Hot Concepts winners focus on creating exceptional experiences

According to the winners of this year’s Hot Concepts Award, which the editors of Nation’s Restaurant News award to brands that have the potential to make a lasting impact on American dining, creating positive vibes and a great customer experience is essential to run a successful restaurant. countryside.

During a discussion at 2n/a CREATE’s annual conference: The Future of Foodservice, leaders from Project Pollo, Sixty Vines, PLNT Burger and HomeState, all shared their brands’ points of distinction.

The panel was moderated by Andrew Smith, managing director of venture capital fund Savory Fund.

“We share a unique story that you won’t find anywhere else,” said Briana Valdez, a Texas native who founded HomeState in Los Angeles to satisfy her own craving for the food and hospitality of home. The former student of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon restaurant, who had also been mentored by PF Chang founder Paul Fleming, has now expanded the concept to five units, offering not only Texas-style tacos with premium ingredients, but also a welcoming environment with great music and design. intended to make people feel comfortable and welcome. Valdez said the mix of customers who visit the restaurants between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., including families and young people as well as businessmen in fancy dress having powerful lunches, creates great energy.

“Everyone told me at the start that you can’t serve tacos with this high level of food integrity,” she said. But she saw what was possible working for Keller.
“I said I really wanted to give that level of access to more people…and I proved you can.”

“It’s the experience that today’s diner wants,” said Jeff Carcara, CEO of Sixty Vines, a six-unit chain of Dallas-based restaurant group FB Society that, true to its name, offers 60 wines in barrels, allowing customers to taste wine. for free and buy 2 ounce pours for as low as $4.

“Before COVID, there was a lot of chatter… [that] casual dining was dead. But really, it’s transactional restoration that’s dying at the full-service level,” he said. “Offering adventure and discovery every time you enter our restaurant is an experience and what customers are really looking for.”

Sixty Vines also has a sustainability mission that Carcara says resonates with customers: “For every barrel of wine we operate, we save 26 bottles from ending up in a landfill,” he said, adding that the wine from the barrels is more coherent.

“The last drink is as good as the first,” he said.

Pairing these wines with dishes from wine regions around the world is also a great discovery, he added.

“Literally, you walk in there and have a different experience every night of the week,” he said.

Sustainability is also part of the mission of the other two Hot Concepts winners, Project Pollo and PLNT Burger, both of which serve only meat-free foods.

PLNT Burger (pronounced “vegan burger”), got a head start by partnering with Whole Foods Market, where it opened its first location in 2020, in addition to being founded by celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn. But director of strategic marketing Jonah Goldman told CREATE attendees the brand would have succeeded even without its partnership with Whole Foods.

“The brand itself is hot,” he said. “Partnering with Whole Foods has certainly allowed us to do a proof of concept in a way that I think is light and sly…but what makes us hot is the Delight, the chef-designed part of our brand. We have some of the best burger chefs in the world bringing their culinary expertise to our menu,” he said.

“Our goal is to be the best burger restaurant in the world. It doesn’t matter whether we are plant-based or animal-based. We just want to offer a top quality product.

But PLNT Burger also has a mission that it says adds to its appeal.

“It’s uplifting. It’s fun and empowering for a guest to come and enjoy the classic comfort foods they know and love and connect with environmental impact, feel good about themselves physically, morally [and] economically.”

Playing on the word “hot” in Hot Concepts, he said “you can’t be the sexiest girl at prom if you don’t know what attracts other people to you”.

It means paying attention to customers and responding to their needs.

Project Pollo is a vegan concept founded two years ago in San Antonio, Texas by Lucas Bradbury, serving a meatless version of chicken developed by Tindle and coated in proprietary breadings and seasonings, as well as salads, fries and oat milk shakes. It has since had 15 locations and is expected to grow to 20 units by the end of the year and 12 units per year going forward, about half of which are franchised.

“I think it’s a good time to be in this [plant-based] space. I think that’s the tip of the iceberg where it’s headed. I think customers are looking to consume a variety of different proteins and I think encompassing what we have to offer [as part of their options] is an exciting thing.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

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