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Oakland’s Paradise Park Café is Now Open!

New to the Neighborhood: Park Cafe Group’s Paradise Park Cafe Now Open in Oakland

Paradise Park Café, sister location to Precita, Dolores and Duboce Park Cafes, located at 6334 San Pablo Ave in Oakland, is now officially open!


As Park Café Group’s first foray into Oakland, Paradise Park Café kicked off their opening festivities with a ribbon cutting by Jose Corona, Director of Equity & Strategic Partnerships for Mayor Libby Schaaf, and Diane Dodge, Executive Director of East Bay College Fund. Corona shared his excitement about the city’s future, praising Paradise Park Café’s fresh contribution to the neighborhood. Dodge spoke to Paradise Park Cafe’s commitment to creating a positive community impact, as the restaurant proudly donated 20% of all opening day proceeds to the East Bay College Fund in support of helping students plan for college and lifelong career prosperity.


“We are looking forward to joining the Oakland community and catering to the surrounding neighborhoods,” owners and life partners, Rachel Herbert and Dana Oppenheim said. “With the opening of Paradise Park Cafe and with our other cafes, it has always been important to work with local purveyors and build a community.”


The sunny all-day café’s accessible New American menu focuses on local and sustainable ingredients that comprise dishes spanning a breakfast burrito, vegan BLT, beet salad as well as an inventive flash-fried ice cream burrito.


Paradise Park Cafe is open daily from 7am to 8pm, with weekend brunch on Saturday from 7am to 3pm and Sunday from 8am to 3pm. To view their full menu, please click HERE.


Paradise Park Cafe | 6334 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland, CA | 510-756-3131 | @parkcafelife


48 Hours and 12 Restaurants with Madison

This past month I ventured south to LA for a weekend filled with food, fun, and friends, but let’s be honest, I was really there for the food. In 48 hours we ate at 12 restaurants: Lodge Bread Co., Felix, Rossoblu, Cosa Buona, Chi Spacca, Kismet, Top Round, Petit Trois, Rustic Canyon, Destroyer, and Din Tai Fung. 

Although all of the meals were delicious, our favorite meal was at the recently opened hotspot, Felix by Chef Evan Funke. The restaurant, located in the heart of Venice on Abbot Kinney, is inspired by the culinary traditions of Italy with a California influence, it is also one of the most beautiful restaurants I have seen this year. Walking in you immediately feel like you’re in someone’s house, but in the most amazing way possible. Each room has a unique décor with the piece pièce de résistance being the pasta laboratory in the center of the dining room. Servers were attentive and knowledgable but that did not make the decisions on what to order that much easier, everything on the menu looked delicious, including the beverages! 

Felix not only has a great wine program but also a great cocktail program. We tried both the Roof Garden with blanc vermouth, cucumber and ginger, and the Hey Nineteen with tequila and pisco, pineapple, and limoncello. Both cocktails were light and refreshing, perfect for the summer heat wave LA was experience at the time we were there. After cocktails we ordered a bottle of lighter red to enjoy with the rest of our meal. 

The meal started with Felix’s infamous Sfincione, focaccia siciliana with sea salt and rosemary. Many of our friends had been to Felix and this was one of the most talked about dishes, light and fluffy, one order would not be enough. We ordered two antipasti, the Fiori di Zuccasquash blossoms, fior di latte and green garlic and the Carciofi alla Giudia, fried artichokes with lemon and mint. Next came the really hard decisions, which pastas should we order and how many was too many? The pastas are broken down into four regions: Nord, Centro, Mezzogiorno, and Isole. Although we really wanted to get one from each region we were were won over by the North and Center, ordering two from each. From Le Paste Del Nord we ordered the Pappardelle with ragu bolognese “vecchia scuola”, and parmigiana reggiano and the Trofie with pesto Genovese and pecorino stagionato. From Le Paste Del Centro we ordered the Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe and the Rigatoni All ‘Amatriciana’. And last but not least, my personal favorite was the Orecchiette with rapini, bagnetto di alici, wild ramps, and pecorino pugliese from Le Paste Del Mezzogiorno. 

After all the pasta we were unfortunately too full for dessert (oh, plus we had three more meals to go that evening)! If you’re in LA I would definitely recommend checking out Felix. A reservation is highly recommended and if you can’t get one then I suggest you get there before doors open, you’ll feel like you’re right at home!  

Taking Takeout to the Next Level

By: Michael Gorecki


Seven seconds is all the time it takes to form an opinion of something and give it a value. For restaurants, that means as soon as a guest walks through the door they must be wowed. That’s the value of having great decor, vibrant atmosphere, and a host or hostess there greeting patrons with a smile. However, with the increase of takeout and third-party delivery services, guests aren’t always getting the sensory experience of dining in the restaurant. Whatever is in that to-go bag determines what a guests’ first impression is and, almost always, those first moments leave them feeling a little unmoved.


Takeout can sometimes be the only interaction a guest may have with your restaurant. That means that the way your takeout is prepared and presented is extremely important to your brand. So what is their first impression? For many, it’s a brown sack with some plastic utensils, maybe a spork, and a few paper napkins on top of a box of travel-weary food.


So what can you do to make a great impression? Having beautiful, functional packaging is the easiest way to make an impactful and memorable delivery experience.



The Aesthetic


Think about the material you use. How does it feel? How does it look? Make sure that each aspect is consistent with your style and in-restaurant experience. If it all looks great from the outside, take it apart. Unwrap your packaging just like your guests would and lay it out. How does that presentation look?


By making your takeout visually stunning, you are providing a sensory experience your guests would have if they were dining in your restaurant.


Check out this beautiful packaging from Guactruck, in the Philippines, which uses an origami flower shaped packaging that creates the illusion of a bud opening up into a full bloomed flower. It is not only visually stimulating but it is also practical because of it functionality. And quite frankly, it makes us want to eat those nachos.



The Function


Coinciding with the visual aesthetics of your packaging is its functionality. Is your packaging easy to operate? Are there smooth fluid movements from opening the bag to reaching inside and grabbing the food or are you reaching into a giant hodge podge, blindly trying to find the fork.


We love this packaging from Sticks‘n’Sushi which takes its to-go packaging seriously. It uses a single box to hold separate smaller shelf-like boxes that all contain different types of cuisine. Its clear organization allows guests to easily see where everything is and leads to a smooth pleasurable dining experience. And how fun is this to unwrap!?



The Creativity


Having something delightfully unexpected can take delivery to the next level. But what is most important here is making sure that it is true to your brand – don’t tie your box in a beautiful silk bow when you are a fast-casual pizza joint.


Some ideas:


•Include a fun placemat

•Add a simple or personalized note: e.x. “Eat me.”

•Add in tissue paper and make it feel like they’re opening a present


By making your takeout packaging a part of the dining experience and not an afterthought, you can better reinforce and represent your brand, stand out from the crowded delivery market space, and provide an amazing sensory experience for your guests.


Make sure you make your guest’s first impression a great one…because there are no second chances at first impressions.  


Impossible Burger Debuted at Gott’s Roadside

Gott’s Roadside is now serving the plant-based burger from Impossible Foods at four Bay Area locations (excluding the newest location at the San Francisco International Airport). As featured in SF Weekly and Eater SF, the modern roadside restaurant will incorporate the Impossible Burger into the menu mix, stacked with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and Gott’s secret sauce on a toasted egg bun.


Clay Walker, President of Gott’s Roadside says, “Our customers have been asking for an alternative option such as a plant-based burger like the Impossible Burger, and we’re excited to give it the Gott’s treatment.” A meatless burger that cooks and tastes like the real, beefy thing? You’ll just have to go try for yourself!



The East Bay Never Saw Him Coming

By: Michael Gorecki

Sipping a few bottles of wine, eating great cheese next to a subtle water feature, is what I call a successful Wednesday night and Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar in Walnut Creek has all of those things. Get a table outside in the small alley and, for a moment, you might actually think you are dining out in Italy.


With a diverse selection of wine from California to Spain to Australia, the options are endless. Luckily, they have created an extensive and carefully thought-out list of wine flights for both red and white. Let the wine tastings begin!


Even though they are known for their wines – Va de Vi literally translates to “It’s all about wine” – the food menu does not fall short. With a great selection of small plates from ahi tartare to grilled flat iron steak, anyone’s hunger can be satisfied.


Overall, a great experience; servers could have been a tad more knowledgeable but definitely a must if you ever find yourself wandering around in the East Bay.

Smokin’ in the Kitchen with Chef Steve

Finn Town Tavern is thrilled to announce their new Executive Chef, Steve Dustin! Prior to starting at Finn Town, Chef Steve rose from Chef de Cuisine at The Cavalier, a James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for “Best New Restaurant in America,” to the Culinary Director of San Francisco’s award-winning Big Night Restaurant Group (Park Tavern, Marlowe, Petit Marlowe, The Cavalier, Marianne’s and Leo’s Oyster Bar).


Before making the move to California, Chef Steve gained experience working at renowned restaurants across the US, where he explored culinary techniques and the multitude of cuisines found around the world. He entered the fine dining scene at Canoe in Atlanta before moving to New York City to work at some of the City’s top restaurants including Bouley, The Harrison, and Monument Lane. Originally from Michigan, Steve was raised with a deep appreciation for the environment and sustainable foods, which continues to be at the heart of his culinary approach in the Finn Town kitchen.


Chef Steve brings innovative seasonality to Finn Town, offering a diverse selection of New American tavern fare featuring fresh ingredients and bright flavors along with his take on several of Finn Town’s signature dishes.



What made you decide to join Finn Town?

I have always loved working in a neighborhood tavern setting. I previously worked as the chef at The Harrison and Monument Lane in New York City and these restaurants were exactly that – neighborhood restaurants/taverns cooking food on an elevated level. I love the feeling of cooking really exciting, fresh food for everyday people and I am happy to have found this in San Francisco at Finn Town. 

You’ve lived and worked in quite a few cities including Grand Rapids, New York City, Atlanta, Boulder, and now San Francisco. Which city has had the most influence on your recipes?

I grew up in South Haven, Michigan, which is a little beach town on the west coast of Michigan. I then moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan where I began my culinary career in fine dining. However, New York City was definitely the city that had the most influence on my way of cooking and my recipes. 

Any upcoming changes we can look forward to seeing at Finn Town?

Although I am sad to see summer coming to an end, I am very excited for all the fall vegetables. I love hard squashes and have a lot of fun working with them so you can expect them to make an appearance on the menu. I am also excited to bring a little bit of BBQ to the Castro with a weekly special called “What’s the Chef Smoking.” This will be a weekly rotating plate of BBQ with all the fixin’s (think housemade cornbread, baked beans, and poppyseed coleslaw). The meat will change every week to keep it exciting, hence the name “What’s the Chef Smoking.” I guess you will just have to come and see for yourself each week! 


Follow him on Instagram @chefstevedustin for special behind-the-scenes shots.

AFCO Travels: Vanessa Takes Portlandia

Where to wine, dine, caffeinate, and carbo-load in Portlandia, as told by Vanessa.


9 AM CAFFEINATE: Stumptown Coffee is an obvious Portland staple, and for good reason. Sip on their heavenly nitro brew and throw on your hipster reading glasses while you read the Portland Tribune like a true local in the hip lounge of the Ace Hotel 1026 SW Stark Street location.


10 AM PRE-HIKE CARBO-LOAD: Stop by Kenny and Zuke’s Delicatessen for a pre-hike carbo-load. Their Big Shot Breakfast Sandwich is out of control in the best way possible: 2 eggs, pastrami & swiss, grilled on rye. Yes I ate this food-coma-inducing-miracle, and no, I am not ashamed. Also, DON’T FORGET THE DONUTS: Voodoo lived up to the hype, but visit their Northeast location to skip the line (pro tip: get a sampler’s dozen, but make them add my personal favorite, the Memphis Mafia – a deep-fried donut topped with banana chunks, cinnamon sugar, chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts, and chocolate chips). I’ve heard Blue Star is also great, and usually no line. Lastly, Lovejoy Bakery was a really sweet bakeshop in the Pearl District that had great seasonally-driven brunch and lunch options, baked goods, and coffee.


11 AM TAKE A HIKE: Work off those carbs in the woods! Multnomah Falls are absolutely breathtaking, though also very touristy. Stop by for a photo opp then head over to Eagle Creek for a less-crowded hike to Punch Bowl Falls. Hoping to stay in the city but still get a taste of nature? Stop and smell the roses (literally) at the International Rose Test Garden (#alloftheroses) in the heart of Washington Park.


3 PM BEER! (IT’S 5 O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE): We’re huge beer geeks, so we visited quite a few throughout the weekend. My favorite was 10 Barrel Brewing (they have great pub fare and a rooftop for when it’s nice out), Cascade Brewing (awesome sour beers if that’s your thang), Rogue Eastside Brewery (SF’s Portland-based sister, big outdoor patio), and Bridgeport Brewery (Portland’s oldest brewpub, or at least that’s what the guy next to us at the bar said so I’m going to believe him).


5 PM CHEEEEEESE: I try not to pick favorites, but a huge highlight of this trip was our trip to Cheese & Crack. Their sampler plate is TO DIE FOR (hello fire-torched brie brûlée!) and great for groups of 2-4 people. They also have frosé. Stick a fork in me, I’m done! Until dinner, that is…


7:30 PM DINNER: Head over to Northeast Alberta Street for some fun restaurant and bar options. Bollywood Theatre was a really hip fast-casual Indian dining spot. The decor and music was lively and playful, which perfectly matched the street-food style dishes and oh-so-tasty cocktails.


9 PM OUT AND ABOUT: Also on Northeast Alberta Street, we enjoyed visiting Radio Room which had outdoor seating, a firepit, and even more delicious cocktails. Down the road a bit further is The Bye and Bye which features quirky artwork in a moody setting (very a la Portland), another back patio, and if you’re still hungry, amazing vegan/vegetarian dining options.


11 PM PIZZA RUN: What is a night out without a nightcap slice of pie? Head to Sizzle Pie for some cheesy deliciousness (you won’t regret it).

Kelsey Perry – Local Tourist (North Beach Edition)

Since moving to San Francisco, I’ve made it my personal mission to try a new restaurant, cocktail bar, coffee and juice shop, and ice cream shop when I go out on the town with friends. I’ve attempted to canvas my local neighborhood first, North Beach. The land of pasta, pizza, and gelato, I’ve stumbled upon some of my favorite spots in San Francisco (that don’t always include pasta). First and foremost, Tosca Cafe takes the cake as my favorite restaurant in North Beach. The atmosphere is intimate and inviting with original murals lining the walls of the dining room, checkered floors, and the dim lighting attracts locals to stop in for a cocktail or a sampling of crispy pig tails and pressed pig ears (don’t knock it till’ you try it).


Across the way on Columbus, Molinari Delicatessen has found the way to my heart by way of spicy coppa, mortadella, and prosciutto stuffed peppers. The pressed Luciano Sandwich on scallion focaccia is what sandwich dreams are made of with fresh mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, onion, sweet and spicy coppa, prosciutto, and my personal touch, extra mortadella. In addition to the authentic paninis, the traditional style delicatessen offers an array of olives, cold salads, cured meats, and a variety of cheeses for takeaway.


Take a stroll North on Columbus and hang a right on Union to make your way to Gelato Classico for a sweet treat. The ultra-rich and creamy hand-crafted ice cream and sorbetto transport me straight to Italy. The sorbettos are made with seasonal fruit and are the refreshing choice for a sunny city day but when my sweet tooth lingers, I always opt for pistachio or stracciatella.


There are so many dining options in North Beach it’s dizzying. However, I have to make a special mention of Liholiho Yacht Club because I experienced a truly heavenly bite in the form of an unsuspecting steamed bun. The Beef Tongue Poppy Seed Steamed buns with kimchi and cucumber is one of the best dishes I’ve had in 2017(besides the aforementioned crispy pig tails and pressed pig ears). Maybe the dish soared to the top of my list because I’m a sucker for a steamed bun or because tongue is one of my guilty food pleasures often in the form of lengua tacos. Nevertheless, all of the flavor combinations in these little buns hit the nail on the head. We ordered another plate.

Allie Eats Her Way Through In Situ

I’ve been dying to visit the SFMOMA ever since it was renovated last May. But let’s be honest, I’m really more interested in food than I am into art. Even though I was “dying” to see the museum, I never made concrete plans to visit until my friend made a reservation at In Situ. Of course, it was the food that finally lured me in. I’m no art connoisseur so I’m just going to skip to the food portion of my visit to MOMA.


Three Michelin star chef and James Beard Award winner, Corey Lee, created the concept for In Situ. The menu consists of contributions from over 80 chefs from around the world. However, I was surprised to find out that none of the dishes on the menu were created by Corey. Yet, he was still a James Beard finalist for Best New Restaurant for In Situ so clearly he’s doing something right.


The menu is pretty intuitive and includes symbols next to each dish to denote the size of the dish as well as a guide for wine pairings. After much deliberation, my friend and I ordered four medium-sized dishes, one large dish, and one dessert. I found it funny when our waitress warned us that we were ordering a lot and asked if we wanted to remove any of the dishes. However, I had just spent so much time trying to narrow down my options that I wasn’t about to reconsider my order all over again.


I started with the Celeriac and Goat Cheese Profiterole, Anis Marinated Salmon, and Wasabi Lobster. The Celeriac and Goat Cheese Profiterole (David McMillan & Frederic Morin, Joe Beef) was served at room temperature with a tomato puree. The Anis Marinated Salmon (Harald Wohlfahrt, Restaurant Schwarzwaldstube) was also served at room temperature even though it was raw. I was actually expecting the salmon to be cooked but it ended up being quite refreshing with the caviar and cucumber jelly. Out of the three medium-sized dishes, my favorite was the Wasabi Lobster (Tim Raue, Restaurant Tim Raue) although the wasabi was overpowering and truly cleared my sinuses (not a bad thing when you’re sick, right?). The lobster is prepared similarly to tempura, which I found a bit ordinary but still enjoyed.


For my main course, I had a hard time choosing between the Creole BBQ Shrimp and Grits and The Forest but eventually settled on The Forest (Mauro Colagreco, Mirazur) since it is the only large vegetarian dish on the menu and I don’t eat meat. The Forest truly looks like a forest with parsley “moss”, quinoa risotto, and mushrooms. This ended up being my favorite dish of the night so I’m glad I ended up choosing it. My friend had the Lamb Shank Manti (Mehmet Gurs, Mikla), which was served with tomato, smoked yogurt, and sumac. The dumplings looked delicious but since it had meat, I wasn’t able to try it. However, my friend truly enjoyed them.


The biggest disappointment of the night, unfortunately, was the Jasper Hill Farm Cheesecake. I had the wrong expectations for this dessert and it certainly did not satisfy my sweet tooth. It is probably a great dessert for people who don’t have as sweet of sweet tooth or prefer cheese platters to end their meal. The cheesecake is made with brie so you can probably imagine just how rich it was. It felt as if I was eating a block of soft cheese with cookies instead of crackers. However, my friend who doesn’t like sweets really liked the cheesecake as a dessert since it wasn’t very sweet at all. I guess it’s all based on personal preference but just know that you won’t be getting a typical cheesecake.


In the end, the amount of food we ordered ended up being perfect. We finished everything except for the cheesecake, although we still made a good dent in it (mostly my friend’s doing). Neither my friend nor I was overly stuffed to the point where we had to be wheeled out of the restaurant but ended the meal feeling very content.

On The Line With Chef Sujan Sarkar

Chef Sujan Sarkar has recently made his way to the U.S. to help open progressive Indian restaurant, ROOH, and there’s no slowing him down. With over a decade of success, Sarkar’s cuisine at ROOH is a culmination of his culinary experiences inspired by his personal connection and love of Indian cuisine. Sarkar originally aspired to become a fashion designer but after graduating in 2003 with a degree in Hotel Management, Sarkar discovered his true passion was in the culinary arts. Before opening ROOH, Sarkar served as Chef de Cuisine at Olive Bar and Kitchen and Ek Bar in India as well as Automat and Almada in London. Throughout Sarkar’s career, he’s worked alongside Michelin Starred chefs including Chef Chris Galvin and Chef Andrew Garret, and also received notable accolades such as:


Nestle Junior Chef

Finalist, London’s Chef of the Year 2008

Finalist, London’s Chef of the Year 2009

National Chef of the Year 2011

National Chef of the Year 2013

Best Chef European Cuisine 2014

Times Food Award Best Chef of the Year 2016


Sarkar continues to broaden his culinary repertoire by studying cuisine across Europe to present the most refined dining experience at ROOH.


Where didn’t we eat while we were in Chicago for the James Beard Awards this year?


Duck Duck Goat

Shamefully, neither of us had ever been to this Chicago hotspot so we stopped in for drinks before heading the Chefs Night Out party on Sunday Evening. Anticipating what was to come, we ordered the Before the Dawn cocktail which had vodka, blood orange liqueur, ginger liqueur, rose demerara, lemon, sea salt and some (*fingers crossed* preventative) activated charcoal.



Though twelve years old, Boka was easily the most talked about restaurant we went to during our trip. Perhaps because they were nominated for several James Beard Awards, including Best Chef Great Lakes, Best Pastry Chef, and Outstanding Service.

We opted not to do the tasting menu, and instead ordered a la carte – everything was delicious, particularly the marinated fluke with sea urchin, and the service was impeccable.


The Ladies Room

Easily our favorite stop of the trip, The Ladies Room at Fat Rice is situated behind the restaurant through and unmarked. The space itself is small and sexy and the drinks were incredible with service that was knowledgeable, yet unpretentious.
We also had meals at Entente, Smyth, and a burger for dessert downstairs at The Loyalist!

The Future of Salad is Here – and SHE is a ROBOT!

Check out Restaurant Hospitality’s piece “Machines for Hire” and Ad Age’s article “The Rise of the Robo-Restaurant” to learn more about how Sally the Salad Robot, by Chowbotics, is changing the salad game.

James Beard Awards

Congratulations to all the 2017 Bay Area Broadcast Media and Restaurant and Chef Award Winners! Our team had a great time eating their way through Chicago, kicking-off Taste America 2017 with an inspiring luncheon with planners from across the country and attending/working the awards earlier this month!

Food and Loathing in Las Vegas with Lauren

As one matures ages, you realize that no trip to Vegas is complete without a dining experience that is equally as electrifying as the people-watching nightlife the famously flashy city provides. While it may not be as esteemed when compared to more traditional food meccas, Vegas is home to a number of big-name chef outposts and hip transplanted concepts, which makes for a pretty strong recipe for delicious.

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Ode to La Mamma – Chocolate Baked Cream

Ode to La Mamma


Looking for some baking inspiration? Mr. Espresso’s Marie Di Ruocco shares her beloved grandmother’s Chocolate Baked Cream recipe with us.

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Christy Explores Her Neighborhood

I am quite embarrassed to admit for the past year I have lived a short 0.8 miles from Nopa and up until two weeks ago I had never experienced a meal there. Let me tell you, this neighborhood institution lived up to all the hype! My favorite part about my dinner was how simple yet delicious each dish was. We ordered way too much and ate it all. Some of my highlights were the wood baked butter beans with feta, oregano pesto and breadcrumbs which I’ve tried to recreate but will never taste as good in my own kitchen and the full flavored little fried fish with dill, aioli and lemon. If you haven’t had the chance to eat at this San Francisco classic yet, I highly recommend you schedule a visit!

AFCO EATS | Madison’s Visit to Single Thread

Over the past weekend, I was lucky enough to experience one of the most talked about restaurant openings of 2017, Single Thread. Located in downtown Healdsburg, Single Thread offers a Japanese inspired eleven-course tasting menu.

The restaurant is stunningly beautiful and every detail has been meticulously thought-out. From the Japanese hand-crafted plates, bowls, and cups to the wine list, it’s obvious Kyle and Katina Connaughton left no thimble underturned when creating their dream restaurant.

Although the space was breathtaking, the food was the real show stopper of the evening. One of our favorite experiences was when we first sat at our table. After enjoying some bites and bubbles on the rooftop terrace, also used to grow herbs and produce for the restaurant, we were welcomed to our table where an elaborate wood block covered in moss featuring a handful of bite-sized appetizers awaited us. And it didn’t stop there as the appetizers kept coming!

A few other highlights from our meal included the Mt. Lassen Trout “Ibushi-Gin” with Shio Koji Vinaigrette, Trout Roe and Myoga and the Chamomile Ice Cream with Brown Butter, Popped Sorghum, and Apricot Compote.

Overall, the experience at Single Thread is one I will never forget.

AFCO Abroad | Karina’s Trip to Paradise – Literally

Truly a paradise to those who wander to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, this island has easily become one of my favorite places in the world.

Just off the coast of Mexico, this tiny coral island is one of Mexico’s true treasures. Unlike its mainland neighbor Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a “no tourist” haven. The magic of this place boasts clear blue water, great food and some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. This island is well-suited for people who want to lay on the beach, enjoy a cerveza or margarita, eat fresh food and relax.

Restaurants on the island specialize in seafood, Mexican and Caribbean-fusion cuisine. It’s geographical location has welcomed restaurateurs from across the globe, who have found comfort in the warmth that this island brings to life. Culinary standouts this time around? Qubano – if you’re looking for some authentic Cuban food, this is it. Try the mini Cubano Sampler for a mouth-watering immersion to the land of cigars and rum. Pita Amoreunique flavors, light and fresh dishes sure to satisfy your cravings. The menu has 5 items, and they get away with having 5 items because each item is done so well. Bally Hoo fresh fish ceviche and a large mango margarita. I’ll leave it at that. Last, but DEFINITELY not least, Cafe Mango – what i’m convinced is Mexico’s best breakfast (& coffee). Rent a golf cart or a moped and wander into the residential neighborhood of Isla. Try their World Famous Coconut French Toast, Huevos Rancheros and Stuffed Chile Poblano (we went twice!).

Lastly, I’d like to highlight the amazing and beautiful Abuelita Angelita who taught us how to cook her rendition of a Central Mexican dish of Steak & Potatoes from her childhood in her own home. From start to finish, this cooking class took us through the steps to prepare homemade pico de gallo, guacamole, the entire entree and Angelita’s beloved Flan de Queso Napolitano – a cross between flan and cheesecake – quite an exquisite combination. Sipping on some local beers, making small talk with the other guests, learning about abuelita Angelita’s life and tasting our way through this experience will not be forgotten anytime soon. (In fact, I’m still dreaming about it to this day!)

My recommendation: eat and drink locally and you’ll have the experience of a lifetime.

New at ROOH – Lunch

SOMA’s progressive Indian restaurant, ROOH, has launched lunch! Available Monday – Friday from 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar delicately combines India’s rich regional flavors with local Northern California ingredients. ROOH’s shareable lunch platters offer a regional tasting of India, highlighting dishes such as the Chicken Jodhpuri platter with chicken cooked in a yogurt & tomato gravy curry, yellow dal, garlic naan, saffron rice, avocado raita, and papad. A la carte options include Tuna Bhel with avocado, tamarind gel, puffed black rice, baby radish, and togarashi; Potato Tikki with kale & spinach tempura, sweet & sour yogurt mousse, and raspberry; Old Delhi Fried Chicken with mint chutney, pickled shallot.

Meet Fermata! Pausa’s New Late Night Experience

Join Pausa Bar & Cookery every Friday & Saturday night from 10:00 pm – 2:00 am as they transform into Fermata, featuring a DJ, table service, authentic Italian cuisine, group dining, celebrations, good vibes, and much more. Finally, a premium late night spot in San Mateo!

Fermata is an Italian musical term meaning “a pause of unspecified length on a note or rest,” and they invite you to stop by and join them for a late night pause to your routine.

For groups over 6, please call (650) 375-0818 for reservations.

Be sure to use #FermataTonight to share your photos and connect on the fun!

AFCO Welcomes Allison Tong

Allison was born and raised in the Bay Area and received her degree in Marketing and Management at the University of Miami. From the moment Allison was born, she was ready to eat anything and everything, which led to a very chubby and happy baby. As a child, Allison would spend the weekends in the kitchen cooking with her dad and would try a new recipe every week. Instead of watching cartoons on weekend mornings, she watched Food Network instead. Her dream was to compete on The Next Food Network Star with her dad while her mom prepared the dishes behind the scenes to swap out with theirs because her mom was the real cook in the family. Before joining AF&Co., Allison helped open a new restaurant concept in Palo Alto and worked with multiple companies within the food and restaurant industry. Allison specializes in social media and is also known as @allie.eats on Instagram, where you can follow along with her food adventures in and around the Bay.

Christy’s Valley Isle Getaway

In February, I took off for a few days of R&R in Maui — and of course I had to eat at all the best places. Some highlights included my dish at Mama’s Fish HouseMama’s Stuffed Mahimahi & Lobster stuffed with crab and baked in a Macadamia nut crust with a lobster tail and Grilled Octopus with Big Island Chèvre, watercress and asparagus from Ka’ana Kitchen 

Welcome to AFCO’s Newest Associate Account Manager – Kelsey Perry

Kelsey’s passion for food and cooking emerged from an early age when she first saw Julia Child flip an omelet on The French Chef. From family gatherings to Saturday mornings trying to perfect Bisquik pancakes, Kelsey’s appetite grew into an insatiable curiosity to conquer classic cooking techniques. Digesting cookbooks and food media quickly became her favorite hobby, leading her to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. Kelsey quickly learned about restaurant operations, immerging herself in the industry from working in the kitchen on the line to working behind the bar shaking up cocktails. With a Bachelor’s of Science in Recreation Parks & Tourism Administration, Kelsey jump started her professional career in the non-profit sector working for a Private Business Improvement District, coordinating free Summer concert series, farmer’s markets, restaurant weeks, and weekend food festivals. Kelsey’s fervor for cuisine and the city life lead her to Los Angeles, where she represented Los Angeles-based restaurant groups and chefs continuing to expand her understanding of public relations and communications in the hospitality industry. After three years in Southern California, the Sacramento native found her way back to Northern California to pursue her love of food and cooking in San Francisco.

Kelsey’s professional background spans public relations and special event planning, with extensive knowledge in marketing communications including advertising campaigns, cooperative marketing programs, organizational branding, campaign launches, slicing, dicing, and chopping. You can find her her spending her weekends writing new recipes, running in the marina, scavenging antique markets for vintage cookware, and visiting friends and family all along the California coast.


Salt & Straw Opening — So Close We Can Taste It!

Our favorite Portland-based scoop shop, Salt & Straw, is coming to town! Known for their artisanal, chef-driven flavors, the family-run company will be opening two downtown San Francisco locations this year. Their first shop, located at 2201 Fillmore Street, will be opening in early April! Their second scoop shop opening (located on Hayes Street) will be announced later this spring. Salt & Straw plans to offer a variety of flavors that were created in collaboration with local Bay Area farmers and artisans. Be sure to follow them on social media @saltandstraw for the official opening details!

Vogue Asks: Are We Witnessing the Death of the 3-Course Meal?

by Candace MacDonald

Earlier this week Vogue published a story with this headline, and in our offices, we all shouted – yes!  In fairness, we’ve been calling this trend in some form for the past several years.  It started with the realization that millennials in general like this way of dining, then we realized that “vibe dining” was becoming a thing, and last year in our trend report we called out the rise of small plates and tapas.  This year, we are seeing the “death of the 3-course meal” taking the form of guests wanting to “craft their own experience.”

As brand strategists, we’re always telling clients that you can’t be everything to everybody…. but today’s guest wants to be in control of how and when they experience what your restaurant has to offer. Restaurants are giving away a bit of control and saying YES more often. Which gives guests the ability to come in for one drink at the bar, have a few dishes to share at the table or make time for an extravagant dinner.

These concepts require careful staff training and a watchful eye on check average to maintain their profitability. Service training is as important, if not more, than cost control in the kitchen.  Despite the fact that shareable is the new way to eat, every restaurant is doing this a little bit differently.  So unlike the three-course meal that had some predictability to the ordering experience, your “shareable” restaurant might require that guests order 4 plates per person and another restaurant might require 6.  Your servers’ ability to be tour guides will be critical to maintaining check average and will help ensure guests leave satisfied and feeling the value of your restaurant.

When They Start to Talk About a Bubble… It’s Time to Get Creative

We were so sorry to read about the closure of AQ, one of our favorite SF spots, covered recently by Thrillist .  We know a lot of our colleagues are preparing for stormy weather  ahead and are looking at new ways to deliver an incredible guest experience with less costs.  As we said in this years AF&Co. trend report – it’s time to “Be Prepared.”  But, call us eternal optimists, we don’t quite believe it’s all doom and gloom.  These kinds of circumstances can bring out our most creative and collaborative solutions.  In our report, we highlighted a few trends that we think are coming out of this pressure.  We’ll keep you posted over the year.  In the meantime here are few other ideas:

 Share and Share Alike

Take a nod from Union Square Hospitality Group, their restaurants are sharing animals across kitchens to reduce labor from butchering and prep time.  If you are a single restaurant, make some friends in the neighborhood.

It’s from Scratch….Just Not Made Here

Chefs have faced a lot of pressure to make everything in-house, and we love that they enjoy this challenge so much.  However, when the labor becomes a major issue, it’s time to question how much value is truly added to the guest experience.  Consider featuring high-quality ingredients from partners or even other restaurants.  (Maybe trade your awesome ketchup for their famous mustard? Okay …we know…but  you get the idea!)

Counter Service…at Least by Day?

We mentioned this in last years report, but we’re seeing many restaurants look at different service models at various times of the day.  We also think limited menus and one-of-kind offerings could be worth exploring to create buzz and scarcity.  (Want our awesome fried chicken sandwich?…gotta come on Tuesdays!)

Use Every Inch You’ve Got

We’re seeing a rise in creative ways to use flexible space to draw crowds (and boost revenues!) at all times of day. Restaurants are turning into markets and co-working spaces. We’re also seeing retail spaces entering into the restaurant realm with some notable acquisitions and openings. (Did you hear about the $26 Entrees at Barnes and Noble?)

Want more ideas?  Check out our trend report here. Have a thought?  Let us know at 

September Newsletter

Hello Everyone!

Happy September? Click on the link here! Get on your dancing shoes and read this newsletter while you sway to one of my absolute favorite songs that celebrates a month we love here at AF&Co. It’s September!!

But brace yourselves – I haven’t always loved September. For me, going back to school and leaving my days of summer behind was always a challenge. It was mentally exhausting. Let me take you back…

Picture it. Westmount Swim Club: the huge pool, the diving boards, the lifeguards, and so much more. I truly thought I was like Sandy in Grease and had picked out many Danny Zukows to fall in love with throughout each season – though they had no idea. I was touched by the sun and in love with life.

My mom would take me and my brother Ricky up to the club every day about 1pm and we were free to do our thing till 6. I was a little chubby Jewish kid running around in a bathing suit that was always a tad too snug (somehow I demonstrated the art of how to show just enough ass crack.) My group of pals got busy every day playing water tag, Marco Polo, and red Light/green Light. There were sunset movies, lots of BBQs, and the big camp show (of which I was always the star – of course).

One of my favorite summer memories was how my mom would step into the pool insistent not to wet the hairdo that Mr. Frank, her beautician, had created for her that week. She would dunk herself in and out and exclaim to all, “Isn’t the water delicious today!” Summer meant freedom!! Summer meant hot dogs. Summer meant no rules. Summer meant lovin’ and I had me a blast.

Then Labor Day crept up…and sadly all of us kids became depressed. Back to life, back to reality, and well, back to school, rules, shoes, and studying. It always took me a good few weeks to embrace September.

Now that I am an adult (no comments please), I actually can’t wait for September to hit. It means parties, big openings, great events, Dancing with the Stars (no comments please), and so much more.

So here’s to a new season that kicks off now. Read on for a wonderful newsletter filled with some wonderful summer memories, new happenings, and some incredible secret recipes just for you.

See you soon and often I hope!!!

Sealed with a summer kiss –


PS – We couldn’t be prouder of our client Bluestem Brasserie who recently achieved a three-star review from the San Francisco Chronicle’s food critic Michael Bauer. Being lucky enough to work with this amazing team of professionals and knowing how the five-year-old restaurant has strived for continuous improvement, I can say there is no one more deserving of these accolades. Stacy and Adam – you are my heroes.

You Gotta Be Memorable

We’re taking you back to 1995 when Des’ree taught us all that “You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser.” We’re going to say that in today’s crazy competitive restaurant world, you gotta be all these things plus…you must be memorable.

Be memorable. Such a simple concept and, yet, it’s so easy to forget how important it is. With so much competition out there, it’s not just a nice idea. It’s not optional. You must state it as your concept’s goal at every phase from the moment you first decide you are going to open a new concept all the way through your on-going marketing plan.

While the long-term goal of any successful restaurant should be sales, it’s becoming increasingly more important to create relationships with people through clear brand identity and consistent brand marketing.  People want to feel like they are connected to the brands they use, the restaurants the frequent, the hotels they choose. They want a story, and brand marketing that is memorable can be a way to fill that need.

If you are developing a new concept, you must constantly ask yourself: How will we stand out from the crowd? How will we be better and different? What is going to keep them coming back for more?

As you develop marketing and promotions for your hotel or restaurant, keep going back to those questions.

Here’s a few more ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t always focus on the direct sell. Are you constantly hitting your email database or social media fans with special pricing or happy hour promos? Not every piece of marketing has to be tied directly back to sales. It’s like that friend who only calls you when she needs something. Pretty soon you start to delete her emails and hit “decline” on her calls.
  2. Make them laugh. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Even if you are a serious restaurant, there’s always an opportunity to show a fun side of your concept. (Let’s face it, people want to have fun when they go out!)
  3. Teach them something. Take people on a journey. Whether it’s a recipe or the details behind a special menu, tell the story of what went into creating the experience you are offering.
  4. Inspire them. Think big. Are you making the world a better place through your charitable efforts? Are you changing the way people think about dining, about a certain cuisine or are you simply giving people a place to make amazing everyday memories?  Don’t be afraid to show your passion for what you are doing. Passion is contagious.

Your ultimate goal should be to let people know who you are, so that when the time comes to choose a restaurant or book a hotel, they remember you.


Written by: Andrew Freeman & Co.  A high-energy hospitality consulting firm with a unique blend of expertise in marketing, publicity and creative services. The AF&Co team will do whatever it takes to build awareness for clients and ultimately increase sales. AF&Co offers tailored, flexible programs that include: creative/concept development, branding, recruiting, graphic design, public relations, sales/marketing, training, event management, and more depending on the clients’ needs. The AF&Co team is creative, direct and fun, and focuses on the areas that they are passionate about: restaurants and beverages, travel and hotels, and lifestyle personalities and products. For more information, visit or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.



How to Become a Great Neighborhood Restaurant


Tasting Table is spot on in this recent article that our team caught a hold of:  Won’t you be my Neighborhood Restaurant, by Joshua Stein.  A great neighborhood restaurant (or GNR if you know the lingo!) isn’t just a great restaurant, nor is it just a neighborhood restaurant, it is always something much more complex that lives on the fine line between the two. A great neighborhood restaurant must be exceptional when it comes to cuisine, libations, atmosphere, and staff: but it also must be harmonious with its environment and customers. The GNR is a miraculous thing that can take on many forms and should change from city to city, as well as from neighborhood to neighborhood. The two key identifiers being: Is the price range relative to the mean income of families in that neighborhood? And, how many of the tables are reservation only and how many are saved for walk-ins?

In the article mentioned above, Stein says a GNR must enthrall a palpable sense of belonging in their customers, but how they choose to pursue this feeling of camaraderie will vary among restaurants. The welcoming atmosphere is easily malleable with the slightest change in the placement of the host stand, the host’s greeting, the layout or the decor, and the number of people inside.

From our perspective, every restaurant should strive to be loved by locals even if the visitor market is their key demographic. After all, visitors want to go where the locals are.

The keys to becoming a GNR also include, but are not limited to:

-Having approachable food that is timeless and well done every time.

-Having a bar scene that is lively but never crowded, the key here is a good layout and crowd control.

-Having trendy decor that is up kept but retains a relatively unchanging atmosphere.

-Having a staff that is friendly and remembers the customers as well as their orders. People relate to other people even more than they relate to food.

The main reasons why great neighborhood restaurants are so difficult to stumble upon is because they have a large dependence on the health of the neighborhood they reside in. With the increase in income inequality and introduction of gentrification, a neighborhood’s sense of community can quickly disappear leaving the GNR without a proper habitat to flourish in.

Check out Tasting Table for more great insights!

June Newsletter



Hello Everyone –

For those of you who follow our newsletters, you know my openings are usually very humorous, self-reflective and fun. I had a great PRIDE story planned but when the horrific events in Orlando occurred this past weekend – everything changed.

For five days, I have walked around in a daze, heartbroken for the victims and their families. As the news coverage unfolded, I know we all wondered how each of us could help and make a difference. Here’s what I know, all we can do is to continue to fight against hatred. These hideous acts of violence will continue to keep young LGBTQ people in the closet. They will fear coming out and living their own personal truths.

I am a lucky person – though it took me some time to come to terms with who I am (I was 30 years old when I finally had the courage), when I did come out I was embraced by the people who love me. Now I have the freedom to be who I am – a proud gay man with wonderful friends and a family that loves me unconditionally, and a successful businessman. Everyone must have this freedom – and when a horrible incident like Orlando happens this should only make us all work harder to support and celebrate the differences that make up our world.

I shudder to think about what happened in that club on Saturday night. It was Latin Night – friends had come together to have a few drinks, dance, and celebrate life. Then, in a flash, lives ended and people were injured – everything changed forever. We must now mourn these losses and support the families that were impacted by this tragedy. Please, please click here to contribute to the fund that has been set up.

What was magnified for me on Sunday is that life is so short – and you truly never know when it will end. While these events have now changed our lives forever, we must go on in honor of the victims and remain proud.

June is PRIDE Month around the world — and our newsletter covers all the wonderful happenings that our clients are doing to celebrate. We also have news about exciting summer events, openings, and ways to honor thy father (it’s Father’s Day this Sunday). We also are putting together a fun night at Wente Vineyards to see Diana Ross on July 7. AF&Co. has a special code for our fans (40% off just for us – see below under the Concerts at Wente Vineyards). I hope you can join us. Read on and enjoy every minute of life that you can!

In closing, they say hate and fear are contagious – but here’s what I know – love is contagious too. I encourage you to love harder than ever and spread this love. With love, I do believe we can conquer this ugliness and truly create environments of safety and encouragement for the younger generations that are coming up to lead our world.

Sing out loud and proud!


PS – I am also very lucky to be a proud Dad. Many of you know that my brother Ricky sadly passed away six years ago – and with his blessing I was honored to step in to become a father figure to my two amazing nephews Jason and Zachary. Along with their wonderful Mom, I couldn’t be more proud of the two successful men they have become. I’m inspired every day to see the great things they are accomplishing. I am thrilled that I will witness the life journeys that lie ahead. I am also a proud Daddy to my two sweet furry girls – Daisy and Tulip. It sounds corny, but when I look at them, they remind me what love is. I can’t get enough of those girls.


What’s in Your Bathroom?

By Candace MacDonald

Restaurant Hospitality recently published a great article highlighting some spectacular bathrooms.  We’re in the detail business here at AF&Co., so we loved this piece and couldn’t agree more.  Your brand experience must carry all the way through every touch point, and yet many restaurateurs treat the restrooms as an after thought.  Depending on your concept, it can also be a great place to let guests know about upcoming promotions.  Everyone visits the bathroom so use that real estate!  We polled our office and here are a few bathrooms that are well worth the trip:

Bang Bang (San Diego) As publicists, we can’t help but drool over the press this bathroom has gotten.  As people, we can’t help but drool over floor to ceiling Ryan Gosling images.

The Avenue (Columbus) This stunning “steak tavern” is  reminiscent of the 1920s and 1930s with classic black & white checkerboard stone floor in the bar, red vinyl booths, and red vinyl tufted chairs.  The details extend to the bathroom with vintage cartoons accenting elegant finishes. (Plus the steak seasoning is incredible)

The Progress (San Francisco) This 2015 James Beard Foundation nominee for Best New Restaurant attends to every detail…including the wrapping on the toilet paper in the bathroom.  That’s style.

Gitane: (San Francisco)  We might agree with the San Francisco Chronicle’s Paolo Lucchesi’s assessment from a few years ago – this might just be the best bathroom in San Francisco.

Mourad: (San Francisco) This entire restaurant is stunning and we can’t get enough of Chef Lahlou’s Moroccan menu.  But really…the tile in the bathroom is stunning, to say the least.  It’s a communal bathroom with five different stalls.  You’ll want to take a seat in all of them.

Did we miss your favorite?  Let us know!  We’re always expanding our list of favorite toilets…er…restaurants!





By Kyle Osher

Delivery is no longer relegated to monochrome Chinese menus on the fridge and 45 minute cold pizzas.  While the nostalgia of those late-night standards will forever hold a lukewarm place in our hearts, delivery now means so, so much more. With sophisticated technology and innovative logistic systems, companies like Amazon and Uber are rapidly shaping a world where anyone can get anything at the push of the button. The future is now and we’re all buying into it.

As consumer culture increasingly values the convenience and efficiency of delivery services, The NDP Group predicts that at-home dining will continue to surpass in-house restaurant covers over the next ten years in their article, Delivery – A Growth Opportunity On the Horizon.   If your business hasn’t partnered with a delivery platform yet, it may be high time to consider it.  Take a look at celebrity chef David Chang’s new delivery only establishment, Ando, featured recently on Eater.   To help weigh your delivery decisions, we’ve created a little list of Pros and Cons for you.

Partnering with a delivery service can:

Allow your team to focus on what they do best – providing a high quality product and experience for guests.

Expand your brand’s reach through valuable marketing partnerships.

Increase revenue during slower periods of operation or expand your operating capacity beyond your 4 walls.

Improve your image and add to your brand equity with exclusive offers.

Convert take-away guests to in-store loyalists.

Things to consider before diving in:

A lot of platforms include high percentage fees leaving you with slimmer margins. Be sure to run the numbers and view all delivery costs as part of your marketing budget — one that pays for itself.

Ensure that your menu reflects your concept and travels well.  Don’t dilute your brand just to provide a turkey wrap for delivery if you concept revolves around seafood. The Melt, a San Francisco based fast casual chain, has developed an advanced catering delivery system to ensure their grilled cheeses arrive crisp, gooey and delicious.  Read more about their custom packaging in the article by Nation’s Restaurant News.   

Offers should be value oriented as opposed to discount-based.  Guests should perceive value through access and ease not discount and speed.  They should feel excited to be able order their favorite chicken-parm sandwich at the touch of a button, not a mediocre salad with 15% off.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Only offer what you can deliver in a timely and controlled manner.


70% of Millenials Make Purchase Decisions Influenced by their Social Media Network

By Kyle Osher

Word of mouth has and always will be the most important factor in how restaurants and hotels become popular.  It’s why public relations firms exist: to generate and influence opinions and to get people talking! Deloitte just released their Digital Democracy Survey which found that 70.3% of millennials (14 to 32 year olds) thought a positive opinion among their personal network on sites like Facebook and Twitter ultimately influenced what they bought.  So how can you make sure they are talking about your hotel or restaurant?  A few easy tips:

Take Crave-worthy Photos: Spend 5 minutes browsing through Instagram and you’ll know that beautiful food imagery dominates the landscape.  Investing in food photography not only puts your best foot forward, but increases the occurrence of sharing amongst your guests and their network alike.

Geo Targeting: Generally, any restaurant’s bread & butter is going to be that local crowd of regulars and neighbors.  Increase the value of your purchased ads by geo-targeting your guests.  Most online services, from Facebook, Google AdWords or Twitter, offer the ability to choose your targeted demographic based on a number of factors, location being key.  Try geo- targeting in your next digital ad spend and help ensure that your message gets in front of the right guest.

Time Your Tweets: Twitter can be a valuable asset for any restaurant if used correctly.  Be sure to time your tweets to garner the effect you want and gain traction among your audience.  Regular and scheduled posts can be a great way notify your guests of daily specials or happy hours establish a pattern of engagement.

Leverage Instagram as a Brand Tool: Instagram is a remarkable communication platform.  Say as little or as much as you want, or let a photo do most of the talking.  When you combine dozens and hundreds of posts over time, a larger picture starts to come into view.  Leverage Instagram’s ability to refine and amplify your brand’s message, start sharing today.

Trend Alert: What’s Brewing? By Candace MacDonald

The rise of coffee shops is old news, but restaurants across the country are stepping up their game when it comes to coffee and tea programs.  As we predicted in our 2016 Trend Report guests everywhere are saying “I wanna a new buzz.”  Nitro-coffee continues to be popular.  Cameron Mitchell Restaurants is having much success with cold brew coffee and nitro coffee on tap in Schokko Art Café in the Columbus Museum of Art.  The creamy texture is stout-like and Beverage Director Ryan Valentine predicts that “Over time, these are going to move beyond coffee shops and become a lot more prevalent in restaurants.”


Tea is also stepping up its game and Match continues to be a standout in the tea world.  While you still may have to go to McDonald’s in Japan to try the newest version of the Matcha McFlurry, we think you’ll continue to see more MAtcha and other teas holding strong in light of the continued perceived health benefits of plant based diets. Offering a selection of origins is important as guests develop more familiarity with black, green and oolong teas.  For hotels in particular, offering local coffee and tea products is an easy way to give guests that oh-so-coveted “local” vibe.


Check out Ramping Up Coffee and Tea Menus on Nations Restaurant News for more insights.


Make Haste to not Waste

Make Haste to not Waste  – by Andrew Freeman

With higher food and labor costs continuing to impact restaurants, maintaining profitability is at the top of most restaurateurs minds.  At the same time, highly educated restaurant guests require new and interesting items to drive trial.  A recent article in Nation’s Restaurant News  offered some practical advice for how to maintain the balance between fresh and profitable menus.  Yours truly was cited as a source, so of course I’m a bit biased as to the quality of advice!  Sometimes restaurateurs find themselves being pulled in multiple directions when the trend requires more expensive ingredients that don’t translate into higher sales.  However, as we predicted in this our 2016 Trend Report, many chefs are finding the balance by turning typically discarded items (think carrot greens or other vegetable “waste”) into truly delicious creations.  Americans used to consider products made from lesser known cuts of meat or vegetable parts to be unappealing or lower quality.  Thankfully that’s changing and opening up a whole new path for chefs to explore.

Following the Pack: How to Foster Blogger Relationships

By Kerryn McDonough

With the ever-growing popularity of Instagram, comes a new wave of social media influencers and lifestyle bloggers who impact the daily dining decisions of foodies across the nation. More and more, diners are turning to social media for recommendations on where to get the trendiest, most instagrammable dishes in the city. Hashtags such as #eggporn, #foodporn, #forkyeah, and #eeeeeats have made searching for delicious bites easier than ever and bloggers use these hashtags to continually contribute their dining recommendations. While some Instagram influencers are solely dedicated to the one platform, others have robust blogs on other sites where they will often write a more in-depth review for the experiences they most enjoyed.

Below we’ve listed a few recommendations for establishing and further growing relationships with bloggers and influencers:
Create Custom Experiences

bonInvite bloggers in for a special meal, a cocktail class, or partner with neighboring restaurants to curate a comprehensive neighborhood stroll. Often bloggers want to try dishes from the menu before they publicly endorse an establishment to ensure that the content they are promoting reflects their true tastes. Invite a blogger and a guest in to try a sampling of dishes with either a signature cocktail or a glass of wine, provide a menu to takeaway and collateral with all appropriate contact information including social handles. Most importantly, follow up the next day to thank them for stopping by and to provide help attaining any extra information they may need to draft a full post.



Offer Special Deals to Followers

the bakeTo thank bloggers and Instagram influencers for their support, send out a code or a secret password for a special promotion created specifically for their followers. This small touch will bring in a new audience and will hopefully create returning customers. Don’t be afraid to get clever and play around with puns







Leverage Relationships
benjamin cooperpngEncourage bloggers to host their own events such as cocktail tastings to bring in business and create buzz on social media. This tactic is similar to sending out a specific code, but gives a specific blogger’s audience the chance to hang out with one of their favorite personalities and experience something with them first hand. Bring in new consumers, give them a great experience with an influential host, and instantly gain committed followers.

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