Business Bites Resources: 4 Tips For Finding A Restaurant Space

By Stephani Robson

Stephani Robson is a Senior Lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and teaches in the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at the International Culinary Center.

Site selection is about much more than finding the right size of space in the right neighborhood for your food business. Have you ever considered that doors have to be a certain width to fit industrial kitchen equipment? What about the visibility that your restaurant will garner, or lose, depending on where the front door is?

There are so many different elements that go into choosing the perfect location. That’s why we sat down with Culinary Entrepreneurship instructor and Senior Lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Stephani Robson, to learn how to get it right when choosing a location for your restaurant or food business. With over 30 years of experience designing restaurants and teaching restaurant design, Robson’s advice is some of the best in the business! When looking for a site, Robson shares, “a broker can be really helpful, but remember that the broker is working for the landlord, not for you.” Brokers get paid only when the space is leased, so they have a real incentive to get you to commit. Her first tip: Always do your homework first, and be sure to get everything in writing so your lawyer can review it before you sign a lease.

Here are the 4 things she recommends checking with your broker as you look for spaces!

Rent

Ask about the rent and how it is structured— the rent you pay should not exceed 6% of your total sales.  If the rent you are quoted includes all property taxes, insurance, and common-area maintenance, that “all-in” rent should not exceed 10% of your sales.   Be sure to find out whether rents being quoted are “all-in” (including “CAM” charges, building insurance and your share of the property taxes) or “triple net.” If these aren’t included, you will have to pay another 10-20% a month to cover these additional occupancy costs.

Rents vary widely depending on city and neighborhood, so get a feel for local rents by talking to a broker well before you complete your business plan.  If your restaurant concept cannot easily generate the sales to cover the rent quoted using this 6% thumb-rule, do not sign the lease, no matter how appealing the space looks!

Street Level Matters

For restaurants, you really do need to be at street level. Spaces on second floors of buildings or above are also rarely successful for any kind of food business. However, a bar can sometimes work in a basement space that has direct access from the street— otherwise, save basements for storage and food prep! If a street level space you are looking at includes a basement, ask if there is any additional charge for the basement, or if you need to share that space with other building tenants. It’s not unusual to have to share the stairs to the basement with others which can make operations difficult if you need to use those stairs frequently.

Avoid Kitchen Upgrades

Find out if the space already has a grease trap or kitchen ventilation.  Adding these can be really expensive — as in thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.  But if these are already in place, you’ll probably need to give them a really good professional cleaning before use.  While you might be able to clean the grease trap yourself (although it’s a messy task!), you’ll need to spend a few hundred dollars or more having the hood and its associated duct-work professionally cleaned.  At the same time, have the ventilation and fire protection systems checked by an engineer.  That will cost you another couple of hundred, but will be money well spent.

Pay Attention to Doorways

Double check the width of all doorways before you buy any equipment.  Many restaurant owners have found that they can’t get that new freezer or oven into their building! Sometimes, you can make a tight squeeze work by taking off the equipment’s legs or doors, or by removing the building’s door and its jamb (that’s the trim around the doorway), but try to avoid this kind of hassle by measuring carefully before you shop for your kitchen equipment and restaurant space.

Ready to get started on the business plan for your restaurant, food truck, food product or other dream culinary concept? Register for ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship course starting September 14th, and you’ll have a solid business plan & pitch ready in just 6 weeks! Click here to learn 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.

Stephani RobsonStephani Robson has over thirty years of experience designing restaurants and teaching restaurant development and design.  She is a Senior Lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and teaches in the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at the International Culinary Center.  Stephani holds a PhD in environmental psychology from Cornell and does research on how the design of restaurants affects guests and operators.

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.

conchas

Conchas: Mexican Sweet Bread Recipe

conchasPan Dulce is a staple in Mexican culture and cuisine. Though they can be eaten at any time of the day as a snack or meal, they are typically enjoyed at breakfast. Some people estimate that there are over 2,000 varieties, but the most popular and widely-known is conchas!

In Spanish, concha translates to shell, so it makes sense that this sweet, softly baked bread is named after it’s fun shape. This Cinco de Mayo, we’re honoring the Mexican holiday by sharing how our Director of Pastry, Chef Jansen Chan, makes them in the kitchens of ICC. Check out the recipe below!

We’re also excited to announce our collaboration with Ice & Vice for the Hester Street Fair @FoodBabyNY Food Fest 2 on Cinco de Mayo! Chef Jansen and Ice & Vice are working together to create an exclusive treat, Food Baby Conchitas (a Concha Ice Cream Sandwich) in two signature flavors—Rasperry Concha with Peanut Butter Fluff & Concord Grape Ice Cream, plus a Black & White Coffee Concha with Horchata Ice Cream. The street fair is free to all, but you can register here for tickets.

Can’t wait to go to the street fair to try this signature, exclusive item? Be sure to check our Instagram on Thursday, May 2nd for details on how you can win 2 seats in our Mexican Cooking Class this August! All you’ll have to do is snap a photo of your Food Baby Conchita at the Hester Street Fair this Sunday and post to your Instagram. Stay tuned!

DOUGH INGREDIENTS:

  • 225 g. flour, all-purpose
  • 225 g. flour, bread
  • 70 g. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 20 g. fresh yeast or (10 g. dried yeast*)
  • 60 g. milk
  • 200 g. (about 4) eggs
  • 170 g. butter, softened
  • Additional sugar, for dipping

PROCEDURE:

  1. Place all ingredients*, except butter, in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Mix at a low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue to mix until gluten develops.
  2. Slowly add butter to the dough, and allow to incorporate fully.
  3. Transfer the dough into a greased bowl and wrap in plastic wrap well.
  4. Allow to ferment at room temperature for 2-3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. Place the dough on a flour work surface and punch down to deflate the dough.
  6. Portion the dough into 80g pieces.
  7. Roll each portion into a round and flatten.
  8. Place directly on a parchment-lined tray, allowing 2-3 inches around for expansion.
  9. Divide the crust dough into 28 g. portions. (See instructions to make crust dough below).
  10. Pat crust into 3” circles and place directly on top of each round.
  11. Flour each cutter and gently stamp to create an impression.
  12. Cover the tray and allow to proof for 2-3 hours in a warm spot, or until double in size.
  13. Preheat the oven to 375°F
  14. Bake for 12-15 mins. or until golden brown.
  15. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 mins.
  16. Roll in a bowl of sugar while warm.

*if using dried yeast, first dissolve in milk.

CRUST INGREDIENTS:

  • 100 g. sugar
  • 112 g. butter, softened
  • ¼ t. salt
  • ½ t. vanilla
  • 120 g. flour, all-purpose*

PROCEDURE:

  1. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  2. Add salt and vanilla.
  3. Add flour and allow to mix until just incorporated.
  4. Wrap the dough and allow to rest for at least 30 mins. or overnight, chilled. If the dough sits overnight, remove from refrigerator at least 30 mins. prior to use.

*for chocolate crust, substitute 20 g. of cocoa for flour

off the vine: uncorking today's trends in wine

Off The Vine: Uncorking Today’s Trends in Wine

OFF THE VINE, brought to you by the Intensive Sommelier Training program at ICC, is a series of tastings, discussion panels and networking events designed to support wine professionals in the beverage industry. Each event is designed to provide education, information and the opportunity to connect with industry experts in a collaborative setting.

DISCOVER THE EMERGING TRENDS CREATING A BUZZ IN WINE

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

The world of wine is constantly evolving!  While rich with history and often rooted in ancient tradition, wine is anything but static. This multi-billion dollar business continues to change, challenging established, and aspiring, wine professionals to stay on the cutting edge of today’s trends and rising regions.

Join us for a lively conversation exploring a range of emerging trends creating buzz in the wine industry today. Elizabeth Smith, Wine Program Coordinator at ICC, will be joined by two of NYC’s top sommelier talents—Master Sommelier Alexander La Pratt and Advanced Sommelier Theo Lieberman—to get their insight on what’s in vogue, what’s here to stay and what’s just a fad. We’ll talk about everything from the rise of sparkling, natural & orange wines and indigenous grapes, to the effects of climate change and changes in consumer behavior. Plus, hear predictions from experts at the forefront of the industry on the future of these trends and what’s to come! Come with your questions—there will be an open Q&A with the panelists following the discussion, and the opportunity to network with other professionals. Don’t miss this chance to discover how today’s hot topics are evolving and how you can utilize them to your advantage on the floor, in sales, and more.

Looking to break into the industry? You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about how ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Training program can help you pursue your wine career.

Light refreshments will be provided.

MODERATOR

Elizabeth Smith
Elizabeth Smith, Certified Sommelier, ICC Wine Program Coordinator

Elizabeth Smith is the Wine Program Coordinator at ICC, where she assists in running the Intensive Sommelier Training program and coordinates the Court of Master Sommeliers AmericasTM Introductory and Certified Exams.  She also teaches ICC’s introductory wine classes, and organizes extracurricular wine lectures and tastings.

Elizabeth began her career at Food & Wine magazine, and spent 8 years in various sales, marketing, and business insights roles at F&W and American Express.  In 2016 she decided to take her love of wine to the next level, graduating ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Training program, followed by a happy year at Astor Wines and Spirits.  Elizabeth is a CMS Certified Sommelier and is currently pursuing her WSET Diploma in Wine.

She is a passionate lover of wine and food, and documents her culinary adventures on Instagram @in_vino_glorias.

PANELISTS

Theo
Theo Lieberman, Advanced Sommelier
Head Sommelier, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels

Theo Lieberman has worked in the New York City food and wine business for nearly a decade. Beginning in the cocktail industry, Theo worked alongside Sasha Petraske at Milk & Honey, and then went on to become the Head Bartender and General Manager. He then moved on to serve as Head Bartender at Eleven Madison Park.

While working in fine dining, he discovered a deep love of fine wine, which he has continued to pursue as the Head Sommelier of Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels. He has been named one of America’s “Best New Sommeliers” by Wine & Spirits Magazine as well as Zagat’s “30 under 30.” He is the Co-Founder of Thunder Mountain Consulting and is currently pursuing the Master Sommelier Diploma through the Court of Master Sommeliers.

alex lapratt
Alexander LaPratt, Master Sommelier
Beverage Director & Co-Owner at The Atrium, ICC Intensive Sommelier Training Instructor

While many sommeliers have paid their dues as waiters or captains, few have donned a chef’s jacket in a professional kitchen. Alexander LaPratt is an exception. No stranger to working with renowned chefs dedicated to the quality of their restaurants’ wine cellar and service, Alexander has held positions as Chef Sommelier for renowned Chef Jean-Georges; Sommelier for Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin; Head Sommelier at Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne; and the first ever Cellar Sommelier at Thomas Keller’s renowned French Laundry. In 2014, Alexander then went on to become the 217th person to ever pass the coveted Master Sommelier exam. Today, Alexander is co-owner and Beverage Director of Atrium DUMBO and Beasts & Bottles, and an adjunct instructor for the International Culinary Center’s Intensive Sommelier Training program.

Throughout his career, he’s received many accolades for his achievements including the title of “Best Sommelier in America” at the 2011 American Sommelier Association competition; 2nd overall in the 2011 Chaine des Rôtisseurs Best Young Sommelier National Finals; winner of the 2nd Annual StarChefs Somm Slam; Wine & Spirits Magazine “Best New Sommelier 2011”; and represented the United States of America in the 2013 Best Sommelier of the World Competition in Tokyo, Japan. Read Alex’s full bio here.

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.

Off the Vine: Careers in Wine

How to Jump-start Your Career in Wine

OFF THE VINE, brought to you by the Intensive Sommelier Training program at ICC, is a series of tastings, discussion panels and networking events designed to support wine professionals in the beverage industry. Each event is designed to provide education, information and the opportunity to connect with industry experts in a collaborative setting.

The wine and beverage industry is dynamic & diverse, and offers many opportunities to build an exciting career—with options that suit different backgrounds, personalities and lifestyles. For those who are seriously considering a career in the wine industry, the possibilities are endless.

This month, we gathered for a dynamic panel discussion with Slim Mello, Head Sommelier at the Mandarin Oriental; Michele Thomas, Assistant Manager and Buyer at Greene Grape Wine & Spirits; Patricia Alazraki, Brand Manager for Monsieur Touton; and Cristina Coari, Wine Education and Press Manager for Vias Imports.

Together, we explored topics like career paths, hiring practices, qualities that employers seek and the paths that each panelist took to get to where they are today. Below, learn what our panelists said about translating skill sets, building your network, hiring practices, and salary expectations!

How can my skills translate to the wine industry?

wineWhen people consider changing careers to enter the wine industry, they are often worried that their skills won’t translate to wine. It’s intimidating to think about starting a new career at any point in your life, but if you share a passion for wine, you’ll fit right in to this new industry.

Your resume doesn’t always have to be perfectly polished—many of your previous work experiences can be translated into the skills needed to pursue the wine career of your dreams. So what are some of the skill sets that you can utilize in your future wine career?

For starters, a desire to learn, listen and study are all very helpful. Pursuing your wine education requires a dedication to study. Even as a professional, you’ll find it important to continue to learn about new wines, taste new producers, etc. Previous front of house or service experience is a plus, as well as any sales background. Being a people person and feeling comfortable speaking with others is very important. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—being able to read a room and help identify what someone wants is not a small task. Make sure you can talk about your previous experiences and apply them to what you want to do in the future. Use your qualifications as leverage and know that all experience is good experience!

How do I build my network?

Building your network is key in any industry, especially within the tight-knit community of wine. If you want to be a part of this community, you have to put yourself in the position to meet people. Attend a tasting event. Frequent industry meet-ups. Reach out to a professional contact on social media. Making a connection, even through social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can introduce you to new people who can become great resources in this business.

Panelist Patricia Alazraki, ICC alumna and Brand Manager of Monsieur Touton, found her current job through a friend’s social media post on Facebook. After reaching out to a mutual friend and asking to get coffee to learn from her expertise, her new contact ended up offering her a job. Never be afraid to reach out to someone already working in the industry or at a company you want to work for—more often than not, they are more than willing to help in any way that they can.

Speaking of social media, use your channels to build your own wine presence. Demonstrate your knowledge of wine by posting tasting notes and using popular wine hashtags. You never know who might reach out to you!

What do hiring managers look for when interviewing?

wine pouredAlthough a resume is important in any interview, all of our panelists—who are hiring managers themselves—agreed that two of the most important skills you can bring to your interview are not actually on your resume. Passion and people skills are integral to how you sell yourself in any interview. By bringing your passion for wine to the forefront of your interview, you’ll show that you’re able to connect with customers and consumers.

Interactions that you have in your interview are a good indicator for how you will interact with your customers. You have to be able to carry a conversation and learn about someone’s interests so that you can recommend the right wine to them and have them coming back for more.

What can I expect for my salary?

Like any industry, salaries in wine vary greatly. According to our panelists, who all have years of combined experience, you can expect to start at around $15-$20 while working in retail. Then, anywhere from $25,000-$50,000 is a great ballpark when you begin in a restaurant, not including what you’ll make in tips! From there, Head Sommeliers can make $70,000+ with experience, higher level certifications and percentages of monthly sales or tips. Brand Ambassadors can make anywhere in the $60,000-$90,000 range and added sales commission can increase salary.

Want to learn more about how ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Training program can help you pursue your wine career? Check out our next Off the Vine panel in April!

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.