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Meet the Experts

Meet the Experts

10 Industry Experts on All Things Restaurant Related

No two restaurants are ever the same, but one thing always rings true no matter where you are: There will be questions and sometimes you won’t have answers for them. But don’t panic. We’ve got you covered with these 10 culinary-industry experts offering advice on just about everything you can imagine.

05 04 meet the experts 1

Brandon Brumback - Executive Chef, The Albert at Hotel EMC2 Chicago

Hotel guests can be extremely demanding and that extends to their visits to the on-premises restaurant. How do you deal with difficult guests with tact?

Chef Brumback: It’s about understanding your guests and seeing how they react. If they want something a certain way and they’re not willing to budge, then it’s our job to be hospitable to make their experience the best it can be. If that customer is on the fence, try broadening their horizon, giving them something they normally wouldn’t eat. 

05 04 meet the experts 2

Lee Chizmar - Executive Chef/Partner, Bolete and Mr. Lee’s; Bethlehem, Pa.

What is some of the best advice you can give a veteran chef?

Chef Chizmar: Teach your craft to the younger cooks. It helps you become more efficient. It helps the restaurant because it helps everyone become a team and in the end, it makes everything a lot smoother.

05 04 meet the experts 3

Carissa O'Conner - West Coast Vice President, H2 Hospitality

When choosing a public relations firm, should a restaurant look for a company that bills by the hour or by the project?

Carissa O'Conner: As a public relations firm, you’re constantly working on stuff. You’re working on things throughout the day and you’re wearing different hats, and following up on different media inquiries. To sit there and try to calculate your hours on an account is just an unrealistic approach for us. It’s best to set a project rate when they lay out what their campaign will entail. We work on a six-month to yearlong contract with clients.

05 04 meet the experts 4

Lynn House - National Brand Educator, Heaven Hill Brand

Many bartenders are reluctant to create a menu dedicated to non-alcoholic drinks, or mocktails, beyond soft drinks, tea and coffee. What can be done to convince them that these drinks can help boost the restaurant’s bottom line?

Lynn House: When you create a non-alcoholic version (of a cocktail), you get to charge per drink instead of the customer getting endless refills on (soft drinks). That drives up your bottom line as well, so you are covering the costs of your ingredients, and you’re also creating a unique experience for that person.

05 04 meet the experts 5

Karen Herod - Principal Designer, Studio K Creative; Chicago

Do you have advice for a restaurateur who doesn’t have a budget for a restaurant designer, but wants to update the venue?

Karen Herod: Paint is your friend. People are becoming bold and painting their chairs. Try to take a risk. Don’t stay in the middle safety ground. Daring to make an impression is what people will remember.

05 04 meet the experts 6

Scott Greenberg - President/CEO, SMASHotels

Do you have advice for a restaurateur who doesn’t have a budget for a restaurant designer, but wants to update the venue?

Scott Greenberg: People underestimate the ability to be creative without spending a lot of money, but they must be willing to take risks within the concept of the restaurant. Take risks with that and feel free because the viewing public doesn’t want to go into a place that’s watered down. They want to see some excitement and if that passion of the restaurateur really pulls through and the restaurateur is bold in his use of creativity, people will love it.

05 04 meet the experts 7

Brian Jupiter - Corporate Executive Chef, Frontier Chicago

Do you have advice for a chef wanting to start a whole animal dinner program?

Chef Brian Jupiter: Do you have the space? These animals take up a lot of time and space. You also need to time these events properly so that no one gets an undercooked or overcooked animal. You must be committed to the program taking over your entire restaurant for a night.

05 04 meet the experts 8

Erin Shea - Partner, Bolete; Bethlehem, Pa.

How does one go about featuring a farm-to-table concept — with authenticity?

Erin Shea: You must really be tied to the philosophy. Ingredients are expensive. To be honest, you’ll be far more profitable if you open a hot dog stand! You have to believe in it because it really is a way of life, not just a restaurant concept. You should do your homework and research and drive out and meet farmers, build relationships and entrench yourself in the community.

05 04 meet the experts 9

El Williams - Proprietor, The Delta; Chicago

How do you elevate and modernize a simple concept such as your Southern-focused eatery without losing its authenticity?

El Williams: It starts with the people you hire, then focuses on building the culture. Everything else will fall in place. I look at this project as an extension of myself. If you’ve got a solid idea, something that is unique, present it in its truest form.

05 04 meet the experts 10

Susi Zivanovic - Corporate Sommelier and Beverage Director, Perry's Steakhouse & Grille

How do you make wine less intimidating for guests?

Susi Zivanovic: We don’t always carry a lot of brands you’ll find in the grocery store on our wine list. We have a lot of wines that are exclusive to restaurants, so I simply ask them, “What do you normally drink? Do you like a wine that’s a little bit sweeter, or with tannins? Would you like for us to help you pair the wine with the food?” It’s really a matter of getting people to feel comfortable with what they’re drinking.

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