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Restaurateurs on kitchen culture and delivering value

Restaurateurs on kitchen culture and delivering value

The American Express Restaurant Trade Program at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen continued with a panel of restaurateurs discussing how best to create a positive kitchen culture that transcends to the guest.

The session, Today’s Diner: Redefining Value, discussed the importance of value – but value based on experience rather than price. The panelists included Boston-based chef-restaurateur Ken Oringer, who runs Clio, Uni and Toro, among others; David Swinghamer of Union Square Hospitality Group in New York; value wine expert Josh Wesson, co-founder of Best Cellars wine store in New York; and Sang Yoon of Father’s Office in Los Angeles.

See all Aspen Food & Wine Classic coverage from NRN senior food editor, Bret Thorn:

Top Chefs on the importance of happy, skilled staff
Aspen: Day 1

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

Follow tweets from the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen with the hashtag #fwclassic

A collection of the panelists insights:

Yoon: Price has almost nothing to do with value. It’s about the experience, and it’s in the eye of the consumer. Part of my business ethos is to ask the question daily, are we doing something that’s valuable?

Oringer: My chef in my taqueria makes as much money as my chef at Clio [a fine dining restaurant].” They’re equally important, and they need to have the same culture at both restaurants. It’s important to empower the chef and general manager to maintain that culture.

Swinghamer: Social media means there are constant opinions about restaurants, which is good. It means they’re talking about them, and it gives them something to work with.
“In their own weird creepy little way, they’re telling you that they care.”

Yoon: Culture and training are essential for delivering value. If you’re not giving valuable information to your staff that will help them move on, they won’t be valuable employees: “If that culture exists in your business, that value your employees feel is relayed to your guests when they talk to them.”

Swinghamer: One percent of shake shack sales go to employee bonuses.

Yoon: When managers start their shift, they’re mandated to find five things wrong. If they can’t find them, they’re not looking hard enough. That creates a system of checks and balances. “As a manger, when you’re closing, you have to impress the guy who’s opening after you.”

Yoon: It’s annoying as hell when people take pictures in your open kitchen. But they’re taking pictures of your food. It’s nothing but a service to you.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary
Follow tweets from the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen with the hashtag #fwclassic

The Food & Wine classic seminars can be viewed in their entirety at


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