Business Bites Resources: Best Practices for Building Client Relations

Jacques Torres, Ron Ben-Israel and Jurgen DavidThe age old saying remains true—the customer really is always right. The success of your business relies on good customer experience. So, what does it take to make your clients happy? During our Pastry Plus conference this spring, Jacques Torres—ICC Dean of Pastry Arts, and Ron Ben-Israel—ICC Guest Master Pastry Chef, shared their experiences running some of the most successful businesses in pastry today. From custom designed wedding cakes to innovating new chocolate product lines, these chefs understand the importance of building client relations for continued business.

Their first tip for food business owners—start fostering long, healthy relationships from the moment your customers walk through the door. In this article, we share these experts best practices for building client relations to last a lifetime!

Listen To Your Customers

jacques torresInspiration for new products can come from even the littlest customers. This is the truth for one of Jacques Torres Chocolate’s most popular products, chocolate covered cheerios. One day, while at his shop, Jacques Torres noticed parents in the store giving their children Cheerios since it was all they would eat. That week, he went to the grocery store and bought a giant box of Cheerios to cover in chocolate (after all, he is “Mr. Chocolate!”).

Not thinking anything of it, he put a bowl of them out for customers to try. People would politely take one, then come back and take handfuls of the chocolate covered cereal to go. He knew he had a hit and had to act upon it.

Looking back on it now, he shares that, “In your career, you’re going to want to do things that you want to do, and there’s nothing wrong with that…But, after-all, your customers will be the one eating your products.”

Accept the Blame

ron ben israelIt’s easy to think that—especially in the custom cake business—your customers will only be one time purchasers that you won’t see again. But, it’s important to remember that everyone can become a repeat customer. That’s why when a recent Mother of the Bride complained that the wedding cake for her daughter was incorrect, Ron Ben-Israel found a way to fix the situation immediately.

After much investigation, he found out that the wedding cake sent to the venue was indeed the correct cake. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. However, instead of telling the mother that he was correct, he accepted responsibility for the situation and sent a personalized cake to the client. By going the extra mile to right the circumstances, the unhappy client became a repeat customer. Now, he is creating custom cakes for their whole family!

Respond To Feedback

panelistsIn this day and age, you can’t hide from a bad review or comment. Whether it’s a Yelp or Google review, a comment on Instagram or a direct message on Twitter, entrepreneurs are constantly receiving feedback—both good and bad about their businesses. Almost 20 years ago when Torres started his chocolate business, this wasn’t the case. He would receive feedback from his customers in person, without the potential of it escalating on social media.

Now that his business has grown to over 100 employees, it would be easy for Torres to ignore customer’s complaints and let someone on his team handle it. But, to this day, Torres still calls his customers personally to address concerns and find solutions that make them feel heard. Ultimately, what makes his business stand out is the way he works with his customers to provide a personalized experience—one that foster’s customer loyalty.

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

panelists

Understanding Your Business Foodprint

This month, in celebration of Earth Day in April, and as a part of our Understanding Your ‘Foodprint’ series, our latest installment of Business Bites: Reaping the Benefits of Going Green discussed ethical choices to reduce your bottom line, while positively impacting the environment, with a panel of experts from chefs and restaurateurs to CEO’s of environmental organizations and consultants for food business owners.

Below, check out what we learned from our panelists about taking the steps to change your business practices to become more sustainable, and move towards a zero waste model!

LEARN FROM OTHERS

Our moderator Alek Marfisi, Owner of Upwind Strategies and instructor in ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program, was joined by Christina Mitchell Grace, CEO of Foodprint Group; John Oppermann, Executive Director of Earth Day Initiative; Naama Tamir, Co-Founder of Lighthouse Lighthouse Outpost; and Michael Chernow, Co-Founder of The Meatball Shop & Founder of Seamore’s. While their respective businesses interact with sustainable practices on varying levels, they are all passionately advocating for others in the food industry to make choices that will lessen our impact on the environment. Not only did our audience learn a lot from our panelists, but the panelists shared many helpful tips with each other, furthering the idea that a supportive community is important to fostering change.

TACKLE ONE THING

In today’s world, sustainability should be a driving factor for businesses. The word itself is defined by the avoidance of resource depletion in order to maintain an ecological balance. It is essentially what business owners should be doing every day. But often times, business owners are overwhelmed by the idea of just running their business, let alone trying to minimize their environmental impact. So our main piece of advice for getting started, just do one thing first!

Waste Diversion

Naama, whose restaurant Lighthouse Brooklyn is focused on sustainability in every aspect, created a waste system with multiple different streams. By diverting the streams to the appropriate places, like composting and creating bio-diesel with the organic waste or donating oyster shells to the Billion Oyster Project, her restaurant can make a significant impact on what ends up in landfills. Her restaurant even takes it a step further by partnering with companies to use empty wine bottles for candles and uses the corks to make tops for food jars. Lighthouse Brooklyn is a great example of how everything can serve multiple purposes and that it is possible to become zero waste in the food space.

Organize Your Space & Educate Your Team

While becoming a zero waste restaurant or food business is completely doable, it can be challenging to get there without the right tools—that’s where Christina Mitchell Grace comes in. Her company, Food Print Group, helps food and hospitality organizations design zero waste into their buildings, kitchens and front of house processes. Becoming zero waste starts from the beginning of the source, so by creating an efficient kitchen and work space, training your staff and educating your customers, it will automatically become simpler to divert waste from landfills and source separate your organics from trash.

Use Sustainably Sourced Ingredients

Others, like Michael Chernow, tackle sustainability through ingredient sourcing. The fish at his restaurant Seamore’s is 100% sustainable, sourced as close to home as possible and offered at an accessible price point. Seamore’s whole philosophy is founded on the idea introducing underutilized, undervalued local species of fish to their customers in healthy and tasty ways. By doing so, they’re working to protect our oceans from becoming depleted and educating others to keep our oceans healthy for future generations.

If seafood is not a key focus of your menu, focusing on local ingredients can be. By using ingredients that don’t have to travel far, it can cut carbon footprints by reducing long-distance transportation and will put your dollars into your local economy.

Advocate With Your Dollars

To bring the conversation together, John Oppermann discussed how Earth Day Initiative educates businesses on energy efficiency and building brand awareness around your sustainability practices. While it may be too costly to install solar panels, or even unrealistic if your building doesn’t allow it, you can actually purchase renewable energy through regular energy providers. By voting with your dollars, you’re letting your local city officials know that clean energy is important and making your voice heard in a simple way.

THE ULTIMATE GOAL: ZERO WASTE

There are big questions that need to be addressed to strategize for a future that minimizes, or hopefully eliminates, the 24,000 tons of wasted materials produced in NYC each day. Questions like, “what if every building had a compost program,” or “what if all single use coffee cups were replaced with reusable mugs?” But, one of the first steps that businesses can take to reduce this massive amount of waste is to assess opportunities for waste reduction through source separation. A surprising amount of “trash” is actually organic waste that can be composted or recycled, which will eventually get you to the ultimate zero waste goal. Taking an audit of your waste will help you identify this.

Even though zero waste is the ultimate goal, there are smaller practices that you can put into place to help you integrate sustainability into your business. Practices like buying local, using the entire ingredient, and buying in bulk are simple changes that can be made quickly. If you want even more resources to go green, check out our Business Bites Resources article here.

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Business Bites Resources: 4 Ways To Bring Sustainability To Your Kitchen

In celebration of Earth Day this month, and as a part of our Understanding Your ‘Foodprint’ series, our latest installment of Business Bites: Reaping the Benefits of Going Green discussed the economic rewards of making ethical & sustainable choices for your restaurant or food business.

In a passionate discussion led by moderator Alek Marfisi (Owner of Upwind Strategies & ICC Culinary Entrepreneurship instructor), panelists Christina Mitchell Grace (CEO of Foodprint Group), John Oppermann (Executive Director of Earth Day Initiative), Naama Tamir (Co-Founder of Lighthouse Lighthouse Outpost), and Michael Chernow (Co-Founder of The Meatball Shop & Founder of Seamore’s) shared their experiences running, or working with, restaurants & food businesses promoting sustainable, zero waste practices. Read our full recap of the conversation here.

You won’t be able to change everything all at once. Instead use these tips and resources to help you get started by doing one or two things differently today. Whether you’re a food business owner, chef or home cook, making small changes to your foodprint can have large impacts on the environment. Check them out below!

For The Food Business Owner

Sustainable practices aren’t limited to just the kitchen—incorporating them into every facet of your business can not only reduce waste and help to save money, but also educates your customers on how their actions impact the environment as well. Share your stories with your audience and they’ll reward you by becoming loyal customers.

This infographic from the NYC Department of Sanitation will help introduce you to the world of efficiency, creating a more usable space for your business, which will lead to less waste. Download their full Zero Waste Design Guidelines here or evaluate how much waste you generate by using their calculator here.

This organization provides organic collection solutions for small food businesses including in-house education to make composting easy, reduce waste & recycling costs, and guide you in edible food rescue opportunities.

Carbon Credit Capital helps to calculate your company’s emissions and find solutions for going carbon neutral.

Whether you’re looking for local compost drop offs or shopping for recycled kitchen appliances, Big Reuse has you covered.

For the Chef

As a chef, being focused on sustainability isn’t just trendy, it’s imperative. Chefs have an opportunity to advocate for better practices in our food systems and educate their customers through the food that they cook. In addition to the positive marketing & storytelling for your brand, incorporating sustainable practices can help to cut costs as well.

It’s no secret that chef’s enjoy cooking with what’s in season, and this seasonal food guide from FoodPrint.org allows you to search by your location and time of year to see what’s available near you! By choosing ingredients that are local, your food dollar goes directly to farmers and you eliminate environmental damage caused by shipping foods thousands of miles.

According to the Sustainable Restaurant Association, 90% of the world’s fish stocks are either fully or over-exploited. Help to recover the world’s oceans by diversifying the fish that you use and educate your customers on making the right choice.

Meat has long been at the center of the plate, but by making vegetables more appealing and using descriptive words on your menus, you can draw attention away from resource-consuming meat.

ICC special guest panelist Naama Tamir is the owner of Lighthouse Brooklyn and Lighthouse Outpost. Her restaurants go beyond farm-to-table dining, embracing sustainability in everything they do. At Lighthouse, everything has multiple uses. They recycle, compost, and collaborate with other green-oriented businesses to grow, improve and educate their staff, guests and community. From recycling empty wine bottles into candles for the restaurant and turning cooking oil into bio diesel, to returning oyster shells to the Billion Oyster Project, everything is re-purposed into a new life. Places like Industrial/Organic are taking it to the next level, deriving organic chemicals and ingredients from food waste—simultaneously diverting food waste from landfills and creating recycled home & personal care products, dietary supplements and more.

For the Home Cook

If you live in NYC, you know that the NYC Department of Sanitation requires all residents to recycle, so you’re already on the right path to decreasing your carbon footprint. Here are a few small steps you can take to bring sustainability into your kitchen, and home!

This short, fun quiz explores what your foodprint is, introducing the subject of sustainability and educates you on your carbon footprint based off of your food habits. They’ll provide you with tips at the end that you can apply to improve your foodprint.

While most chefs are trained to practice whole-ingredient cooking, it can be more difficult to do so at home without the proper education. Reducing food waste as you cook at home not only saves you money, it provides a better tasting product while also making small positive changes on the environment.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, The Earth Day Initiative has launched their Do Just 1 Thing campaign to encourage people to switch to clean energy whether for their residential or business dwelling.

60,000 plastic bags are used every 5 seconds in the US, so it’s time to start doing your part. Carry a reusable tote that you can put groceries and any other purchased items into instead of a single use plastic bag. Start now because by March 2020, NYC will have officially banned single use plastic bags.

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

business bites

Business Bites: Reaping The Benefits of Going Green

The BUSINESS BITES SERIES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels and networking events designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry. Each event is designed to provide education, information and the opportunity to connect with industry experts in a collaborative setting.

THE ECONOMIC REWARDS OF MAKING YOUR FOOD BUSINESS SUSTAINABLE

Thursday, April 18th | 6:30-8:00pm
International Culinary Center
462 Broadway, 2nd Floor Theater

63 million tons of food is wasted annually in the US—that’s equivalent to 180 Empire State Buildings—and the restaurant industry alone generates 11.4 million tons of food waste each year. There’s no denying that there remains great room for improvement to make food businesses and restaurants more sustainable. In addition to the environmental and social reasons, there are also many economic incentives for businesses to adopt sustainable practices. For instance, did you know that for every dollar invested in food-waste reduction, restaurants can realize about $8 in cost savings? Energy efficiency, composting, recycling, ingredient sourcing and packaging are all ways that food businesses can incorporate sustainable practices to improve their bottom line.

So what does it take to make your restaurant or food business sustainable through the front door and out the back?

In celebration of Earth Day this April, and part of our Understanding Your ‘Foodprint’ series, our latest installment of Business Bites, Reaping the Benefits of Going Green, will demonstrate how these ethical choices can help to reduce your bottom line. Hear from a panel of experts operating local restaurants with an emphasis on sustainability, as well as professionals working to bring solutions in food waste to consumers and food business owners a like. They’ll discuss NYC requirements for commercial organic waste, solutions for hauling food waste, composting, compostable packaging & products, sourcing ingredients, energy efficiency and more. Plus, you’ll also have ample time for networking and the opportunity to learn how ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program can take you from concept to business plan & pitch in just 6-weeks!

MODERATOR

Alek Marfisi
Alek Marfisi – Owner, Upwind Strategies & ICC Entrepreneurship Instructor

Alek Marfisi is a native New Yorker with a passion for building things and helping people. After working advising small businesses for five years, Alek launched Upwind Strategies in 2015 with the mission of providing deeper and more relatable services to small businesses: the anti-business-school services firm. He previously worked with the NYS Small Business Development Center where he dove into the exciting intricacies of making entrepreneurial projects a reality. Since then, Alek has logged more than 11,000 hours working with small businesses and has been recognized as one of the top drivers of economic development in the country.

PANELISTS

christina mitchell grace
Christina Mitchell Grace, CEO of Food Print Group

Christina Grace is a leader in sustainable food systems planning and zero waste. She is CEO of Foodprint Group, a services business that helps food, hospitality and corporate office teams design for zero waste through better purchasing, recycling infrastructure and integrated training. She is co-author of the NYC Zero Waste Design Guidelines, and an advocate for sustainable food and waste policies. She has 15+ years experience as a food systems planner working from farm to compost. She is a trained cook based in Brooklyn where she’s raising two kids and a startup.

john opperman
John Oppermann, Executive Director of Earth Day Initiative

John Oppermann serves as Executive Director of Earth Day Initiative, an environmental non-profit with a variety of sustainability initiatives, including the Gotham Grazer sustainable food education program and a community solar program helping to bring rooftop solar facilities to New York City.  The Gotham Grazer program includes various sustainable food toolkits, including a mock negotiation placing participants in the roles of stakeholders trying to bring sustainable food solutions to a food desert.  He also serves as an Associate Real Estate Broker at Compass, specializing in green and healthy homes, and an adjunct professor at NYU with a course titled Marketing Green Homes, which looks at how a variety of green and healthy building features and standards (including LEED, Passive House, and WELL) resonate with home buyers.  John is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and Harvard Law School.​

naama
Naama Tamir, Co-Founder of Lighthouse & Lighthouse Outpost

Naama Tamir born and raised in the city of Rehovot in Israel, she moved to NY in 2000 after her mandatory IDF service. She studied Philosophy and Psychology at Hunter college while moonlighting in the hospitality industry. Upon graduation it became clear that her passion lies in restaurants, sustainability and education. In 2011 along with her brother-partner Assaf Tamir, they opened Lighthouse in South Williamsburg, a sustainable and forward thinking restaurant. In August 2016 the opened a second location named Lighthouse Outpost in Soho.

Other commitments include : Producer of Umami Food and Art Festival, Chair of sustainability practises and green initiative at BaBar (bar & restaurant alliance), Co-founder NFL – No Free Lunch sustainability platform at the Institute of Public Knowledge, Collaborator in the reusable to go container project by sanitation department, Guest speaker : NYU, New School,  ICE – ‘Sustainability Plate by Plate’ Conscientious Capitalism’, Consultant & leader : Fair Kitchens initiative, Contributor : James Beard Foundation Impact Program

michael chernow
Michael Chernow, Co-Founder of The Meatball Shop & Founder of Seamore’s

Michael Chernow started working in restaurants as a teenager on New York City’s Upper East Side.  He has since built a successful career in the industry including seven years at Frank Prizanzano’s eponymous flagship restaurant, Frank, where he cultivated a large, loyal following.  In 2007, Michael enrolled in the French Culinary Institute, graduating with honors and an associate’s degree in both Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management at the end of the two-year program.  In 2010, Michael teamed up with his childhood friend Daniel Holzman and debuted The Meatball Shop in New York City’s Lower East Side. The mix-and-match menu of meatballs, served in a warm and convivial environment, was an instant hit.  Five more locations of The Meatball Shop—in Williamsburg, the West Village, Chelsea, the Upper East Side and the Hell’s Kitchen—opened in quick succession. Michael also co-authored The Meatball Shop Cookbook, which was published to much acclaim in 2011. A passionate fisherman since childhood, Michael combined his love of fishing and his culinary expertise with Seamore’s in New York City, which opened in summer of 2015 to immediate and consistent buzz. Michael has appeared in countless broadcast segments including ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s TODAY Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as well as in an array of widely reaching local and national publications such as The New York Times, Food & Wine, Saveur, People, Food Network Magazine and GQ. 

Business Bites Resources: Managing Your Staff

Maintaining a healthy team is vital to the success of your business. Whether you run a kitchen, own a bakery or are looking to open a restaurant, it’s important to learn the key steps to managing and motivating your staff to success. Jackie McMann-Oliveri, Director of Talent and Culture for Bold Food, joined us at Pastry Plus this March to answer everyone’s burning question, how do I retain employees and build a successful team? A certified Professional in Human Resources, Jackie is responsible for supporting all of Bobby Flay’s restaurants, and brings her HR knowledge and experience to ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship programs.

jackie mcmann oliveriIn her 75-minute breakout class on managing your staff, Jackie shared the importance of selection and hiring, training and retraining, and lastly, engagement and retention to a sold out class of pastry professionals—pastry chefs, bakery owners, and aspiring pastry business owners. Jackie began by discussing what makes a great leader. Great leadership encourages quality work and staff retention, the hallmarks of a successful establishment. Read below to see Jackie’s three qualities of great leadership and learn how you can adapt them for your team!

Select and hire amazing people.

Hire for character and a passion for the job, not necessarily skills, which can be taught. More time hiring means less time firing.

Give them the tools and support they need to do their job.

An employee handbook is a necessity for effectively managing your staff. This handbook clearly states the rules and expectations of your business. While many companies have a handbook, Jackie recommends going over one topic a week at a short meeting, which keeps the staff engaged and reminds them of the rules in the workplace that must be respected.

People follow leaders, not because they have to, but because they want to. Leaders listen more than they speak, are trustworthy, and accessible to their staff. Recognizing employees through rewards and other means goes a long way in retaining staff, as does actively promoting a work-life balance.

Practice consistent accountability.

Practicing consistent accountability is necessary so that the rules are enforced and respected. Conversations with unhappy employees are uncomfortable, but having the conversation is necessary and usually results in a positive outcome. Get to know your staff and trust your gut. While navigating this in small business models can seem more challenging than a large company, these fundamentals on leadership and staff management are applicable to all business models.

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Business Bites Resources: How to Unearth Your Sources

For restaurants and food business owners, sourcing quality ingredients and importing products unique to your brand play an important role in setting you apart from your competitors. Your patrons become loyal customers for the quality you retain—and your prices can reflect that. Today, the expansion of global trade and ease of digital communication allows for access to exotic, hard-to-find ingredients from around the world, making it possible to introduce products direct from their origin.

With consumers moving towards ethical buying habits, higher standards for quality and equality are vital in day-to-day business operations. In our latest installment of our Business Bites series, Unearthing Your Sources, our panel of experts shared how they operate profitable food businesses without compromising on quality or fair trade practices. Check out the three things to know when sourcing your products below!

Know Your Farmers

In today’s global market, consumers want to know where their ingredients and products are coming from. Whether it’s intended to support fair-trade practices or identify single-origin goods, it’s an important aspect to the buying process. Being able to connect your customers with the farmers you source from can be both a storytelling and brand building opportunity that results in loyalty and trust.

But, that isn’t the only reason food businesses want to know where, and who they’re sourcing from. Developing a relationship with your farmers can mean the difference between getting the right products for your business, and the best quality for your customers.

Burlap and Barrel stresses this sentiment. During the panel discussion, Ethan Frisch, co-founder of Burlap and Barrel, shared a story about a farm in upstate New York that he has been working with for the past two years. Over this time, Ethan has fostered a strong relationship with Norwich Meadows Farm, opening the door to new opportunities. After much discussion, they have decided to work together to develop a special project, which wouldn’t have happened without Ethan nurturing this relationship.

Know What Your Consumers Want

It’s important to identify what motivates your customers to buy. Is it your uniquely sourced products? Is it your commitment to fair-trade, sustainability or single-origin? Is it your packaging? Figuring out the most meaningful way to communicate to your customers is a time old challenge, but the rewards can be integral to your success.

When Raaka Chocolate rebranded in 2018, they invested time and resources to figure out what their consumers really wanted to know on their bar of chocolate. In order to make the reintroduction of their brand successful, they tested everything from taste to packaging, and even rewrote their brand story. After all, much had happened in the eight years since they had founded their company. Their new packaging is vibrant and bold, much like the chocolate that it encompasses. Although subtle, it is also modeled after the landscapes from which their cacao beans come from. Instead of using common buzz words like fair trade, when you open their bar of chocolate, you’ll see their term “transparent trade” to exhibit their commitment to be transparent in everything that they do, including sourcing.

Know Your Ingredients

Sourcing quality ingredients, especially in a restaurant, market or food business that’s just starting out, can make or break the business. Whether you provide access to a hard-to-find product, a uniquely curated selection or incorporate it into a signature dish, specialty ingredients help to grow a loyal following of customers that return time and time again. They can even create demand when an ingredient has limited quantities. But, relying on specialty ingredients can also pose a difficulty for new companies.

When Vega Coffee was starting out, they knew that they wanted to import coffee from Nicaragua. In order to receive the ingredients they desired, they had to create a system with the governments in both the US and Nicaragua to import the products through customs. Although this is an extreme example, navigating import laws is an important part of sourcing your products, so you must be prepared to do your research as a business owner.

One of Rishi Tea’s best selling drinks is a masala chai drink. A key ingredient to this drink is a delicious Madagascar vanilla, but because of climate change and a few other factors, the price of vanilla has sky rocketed in recent years. As a business owner, they weighed the benefits of raising the price of their best selling drink, but possibly seeing sales decline, with the cost of sourcing the vanilla. In order to keep the price the same, they decided to source vanilla from another country—something that is not easy to do, as vanilla is grown in few places around the world. In the end, they found an amazing quality vanilla in Mexico and were able to continue their masala chai offering without raising the price or compromising on quality.

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Business Bites Resources: Storytelling For Your Business

Every business has a story behind its origin, and restaurants and food businesses are no exception. For some, it’s the desire to showcase the food they learned to cook with their grandparents at an early age. For others, they were inspired to create a product they couldn’t find on store shelves. In ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program, we teach chefs and aspiring food business owners to take their inspiration, and motivation, behind starting a business and develop it into a defined concept and actionable business plan, all in just 6 weeks! But, in order to get started, you first have to think about what makes the story you are trying to tell compelling, what makes your brand unique, and what you have to accomplish to start your business.

So what does it take to start crafting a compelling business story?

Justine ClayWith a little help from Justine Clay, Speaker & Business Coach for Creative Entrepreneurs and Freelancers and ICC Culinary Entrepreneurship instructor, you’ll develop your story and be ready to pitch your food business idea at the end of our 6-week Culinary Entrepreneurship program. If you missed enrolling in our January session, you still have the chance to start thinking about your concept and how to tell your story before our next session in September. Check out these three steps to help you tell your story and beginning your journey to launching your business!

Establish Yourself as a Likeable Hero

Begin by thinking about what you could share about yourself that would engage your customer and have them rooting for you. The story of how you founded your business will show your customers who you are and will allow them to develop an emotional relationship with your business. By incorporating your background into the story, you can develop your customer base and establish that you are trustworthy.

Share Your Roadblock

Next, establish the moment that was daring and defining to your life. You want your customers to be tuned into your story, so show them how you overcame your obstacles to create the business that they have grown an emotional connection to. However, it’s important to remember that this is not the point where you should create a long and drawn-out story–this is where you should set yourself apart and show your customers what motivates you.

Share Your Transformation

Finally, describe how you overcame these obstacles to establish yourself as a business owner. Share your business’ mission and what you set out to accomplish in creating it. Involve your customers by expressing your excitement for your growing brand and the solutions you’ve created that will impact them!

In the end, establishing a compelling story about your brand makes for great pitch content to secure investors, customer loyalty, media attention and more!

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Business Bites: Unearthing Your Sources

Business Bites: Unearthing Your Sources

The BUSINESS BITES SERIES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels and networking events designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry. Each event is designed to provide education, information and the opportunity to connect with industry experts in a collaborative setting.

SOURCING AND IMPORTING FOR YOUR FOOD BUSINESS

Wednesday, February 13th | 6:30-8:00pm
International Culinary Center
462 Broadway, 2nd Floor Theater

For restaurants and food business owners, sourcing quality ingredients and importing products unique to your brand play an important role in setting you apart from your competitors. Your patrons become loyal customers for the quality you retain—and your prices can reflect that. Today, the expansion of global trade and ease of digital communication allows for access to exotic, hard-to-find ingredients from around the world, making it possible to introduce products direct from their origin.

But, what do you really know about your sources and where your products come from?

With consumers moving towards ethical buying habits, higher standards for quality and equality are vital in day-to-day business operations. In our latest installment of our Business Bites series, Unearthing Your Sources, you’ll hear from a panel of experts running some of NYC’s best single origin businesses about how they operate profitable food businesses without compromising on quality or fair trade practices. Join us to discuss what it’s like to source from around the world, the laws and agricultural regulations with regard to importing products, fair trade best practices and the key players within a supply chain. They’ll share their tips for working with farmers, navigating customs laws and building a network of trusted producers. Plus, you’ll also have ample time for networking and the opportunity to learn how ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program can take you from concept to business plan & pitch in just 6-weeks!

MODERATOR

Alek Marfisi
Alek Marfisi – Owner, Upwind Strategies & ICC Entrepreneurship Instructor

Alek Marfisi is a native New Yorker with a passion for building things and helping people. After working advising small businesses for five years, Alek launched Upwind Strategies in 2015 with the mission of providing deeper and more relatable services to small businesses: the anti-business-school services firm. He previously worked with the NYS Small Business Development Center where he dove into the exciting intricacies of making entrepreneurial projects a reality. Since then, Alek has logged more than 11,000 hours working with small businesses and has been recognized as one of the top drivers of economic development in the country.

PANELISTS

Ethan Frisch
Ethan Frisch, Co-Founder of Burlap and Barrel

Ethan Frisch is a chef, activist and the cofounder of Burlap & Barrel, the first comprehensive single origin spice company in the US.  A former line cook and pastry chef in New York and London, he was also the co-founder and Executive Chef of Guerrilla Ice Cream, a nonprofit politically-inspired ice cream cart. As a humanitarian aid worker, he worked with NGOs including the Aga Khan Foundation in Afghanistan and Doctors Without Borders on the Syrian/Jordanian border.

He has been an adjunct lecturer at the City College of New York and an instructor with the Experiment in International Living’s Leadership Institute. He is honored to serve on the Board of Directors of the Bond Street Theatre (www.bondst.org), which uses theater to teach conflict resolution and resilience in areas of instability around the world, and on the Advisory Boards of the student-led racial literacy and justice organization Princeton CHOOSE (www.princetonchoose.org) and the Fragments Theater, a youth theater company in Palestine. He is also on the Organizing Committee of the Queens International Night Market.

He holds a dual Bachelors Degree in Conflict Studies and Education and Social Change from the City University of New York, and a Masters Degree in Violence, Conflict and Development from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

Stephen Thomas, Rishi Tea
Stephen Thomas, Market Manager- NYC Metro of Rishi Tea

Stephen Thomas began his hospitality career as a certified sommelier working for one of the largest wine collectors in the world. This passion led him into the world of cocktails, where his science and engineering background opened the doors to some of the top restaurants in New York. He joined Rishi tea just about 2 years ago where he was able to bring it all together under the core values of the company; Importer, selector, maker.

William Mullan
William Mullan, Brand Manager of Raaka Chocolate

William Mullan is Brand Manager for Raaka Chocolate, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker based in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He is fascinated by the intersections of food, culture, and commerce; how food shapes our lives and how we shape our lives with food. After five years at Raaka, he is still not sick of chocolate and considers this to be a good thing.

Rob T.
Rob Terenzi, Co-Founder and CEO of Vega Coffee

Rob Terenzi is a co-founder and CEO of Vega Coffee, a company whose mission is to radically transform the coffee supply chain. Before starting Vega, Rob lived in Nicaragua for about 5 years working with small women-owned coffee cooperatives on improving access to markets and making great Nicaraguan coffee available domestically He also attended law school at Fordham Law and earned a masters degree in International Economics, before working as a start-up and venture finance attorney in Silicon Valley for WSGR for a bit over three years.

Tips to Make 2019 a Financial Success

2019: A Successful Year for Your Food Business

As 2018 comes to an end, food entrepreneurs get a chance to sit down and look over their financial performance for the year.  The food business is fickle; some operators seem to have it so easy and others seem to always be struggling.  If you’d like to do better in the new year, here are 3 ways you can make your business more efficient and ultimately enable you to take home more money.

What’s Your Gross Margin?
Your gross margin is the most important ratio to know about your company. It’s the percent of sales left over after you account for what your product cost you.  If you sell $10 six packs of soda and your product costs you $4, your gross margin is 60%.  On your company’s profit and loss statement, find your gross profit and divide it by your total revenue to get your gross margin.  Here are a few things to think about once you know your margin:

  • Do I operate a high gross margin or low gross margin business?
    High margin businesses (those with gross margins over 50%) benefit the most from a sales push, or working on your pricing and food costing. Low margin businesses (those with gross margins under 50%) benefit the most from finding ways to make the business more efficient by lowering overhead costs like kitchen utilities and employee overtime.
  • How does my gross margin compare to other companies in my sector?
    Once you have your gross margin you can use it to make an apples-to-apples comparison to your competitors’, or industry’s gross margin. Is it above average?  If so, make sure you keep giving your customers a meaningful reason to pay more for what you’re offering. Is it below average? Then maybe you need to consider changing your pricing and quantity structure.

Track Your Refunds and Discounts.
No other businesses face as many refunds and discounts as food businesses do.  Whether it a restaurant comp’ing a meal after a service error or free samples being given away to promote a new food product at a grocery store, discounts and refunds can seriously affect your business’ ability to make a suitable profit.   At the same time, they’re a fact of life for this industry.  The solution is to benchmark, track, and set goals for your refunds and discount.  Many bookkeepers just lump discounts and refunds into your sales figure.  Encourage them to separate these costs out into discrete figures that offset your total revenue.

Work With an Expert to Optimize Your Labor.
Foodservice labor is complicated, and the rules are changing all the time.  It’s never OK to cut your staff and overburden your team just to save a dime, but there are many ways in which your scheduling, overtime, and calculation of base wages net of credit card fees can add small costs to your payroll every week that translate into big expenses each year.  A good payroll processing technology that’s specialized for the foodservice industry is good, but in this case we recommend that you talk to an expert: preferably someone who runs human resources for other food companies.  Here are a few labor costs to think about:

  • Do your customers tip your employees via credit card? If so, make sure you are deducting credit card fees from the amount of tips you pay out to your employees.
  • What is the tradeoff between adding a shift and working your current staff overtime? Comparing these two scenarios might make a big difference in your total annual payroll costs.

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ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Tips To Grow Your Beverage Program

This month, our Business Bites Resources—brought to you by ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship (CE) program—provides tips for food businesses looking to bolster their drink menu.

the panelists from the eventAt the beginning of November, members from the culinary community gathered for a panel to discuss the importance of having a beverage program in your restaurant that gets customers back to the bar.  The four panelists were experienced members of the culinary and beverage industry, including Jason Hedges, Bar Director of Gotham Bar & Grill and Partner of BarIQ; Noah Rothbaum, Editor of Half Full from The Daily Beast; Nora Favelukes, President of QW Wine Experts; and Vanessa Da Silva, Sommelier at Ninety Acres.

In the discussion, they shared their tips for creating and managing a successful beverage program, as well as how to turn your drinks into dollars. We’ve gathered some of their tips for success below!

Specialty Cocktails Drive Sales

Our panelists all agreed that specialty cocktails can drive sales and bring in new customers, while increasing margins for the business. Not only are cocktails experiencing a renaissance among bar scenes, but they can also be a fun and visual “Instagram-able” feature on your menu, increasing brand awareness. One tip that we learned from our experts—using fresh juice not only makes a cocktail more delicious, but is surprisingly a way to save money as it can be cheaper than buying expensive pre-made mixes.

Invest in Ice

For most guests, their first experience in a restaurant is ordering a cocktail, so why not take your cocktail to the next level? Ice is a daily requirement in all restaurants, and a universal ingredient in bar drinks. Despite its importance, ice can often be overlooked. Many bar programs are turning to ice blocks, specialty cubes and more to provide a better appearance and experience for their customers. In the end, the cocktails look better, but can also taste better as ice that is higher in quality won’t dilute a cocktail with water as fast.

Bar Software

Bar software can make or break a restaurant in today’s world. According to San Pellegrino, 100% of US restaurants on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list are using a software called BinWise. In addition to these restaurants, Jason Hedges and Vanessa Da Silva, both panelists that work in the restaurant industry, also use BinWise to manage their restaurants inventory and more. There are many other options on the market, so the key is to find a software that works for your business. In the end, bar software programs can increase time saved during inventories, help to gain insights into what products are being poured the most, create a database to have information readily available, and help to recapture lost money.

ABOUT BUSINESS BITES

The BUSINESS BITES, brought to you by the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC, is a series of workshops, discussion panels, networking events and resources designed to support entrepreneurs in the food industry.