retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Two food-and-beverage stories - totally unrelated except in the fact that they speak to consumer tastes - to take note of this morning…


First, there is a story from Bloomberg about chef Clare Smyth, who has a new culinary centerpiece at Core, her two-Michelin-starred restaurant in London.

A potato.

Here’s how the story describes it:

“The Charlotte spud is slow-cooked in a marinade of butter and seaweed, then allowed to marinate for another 24 hours before being topped with smoked trout and herring roe from Scotland and served with beurre blanc. It comes with miniature salt-and-vinegar crisps that cut through the richness of the butter and provide crunch for texture.”

Hungry yet? I don’t know about you, but just reading those words makes my mouth water and my stomach rumble.

This dish, Bloomberg writes, “is both a homage to her childhood in Northern Ireland and a bold statement of her desire to combine sophisticated cooking with a simplicity of style.”

The business lesson is simple - that innovation can be found even in familiar places, and that even the best - especially the best - continue to push forward.

Eater reports that in Northwest Portland, Oregon, the Bridgeport Brewing Company - originally opened 35 years ago as part of the then-nascent craft beet movement - has stopped making beer, and will close down its brewpub on March 10.

Bridgeport’s Facebook page offers an explanation: “The decision to close was extremely difficult for all involved. Back in April 2017, declining sales caused the brewery to restructure its operations. However, sales and distribution continued declining in the extremely competitive craft beer market of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, which resulted in this final decision.”

Eater notes that this is part of what seems to be a “brewery bloodbath … Many of the old guard breweries have suffered within the last 12 months: Just weeks ago, Widmer Brothers Brewing closed its brewpub unexpectedly, and Portland Brewing closed its restaurant last fall. Still, Bridgeport’s death is one of the most significant: As one of Oregon’s oldest craft breweries, Bridgeport heavily influenced Portland as a beer destination.”

I’ve been known to enjoy a pint or two at Bridgeport during my summer adjunctivities in Portland, and I’ll be sad to see it go, though I must admit that I thought the location and legacy were superior to the beer and the food. For me, that may be the lesson of Bridgeport’s closing … that even with a legacy - maybe even especially with a legacy - innovation remains a critical part of any retailer’s business plan.

You have to give people a reason to come back, and it can’t just be nostalgia, which can get stale pretty quickly.

Two stories - about potatoes and beer - and both, I think, Eye-Openers.
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