S2:EP6 - Stephen Yen, Executive Chef of Tao Downtown NYC
S2:EP6 - Stephen Yen, Executive Chef of Tao Downtown NYC
In this episode, I interview Stephen Yen, the executive chef of Tao Downtown in New York City
Stephen has been with Tao for about a year now and has been a killer addition to their team.
As for his experience, Stephen was on the opening team for Fatty ‘Cue in Williamsburg, where he worked with Eddie Huang and later worked with Eddie at Catch. For those who don't know Eddie, he was a Top Chef Season 3 winner and proved to be not only a great Chef to learn from for Stephen but also a stepping-stone
As a nicer, sit-down concept, Tao has had to make some major adjustments to their business model in order to stay competitive and thrive during this year.
In this episode we will address those changes on what they have done as a business overall but also the specifics on what Stephen has done as the Executive Chef, in collaboration with the brand and marketing team, to help Tao succeed!
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In this episode I interview Steven Yen, the executive chef of Tao downtown in New York City for about a year now and has been a really killer addition to the Oscars experience Steven was on the opening team for fatty queued Williamsburg. Where you work with Eddie Wong and let it was his idea catch never those who don't know who it is Top Chef season 3 winner and prove to be not only a great chef to learn from for Steven, but also a great stepping stone for him. Now as a nicer sit-down concept tell has had to make some major adjustments to their business model in order to stay competitive Thrive during this year in this episode. We will address those changes on what they have done as a business overall, but also the specifics on what Stephen has done as the executive chef in collaboration with the brand and marketing team to help Tao succeed. And so without further Ado, let's Dive Right In
Hi, my name is Brett Linkletter. See you on founder of Misfit Media best damn restaurant marketing agency on the planet here at Misfit. We help restaurant owners growing scale their business through strategic online marketing practices right now, you're listening to podcast restaurant. Misfits will discuss all things related to restaurant marketing management and everything else in between growing a restaurant bill. This podcast has also brought you in collaboration with total food service for over 30 years pull through the service provided the restaurant and Foodservice industry with exclusive interviews. The latest news on products Trends associations and events. You can sign up for a free monthly subscription by visiting total food.com today and from all the Misfits over here. We hope you enjoy the show.
Stephen, how are you?
I'm doing well. Thanks for having me on absolutely. Absolutely. We're so glad to have you on the show today. What is amazing and interesting year? It's been just to say none unless you have a lot of the words right? It's it's been interesting, especially with the election that's happening at this exact moment while we do this podcast how group and how how have things been as the executive chef? So things knock on wood things are moving in the right direction. It's a really strong brands that has been built over the years. I'm so as far as my phone gets returning to 2 in room in House dining. It's definitely moving in the right direction where we are taking every precaution cleaning non-stop sanitizing Dawn stop keeping everyone away from each other if you get up from your table, you know, we have plenty of security guards and forcing a mask succeed. So it is definitely
Crazy, you know we've had property that have open and had to close and reopen because of positive testing staff was mostly in the west coast. Nothing nothing. Nothing in the east coast is happens of that nature and we really hope we don't have that but you know, it's 20/20 anything. The funny thing is the last I'd say the last 10 years Mike Conley career. It's been learning how to hit curveball. So, you know anyone can hit a fastball to learn how to hit a curve balls. What's going to set you apart and make you a better Chef been a manager, you know a better person and I think 2020 was the game where nothing for curveball, you know, and then just when you think you have everything in your grasp another curveball comes, you know, it's like 20 things that Chef joke that can call her school. They should turn off the gas. When will the service be like, okay guys keep going. This is real life, you know or your chicken doesn't show up one day doesn't matter if he's still open you what you going to do? You know that
So I think having that mental mindset in 2020, if you only way it's going to stay positive and really succeed you not enough succeeded even a great word to use but survived, you know, and then hopefully 2021 we get the price, you know from surviving leave the thriving so that's the that's the next evolution of what we want to happen. You know, how do you say everyone keeps saying we want to get back to where we were I don't even think that's a great mentality. I think we want to get to a place that's it's better than where we were, you know, we want to learn from what happens when he's wanting to take that keep everyone safe. Keep all of our guests safe keep all of our employees days and then be profitable, you know, we we are in it for business, you know.
Absolutely, ultimate curveball obviously, wherewithal restaurants all over the world and one of my clients Melissa Coben 19 specifically has been the ultimate gut-check of you do really love this business review. You really really want to be a restaurants right? Is this what you are true or not to do because bourbon that it's not within their complete heart, but it's not something I really want to die for it. They're already gone. Right? So eat Yelp reported to us at 44% restaurants are close this year and are coming back so major major dip in this industry obviously, but it's the it seems like you're saying that you guys are just surviving. How is it how's it been as far as like as a big fan of you guys? Obviously, you didn't screw it, but you don't have what kind of drop of you guys seen in business over all of you guys seen as a
Sure. I'm so as far as like, you know where we're offering a 25% indoor dining. We are it's almost in true that as far as numbers and finances go definitely it's a brand with people are traveling to come get you and we're still doing over 500 covers on Saturday night's near where luckily enough to have a place that we can fit a 187 people legally inside of one time. So we are very lucky in that then, you know, I think just like Broadway the show will go on there is of course, so me restaurants in York City that closed down not going to come back or leave me there is plenty of Chef Plenty Restaurant towards plenty of people out there that are ready to sign at least tomorrow 20 of Concepts that are going to go into you know fruition. This is this is time. We're just because one Sage low as there was one door is closed doesn't mean another one.
Open every single night show up tomorrow after your battle licking your battle wounds when she want to be I would do it all over again. I'd do it all over again that stuff is different breed of humans in the restaurant business. And I think like you said the ones that couldn't hack it, they're gone and the ones that live in love and love it. We're still here absolutely was your inspiration overall to it to get into this business and to become a chef.
You know being an adrenaline junkie seeing eye start in the front of house, you know, I've done almost every job in the front out and just spending time with the chefs in the back of the house was one of those things were okay. I guess I knew how to cook at home. I'd love to eat, you know, and before you know, it it's like okay I'm spending way too much money on going out to eat. My friends are I wear in college were like, hey, you know what? Maybe we can make this than there are they look to me like then I think you know all the people that should be you you try this out. So we would go to the grocery store get groceries. I come home cooking but not really good. And then one day I just decided to pick up and go to the French call Lance to and from the second week. I started working for Zach watch show exotic U Brooklyn and literally because the culture at fatty crab if I take you was it was such a strong culture it made in made you seem like this was a cool cloth that you want to be part of you know you want
To be that bad ass line cook that bad ass Chef that could throw down whether you know, what the Thousand covers of 300 covers didn't matter and then be able to smile tendonitis. They give me more that's what really really drew me to to the kitchen and I think that's what keeps me in the kitchen Brigade system. Really Taylor towards after the military my first year college in which Norwich which is the oldest America's oldest private military school, you know, and I left and went to BC after but just having you know becoming a Cadet without actually getting sent out towards like the best training cuz I got broken down rebuild, but then I never got PTSD, you know, so it was like having all that mental got a hold of me before tattooed without having any of that, you know flash goes off and I hit the deck, you know, that's what I think was a huge part of the
The kitchen reminded me of that world, you know, where was something I want want to do and I never I never got to do so then it was kind of okay. This is the second best thing. He pleases myself and family, you know, and then I love working with my hand and I know this might sound weird but watching someone eat my food or go through the week rate and seeing that smile and making them happy and really really really makes us happy makes me happy to show the work of my hands and then have people be so happy with what we just created. It's that instant gratification people always joked that Millennials are all about Instagram station, and I'm not going to argue about that. We are hundred percent if I can have something now, I want it now and if I can make you and your guests happy tonight with what we coped and will be served you that means more than anything to me. Absolutely.
As you know from as a Cadet and I think I think a lot of other restaurants workout has to relate to that very very cool interesting talk to us about what you think, you know based on right now. I emailed you guys are more of a fine-dining sit-down concept of how group right when you look it up for restaurants during this exact time that were in you see more opportunity specifically in the fast-casual space or do you think sit down it is the opportunity I think sit down is so right now our dessert sales have tripled it is because the night so there's nowhere to go. There's no there's no bars to go hopping at after dinner. Everything closes pretty early. So people don't want to go home. They don't want you to know near in New York City. You have very very very small apartment even smaller.
So therefore you have a lot of people eating out and then you have with that you have all the facts casual is kind of gone. Cuz all the people that were used to work in the corporate offices don't exist anymore. They're all working from home. I did it. I did a short stint with Gage in now called big and we used to have people come stand in line for lunch and we would say Hey, you know, you can order your food online and it and they would say we don't want to we want to stand in line just 20 minutes online. It allowed me to pay my phone talk to my friends, you know, and the fact that the bags at digging were Millennial pink, you know, there's a target for it, right and there's a lot of money to be made from the kid and the people that work in the score causas, but now that doesn't exist so fast casual doesn't really exist know. I have a friend he works when Investment Group and they have like 220 Taco Bell's and Bell Drive in the Taco Bell that had drive-thru.
I've skyrocketing Phil vs. The ones we have to walk in. So it's just saying that yes, there is there is there is a market for fast-casual. I personally think it's more about the drive-through Persians cuz the people in the city of really fled from the city to go to the Barbie Suburban areas. Yes, if you can find a place with rent that you will be sustainable that's going to thrive because people do want to come out that you want to be served. We Are All Creatures where we'd like to be pampered. I don't you know who doesn't want to go to spot spend the day. It's about who doesn't like when you want to celebrate something you go out to dinner, right? That's why I think sit down restaurants are going to come back stronger than ever. I think fast casual's there will be more of a meal prep more of a meal prep side to it where you see more and more people getting healthier going to gym, you know, really?
How to take care of themselves They See 20/20 is led to you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. So he has try to be as healthy as possible. So I do see meal prep and fast-casual surviving but in a sense where it like, you know sweetgreen and chopped and just salad know that we're really competing for your dollar. It's not that case anymore. You know, it's one of those where people are now interested in how to make the salad. How do I make this dressing? How do I make that if you saw people like the fact that the baking aisle in supermarkets were empty during the shutdown people are cooking at home, you know, they're they're wanting to learn to stop at the buy interesting Concepts, you know for them. It was actually so successful during this time was that did make it home pizza kits, right? Hey, you know what? We're going to send you the dough the cheese the topping so you can make it yourself people want that organized. I think I read a book A book that was about PT Barnum.
Business way back in the day. I think one of the saying he says was people will spend their last nickel on fun that we spend our last night going to have a spine.
He sounds like a Malcolm Gladwell, maybe many years ago. But the thing is is in business to eat. You have to strive to make everything more fun in gentleman matter. What kind of business you're in right and it and it sounds like you're on the exact same people are craving social attention. People are craving young other people. I know for classes between York. I mean New York, obviously during covid-19 huge shut down and out the other Soul at 25% capacity. Yeah, so it's I mean, I don't I don't blame people for wanting to have that experience. I mean, I'll cite you for me personally. I I I love going out right I want I want to get there to let you know I was especially without you got you can't go to bars. You can't go out to clubs are there and I'll see what you might do as the other people you only supposed to have is the restaurant space so
That's a good point to bring that many people talk about all the negatives and what's happening this year. But also what about the positive opportunities right? Now? A lot of restaurants are shut down. That's unfortunate. That sucks. Right? Obviously, that's not what we all want. But for those hair salon Business Wireless competition right left, right and it's now you you have to push yourself to be better used to be bigger faster stronger every single day. You have to rework your recipes to make sure they're the best because now, you know, if someone people are a little wiser on where they spend their money, so if someone says, okay, I just bought your pizza. Hey, I need people last week. I think my pizza is better than your pizza and they're never going to buy you Pizza over again vs. Holy shit. I tried to make that at home. It didn't work out. That's why I'm going to go to bread pizza, you know, totally totally
Kickin ass on his way from the outside looking in. You guys look awesome. You mention also that you know, you got into this kind of business because it seemed like kind of a cool thing to do the camaraderie seems really really much there and it is a very cool place to go. Do you know working at a town working in this business? How do you what do you think is the most of the biggest reason for that? Kind of success would tell me how does how become just such a cool place to go to it? What what is kind of you guys secret you think?
I think the secret is treating employees just like the guest, you know, you want to make sure your guest experience is the best experience possible. We do have the same exact thing for employees during the shutdown thousands of employees were Nazis were furloughed but you know, they were laid off and there was a lot of money raised and a lot of money distributed out within the company for the employees that couldn't collect the employees that had more financial situations than you know, beyond the average. We also give we do groceries for all employees once a week. We have been called back to school back to school supplies for all the employees can't even former employee. You don't even need to be current employee right now group will buy your kids backpack and now even Thanksgiving. It's a whole Thanksgiving dinner with the sides a coupon for a turkey. So it is really, you know, there's some some of these guys have been here for
17 years 18 years, you know a lot of guys have been nine years, you know, the Russians only been yours on yours this one so it is taking care of taking care of your employees at the same way as you take care of your guests goes so far, you know, it's it's like the the famous you know it instead of hiring a new guy. What are you doing wrong to? Why aren't you keeping your staff? No wires. Why is there why is it a revolving door? Why is so many people leaving? You have to look at that versus am I not hiring the right now? It's not that you're not hiring the right person. You're not training. You're not you know, I'm breathing. You're not growing you're not planting the seed watering and everyday. That's why I think this group does well-versed is a lot of other hostile groups out there where they really want to invest in in their employees, you know, they really want to make sure you grow when you're happy. That's what I really think and it'll just more eyes on the prize in a larger group and it's one of those where
Instead of it instead of a picture of 20 dogs of one bone, you know picture 20 dogs hooked up to a sled that's not going to pull the company. That's what I think is the best visualization of how group, you know, instead of a most most groups out there. You have so many bosses that are you know, trying to undercut each other and backstab each other and you know, he was one of those things like let's get it all out. If you want to argue we can be nice be nice, but we don't have the same goal and let's make sure we get there together. That's what I think if that's a group apart from that is so amazing. I love that idea. That's a good point. Obviously like I love that line treating your employees like you treat your gas because I'll tell you as an agency working with restaurants whenever I'm on a phone call is on the thing where you want to go and ask for the questions of you know, what's preventing you from getting to the next level often times. It's good employees oven time to employee retention.
Often times. It's I don't have to find a people or people keep quitting but I think that the message sure is yeah. Well your business especially in this business your employees are everything. Hey do the service is the business services half the battle. If you can't find the right kind employees that will that can treat your guests arrived because you don't treat them, right? What are we even doing here right now? I mean, you're the perfect devil. Everyone always says, okay. I love Union Square Hospitality Group. If someone if someone is leaving like it's server manager sous chef whatever they work there. And then why did he leave you went wrong? And it was probably them not Union Square Hospitality Group, you know, so those are the flags. I think people just get they see the bright light. They get all happy like all I got a great tan and I got to go.
Just go to a store get a manager off the shelf and put them in place and everything is going to work itself out, you know little. Do you know that manager got let go but no one said they were fired, you know, there's so many things that you don't eat but those are things that I think you know, we're starting to look at where as high as you know higher higher higher the person that you really feel good about and then train them, you know, say we joke about all the time how many shots does it take to change a lightbulb, you know, like 10 you have one actually doing it and I will tell you how many different way they did in the last job, you know old people always go grab that what it sounds like when you hire someone it's you know, this is that's great. You did it that way the last shop. This is the way we're going to do it here. That's the way you're going to do it here, you know, is that understood then you can move forward, you know, once you lay the rules out table anybody can cook a potato but there's no way we're going to cook a potato here, you know, and as long as you have the people that are saying I'm willing to do your sop, you know,
Willing to do it the way you want me to do it then then everything else will fall into place a coachable. And in that that's how we want to have specific systems and processes if you want to do anything at scale and do it the right way to effectively right. I mean hiring coachable people is so so important for any kind of business when it comes to her and for you guys in general the deposits look like you guys do something in specific or how do you weed out the right or wrong people?
So it's a huge so obviously wants you hire that person it's you know, that's that's the tough part cuz if you hired the wrong person, it's a huge huge battle right at all. It is it it's at least three different interviews from three different aspects, you know, obviously with the HR having a my questions very different from HR questions, right my questions going to be more of the line of tell me about your experience with a few words. Why did you like that Cuisine? Why did you leave? What did you learn from that Chef wear as a charge looking for someone that's really going to obviously we're all looking for added value but might you know, my questions could be more tailored towards the kitchen and she'll bring someone in it's definitely I can't just say hey love you break your hired, you know, it's definitely a three-step process with individualized in a
Where are you know, I might not even be in the room for two of those interviews and then having multiple people sign off on the higher. So I think that's really important because it's just like the government where you have your checks and balances like for instant that dig in these do group interviews and it was really interesting. They bring Wild on 20 people together. They would put Legos in the middle and group them into groups of three and four. So now we're watching from a psychological level where you would say. Okay, you have one minute you have to build a structure that's free-standing 11 to stall halfway through you say, okay you now have 22nd you need to big is 15 in tall and I'm taking away to the Legos. So now you see who's going to take charge who's going to stay back? You know, you got to see those a Slough and another question that we know. What is your spirit animal, right?
And what we were looking for was we were looking for pack animals. We were looking for animals that were nice were so if someone was like I'm a wolf you would ask him. Why why do you identify with a wolf-like are they that person alone will not work well with others, you know, if someone said I'm a lying cuz I'm the king of the jungle like are you hiring them from management position or you hiring them for an entry-level line position where this is going to be a problem. You know, there's there's a lot of psychological studies now being like really really
Introduced into just normal everyday hiring which I think goes a long way because anyone can be us their way through an interview. You know, anyone can make up a fake resume anyone when I used I used to be a corporate Chef. I used to give every single Chef a practical and a written test. The Practical would be you know, you have no idea how many chest can't cook right the right. I'll give you a cup of rice. I would give him a piece of salmon stay Fearless fish. They had to make a bechamel. They have to make to make a bechamel. They had to also cook half a piece of chicken. They have to cut an onion that's life have died. The other half is like they want to caramelize the dice that wanted sauteed no color and then you know the written test I would say it's not I'm not going to ever judge you for this written test, but I want to know your level of food knowledge. I want to know your techniques, you know, I want to know if you know what the danger zone it, you know, I want to know if you know the Pismo Pismo stand for you know, those are things that
I wanted to know because I just met you, you know, and if I'm going to hire you and give you the responsibility of a management position. I need to know where you are. So then we can start to train you coach you and get you where you need to be. Totally. I think I think just now is is that there's there's certain aspects like that you can train for such as a skill set on how to cook a bowl of rice write correctly write a you guys have a specific process that you follow you can train someone to do know make sure that they're obsolete coach will do that. But then there's also this aspect of like what's your spirit animal personality type specifically in that role other personality and I think
The personality I mean that that's such a difficult thing to train for obviously right people are certain ways and it is hard to get out of this way sometimes right? I love that part in about what is your spirit animal? I've never heard anyone say that about personality test or not exactly.
You got any kind of personality test?
Wait, send a guy you cut off for a second. You guys tried any kind of like personality test when hiring employees he wasn't any of that you're a child group. Not yet. You know, I'm I'm sure it's going to happen like a dig in they they did the Briggs Meyer personality test and it was more to identify you as a manager and how to how to help you grow. You know, when you're going too funny. I just took I just took it again for the hell of it last week and it turns out I'm like ninety-nine percent extroverted which makes a lot of sense would like the last thing I want to do is be home alone. That's how you know my days off. I like your texting friends. My girlfriend's at home. I'm like a what are you guys doing? Let's go try this place or whatever maybe but being home alone is just too boring to me. Absolutely.
I know you been at tographer. What about a year? I think right essentially. Yeah. What what kind of trans are you seen that have you guys seen become more popular during this year?
So obviously for the last one for the last 8 years Instagram, right? So you have user-generated content and content is going to take off anything that you can Instagram and is going to get that person more like going to bring you more views I think is is huge. You know a crazy thing. One of one of the burger influences would always say Hey you get 25% more likes of you use yellow cheese versus white you right and that has nothing to do with the flavor profile to texture everything that we've been trying to stuff. It just goes out the window. Just you want more like you yellow cheese, right? So I think I'd like to try and all within itself. Second thing is you have you had that plant forward plant-based movement, right? Everybody is now more well aware of hey, if you eat a rack of ribs every night, you're probably going to get colon cancer in like 20 years, so it's no big plans to finding
In your proteins elsewhere. I think it is huge but just making vegetables delicious again is I think the the evolution that we are now experiencing before if you looked at the eighties and nineties when you start a vegetable you thought of the overcooked Brussels that came out of microwave you thought of peas and carrots if you say peas and carrots you think hospital food right would know these things can be absolutely utterly delicious when I'm prepared the right way. So I think you know, how is like Dirt Candy in New York City and all these place there plant-based forward. That's really what I think is propelling, you know, and now being able to look at a farmer and having a regular person look at a pharmacy without no, thank you. You know that. That's huge, bro.
I think I definitely the plant-based fish is coming back more popular never, you know, you have if I hear the word on the costly one more time, you know, I think the two things that you were that I joke about that are overused is tapas. And oh my gosh, they become a marketing you want to open up a bar when you have to serve food me to what you do out small plate stop at Rite Aid for Morimoto. Mostly on McCarthy that we can go today is not Omakase, but everyone loves that word marketing Works tells me what soap to buy, you know, what brands to buy if course it works. So there's nothing wrong with it. But I think you know, I think the trends in the future now with everything going to qsr are inocuos are
QR codes, right? Yes. Yes. I've always joked that we should have a tasting menu, but it's based off of like Tinder. So the picture of the next dish comes up you call my guy, right it comes to you. If you don't want it you swipe left. It doesn't come to you and then you pay on what you consume, you know, so I got to shop I would prepare like 30 small little taste taste of that night and then you come sit at the that is my restaurant and then swipe right if you want that dish swipe left, if you don't want that bite and then you just pay for what you ate and then obviously, you know, it's kind of music generated content on of what people used to nowadays. No swiping right so I can last night thinking should be a fun quirky that is amazing. What you said about me even initially on this on the topic of you to join a constant craving food that gets more like scream food using Yellow cheat or just talk to you is because it gets more likes.
I don't think I've ever heard anyone else speak about this and it seems so obvious right? So I mean for you to see that the marketing play a big part of it sounds like his creating food. That looks beautiful. That's going to get Social attention right? Obviously bright. How do you get that kind of data? Are you are you speaking to those on the ground floor? How do you get information? How do you decide when you're making new dishes?
It's definitely the marketing team. We were huge marketing team. But when we're making the dishes it is partly one has to be delicious. Right? If it doesn't taste good don't even bother bringing it, you know, there's different levels of even though I'm the executive chef. I have a lot of bosses. So everything gets tasted, you know every level up if they stood and by the time you're done with it a completely new dish, you know, so you as an executive chef, you have to keep a mentality of this the business. This is our business. It's not my business. Not your business. This is what's going to make the business money, you know, so you can you can have an idea but you have to keep in the back your mind. I don't be married to one specific dish Entre whatever it's going to change it will change it might change for the better in my chicken for the worse. But if it's going to change, you know any as long as you're open to change, I think you can be a successful executive chef in a large group like that, you know if you want those guys by
Highway you got to go open up your own little job and yeah hundred percent but it will literally I mean person agency, right we use the only folk I want to be talking like this we turn web traffic into foot traffic. Hey, sorry I Touring covid that that wasn't a thing right now. We've got to make some adjustments and I'll push all in order to stuff like that which was an incredibly big change my online orders. I'm a class on that. I can drive higher ticket averages I can do that in store. So can we focus on just that so we did that color change everything right. Just a minute because no one else I've spoken to has as spoken about making decisions on what they're going to create in the kitchen based on the looks of their food specifically.
From what they're getting received getting feedback from maybe social media right York you guys you guys ever test different looks and then compare. How are you? Are you a b testing some kind of food was performing better worse and then deciding what to stick with doing that?
There definitely are there regionally, you know, there's some dishes at work and I like that you not work New York. There's some dishes at work in New York that don't work in Vegas and will throw it on as a special if it makes it on its menu item same thing your work console every single day. I look different product mixes and seeing what's going what's not selling. Why is it not selling that's a huge huge playing for like what I do on a day-to-day basis think it's it's one of those things like just because we designed a dish for me. It's it's getting you in the door, right? It's yeah, we made something that you saw on Instagram. We got you in the door. Now we have you in for an hour and a half two hours. We have you now, we want to give you the best experience cuz we want you to come back. We want you to talk to your friends. We want you to post so the Instagram, you know design dishes for Instagram. It's more of just getting someone in the door you no one answering the door will take it from there. That's why I don't think it's the angle, you know, I think it's just that at first like the invitation.
Here's your invite. You're welcome. Come on down. Come have a night with us. Once you there. Of course that that experience, you know, whether we're using dry ice and pouring water table side to create the cloud of smoke whether you know, if like I open the original catch and we know we used to do the sushi roll with always torched at the sushi bar. Now, it's towards stableside why you know, you looking at the fire you're smelling your smelling to fire your about to eat. You know, it's very animalistic like I have made fire. That's what sort of mentality something where it's going to be that that little experience vs. Hey, I went for sushi it was boring not going to tell me one vs. Hey, did you look at my story? Like they have this amazing role in yo, you you're going to love it in Puebla and I made friends with the manager and he's going to get us a reservation next time and those are the things of just getting you here is no the biggest challenge.
You hear this is what we do. Well, you know allow is garnet wine and dine you if you will got it, but you just mention about it was happening at Cash. I've I've been and I've been a catchment times at the El a location in in Hollywood. It's fantastic restaurant is so you guys kill it. If it is, it's so funny what you're saying something about? Oh my God at the number of girls on Instagram that want to post that story. The entrance is part of what can I show case to my friend and that's free marketing Odyssey. Here's my ear during Corona. We are nothing but I'm right. So I said the only way like, let's say tomorrow someone's like 5 million Drago open Play.
What I would do is I would create a lie commute. Like I would want you to flow through like you was what a su Leonard's or a museum or either you come through. We take your ticket you walk through the turnstile and you have 15 minutes in the first room where we do the first edition the first cocktail you and your friend nine nine other people and then you move to the next room and you move to the next through every time before the movement happen where I can then I can then move 200 people through you know, every let's stay 12 minutes 15 minutes, whatever maybe but then really keep it where you're not in the same room as soon as you people breathing the same air and possibly contaminating each other and it's a way I can control the old beat the you know, the corralling if you will but yeah, it's a new environment every single room every single room to be set up for a different Instagram post whether you know, it's one theme on their sins.
Dainese going to become where it's going to really feel like it and eating tour experience. We're totally had to go from room to room and I'm sure people already, you know doing this but I think you know in LA in New York in Vegas definitely biggest, you know where it's one room might be Sushi & Beyond next room might be its Limitless where you can think about but that's one way you can really keep everyone safe sanitizer and then you're also controlled you were in that room with your 9 friends and if it you know, like no one else person is being and being a restaurant with 20 people. You don't know that is interesting. That is super interesting. They just completely missed the ball and experience thing. I mean, I'll tell you this.
Brett has an agency right we we don't create content for our clients. We we don't so we we run ads for restaurants, right? We are holding that we specialize as we help bring someone to season a tan line inside the restaurant we can track and Roi. That is our big value as soon as you see. Hey you spent $10,000 and we tracked this much back. Hey, that's great. The biggest pain point for the majority restaurant that I've seen is creating content that looks actually good for those who are investing in the look and feel their food out of the presentation of the food or the presentation restaurant. What would you say to those people because I think obviously for you guys if it's such a big factor in such a hurry bigger than for you guys success. What would you tell if people who just passing the time into making presentable food in general?
You understand? I'm not I'm not very artistic myself, but I would force my p.m. To go to museums. I would be at work myself to go look at beautiful thing because it's not the way my brain works and I'm a very business-minded scientific stinker and I knew my floor so it's one of those things like how many times have you been to Italy just a coffee shop with an e on with just one thing and now that's all over Instagram, you know, whether whatever the saying it's just one little neon what it cost me like $1,000 Max and the amount of post that you're going to get from that in the amount of foot traffic in the amount of people coming here for the coffee. Like, you know, that's really good coffee you to take that picture underneath the neon sign that's going to make it might make them look all they can look cool on. You know, you have you been to mention going to museum? Have you been the Museum of ice cream?
Of course, I went to a first when they first had it here in New York next to the Whitney Nothing Whitney Whitney over here. We went you know, they had the a lot of fun but I mean I'm waiting in line got tickets when I get off. My girlfriend's a pastry chef, you know, we had a lot of fun and now it's taking off into something. That was what only going to be like at 10 weeks in the beginning it literally and it's exactly what you're saying. I mean, it's was funny. Maryellis Bunn you started it. She's at the founder and CEO. I went to high school with her. We're just a Lariat will grow nice cool and just just an awesome awesome rad chicken General, but you know, it's amazing what she's done and its Liberties exactly what you're saying is all she wanted to do that one of the critical experience things like people like I scream and yell at let's go for this to happen to me. She is a total example of this is that people want that experience and I think they gave her her. I know she mentioned that
On multiple and press releases are out of the case are craving experiences. They're not they're not as interested in buying specific products materialistic things there is there more than experience and it seems like you guys are definitely capitalize on this seems like a lot more restaurants need to start thinking about these things and it seems like even now so because now more than ever because there's less options of fun things to do and restaurants are are some unique businesses still in business that can offer those unique experiences, you know, I mean, oh, yeah. Yeah, I do. I mean two points one. I think if you open something to Broad like a museum of food and drink the one in here in Brooklyn, I think it's a little too broad where it gets you open up the Museum of ice cream foam. I know what it is. It's it's happy. It's amazing. It's fun. When when a lot of the salad plates were designing solid if you give a human
How many options is a failure on both sides they don't know what they want and the customer is frustrated. The person taking orders Foster everyone's frustrated. But if you give them like 21 choices are less everyone's happy if you design a menu people like no, that's what I want vs. If I said, okay, these are all of our ingredients you designed will cook it like real bespoke booking. It actually does not work. No, I think to be specific like a museum of ice cream vs Museum of food and drink that's why it works, you know people identify with that one thing. That's what I want from marketing companies with 21 or left. And that's from everything from ice cream toppings to salad toppings, you know for a couple years ago. We opened up a place he was at a food Hall we had
Mulching companies in the main floor, but then we also did all of the sandwiches and salads and you know what that's what a thing and it was a grocery store downstairs a picture like an Eataly right? I was talking to marketing company marketing companies like you just going to carry more excuse and it's going to cost you more money and people are not even want that specific, you know, whatever. Yes. Wow about getting people in the door. The first time you said that's a difficult thing to do. What's a strategy for you guys. I mean obviously would someone comes in they share that social content that's attracting inherently more people. But what other kind of strategy love you guys come up with a bring some people in
You guys as well.
We don't do ads you're so funny. How we do a lot of social media. We have a lot of your Outreach. What do you mean? So we are run since we've reopened we have run a restaurant Week style menu for the first hour of every single night and available for delivery the entire time we're open so for $42 you can advertise in on train is Dirk still have an amazing deal to go to town and I'm busy amazing deal. You're actually, you know, you're almost stealing from us. So we want to be able to eat that first hour from 5 to 6 p.m. And if it's been working, you know, people are like I want to go to tell but I don't want to break the bank. How do we do this? Let's go for the first hour lets you know for $42 a person I can afford that + diff Nia let's go, you know, and then that's a huge thing. And then and then a lot of these people are living in the area to let you know what I'm just going to get that delivered for $42. That's a great deal appetizer and dessert before the phenomenal deal. So I think
Fight discounting, you know, it's getting its getting people to get through the door and maybe they comment 5 p.m. And then next week you just graduated blah blah blah. We got to celebrate that same person. Like hey, you know what I went to this place called tell it was phenomenal. Let's go back to know. It ain't no comment for the 8 p.m. Reservation at really spent money absolutely free delivery for you guys takeout or delivery special packaging for your guess when I come home yet or we we have the most expensive packaging right? Because we want that experience. Are you coming to town to translate to your home? We have the containers that you are going to keep, you know, we have the containers that you're going to wash and it could be part of your Tupperware. We have even the pile of that these these are like gold bags that are specially ordered and these are the best free marketing because people use these bag over and over and over again.
She's like the most high-end disposable Cutlery and people wash them and keep them, you know, like even if you're not here and it goes It goes very far and people acknowledge it people actually right back. This is the best container I use it all the time or I packed like it once and it everyday or you know, they really didn't acknowledge. They have contacted us and told us about it. That's amazing. It's like it's like it's like when you buy an Apple product, right and you just use people they just keep the boxes the same thing I need is Bach write you guys emails. How are you guys getting data from your customers on this all of the above? So all we're on every platform delivery wise we get a lot of feedback through the platforms. We got a lot of feedback in social media.
Each for each restaurant has one person the marketing team dedicated to that restaurant. So it's always the person posting an invoice. If you will, you know, the same the same look so that way cuz a lot of times you'll see a restaurant social media and you'll be able to tell like oh, you know someone else posted today, you know, that wasn't in that wasn't their normal vibe. That wasn't so here. It is something where it's there cuz there is a voice behind posting, you know, there is a story so it's always the same as the same person and that feedback comes back an ex comes back to much. I honestly in Indiana where the marketing call and if there's a lot of things that of course, I just want to focus on the food, you know, like the last thing that I consider white noise, but then you have to step back if they know that was white noise reduction great feedback. And you know, we really should listen to every form of be back. I think that's I think that's so important. It seems like for me the restaurants that that we spoke into obviously like there is
Much of a connection between the marketing side or front of house that maybe the back of the house with the chef, right and in Odyssey sounds like those. Who are they making such a massive mistake? It's so important for you. I mean this is this is incredible and I just died but obviously when it comes down to everything not just the food and service but they will the package name. I mean, that's cool that you're getting that is so cool. That feedback is amazing this marker you working out. Is he supposed to be like as a baby, if you guys like email and text marketing.
Login Gmail no texting but lot of emails got it. Got it. Got it for you guys. Would you say I mean technology-wise? Have you made any kind of new changes in advancements because of Cove in it and how much more I suppose comedian?
Made an impact on you guys anymore, you know Oliver menu the QR codes on the table. You take a picture with your phone. And now I mean, that's great because now you have that data connection between you and in Bend adjust your able to yeah, cuz then you can click through join the email list join the newsletters, you know, there is a lot of options, you know, you belonged to Russia. It's it's more of like you are now have the option. We we also show you what else is going on in the other properties like your friends in Las Vegas has almost right? You have Mark e s a lot of places that are offering more that you know, someone might not know the Highlight room.
I didn't know that that's cool. It's doing it doing really well. And you know, I think we'll hopefully all of our properties she'll let you know and continue to kill it but it's one of those things where I think in my opinion do QR code versus the menu is so brilliant because want how many times have you been part of a restaurant that misprinted a menu and spent money on that print and they printed 500 copies and now I have to get reprinted and now everyone's aggravated everyone to know the restaurant doesn't have the menu. They wants people are no screaming at each other about not proof reading that your initials are on the menu you proof read. Did you not look we paying attention but here I can change it and 30 seconds 20 seconds. You can change the menu to Know It's All Digital and then from there.
It's it's the possibilities are endless Limitless. You know, you can you can bring up a video. Let's let's say you come in and you choose I don't know you choose a sushi roll, right? I can immediately pop up a video on your phone how that sushi roll is made I can pop up information about whether fishes from I can pop. You know, I can I can I can offer a million things and then if you really want to go go down that rabbit-hole you can continue to go down that rabbit hole and essentially you just enhance your customer experience weigh more than one so limited you got that she had that video footage of some of that within the main lot of video content rating every single week. The marketing is concentrating. So that's the goal it cuz it's so forensics right now, you buy a handle kit to go. Okay, you get to handle kid you get a delivery
It picked up inside of a QR little pamphlet of your QR code and you click on it and all the sudden the video pops up and how to make the perfect and roll done by one of our corporate corporate chef and its okay its traditional is Limitless what you can really do with this now in in my opinion instead of being afraid of Technology, you have to embrace technology, you know, you use it there for your advantage, you know, don't ever don't ever be afraid of it. I think.
I personally think you know robots are the future. I love robots. I don't I don't think I'm ever going to take my job and I'll be going to take any cooks job. I would love to be able to help program. These robots going to start cooking food is going to become the same where that's where I want, you know my career to to go towards whole but it's one of those things where there's so many people that are against that you know about the fear of the unknown I get it so, you know a little more reading on your end and I'll be talk to each other. That's I think it's a biggest biggest biggest hindrance to food technology of the whole known as technology talk to you know, even the fact let's just say we have a seamless a GrubHub a caviar a talk at you know, all these platforms. I'm so you have like 5 to 7 tablet at the delivery station, right? Why can't I?
Obviously there is now program that runs all of your delivery platforms one but something simple as that the technology doesn't speak to each other when in binary that's all it was supposed to do is talk to each other, you know? Yep. Yep. That's why I think I think the you know, we need a Consortium of food technology, which there is this true Tech meetups all the time, but still it's not enough, you know, they are everybody wants to make their dollar. You know, everyone there's no open sourcing everybody's still you know for profit for profit, which is that's human nature. That's capitalism. Our downfall right now. Once you technology start stalking each other, it's the you know, you have the revolution we turn into an evolution.
Got it. Got it. This is this is really gets us in this is so cool. I mean oil to make your sushi roll with the QR code that comes in the box and that that is incredible. So obviously either you guys have a pretty amazing stop it sound like helping you guys make these videos about the QR codes on you guys. I'm kind of curious. What kind of software do you guys use when it comes to the interactive menu? Is it something specific that you can tell us about her? Are you not sure. I'm okay. I'm not I'm not okay. I don't know if you seen it or not, but and you see Postmates has any is Postmates. They're starting to put these robots on the street that are picking up food and delivering them to the people in the area. We actually live
Call Fat Sal's fat Sal's but they are picking up and delivering sandwiches. We haven't ate yet. I think I need to be tough in York City because of how populated New York City is. But yeah, if you look at how many Uber drivers and caviar Uber Eats and how many bikes there are and how many delivery people even Amazon go now. It's it's it's crazy. And how many people are in the area. So to replace 20 people to be said in the future when car is really drive themselves. Those cars are never going to stop. You know, the model is going to be a cars will just keep going and just pick you up almost like in the bus, but I mean I can picture the same thing with robots.
Got it. Got it. No, this is this is such interesting stop an innate. And again, I think the base of the biggest theme of this hell podcast a it. It sounds like again for you guys specifically and you guys obviously had amazing food and service, but they also the entertainment entertainment aspect of all this is what's really pushing you guys for two and in so much amazing way. This is really really cool. Even for any other restaurant or is you were listening to us and we're just we only have a couple minutes left on this but I just I'd like you to just if you can share any kind of lasting piece of advice that you feel like you have for anyone right now that maybe it's currently struggling or had a really tough time during coming to just kind of getting over that hump. What is the piece of ice that you would you would tell them specifically right now as a restaurant or if they want to be thriving on forward?
I need the first things first is manager p&l, you know control your bottom line. If your bleeding out, you know, stop the hemorrhaging turn head turn and you know, like turn into a slow slow control the weed that you can bend clock and then start becoming profitable. I think that's the first and foremost if you know, we are all in the business to make money the famous thing is restaurants. Don't fail they run out of money, right so secure secure secure your investors your financers as much money. You think it's going to take get Triple the amount and just know that for any given second. You're going to get a fine from the city year. Something's going to break you going to have to Shell out 10 grand. You have to Shell out twenty Grand. This is the business. We're in if you can't handle it don't be in it. So it's really, you know, the financing side of it has no keep an open mind just because you designed the best dish in your mind doesn't mean it's going to work.
For everyone, you know beyond to change be open and play The Devil's Advocate to yourself. Listen to yourself speak out the other side whether it's a dish whether it's a new set of barstools, whether it's you know, whether it doesn't matter what it is look at it from every single angle your angle your post Ian be posing angle every single and it really see what's going to make you money. If that's the name of the game. Otherwise going to non-for-profit, you know, that's really what it is and you know instead of instead of being so everyone was asked what's next. What's next? What's trendy what's trending thinking about what's trendy and how about you become the trendsetter? You know, let's let's start. Yeah reading and let's start Creek 200 things great 200 things one of them going to work right into 200 different people and seeing what they're doing and try to copy cat that it who cares.
Send time now educate yourself free and if it doesn't work great learn from experience. I love mystery can mistakes. I tell those people to people all the time making mistakes is one of my favorite things to do cuz the amount that I learned from that mistake you have to take it and really learn from it, you know, and that's going to set you apart. Yeah, it's about obsessing with your customers. Not with your competition is doing right you look at you. Look at your customers. Where where are they getting the biggest reaction from what food items make the most excited about what they must like what what brings the most people to the restaurant and I think that that's so so I'm pouring Steven this this is an incredible night and I'm sure there's probably a lot of our listeners that that would like to follow up with you and all what you're doing if they were if they want to do that. They want to follow you on social media or whatever the case. How did they do? So what are your orders for your tablet?
Instagram I am tasty goodness awesome and then Twitter I am Bruce Leone. So little back story there is I'm Chinese, but I was raised in Long Island Long Island, but there was always a funny joke of combining Chinese food. That's awesome and awesome and we'll see even if this has been incredible. What I'm going to do after this podcast has make sure I have your links on this podcast will check it out. Thanks a lot so much. You've been you've been fantastic has been such an amazing experience and I will be seeing you around.
Thank you so much. Thanks for having already. See you.