Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

FEB 2018

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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80 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • FEBRUARY 2018 market spotlight Take, for example Ruth's Chris Steak House, which part- nered with Stags' Leap Winery for a five-course wine pairing dinner at 108 locations. On the menu side, fine-dining estab- lishments continue to incorporate more vegetarian and vegan options, which appeal to growing segments of the population. Jenny Dorsey, a New York City-based professional chef and consultant, says today's more upscale restaurants have moved from more manipulated food to natural, unadulter- ated dishes. "It's more farm to table, with food looking like it should look," she says. "We're not seeing as much crazy prep or strange things at play as much, like gels or caviar drops. These are played out." Dorsey is founder of Wednesdays, a three-year-old New York City tasting restaurant that com- bines fine dining with intellectual conversation. Upscale Standouts Some of the country's top upscale restaurants have become more creative, adding unique components that are on trend. One example is STK, which has approximately 10 locations that offer a twist on traditional fine dining. Its classic steakhouse atmosphere incorporates vibe-dining and DJs in a lounge set- ting, while providing fine-dining level service and food. Third on the list of the country's fastest growing fine- dining chains (behind Ocean Prime and Texas de Brazil, respectively) by Chicago-based research firm Technomic, the 10-year-old STK concept earned $94.5 million in sales in 2016, an increase of 14.5 percent from the year prior. Unit growth was just more than 10 percent in 2016. "The biggest trend we're seeing in fine dining and the hospitality industry is the shift to experience-driven dining," says Jonathan Segal, chairman and business development for The ONE Group, owner of STK. "Now, delivering high- quality dining is not nearly enough. Customers are looking for an all-encompassing fine-dining experience." Ocean Prime, one of Columbus, Ohio-based Cameron Mitchell Restaurant's 13 brands, was established in 2006 and now has 14 locations. It is listed as the top-growing fine- dining chain by Technomic, with more than $88.4 million in sales in 2016, an increase of 27.6 percent. Unit growth was close to 17 percent in that period. The original concept was a thematic seafood restaurant, but the owners reinvented the concept about 12 years ago to remain relevant in today's fine-dining climate. "We were seeking a more timeless look, which led us to the current ver- sion of the concept," says Mitch Miller, Ocean Prime's vice president. This included changing the lunch and dinner concept to solely dinner seven days a week, which dramatically increased sales. The previous version had a contemporary Asian flare, which was transformed into a seafood restaurant that incor- porates elements of a high-end steakhouse and a comprehen- sive cocktail program. Equipment-wise, there were minimal changes, other than a broiler added for preparing steak. "We're a very saute-heavy menu, so we upgraded equipment in that station, including burners and ovens," says Miller. Ocean Prime also created fish cutting rooms within walk-ins at its newer properties. "We had these in our fish market concept and parlayed it to Ocean Prime," says Miller. "Consequently, space in the walk-ins had to be adapted to handle more fresh fish." The biggest change was adding a second, smaller duplicate back kitchen for private banquet dining, which has grown to encompass 15 percent of Ocean Prime's business. The goal was for this dedicated area to not impact the main kitchen's cook lines during private events, while enhancing the functionality of private party food production. "The back kitchen is a critical component to our success," says Miller. "Now we can simultaneously handle what our main dining rooms are doing as well as the private dining rooms without compromising either one. "We're excited for 2018, especially since the private dining sector is growing even more than other industry segments," says Miller. "The fine-dining trend is searching for a balance between quality of service and guest expectation in terms of experi- ence with increased costs to the restaurateur — more or less, how do we attract and maintain a customer base, given the changing state of the hospitality industry's economy," says Segal. STK focuses on the experience of fine dining, in addition to the high-end menu offerings.

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