you have a loyalty program.” (Zach)

    “It’s really hard to drive repeat purchasing if you don’t know who your best customers are. That’s the value of data. It’s a risk to not have it and it’s an opportunity when you have it.” (Zach)
    Everyone today I am joineded by my friend Zach Goldstein he is the Ceo and founder of thanks a system that we are going to dig into but we're going to talk about a lot of other things today too before we do Zach say hello give a little bit of backstory.

    Zach Goldstein
    Yeah, pleasure. Really happy to be with you. My background started before thanks and working with restaurants and retailers to to really build customer lifetime value and that has become a passion of mine. Ah, That's really what thanks does targeted at Restaurants. How do we help them identify where their best customers are and make more of their customers. Those best customers.

    I Love it. So a few years ago you you penned an article and I think this this is what really struck me and um, you know serves as a basis for the episode a little bit but that article is called the 4 horsemen of the restaurant apocalypse which of course is a very doom gloom. It's very like whoa. Um, what does that mean and I think the article centers on taking some lessons from the travel industry and the effect that online travel agencies otas for short had on evolving our experiences as travelers. Um. 1 of those big influences that the ots had was I think it shifted the industry into a pricing game. It made it a commodity Essentially so restaurant leaders now are talking about what you kind of reference here which is taking queues like dynamic pricing. For instance, how do you think. Dynamic pricing can actually benefit t

    • 38 min

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Loved the first episode of this new podcast that has the right mix of quick wit, storytelling, food & bev passion and a few nuggets of wisdom to take with you. Can’t wait to hear/watch more!

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