retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Excellent story in the New York Times about high-profile chefs who currently are running some of the nation's most prestigious and gastronomically adventurous restaurants, but who got much of their training and early experience working at the likes of Applebee's, IHOP, and Wendy's.

There's actually a pretty good reason for taking this route, the Times writes:

"Chain restaurants are often accused of a sterile uniformity and a lack of attention to quality ingredients, nutrition and the environment. But for anyone trying to enter the restaurant business, they have particular attractions: formalized training, efficient operations, predictable schedules and corporate policies that claim to discourage the kind of abuses that have come to light in the #MeToo era. The pay is sometimes better than at independent restaurants, and the Affordable Care Act requires companies with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health insurance.

"They also have the jobs. In 2017, the number of independent restaurants in the United States fell by almost 11,000, to 346,100, from the previous year, according to an analysis by the NPD Group, a market research company. But the number of chain restaurants rose by almost 1,000, to 301,200.

"At the same time, enrollment in culinary schools is declining; at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, for example, enrollment dropped to about 300 in 2017, from 800 in 1999, according to The Associated Press.

"As chains claim a larger slice of the restaurant business, they may become an increasingly common, and far more accessible, path to a career as a chef."

There you have it, and you can read more about it here.
KC's View:
It seems to me that food retailers need to figure out how to get a piece of this action … after all, many of them are known for "formalized training, efficient operations, predictable schedules and corporate policies that claim to discourage the kind of abuses that have come to light in the #MeToo era." And ambitious cooks and chefs could help them raise their games.

I continue to believe that traditional retailers ought to make deals with local chefs and give them temporary space where they can ply their trade, create a little in-store excitement, and develop a reputation … and then ought to rotate them in and out of their stores on a regular basis. Turning their stores into culinary laboratories and experiences could have a tremendously positive impact.