“Menu Feed” is a biweekly podcast brought to you by Restaurant Business and FoodService Director.
How 2 cousins from Maine turned the rest of the country on to lobster rolls
Sabin Lomac and Jim Tselikis, actual cousins from Maine who founded Cousins Maine Lobster, started with one truck, a simple menu and a commitment to source the best-tasting, best-quality Maine lobster for their lobster rolls.
That caught the attention of Barbara Corcoran when the pair pitched the concept on Shark Tank. She invested and mentored the partners, and 10 years later, Cousins Maine Lobster has close to 50 locations, including nine brick-and-mortar restaurants and an enthusiastic team of franchisees who are driving growth.
Listen as the pair discuss why lobster prices have skyrocketed, the importance of keeping the menu limited to what they do best, how they spread the Maine spirit to both franchisees and customers and how they strive to be the name and face of Maine lobster as they grow.
How Marc Forgione continues to grow his culinary legacy and restaurant cred
Marc Forgione was born into a restaurant family, but he wasn’t trained from birth to be a chef, he says.
He worked at An American Place, the restaurant founded by his father Larry Forgione, from the age of 16, but it wasn’t until he cooked big dinners for his college friends that he changed his career path from psychiatry to hospitality.
Next steps included backpacking in Europe, stints in France’s restaurant kitchens and executing the menus for several BLT concepts. He opened his first place, the Michelin-starred Restaurant Marc Forgione, in New York City in 2008 and became the owner of Peasant right before the pandemic. Peasant is a cozy neighborhood restaurant with an Italian-forward menu where most everything is cooked in a wood-burning hearth.
Listen as Forgione talks about his culinary journey, why he believes in karma, how post-pandemic customers are kinder and gentler, and how and he and his dad plan to open an Italian tapas concept in a prime New York City space vacated by Mario Batali.
How Sam Polk is making healthy meals accessible and affordable in food deserts across the U.S.
Sam Polk, founder and CEO of Everytable, launched the social enterprise grab-and-go concept in Los Angeles in 2015. His goal was to provide healthy, affordable meals in neighborhoods that are often classified as food deserts.
The chef-inspired food is prepared at a central commissary to keep pricing low and is delivered to Everytable store locations, refrigerated vending machines and directly to consumers. The customer base includes more affluent diners, too, and Polk follows a variable pricing model, charging according to zip code. But the menu of salads, wraps and warm bowls, which includes best-sellers like Jamaican jerk chicken with coconut rice and salmon adobo, resonates across all locales, he says.
How Steve Sturm puts the wood-fired grill front and center
Steve Sturm is senior VP of food and beverage and executive chef of the 55-unit Firebirds Wood-Fired Grill. The namesake wood-fired grill is the focal point of the menu at the polished casual chain, not only for items like shrimp, salmon, beef tenderloin, chicken, blistered vegetables and tuna, but for cocktails that feature charred pineapple and chilies.
Chef Sturm is currently working on revamping the bar food menu, adding more small plates and shareables that deliver a big flavor punch and fit the way people want to dine today. That menu will launch in the fall. He’s also introducing more interactive tableside items, as guests today are looking for dining experiences—not just a straightforward dinner menu.
Listen as he describes how he likes to get in the kitchen and “play” and how he and his team of 150 chefs continue to innovate the Firebirds menu.
Checking in on mid-year menu trends with Technomic’s Lizzy Freier
Menu analyst Lizzy Freier, director of menu research & insights at Technomic, keeps a close watch on food and drink trends at the Top 500 restaurant chains.
During her recent presentation at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, she recapped the novel trends that are shaping menus as we move into the second half of 2022. Based on Technomic data, four Ps define the current state of menu innovation: Pivots, Preparations, Proteins & Plants, and Personalization.
How DIG on 4th merges fast casual and full service into a welcoming all-day cafe
Matt Weingarten believes in the power of community and of shared meals around the table. As head chef of 30-location DIG, that was his driving force when creating the menu for the brand’s new all-day cafe, DIG on 4th, where guests are encouraged to linger.
Along with the plant-forward, customizable bowls from the original concept, this new fast-casual/full-service hybrid offers all-day happy hour, shareable sheet tray dinners, sandwiches made with local ingredients on housemade focaccia and seasonal market-driven plates.
Weingarten also believes in the power of teaching people to cook and paying the kitchen team a respectable wage. Listen as he shares how he marries this high-touch approach with the latest technology, and why DIG on 4th, which opened just this week, is a restaurant model destined for expansion.