0 comments on “Get To Know Our Team: 20 Questions with Ciara!”

Get To Know Our Team: 20 Questions with Ciara!

Interested in learning more about the people who make the magic happen at FoodtoEat?! Here’s your chance! We’re giving you a behind the scenes look into our team and their personalities with a brief Q&A where they spill everything from their biggest fear to the most unusual thing they’ve ever eaten.

First up, Ciara McKeown, whose been with the company for almost four years! Learn more about Ciara below!

What’s your role at FoodtoEat?

I’m the Marketing and Partnerships Manager.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

The tastings- I love trying different cuisines from local businesses throughout NYC that I couldn’t find myself.

What’s an accomplishment you’ve had at FoodtoEat that you’re really proud of?

Running the #IMadeYourFood campaign. I love speaking with the vendors one on one and really getting to know their stories: their background, how they got into food and what drives them to stay motivated in such a tough industry. Hearing about the sacrifices that some of them have made is truly moving and inspiring.

What’s something you worked on recently OR are working on right now that you’re excited about?

The #IMadeYourFood video series! Coming soon….

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in Floral Park, NY (a small town on Long Island). Now I live in Astoria.

What’s your favorite hobby?

Going out to dinner or working out

What’s something unique about you?

My name- it’s pronounced Kiera but spelled Ciara, which is the Gaelic spelling.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Rome, Italy

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Slow walkers

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

Skydiving

What’s one thing you’re determined to do in your lifetime?

Travel to Machu Picchu

What do you wish you knew more about?

Politics

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Never run after a man or a bus, there’s always another one coming” (thanks, Nana)

What are your top 3 favorite movies?

Good Will Hunting, 10 Things I Hate About You and Newsies

What’s your biggest fear?

Being buried alive

What’s one motto you try to live your life by?

“Pura Vida”

What’s your food kryptonite?

A massive chocolate chip cookie (or any cookie/dessert really)

What’s one food or food trend that you can never get behind?

Sushi

What’s your favorite restaurant?

Anything Italian or Mexican

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?

Tobiko

0 comments on “Brigitte Saldarriaga, Operations Manager, and Cristina Girbu, Store Operations and Franchise Training Manager, at The Hummus & Pita Co.”

Brigitte Saldarriaga, Operations Manager, and Cristina Girbu, Store Operations and Franchise Training Manager, at The Hummus & Pita Co.

This is Brigitte Saldarriaga, the Operations Manager at The Hummus & Pita Co., and Cristina Girbu, the Store Operations and Franchise Training Manager at The Hummus & Pita Co. Brigitte was born and raised in New York and has been working in the food industry for eleven years. She attributes her passion for food to her family, most of whom she says work in this business. Her dad was a waiter and a chef for seventeen years, her cousin is the executive chef at Gabriella’s and her uncle is a chef at Carmines, where her cousins also work. After starting her career as a cashier at Lenwich, she steadily moved up the ranks to take over the operations of their catering department before moving to The Green Summit Group, where she worked her way up to COO. She now runs the operations for The Hummus & Pita Co., a position that she took over this past January. Cristina, conversely, had no background in food before applying for the job of cashier at The Hummus & Pita Co. seven years ago. Originally from Moldova, a small Eastern European country between Romania and Ukraine, Cristina move to the U.S. after university because she wanted to work rather than get married, which her friends and family were telling her was her next step. At the time, she says, she never thought that she would become an integral part of such a huge team. She just applied to the job that she found on a hiring website to learn about the restaurant industry. In fact, she doesn’t even really like to cook. It was simply an opportunity that she took advantage of because she likes to learn and she’s good at understanding how things can operate effectively. She worked her way up to assistant manager then general manager and now does the company’s franchisee training, the highest position within the store operations. Although Brigitte and Cristina come from very different backgrounds, both have found a home at The Hummus & Pita Co., which they say operates like one big family, thanks to David Pesso, the co-owner of the business. The “mastermind” behind everything they do, David has used his family recipes to build a fast casual concept where they continue to create the home cooked food that his mother and grandmother used to make. Their focus on traditional, authentic recipes has lead The Hummus & Pita Co. to be known for their fresh, healthy and delicious menu items, which are made in house daily.

David was raised by a single mother in Brooklyn, NY. Like Cristina, he doesn’t have an “official” culinary background but growing up in Brooklyn enticed him to open up bagel stores and he had a few silent partnerships within the food industry over the years. However, he came up with the idea for The Hummus & Pita Co. when he was young and kept it in the back of his mind until he was able to bring the vision to life. The Hummus & Pita Co. is different from other Mediterranean restaurants because it’s a mixture of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences, just like David, who’s half Greek and half Israeli. He wanted to make sure that the food from his childhood was woven into the fabric of the business rather than only being something that they produced. So he worked with his mother to create the concept and execute it so that he could be sure that he was getting the culture of the restaurant right. Which is why in every location they have a shawarma next to a gyro, Turkish salad, Morccan carrots, Lebanese cauliflower, etc., all of which you very rarely see together. When the business first opened in 2012, Cristina says that it was mostly David, herself and the rest of the team figuring out operations together- seeing what worked and what didn’t work and adjusting from there. Everyone was learning together, slowly putting in the foundation of the operating system that they use today. David was very involved in the day to day operations, coming up with different ideas on how they could improve and asking her opinion on whether it could be executed or how she thought it could work better before trying it out. He used his team as a sounding board and welcomed their feedback if they saw a better way to do something because he wanted to make sure that he was constantly reviewing every part of the business for improvements. Being a feedback-driven owner is how Cristina believes that David has built the business so successfully. 

Most of the recipes for the menu items at The Hummus & Pita Co. come from David’s grandmother, which is why he insists on making them the traditional way although they have modern technology now that would make it a lot quicker and easier. He doesn’t want to stray away from tradition and lose the flavor that handcrafting the food provides. Their main chef, who has been with The Hummus & Pita Co. since it opened and has twenty years of experience, has helped document all of these recipes and figure out how to mass produce them. Every recipe started, and continues to start, as a single serving recipe and then once David and his mother feel it’s up to par, the entire company will taste it and give it the okay. The chef then creates the proper ratios for each ingredient and the proper maintenance for the food so that it can be replicated and produced at each location. As the menu has grown, everything continues to be David’s recipes. From the seasonings to the spices, they use specific ingredients, a lot of which they have to import or special order, because almost all of their food is made in-house on a daily basis. They make their items fresh every day and don’t use any preservatives to keep the dishes as healthy as possible. Unlike other restaurants, nothing is prepackaged or mass produced. Everything is prepped to order and after so many years in business, they know how to forecast their volume each day so it’s rare that they have food left over. If they run out of something, they have preps that are there throughout the day and night that can make anything that they need. Because their kitchen team makes the food using traditional methods, there’s a lot of skill, dedication and patience that goes into the food creation every day. Not only does this allow you to taste the freshness and quality of their food, the love that they put into their craft makes it even more delicious.

hummus-and-pita-co-store.jpg

Both Brigitte and Cristina agree that the most important piece of the business is customer service. They say that David is very particular with the people that he hires because he wants all of their employees to be a representation of the brand. The store employees specifically are the first people that a customer sees when they enter the store so he doesn’t want them pushing the customer along the line like they don’t care about the food, he wants them to be dedicated to what they’re selling. Which is why their training process takes about two weeks and has three different stages: shadowing, side-by-side and validation, eventually having the new employee take over a station on their own and get reviewed by a manager. But whether you work front of house or back of house, every employee has to know all of the recipes, allergens and how each item is made because they have such unique ingredients in their dishes. Using the wrong item, like black peppers instead of red peppers, completely changes the flavor profile of a dish, so the little details are the most important. However, most of their employees are very passionate about the business and their food. Cristina says that almost all of the employees from their original team are still working at The Hummus & Pita Co. and if they didn’t start with her, most have been working there for three to five years, so they’ve all known each other for a while. They spend more time together than they do with their actual families and have become a family themselves, the head of which is David. Brigitte says that David has become sort of a father figure to the company, they all want to impress him because he’s so hands-on and involved in the business. He leads by example, often jumping on the line to help serve people and supporting his team when they’re short-staffed. Being raised by a single mother and also being a parent himself, he’s very understanding that life happens sometimes and is very flexible with his employees in regards to childcare issues, always offering for them to bring their son(s) or daughter(s) to the restaurant to hang out while they work. He believes that the work he’s doing is for everyone to succeed together and wants his employees to be as passionate about the company as he is, because they’re contributing to that success. And that inclusive attitude has allowed his employees to create their own supportive, family dynamic.

As The Hummus & Pita Co. continues to grow, they’re putting a bigger emphasis on food allergies and dietary restrictions. When the business opened they had vegetarian and gluten free menu options but have since developed the menu to include vegan options as well, which they’re continuing to add more of. They’re always thinking outside of the box to come up with new ideas (like the chickpea chiller and the chickpea smears) to meet the different demographics and communicate with those communities to show that they’re a comprehensive restaurant where people with all different eating habits can come together for a delicious, healthy meal. They’re also looking to expand the business itself, now with franchises in Connecticut, New Jersey, Colorado and Michigan and planning for Atlanta and San Diego later this year. For Cristina, being the Franchise Training Manager, the most challenging part of the business is creating a team that supports one another, understands the brand and promotes it. Teaching others about the business is something that motivates her as a leader but she wants to make sure that the people she’s training are as engaged with the business as she is and are working with the same dedication that her team in New York does. But the more they expand, the more room there is for error, which is frustrating to her, since she helped build the business. Her goal is to train the franchisees to be able to speak about the brand as well as she and David can and she enjoys learning better ways to teach that. However, both Cristina and Brigitte agree that David is the motivating factor behind the business and the selling factor that gets a lot of franchisees on board. Seeing how hard he works and how dedicated he is to the business is inspiring and makes you want to be a part of the growth, no matter how tough it gets.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

 

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It’s Time to Be More MNDFL

When you’re constantly on the go (as all New Yorkers are) it’s hard to make the time to take care of yourself- body and mind. But with more than 46 million Americans struggling with mental illness on a daily basis, it’s so important to start taking the steps to make sure that you’re mentally and emotionally healthy.

Meditation is a mind-body practice where an individual focuses their mind on a specific object, thought or activity to train attention and awareness. It’s a skill that takes consistent practice to be comfortable with and has been proven to reduce stress,  anxiety and depression. We’re so excited to be partnering with MNDFL, New York’s premier meditation studio, for their new “Lunch & Sit” program, which brings meditation straight to your office! With “Lunch & Sit”, you don’t have to worry about squeezing a meditation class into your crazy work week. You can have MNDFL come to you with a 60 minute session where you’ll eat a delicious, healthy meal catered by a FoodtoEat vendor and finish out your lunch with a 30 minute guided meditation session. Interested? Keep reading to learn more about MNDFL and how you can be more mindful when eating.

What is MNDFL? MNDFL exists to enable humans to feel good. Our studios are meant to feel like home, or at least the spacious home you’d love to have in New York. We feature expert meditation teachers from a variety of traditions offering simple techniques in an accessible manner. Even if you think you can’t meditate, we have teachers who will prove you delightfully wrong! Our classes are 30, 45, and 60 minutes, and start at $15. When classes are not in session, the studio is open for self-guided practice. Bonus: everyone is super friendly!

When was MNDFL founded? MNDFL first opened it’s doors in November of 2015 in Greenwich Village and has since expanded to two additional locations on the Upper East Side and in Williamsburg. It was founded by Ellie Burrows and Lodro Rinzler.

What is the mission behind MNDFL? MNDFL’s mission is to make meditation accessible to as many human beings as possible. We believe in the Three T’s: Traditions + Teachers + Techniques. We are taking techniques that are 2,500 years or older and empowering our expert teachers to lead you from their traditions in a secular manner.

What are the benefits of meditation? Meditation has many benefits that science is now proving but a few to note are:

  • Decreases Stress and Builds Resilience
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Boosts Creativity & Problem-Solving
  • Supports Normalized Sleep
  • Increases Focus and Productivity
  • Increase Creative Thinking
  • Benefit Interpersonal Relationships

Why has MNDFL had so much success in New York City? In just 3 short years, we have seen over 200,000 cushions booked and are still in shock at the new humans passing through our doors daily. Let’s face it, New Yorker’s are stressed, busy, and hungry for connection. MNDFL has created a space that feels like the comfort of your home yet at the same time provides space to breath.

Why was MNDFL @ Work created? MNDFL @ Work was created out of the need to educate corporations on both the professional and personal benefits of building and maintaining a meditation practice without having to leave the office. Increased productivity, better focus and stress management are key factors in the desire to launch an in-office program, but the epidemic of burnt out employees nationwide has sent companies searching for a cure. Meditation is here to help.

After creating MNDFL @ Work, why did you see the need to launch the MNDFL “Lunch & Sit” program? Here at MNDFL we are continually looking for ways to make meditation more and more accessible. What better way to start committing to a practice than attaching it to something you do everyday, like getting lunch!

What is the “Lunch & Sit” program and what you hope to accomplish with it? The MNDFL “Lunch & Sit” program is 60 minutes dedicated to nourishing your body with wholesome food and nourishing your mind with guided meditation. The format is to open with 30 minutes of a healthy catered lunch followed by a 30 minute guided MNDFL meditation. We are hoping this program will allow offices to easily incorporate mental health into their company culture by attaching it to something that we already do on a regular basis.

What do you see for the future of MNDFL? We hope to continue educating and supporting human beings on building and maintaining a meditation practice. Although our efforts are currently focused on growing our NYC communities, we’d love to eventually spread this beyond just the east coast. If you’re not able to sit with us at any of our three NYC studio locations, we do offer MNDFL Video which allows you to sit with our expert teachers in the comfort of your home. 

MNDFL Eating Tips:

Even if your mind is going 60 miles per hour, try to mindfully show up for at least the first and last bite of your meal. Pause before you dive in, acknowledge your food then slowly take the first bite, savoring the taste. Notice the texture, flavor, and temperature of your meal. Chew it at a slower pace than normal. If you drift off after that first bite, okay, but then at the end of your meal repeat this process with your last bite too. That way you open and close your meal with grace and dignity.

Pause between bites. Often we are already lowering our utensil, rooting around our plate or bowl while chewing, already strategizing what we’re going to eat next. Instead of living for the next bite, train to rest in the present moment. Let the food anchor you in the here and now. One of the simplest ways to do that is to put down your utensil and savor the food you’re currently eating. When you have enjoyed and swallowed what you’re currently enjoying, only then do you pick up your spoon or fork and proceed with your meal.

Part of a fun meal is enjoying the company of those you’re eating with. One way to maximize that enjoyment is through mindful listening. Notice when you are deeply listening to your companions over a meal, versus spacing out or mentally having another conversation in your head. You are simply there with them, as opposed to waiting for your turn to speak. You can lay down your utensil, look the person in the eye, and aim to hear what they are trying to say. To deeply listen enables someone to feel your full heart.

 

 

0 comments on “Nir Kahan, Co-Owner of Hokey Poke”

Nir Kahan, Co-Owner of Hokey Poke

This is Nir Kahan, the co-owner of Hokey Poke. Growing up in Israel, Nir says that food was always a “main stage event” in his daily life. In Israeli culture, food is extremely important and there’s a huge focus on high-quality, locally sourced, fresh, seasonal ingredients in everything from street food to upscale restaurants. So although he didn’t come from a heavy culinary background, being raised in this environment gave him a unique appreciation for food and an interest in how dishes were created. However, it wasn’t until he traveled the world in his twenties and spent six months in Japan that he was introduced to the super high-quality ingredients of Japanese cuisine that he had never seen before. He was inspired by the focus that the Japanese people put on these ingredients, even more so than in Israel, and how devoted they were to the food creation process. It was a form of art that they took great care and pride in and it allowed Nir to value fresh fish and the authenticity of food creation in a way that he never had before. From that point on, although he wasn’t cooking in his own place, he was always working in kitchens and playing with food. So when poke started getting popular in New York in 2015/2016, everything infused in his head, leading to the creation of Hokey Poke- a restaurant that combines the fresh Hawaiian-style cuisine with super fine, high-quality Japanese ingredients and aggressive Middle Eastern flavors.

Nir moved to New York in 2009 when his first daughter was born. His then-wife had started an organic food company and they moved to the city to develop the brand and open a few locations. While she and her business partner were running the business, Nir was managing operations for Hummus Kitchen, a childhood friend’s restaurant on the Upper East Side. Hummus Kitchen allowed Nir to get experience in customer service, business logistics, operational skills and speaking with vendors. He worked there for one year and credits his time there for giving him the confidence to dive into the food industry in New York and run his own restaurant. After Hummus Kitchen though, he worked in finance for four years until he got the opportunity to work in food again. He was asked to be involved in The Picnic Basket (which he is no longer a part of) by a friend’s brother and bring Mediterranean influences to the New York lunch scene. However, once he saw the poke trend starting in New York, he knew he had to be a part of it. He got the owners of The Picnic Basket to turn their second location into a commissary kitchen so that he could open a poke shop in the empty space next to The Picnic Basket. And since he was so excited to start playing with the idea of fresh fish that could be more creative and flexible than sushi, he decided to leave The Picnic Basket and focus on this new business. Since Nir isn’t Hawaiian and poke has more aggressive flavors and bigger mix ins than traditional Japanese food, he started to bring in touches of his Israeli background, incorporating the bold flavors of sesame and chickpeas into his menu. After a few months of prep, Hokey Poke opened in February 2016.

Hokey Poke Team

Nir says that his mindset of mixing flavors and playing with cuisines as well as his insistence on always using the best ingredients that he can find led him to working with poke. He and his team try to locally source as much as possible, but they always find the freshest, most high-quality ingredients because they understand the importance of healthy food. He buys only sushi grade fish that typically only high-end sushi restaurants use and has a bunch of different vendors that he orders from to make sure that they’re always getting the highest quality available. Although this hurts his profitability because his costs are so high, as a father Nir strives to feed his daughter the best stuff that he can and that’s the same way he looks at what he feeds his customers. He wants to use the best ingredients because he wants customers to associate his business with a unique poke experience and to know that when they purchase his food, they’re eating healthy, in a friendly environment with friendly service. With so much competition between poke restaurants today (he estimates that there are about 80 in the area), he wants customers to remember the quality of the food but also their service. Nir says that the team he has now is the most amazing, fun, supportive and loving crew that he could ask for. They’ve become a little family and his top employees who have been with him for a while now know the operations so well that it’s allowed them to grow the business and expand the menu. He believes that half of having a unique menu is having an awesome team that can sell it and that’s what he has right now. And once those two things come together, it’s magic. Their service, along with the unique influences combined on their menu, has allowed them to differentiate themselves from their competition.

The most rewarding part of the business for Nir is when customers make an effort to give him a compliment about how amazing the food was. It’s something that truly brightens his day and that he never gets tired of hearing. And since the base of their customers are recurring clients, it’s even more rewarding to know that the food is consistently delicious and that they’re enjoying it so much that they’re coming back multiple times a week. On the flip side though, the rise of social media and online ordering platforms has been the most challenging part of the business for Nir. He sees the benefits of it- increasing their exposure and introducing them to new clients, helping them to book catering jobs with people who have never tried their food before, keeping them on their toes to always be at their best every moment the restaurant is open- but, being older, it’s a little more difficult for him to understand the social media platforms and utilize them for sales. However, he understands that walk-in customers are no longer the business and that you have to bring people in with your online presence so he’s trying to adjust. But the fact that anyone can be a food critic now means that he or she can destroy your hard work over one experience. The change in the way the public interacts with food has shifted what customers expect from food service. He finds that people care less about the food itself and more about the convenience and fitting it into their schedule, which has caused Nir to constantly be apologizing for issues that he usually has no control over and losing money because of it. But, because so many customers rely on sites like Yelp and Grubhub, it’s better for him to lose the money than get a bad review on a platform that he has no control over. People take these platforms seriously so he has to as well or else his rating will drop and then “you’re fighting the statistics” as customers choose between you and thousands of other restaurants. Because your online presence is so powerful, Nir says that he’s gotten used to using these platforms as a marketing tool and if an issue does come up, “killing any complaint with kindness”.

For Nir, one Hokey Poke location is challenging but not enough so he’s thinking about franchising in order to expand into more locations. He says that it’s definitely scary because the industry is super risky to begin with and on top of that, it’s way more difficult to succeed in NYC than in other cities. But he believes that they have a really good product that customers enjoy. Also, he recently started a new business called The Chick Shop, which has become his new “baby” and is starting to pick up traction. As much as he loves Hokey Poke, he sees The Chick Shop as an extension of himself because it’s the food that he grew up eating but couldn’t find the quality that he appreciated in New York, so he decided to create it himself. Because of this new venture, Nir’s business partner, Shay, has taken over the main operations for Hokey Poke but Nir still runs all the back office duties. But as they go through this transition, Nir’s focus is continuing to provide the friendly service and high quality-food that Hokey Poke has always been know for. He says that when people come into the restaurant and meet their team in person, it creates a longer lasting relationship because they can see how hard they work to make every customer happy. And the satisfaction of customers will always be their main priority. As Nir says, “that’s the reason we’re here, you know?”

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

 

0 comments on “Yariv Stav, Co-Owner of The Picnic Basket”

Yariv Stav, Co-Owner of The Picnic Basket

This is Yariv Stav, the co-owner of The Picnic Basket, a fast casual restaurant that Yariv says “takes the tastes of my home and adapts it to New York”. Inspired by Yariv’s upbringing in Israel, every item on the menu at The Picnic Basket has a little bit of a Mediterranean twist on it, which Yariv says the New York market was looking for when he and his co-owner, David Vacnich, opened The Picnic Basket in 2009. Both Yariv and David saw the market shifting towards cleaner, more wholesome options as customers became more health conscious and focused on the ingredients going into their food. And they saw an opportunity to introduce the inherently healthy nature of Mediterranean food into New York’s food industry in an unassuming way- with sandwiches and salads. Fast forward 10 years, Yariv says their food has become so popular because it’s made to order right in front of the customer and because all of their ingredients are either made in-house or delivered fresh every day. They have no preservatives in their food and instead use Mediterranean flavors and spices to create high-quality cuisine. For Yariv, the extra work that they put into their food to create the unique and distinctive tastes that The Picnic Basket is known for is worth the effort; because their commitment freshness is what makes the difference.

Food wasn’t always Yariv’s passion. After serving in the army in Israel, he got really interested in interior design and decided to go back to school for three years to study it on a deeper level. When he finished his program, he worked in interior design and graphic design for ten years before deciding to go to culinary school in Israel. While he was working in design, Yariv had also started working with Bite NYC, a food business that a childhood friend had started and asked him to be a part of. The plan was always for Yariv to come to the U.S. and run the business with his friend but it continued getting delayed because of the other work that he was doing. However, after culinary school, Yariv says that he got lucky and the timing finally lined up for him to move to New York. He moved in 2005 and right away began managing Bite with his friend. It was while he was working at Bite that he was connected to David, his friend’s brother, and that he was inspired to open his own restaurant. He wanted to create a concept similar to Bite but make it more upscale with fresher ingredients. Working at Bite allowed him to realize what he would improve on at his own place and from his experience in the food industry, he believed he knew what customers in New York liked. It would be a different feel and a different taste from Bite and other sandwich places and opening a space in Midtown would attract the lunch crowd that Bite missed at it’s downtown location. Yariv approached David with the idea and with a menu already formed in his mind. He knew exactly the restaurant that he wanted to open and a few months later, they opened their first location in the Fashion District.

Yariv says that he grew up with two very different styles of cooking, both influenced by his grandmothers. One was Russian and one was Libyan and although both cooked a lot, he was heavily influenced by his Libyan grandmother’s food. It was the majority of the food that he grew up eating during his childhood so it was important to him to incorporate those pieces into the menu. Since Yariv had a clear idea of what he wanted the restaurant to be and what the New York crowd likes, he created the entire menu for The Picnic Basket, which he says he wrote down like a recipe book. And he focused the menu around sandwiches and salads because the “picnic sandwich” was their original source of inspiration. They wanted to create sandwiches that customers would feel like they or a loved one had made in their kitchen at home. That was handmade with love and consideration and the freshest ingredients, which led them to the name, The Picnic Basket, for their business. It also led to the design of their store, which they wanted to fill with picnic tables that unfortunately didn’t fit, but instead includes earthy hues of brown and green throughout and a wall that says “picnic” in a variety of languages to represent the ability of a picnic or a sandwich to transcend cultural differences. Now, as the business grows, Yariv says he’ll pull inspiration from other cuisines he tries or places he visits or is planning to visit. He likes to incorporate new flavors into the menu as much as possible but always keeps a focus on sourcing the freshest ingredients that the item requires to get the correct taste.

Picnic Basket wall

In addition to their focus on freshness, consistency is a key factor in the day to day operations at The Picnic Basket. Since their second location opened in 2010, Yariv says that he’s particularly hard on this because he wants a customer to be able to go into either location and have their items, especially the sandwiches, taste exactly the same. For Yariv, what’s most important is that the dressings on each sandwich are correct. He wants a customer to taste all of the ingredients in every bite so it matters how you put the dressing on and how much of the dressing you put on. The dressings are all about the taste and not having the correct amount can change the whole meal. Which is why all employees have to train at their flagship location so that Yariv and his team can teach them their system for putting the ingredients on a sandwich: dressing, vegetables, cheese, meat. The sandwich creation has to be done a certain way because it’s very important that the customer get the whole experience of their food, which can be thrown off if it’s made incorrectly. Yariv says that he can now sense if someone is a sandwich maker. When they come in to train, he has to watch how they hold the knife and cut the bread because the way they cut it shows him a lot. There’s a certain way that you cut the bread that you can do it in one slice and if you cut it the wrong way, you’re going slower. Since they’re making most of their orders between 12PM and 2PM when customers are on their lunch breaks, it’s important that the sandwiches are made well but also that they’re made quickly. Their food is made to order so when employees are making them on the spot, they have to be quick and efficient and even something as simple as the way they cut the bread can throw off their rhythm. However, he’s able to tell right away if someone has the skill and after they shadow an employee in the kitchen, they study the menu and then get asked questions on it. The goal is that when they’re fully trained, they can make any sandwich correctly from memory in just 45 seconds.

Yariv’s philosophy for running a business has changed a lot over the years. He says his opinion right now is different than it was three years ago because there are a lot of different factors that have changed recently, including taxes, minimum wage, rent and competition of other businesses opening. But his advice for those looking to get into the food industry is to understand every part of the market and treat it as an equation. Think of the concept that you want to create and ask yourself how many people you can serve in a day and work backwards from there. Go through all of your financial expenses (rent, salaries, etc), estimate your cost, estimate your revenue based on the customers you’re serving and what they’ll pay for your food and work up from there. Right now he admits that the conditions are the hardest he’s seen since he opened his business but he believes that passion, no matter what, has to be a key part of your business and your reason for opening it. In his experience, if you’re passionate about what you do and you have a good product, customers will come. For Yariv, customer satisfaction is the most rewarding part of the business and the most important. He says that they get all kinds of feedback, both positive and negative, and he reads and responds to 99% of it because they help him learn, especially the bad reviews. But as long as he continues to create high-quality products with the freshest ingredients that bring others joy, he’s happy. 

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

 

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Quick & Simple Patriotic Fare for Any 4th of July Party!

You just got invited to a last minute 4th of July party/BBQ that you need to bring a dish to… (panic ensues). We’ve all been there. When the only thing on your mind is enjoying a long weekend away from work, brainstorming celebratory recipes that you can create in the next 24 hours isn’t always easy. So we’re here to help!

We scoured the Internet and came up with our top picks for 4th of July themed dishes that are easy to create when you’re crunched for time or don’t feel like putting too much energy into cooking or baking during the holiday weekend. These recipes are quick and easy to follow, but still make it look like you put a lot of thought into choosing the perfectly themed food to commemorate our independence with friends and family. Whether you go for an appetizer, salad, side or dessert, you can’t go wrong with these red, white and blue eats. Happy celebrating! 🇺🇸

Appetizers: 

American Flag Vegetable Tray: A crudites platter is a staple at any party because every guest can enjoy it, especially if you have picky eaters in the group. Mix and match with your favorite veggies. The American flag display is a festive way to make this appetizer memorable.

Margherita Flatbread: We’re missing the blue in this dish but the 15 minute production makes up for it. This flatbread is so easy to make, you could do it an hour before! However, it’s important to keep in mind that this will only serve bite-size pieces for about 2-3 people so you’ll need to make a few, depending on the size of the party!

Fig, Goat Cheese, Bacon, Honey Crostini: This delightful crostini is topped with a variety of items to make this appetizer explode with flavor. Although a little more complicated, it’s the perfect way to impress at a BBQ.

Salads/Sides:

Watermelon Strawberry Caprese Salad: This mouthwatering salad combines watermelon, strawberries, fresh basil and feta cheese to create a unique and refreshing alternative to your standard green salad. And if you’re focused on color scheme, throw in some blueberries to incorporate the blue!

Red, White and Blue Potato Salad: This potato salad doesn’t just look pretty, it’s a filling side dish that will complement any entree. The recipe does recommend chilling for 2 hours for optimal taste so keep that in mind if you’re in a rush!

Classic Grilled Corn on the Cob: This side dish requires a little more time but is worth the wait. What says “summer BBQ” more than corn on the cob?! And the basil butter parmesan topping? Yes, please.

Desserts:

4th of July S’mores Dip: Not only does this dish take just 20 minutes to create (perfect if you’re really in a pinch), it’s a great way to upgrade a classic, crowd-pleasing dessert and make it festive!

Red, White and Blue Cheesecake Strawberries: If you’re looking for a lighter dessert option, these bite-size cheesecake strawberries are our go to. They’re delicious, super cute presentation-wise and requires only six ingredients.

Brownie Flag: Feeling more adventurous? This brownie flag cake takes a little longer than most of our other dishes but is a really good option if you’re not too pressed for time. It’s especially good for bigger parties since it yields 24 servings.

 

0 comments on “Franco Noriega & Milan Kelez, Co-Owners of Baby Brasa”

Franco Noriega & Milan Kelez, Co-Owners of Baby Brasa

This is Franco Noriega and Milan Kelez, the co-owners of Baby Brasa, the first organic Peruvian restaurant in New York City. Franco is the architect behind Baby Brasa but with Milan’s help has transformed what was once a small eatery into an international business. Franco and Milan have been friends for fifteen years after meeting in Peru, their native country, when they both were both working as models. At the time, Franco was already living in New York City. He had moved to the U.S. when he was 18 to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was discovered as a model two years later. He modeled for the next few years but grew tired of the industry when he felt that he had hit the ceiling of opportunities available to him. After feeling like he was his own brand as a model, he wanted to create a business where the brand could be bigger than himself and grow exponentially. It was this idea, and his recognition that there was a huge lack of options for Peruvian food in the city’s food industry, that pushed him to enter the restaurant business and create the concept behind Baby Brasa. However, it’s been Franco and Milan’s ability to transform Baby Brasa into a lifestyle brand and their awareness that great ideas come from the people who surround them is what has made Baby Brasa so successful.

Growing up, Franco was always exposed to the restaurant business because his parents were restaurateurs who owned several different food chains in Peru. He says that he was born into the entrepreneurial side of building businesses based around food because his parents were always opening up a new store at home every three or four months with a new concept or cuisine and then selling the store once it was established. So when he decided to leave the modeling industry, it felt natural for him to transition into the restaurant business that he’d been familiar with his whole life. He decided to enroll in the International Culinary Center (ICC) to get his culinary degree, always with the idea of opening a Peruvian restaurant as soon as he graduated. In 2016 he opened the first Baby Brasa on the Lower East Side. It was a tight space with eight seats that offered counter service, takeout and delivery but he used it as a temporary location while he was sorting out the permits for a larger location in Brooklyn. But as the process dragged on and he continued to hit roadblocks with his restaurant in Williamsburg, he decided to shift gears and focus on building his business in Manhattan. He began looking for spaces and found a spot in the West Village that he says he had been crazy about his whole life because he had always seen it as a prime space for a restaurant. He loved the architecture of the building, the windows and the fact that it was located on the corner of 7th Avenue S. After seeing the interior, he immediately fell in love with it and decided to expand the business into this 100+ seating space where he had always envisioned the business operating.

It was during this time that Franco reconnected with Milan, who was working as a fashion and film producer. Although he didn’t have any experience in the restaurant industry other than being a maitre d at a restaurant in Brooklyn for a year, both Franco and Milan see Baby Brasa as a “production that never ends” and used Milan’s skills in bringing a project to fruition to open this new location together. They took six months to renovate the space and opened the second location in May 2017. Once the second space opened, it didn’t make sense for them to have two operations running at the same time, especially because they found that the food traffic on the Lower East Side was very limited. So they closed their first location to the public and turned it into a ghost kitchen, which has now become their catering division, and began to focus on building the reputation of their larger space. Although Franco had created all of the recipes for the menu and was involved in the kitchen at the Lower East Side location, he decided to remove himself from the kitchen in this new space and concentrate on the business operations. Watching his parents build up businesses and then sell them to someone else throughout his life taught him that you can’t be a part of the restaurant’s equation in order for it to work. So he trained a chef to use the recipes that he created and run the kitchen so that he wouldn’t be involved in daily operations. Instead, Franco put his energy into building an empire around the Baby Brasa brand.

As a brand, Franco and Milan want customers to associate Baby Brasa with being cool, sexy and healthy. Coming from the background of the modeling industry, they’ve always been concerned about what they’re putting into their bodies as individuals and believe that now eating healthy has become cool and trendy for consumers. Which is why everything at the restaurant is organic and made with fresh ingredients. They’ve used their food knowledge to come up with delicious dishes that are good for their customers, which they see as an added benefit of the restaurant- the customer doesn’t have to figure out if  dish is healthy or not because they’ve already designed them specifically to be healthy, yet also flavorful and filling. The design of their restaurant also ties into their brand and is very cohesive throughout the whole restaurant. It was inspired by their love for the beach and the warm weather climate that they grew up in and incorporates a lot of bright colors, greenery and street art, which they’ve always been fans of. Both the mural outside the restaurant and all of the walls inside were done by street artists that they brought in to create their own designs. From their work with street artists in the community, they ended up creating The New Allen, which is a street art collective that they started and now have more than 30 walls in Manhattan designed by the street artists that they work with. They’ve also started a Baby Brasa apparel line, which includes sweatshirts, t-shirts and beanies, all with their restaurant name and logo on them. Because they’ve created such a clear brand voice and style for their business, they say that they have social media influencers coming in all the time to take pictures because being in the restaurant is part of the experience. Which is why every angle in the restaurant has a very specific design so that you can take a picture from anywhere and the background will always look good. Since influencers have become the new marketing device and give them free advertising, Franco & Milan made sure to keep social media appeal in mind when creating the layout of the restaurant to make sure that every area can double as a space for a photo shoot.

Franco says that one of the toughest parts of the business is dealing with employees. With any restaurant, the human workforce is so important but it’s also very tough to make multiple personalities work well together and it’s difficult to have to rely on other people to take care of the daily operations of your business. They do have some staff members that have been with them for a year but generally it’s a revolving process, which they believe is part of the nature of the restaurant business. Most of the men and women that are in the food industry are there because they’re in the middle of a transition and are trying to do something else with their lives. However, they also see their revolving staff as a positive part of the business because they always have new energy coming in and out. Franco and Milan believe that a core part of their business is that they’re really open to great ideas. They don’t think that they know everything and they’re always asking themselves, their staff and their customers, “what could be better here?” and take all responses and ideas into consideration. They’re always open to suggestions for how they can improve the business and constantly learn from their mistakes to try and get better every day. Their menu has evolved in the same way. Although they started out with all of Franco’s recipes, now they’ve had so many influences from so many different incredible chefs that come in and cook in their space that they’ve added these dishes to the menu. They pride themselves on being a big platform for young talent, who they always invite to the restaurant to explore what the culinary world is for them and express themselves in whatever way they think makes sense. They’re always looking to add new items to their menu so if any of these young chefs have dishes that they think would work, they’re always open to the idea and willing to see if it’s a fit for them.

Because they focus so much on the business from a brand perspective, Franco and Milan admit that they’re not as interested in how much the restaurant can physically produce but how much the brand can produce. Which is why they’re in the process of franchising the business and have two franchises opening in Miami and Rio de Janeiro by the end of the year. They believe that franchising is the best way to grow without having so much responsibility on their end and is a seamless way to extend the brand internationally. They have really high goals for themselves to open a Baby Brasa restaurant in every city that they’ve traveled to in the past and love visiting or want to travel to in the future, so that they can enjoy their food around the world. However, once the business is established and running efficiently, they see themselves selling the business and letting someone else take over the operations, similar to what Franco’s parents did with all of their businesses. He says that they’ve always had an exit strategy but are enjoying the process of building a successful business. For Franco, one of the most rewarding parts of the business is when he’s wearing a Baby Brasa sweatshirt on the subway or walking in the city and people will recognize it or ask him where they can buy one. It shows him that their efforts to create a strong brand are working and it inspires him to think of more ways that they can promote Baby Brasa. He says that that recognition as well as the crowds that come in on the weekends confirms to him that even in such a competitive market like New York, they’re on the right path, and it pushes them to keep moving forward.

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

 

0 comments on “Celebrate Summer with Our Chickpea Panzanella Salad!”

Celebrate Summer with Our Chickpea Panzanella Salad!

We love finding different recipes to create during the summer when you want something delicious and light but are sick of eating lettuce for every meal (no offense, lettuce). And our Chickpea Panzanella Salad is the perfect way to get the best of both worlds! It’s simple and fresh and the mix of colors in the dish itself creates a beautiful presentation that makes it ideal for a dinner party, outdoor BBQ or date night!

This recipe is so easy to make at home because it requires a limited amount of ingredients and takes only 20 minutes to prepare. It’s flavorful and filling and the toasted bread gives it that extra crunch that we love in a salad. It’s perfect for those summer evenings when you don’t want to be standing over a stove for more than 10 minutes and can be served room temperature or chilled, based on your preference. So kick back and relax as you enjoy this delicious salad and the free time that this easy recipe gives you!

Chickpea Panzanella Salad

Recipe serves 4-6

You’ll Need:

1 ciabatta loaf (or any kind of crusty bread)

2 cups heirloom cherry tomatoes

1 can chickpeas (rinsed) 

1 can artichoke hearts, quartered

3 ounces feta cheese

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (we suggest doing a little extra for garnish)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

salt 

pepper

First preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While it’s preheating, cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Once cut, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper (to taste), garlic powder and onion powder. Place the bread cubes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes or until toasted and golden.

Next combine cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, feta, red onion and basil in a large bowl, adding the bread cubes in once they’re toasted. In a separate smaller bowl, combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, pepper and salt (to taste) and stir with a whisk. Once mixed, pour your dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

Pro Tip: Serve with grilled chicken, grilled shrimp or grilled salmon for the perfect meal on a summer evening!

0 comments on “Kristine Quattrone, Owner of Q Events Catering”

Kristine Quattrone, Owner of Q Events Catering

This is Kristine Quattrone, the owner of Q Events, a catering and event planning company that she’s been running, almost exclusively, for the last sixteen years. Kristine has had sales people work for her in the past who she’s trained on her approach to catering, the software she uses and her menu, but most of the time that she’s been in business, she’s been the one coordinating with each client directly, building custom menus and taking care of everything from the food to the flowers to the DJ. Kristine started cooking at a very young age. She grew up sitting in the kitchen with her grandmother helping her cook and learned the basics of cooking from her grandmother and her mother. She started working in the food industry at 12 years old, cooking hamburgers and hot dogs and scooping ice cream at a beach concession stand on Long Island. When she turned 16, she started busing tables and soon after she began working as a waitress and a bartender. However, despite all of her experience in different areas of the industry, she said that she never really realized how her summer and part-time jobs had tied into her love for hospitality and events until she got to college. Originally an accounting major, she ended up transferring from Suffolk Community College to Montclair State University to pursue a degree in Commercial Recreation and Leisure Studies after enlisting ten of her friends to help her put together a keg party at her house and recognizing that designing and executing an event was her passion. The fact that this passion turned into a food catering and event planning business, she says, happened organically. The uncertainty of the hospitality industry has never been easy for Kristine and being a single mother in such a fast-paced environment presents it’s own set of challenges as well. But being responsible for her own future is what she loves most about her business and what drives her to keep moving forward.

After focusing on event planning throughout college, Kristine got a job as an administrative assistant at Calvin Klein. Within six months she was promoted to Special Events Coordinator, which was a position they created for her to be the liaison between the PR department, the marketing department and the facilities management department to set up for any event that was taking place internally or externally for Calvin Klein. After a few years she was promoted to Food Services Manager, where she was responsible for coordinating catering from their in-house food service department for on-site and off-site events and meetings as well as the wait staff that delivered the food. Since she was still working on all of the events with the facilities management team as well as managing this small food service department, Kristine had her hands in a little bit of everything that was going on in the building and says that she felt very much at home in this position because she loved balancing both sides of the job. However, in 2003, Calvin Klein was sold to Phillips-Van Heusen and the food service department was eliminated. Kristine was asked to stay and transfer to the facilities management team but after working in a role that she enjoyed so much, that combined her love of food and events, she decided to leave and start her own business. Kristine opened Q Events that same year (2003) and started out operating out of Guy & Gallard, which she used as her commissary kitchen. She says she basically took her food services department and turned it into her business because she already had the contacts at the rental company, a book of waiters that she had worked with in the past and personal connections with a florist and a DJ. Ironically, her first client at Q Events ended up being Calvin Klein after someone from the PR department called her for an event proposal and decided to give her a chance when she said that she had left Calvin Klein but had started her own catering and event planning business. She realized that she could leverage the contacts that she had already made and began reaching out to friends and colleagues who had been laid off from Calvin Klein to see if they needed catering or help planning an event at their new companies. Because they knew her work and how good she was, they booked her.

In 2004, looking for a new kitchen to run her business out of, Kristine attended a business card exchange where she met Eric Patel, the owner of a restaurant in Midtown called Bagel & Bean. Eric was looking for someone to help him with sales to expand his business and had extra kitchen space, so they decided to start working together. Kristine used his restaurant as her commissary kitchen for Q Events but also cooked and worked with Eric’s staff to help him expand his business from just breakfast catering to lunch and happy hour catering. It ended up being a great fit for both of them and Kristine continued working out of Eric’s restaurant on and off for the next fifteen years. Although Bagel & Bean was technically a competitor to Q Events, Kristine says she never looked at it like that. In fact, she says that she doesn’t look at any other catering company as competition. In the food industry, there’s always going to be competition no matter what, so she focuses on her own business and how she can increase her own sales rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing. She admits that she may check out other companies to make sure that her pricing is competitive but she strives to do her own research to stay on top of food trends and make sure that she’s meeting customer demand. When she first started Q Events, she created the entire menu (which includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers and desserts) herself and it’s been evolving since then. Kristine believes that what makes her unique from other catering and event planning companies is that she has a lot of fun with her menu items. Her food is delicious but not pretentious and is presented beautifully while also being filling. And she’s constantly coming up with new menu ideas, trying to be as creative as possible, especially when it comes to appetizers. She recently launched her “Kristini” Bar, which gives clients all of the bruschetta, cheese, meat necessary to build their own crostini. Kristine believes that at the end of the day, you’re only responsible for yourself, which is why she keeps trying new things that are fun and different from what everyone else is doing.

For Kristine, the most rewarding part of the business is when an event goes smoothly and she gets compliments on the food and everyone has a good time. When that happens she says that she really feels that she’s accomplished something and hearing compliments from clients reassure her that she’s doing it right. But the toughest part is the fact that she’s chosen the life of an entrepreneur so the risks are much higher, which can be scary, especially as a single mom. She briefly opened a cafe in Long Island City when she was pregnant thinking that it would be easier to consolidate her catering operations into her own location and because she had always wanted her own storefront. However, she quickly realized that both the cafe and her son needed 150% of her time and it was very difficult to do both. She ended up closing the business after a year and went back to focusing on catering. However, she says that being a single mother in this industry today is still an extremely difficult challenge that she faces daily. Her job entails long and often unconventional hours, which has made it a hard to find a babysitter as well as expensive when she is able to find one. So not having a set paycheck at the end of the week can become very stressful. But Kristine always tries to see this challenge in a positive way and make that her motivation. She’s constantly meeting with existing clients, networking to find new clients and improving her menu because she knows that she has to create her own business to be successful. As an entrepreneur, you’re always nervous and you’re always asking yourself how you can improve. Kristine says the key is staying active in your efforts as well as never giving up your belief in yourself if you’re doing something that you’re passionate about.

Kristine now works out of a commissary kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen that Eric introduced her to where five companies work out of the same space. It has a centralized purchasing department, a billing department and the entire kitchen is brand new. Kristine has been there for about a year and loves the fact that the cost is shared by herself and the other business owners because it helps her allocate those funds toward other projects she’d like to focus on, like her social media presence. Because she’s responsible for every facet of her business, it’s difficult to stay on top of everything at all times but she’s committed to not getting lazy when it comes to her clients. She recommends that anyone starting out in the food industry get comfortable attending networking events because selling your product to customers is all about the connections that you make. You have to constantly be in touch with your current clients and talking to new clients because there are always other caterers or restaurants looking to get their business as well. Kristine also recommends preparing yourself for a lifestyle change, not only in regards to the long hours that you’ll be working but also the way of life that starts once you become your own boss. She admits that you can’t really go back to a corporate job once you’ve worked for yourself because being your own boss is one of the best parts of the business. But it’s important to remember that the person that will hustle the hardest for your business is you and you need to put the work in to see the results. That’s the belief that Kristine has operated under since she started her business and it’s kept her and her business running for the last sixteen years.

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

 

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Reimagining Hospitality with WiHU

Women in Hospitality United, or WiHU, is a female founded organization that’s revolutionizing the hospitality industry. Created by Elizabeth Meltz, Erin Fairbanks and Liz Murray, they strive to challenge industry norms and provide women throughout the country with solutions to combat harassment and sexism. They’ve built a community where women are empowered to talk about the issues that they’ve faced and learn from each another so that they can find ways to make sure future generations of women don’t fall victim to the same cycle of inequality that has plagued this industry.

We were lucky enough to chat with Erin Fairbanks about the mission behind WiHU and what their organization is doing to create change in an industry that’s largely male-dominated. Not only were we impressed by the growth of their organization in such a short period of time but also by Erin’s passion for the work that she does and her commitment to reinventing how both men and women see the workplace.

How did you and your co-founders get into the hospitality industry? Elizabeth, Liz and myself have all made our way through a variety of positions in the industry. Elizabeth and I started as line cooks, her at Aureole and then Del Posto, myself at Savoy and then Gramercy Tavern. I went on to launch Farm Camp at Flying Pigs Farm and then joined Heritage Radio Network as its first Executive Director. Elizabeth created a department of food safety and sustainability for B&B Hospitality and now leads that program for Dig Inn. Liz got her start bartending in Mexico and as an expeditor at Dover and then managed people operations for Gramercy Tavern. She is now the Director of HR and Communications for the Marlow Collective.

How did WiHU start? In the fall of 2017, frustrated and outraged by the rash of #MeToo allegations across the restaurant industry, Elizabeth sent out an email to 100+ women in hospitality.  She and I organized a meeting and committed to hosting this group of industry stakeholders who could advance women-lead solutions. WiHU is an opt-in organization. To really be a part of what we’re creating, individuals need to show up and put in the work.  We connected with our third co-founder, Liz Murray, at the second WiHU meeting. It was Liz’s strong encouragement that lead to the formalizing of WiHU as a stand-alone entity.

What is the mission behind WiHU? Our mission is multifaceted. We work to build community by creating safer spaces to gather. We look for opportunities to foster leadership and champion the equitable advancement of all people through connection, mentorship, and resource sharing.  We empower our members by providing tools, training, advocacy, and support. Collectively our goal is to develop solutions and provide policies that set new standards for equity, accountability, and transparency in the industry.

Why did you feel there was a need for change in the hospitality industry? The #MeToo movement succeeded in shining a light on a long-accepted culture of harassment in the hospitality industry. We learned at the Solution Sprint (our signature event) that the challenge for our industry moving forward would be recognizing that you cannot effectively solve for harassment issues in a vacuum. To achieve true cultural change, the conversations around solutions must include a substantive look at the system’s shortcoming as related to: race, income distribution, access to resources, and power dynamics. We truly feel harassment is a symptom of the greater power imbalances that exist. We are working to dismantle and rebuild a a safer and more equitable industry.

What actions does your organization currently take to create that change? As a new non-profit we are working toward a vision of the future where WiHU training and consulting modules will be recognized as “must haves” for enlightened operators. We see WiHubs operating across the country, in partnership with other local or national groups, providing mentorship resources, creating region-specific best practice solutions, and acting as checks and balances for local hospitality communities.

We see the Solution Sprint happening across geographies, industry verticals, and being used as a mechanism for businesses to advance change. We anticipate a multitude of cross-sector and cross-industry partnerships designed to advance women of all races and orientations as we work toward achieving equity across all aspects of the hospitality industry. We see WiHU as the rocket fuel accelerating this change.

Our aim is to be a fiscally sound, thriving organization operating at a national level to serve the hospitality industry by developing solutions and providing policies that set new standards for equity, accountability, and transparency in the industry.  

Our focus areas for 2019 include:

  • The launch of a dynamic membership model that provides our community with an online network of supporters and access to tools, trainings and events while growing our national footprint.
  • Bringing our signature offering, the Solution Sprint, to conferences across the country to drive community-led solutions.   
  • Building out our board of directors and advisors and working to lay the strategic and financial framework to ensure the long term success of our work.

Why did this desire for change speak to you personally? I have long been dedicated to equity building through convening and experiential education. My work with WiHU is a natural extension of these efforts and a reflection of my personal north star–a vision of a future where all individuals, regardless of race or gender are able to thrive and bring their whole selves to work. You can learn more about my personal work history here.

What is the most challenging part of your work with WiHU? It’s important to remember that the change we are building toward is something that will happen on a generational timeline.  We are in a marathon, not a sprint. And it’s tough because the work feels incredibly urgent. We want to move toward change as quickly as possible but ultimately, to build a truly inclusive organization, we need to focus on listening, moving slowly and trusting the wisdom and insights of our members.  I truly believe our industry has the the talent and desire to create the change that we envision.

What is the most rewarding part of your work with WiHU? I love hearing directly from our members about how our work has impacted them. Notes like this one from Chef Meika Johnson in Houston, Texas really keep me going. “ You guys and the connections I’ve made through you guys have been such an inspiration to me. From the bottom of my heart thank you!!❤️”

*WiHU Founders Photo Courtesy of Bridget Shevlin