Category: Food for Thought

Venue Marketing Gone Wild!

JGL is always interested in speaking with event industry professionals who are finding new and inventive ways to market their venues. We recently interviewed Robert Severini, Director, Events & Catering for the Wildlife Conservation Society to learn more about his strategy for building private event business at the New York Zoos and Aquarium.

Q: When did you start at the WCS?

A: April 2017

Q: Do you oversee events for all WCS venues? Which venues are included in your portfolio?

A: Our team oversees events at Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and New York Aquarium. We are involved with nearly 500 events per fiscal year and growing!

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face when booking events at the Zoos and/or Aquarium?

A: (1) Many folks think “zoo = cheap,” so showing folks that we can do higher-end, as well as creating experiences worthy of the prices we charge. That starts with our branding, marketing, storytelling, etc…. (2) A lot of parameters to work within when planning any event, at any of our parks. We are pros at this point, but sometimes making sure that a client is fully aware of what they can, and cannot do, as well as reminding folks that we are a park, open to the public, and can have anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 people on the properties at any given time. Setting proper expectations from the beginning is of the utmost importance.

Q: How many event staff members are on your team?

A: Our department has ten full-timers, a dozen part-timers and hundreds of agency staff to assist throughout the year.

Q: How did you develop your marketing strategy for events at the Zoo and Aquarium? Was there any marketing done before you started in the position? What have been the most effective campaigns?

A: The marketing prior to me was print and tradeshows, with some wedding digital. I took out all paid print, as well as tradeshows, and put that money into the digital that had PROVEN ROI, and then added in more corporate and mitzvah sites. Essentially, double-downed on what we could prove was working online. The next biggest impact was hosting larger events for event planners, at each of the parks. This has shown great value in building brand awareness, as well as getting word of mouth going around the industry. It was humorous, every time I heard industry folks say, “I never thought of hosting an event at the zoo/aquarium.” We also put a lot of effort into building a much stronger social media presence, including paid, monthly newsletters to share images and stories, and just being more engaging with folks on publicly viewed platforms (i.e. – tagging wedding couples and vendors, engaging more with our community).


Q: Do you have a marketing budget?

A: Of course! It was somewhere around $40k when I started, but I was able to stretch it upwards of $75k. If sales continue to grow at the scale they currently are, we may add an in a few more dollars, but right now our ROI is strong.

Q: Do you and your team manage the marketing for venue sales or is it collaborative with WCS?

A: For those who do not know, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is the organization that we all work for. Our group works globally on conservation, preservation, and education. However, we also manage the city zoos and aquarium. Our department is the only group that works on the advertising and marketing of our parks at “event spaces.” We do our own branding, marketing, and sales while following the branding guidelines, and mission and vision statements of WCS.

Q: Do you have your vendor partners contribute annually toward your marketing campaign?

A: Our partners’ contribution to our marketing efforts is by tagging us and sharing our events with their audiences. A true partnership is something that works for both parties. We just ask our partners to provide our clients with the best pricing and service they can.


Q: How do you select your vendor partners?

A: Some partners we have known for many years, and know their skillsets well; others have come via introductions from trusted professionals. We evaluate our lists every winter to see if any changes need to be made. Overall, we are very happy with our current partners, as they all contribute to the growth of our businesses. We prefer to work with folks who understand our business, as we aren’t a catering hall or loft space, we are parks with lots of nuances.

Q: Have you seen results since you began marketing the spaces? Please explain.

A: Of course! Sales jumped up 50% my first fiscal year, another 10% the year after, and this fiscal year is potentially another 20%-30% higher than last year.

Q: What advice do you have for other not-for-profit venue managers who others who are charged with selling spaces for events?

A: (1) Market as if no one knows about your space. You never know who may not know about your space. (2) Make a correlation to your mission statement. We put our mission and vision statements on all of our proposals, as we want our clients to know that spending money on an event with us, allows us to continue working towards our global mission. (3) Most folks have their venues on Facebook and LinkedIn; build brand awareness via LinkedIn, as well as paid!

For more information about events at the New York Zoos and Aquariums, check out:


The CurEater: Because Art Nourishes Food – I’ll Eat You Up!

If I made mischief the way that Max did, chasing my dog with utensils and threatening to devour my progenitor, my wild rumpus would’ve been toast, but Max is merely sent to bed without supper. Thus begins the hunger induced, fever dream journey of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story Where the Wild Things Are, which serves as inspiration for a quartet of petit fours called Storybook Sweets, now available at the Morgan Library and Museum’s Morgan Café and Dining Room.

Pierpont Morgan earned his mammoth fortune and reputation financing some of the largest business enterprises that the world had ever seen, including General Electric and the U.S. Steel Corporation. In the last decades of his life, Morgan acquired a vast collection of art objects in a wide variety of mediums from around the world, including a massive repository of books, autographs and manuscripts. His collection eventually grew so large that, in 1902, he commissioned a magnificent building adjacent to his home at 219 Madison Avenue in New York City that serves as the anchor of the modern-day Morgan Library and Museum.

Hiding amongst the ancient leather-bound tomes of Pierpont’s collection, two first edition copies of Where the Wild Things Are gnash their terrible teeth and show their terrible claws, but do not roar their terrible roars. It’s a library. One copy hails from Sendak’s psychiatrist’s collection, while the other is inscribed to his heart surgeon. Presumably, a third copy at some point went to Oliver Knussen who, from 1979 to 1983, was commissioned by the Opera National in Brussels to compose the operatic version of Where the Wild Things Are to Sendak’s libretto; however, it is Sendak’s design for the production that is featured in the Morgan’s exhibition Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet.

Well into his forties, the successful picture book author put on his wolf suit and set sail on a second career designing sets and costumes for stage productions including The Nutcracker, The Magic Flute, Hansel and Gretel and the aforementioned Where the Wild Things Are. “Few people know that Maurice Sendak had a long and productive relationship with the Morgan. It is exciting to focus on his work as a theater designer, which is an often overlooked but important aspect of his career as an artist,” said Director of the museum, Colin B. Bailey in a statement.

The Morgan’s exhibition is the first to highlight Sendak’s theater works, featuring over 150 of Sendak’s drawings curated from the Morgan’s collection of over 900. An array of storyboards, watercolors, and dioramas complement props and costumes on loan from The Maurice Sendak Foundation.

What truly sets this exhibition apart, however, is that it not only focuses on Sendak’s creations, but juxtaposes them with works from the artists who inspired him most, such as Mozart, William Blake, Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo. According to Associate Curator Rachel Federman, “His designs for opera and ballet have all the beauty, humor, and complexity of his picture books and illustrations, but they also put on full display his passion for art, art history, and music.”

Drawing on the imagination of the Museum’s collection, the culinary team at the Morgan Café and Dining Room develop their creations in a remarkably similar manner. “We always take time to educate ourselves. We read the catalog and reach out to curators. Their dedication and depth of knowledge is always inspiring” said Patricia Japngie, Director of Operations for Restaurant Associates at the Morgan. “We’re motivated by each artist’s process and think it’s an interesting task to be able to reflect their story in a different medium. We always strive to do it justice.” For Storybook Sweets, the team mimicked not only Sendak’s themes, but his process. “Sendak utilized storyboards for some of his productions – plotting out narratives in sequential drawings. We found this inspiring and wondered how we could tell a sequential story with food.”

This idea grew and grew like the forest in Max’s room until, finally, the team came to the place where the wild things are. “The dessert is its own storyboard – telling the narrative of Max’s journey…sailing from his bedroom to meet the wild things and then returning back home to his own room” said Japngie. The story begins in Max’s bedroom with Buttercream Bed Cake, a chocolate buttercream cake topped with a chocolate scan of Max’s bed from the story. “The original scan was hand-drawn from the Sendak images, then printed onto cocoa butter sheets.” Next, a hand painted sugar cookie takes the shape of Max’s “private boat” (which he can somehow afford on a wolf boy’s salary) which he commandeers to seek out the Wild Things, followed by a vanilla and clementine panna cotta dubbed the Moishe Clementine. “The stripes mimic the shirt warn by Moishe – an iconic wild thing who’s scanned onto the vanilla chocolate wafer atop it.” The final frame is a milkshake, reminiscent of the glass of milk that Max finds waiting for him when he abdicates his throne in favor of a home cooked meal.


“In the case of Sendak, I would say that food was very important to him and all through his work you see instances of consumption.” Continues Associate Curator Federman, “His beloved and very personal picture book “In the Night Kitchen” is enmeshed with his memories of being in the kitchen with his grandmother as a child. People who visited him in Connecticut did well to bring him food from the city. All of which is to say that I think food functioned for Sendak as a source of comfort and nourishment that was not dissimilar to the way he enjoyed (consumed) music and art.”

The Morgan displays works of Blake and Mozart which are consumed by Sendak, inspiring the design of sets and costumes which are themselves devoured by theater and museum goers alike, as well as a culinary team that is subsequently emboldened to create a dish that would goad even the most well behaved patron to say “I’ll eat you up!”. Wild.

Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet closes on October 6th…so run, do not sail.


JGL Summer Re-Treat 2019!

We love talking about our clients and food service trends across the country, but for this blog entry, we are going to talk about the JGL team! Our team has grown over the past two years with offices in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles and Pennsylvania. We are all connected and have weekly calls to discuss all our projects, but we have never all been in the same city at the same time – until this week!

On Monday, August 29, 2019 David, Colleen and I traveled to Princeton, NJ to meet Tracy for a business planning and strategy session. It was amazing how many incredible ideas were generated when we are all together in person. It was a nice reminder that face to face communication is still truly important.

We took a break for lunch and dinner and tried two different Momo Restaurant Group locations; Eno Terra and Mediterra. Both meals were excellent! Check out the websites below for more information if you are in the Princeton area.

On Tuesday, we traveled into Manhattan for day two of our summer retreat. Tracy decided to surprise us with a team building experience; she planned this a month ago and would not let us in on the secret until the day before. She arranged for us to try an escape room! The best part of this escape room is that it was a culinary themed experience…the only way to get out of the room was by finding all the ingredients necessary to bake cupcakes! We crushed it!! We escaped the room with 4 minutes and 36 seconds to spare (and some cupcakes)! Additional proof that the JGL team works incredibly well together.

We highly recommend Exit Escapes. I plan on taking my family back for an afternoon adventure!

After our great escape, we walked over to the Morgan Library & Museum to check out their new coffee bar. We recently helped the Morgan with an RFP process and contract negotiation. We were so happy to see that the space looks amazing and both the client and Operator are very happy.

Our final stop on the JGL Summer Re-treat 2019, was a delicious lunch at the Restoration Hardware Rooftop Restaurant. The menu was developed by Brendan Sodikoff; Restoration Hardware self operates the restaurant. Restoration Hardware is interesting as the showroom spaces feel like a gallery space, they have developed a membership program and now offer a food service amenity – the model feels very similar to a Museum (other than the fact that you can purchase everything you see!).

     RH – Is it a store or a museum?

Overall, we were very impressed with the menu, the atmosphere and the service at the Rooftop Restaurant. I did wonder if the food tasted better because the space was so pretty or if the space looked so beautiful because the food was so good! Either way, it was a lovely experience. The restaurant does not take reservations so be prepared to wait. The good news is, there is a full-service bar that serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and pastries on the third floor. (You can wander with your coffee and have a seat on any of the furniture in the store while you wait for a text alerting you that your table is ready.)


The JGL team is energized and excited to share all our new ideas with current and future clients. This summer retreat just reaffirmed that not only do we all love what we do, but we really love working with each other – what a ‘treat!’

#JGLMuseumFood #EagleEyesLawler #Lovewhatwedo


The Appeal of Food Halls and Markets

The recent explosion of food halls across the United State is hard to miss. The number of food halls in the US is expected to triple to almost 300 by the end of 2020. Most major cities have a plethora of food halls, almost all of which have been developed in the last five to seven years. Some are focused on one region (such as Eataly or the newly opened Little Spain in NYC) while most offer a broad array of cuisines. Having just come back from two weeks in Spain, we encountered the food hall’s second cousins, the Market (or Mercado) throughout our visit. The Mercado is a unique combination of farmer’s market/specialty grocery/retail operation with uniformly beautiful presentations.

We at JGL keep thinking about putting a food hall or market inspired eatery in one of our museum or performing arts center client locations. We have discussed the concept with a few clients but so far have not found the right fit. The inclusion of a food hall in a museum as an example, could serve to draw traffic, generate local interest, support the local community and generate earned income. Downsides, of course, are plentiful including significant space requirements, a very specific layout that is not easily converted and the need to deal with multiple vendors. Until we find the right client site for a food hall we believe there are some food hall practices that can enhance any retail fast casual.

1. Bountiful display – We see half empty display cases in too many locations. The visual appeal is diminished when the display is not replenished.

2. Color and texture are important.

3. Unique packaging draws interest. Toss the clamshell and look to a bento box.

4. Decrease portion sizes and increase variety. Who doesn’t love sampling a smorgasbord?

We love checking out food halls on our travels so send us a note with your favorite food hall so we can add it to our must visit list. And if you are a museum administrator with ample space and a penchant for experimentation, reach out!


4 Restaurant Concepts in 1 Kitchen = 100% Awesome

By: Colleen Geyer

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a small but mighty city that has really stepped up its game in the restaurant industry over the past few years. A shining example of this is the start and expansion of a relatively new restaurant concept; the restaurant incubator. This concept was brought to us by the Galley Group, co-founded by Ben Mantica (a Pittsburgh native) and his partner Tyler Benson. The two opened their first restaurant, Smallman Galley in the bustling Strip District, just blocks from downtown. Smallman opened in December of 2015 and two years later, they opened Federal Galley just across the river on the North Side of Pittsburgh. Cleveland was home to their third location and Detroit their fourth, both opening in 2018. Both Chicago and Minneapolis are slated to open by the end of 2019. Needless to say, things are going well for the Galley Group. But what exactly is a “restaurant incubator” and why does it seem to be so popular? I’m glad you asked! The Galley Group’s four [and counting] locations give chef/owners a low-risk and low-cost opportunity to showcase their concepts, gain business ownership experience and create a following before hopefully opening their own restaurant. As Smallman Galley was the flagship location and the one I am most familiar with, I will use it as the focal point of this piece.

Smallman Galley has four restaurants housed under one roof; each of them having a definitive concept. In writing this blog, I actually learned that the word “Galley” refers to the kitchen in a ship or aircraft. This expertly chosen word is a perfect fit with its origin referring to a space that would need to be built as functional and as versatile as possible. The kitchen at Smallman Galley, in totality, runs long and narrow with little to no separation between the concepts. This unconventional, neighboring-kitchen design doesn’t stop the Smallman chefs from getting creative with their kitchen spaces though. It forces them to be innovative with their equipment and functional space to best support their craft. I have seen the Smallman restaurants produce brilliant and innovative fare from relatively compact kitchens and it impresses me every time.

Smallman Galley also hosts special prix-fixe events where a single restaurant features a seasonal or themed menu beyond the scope of their regular offerings. These are held on Mondays, when the Galley is typically closed, offering pre-paid ticket holders an exciting and exclusive dining experience that will keep them talking for weeks. I most recently attended the five-course mac and cheese dinner prepared by the restaurant, Home. The dinner was complete with either a beer or wine pairing (I chose the beer- yum!), which was included in the ticket price along with tax and gratuity. It was everything you’re thinking and then some… Because who doesn’t need five courses of rich, delicious cheesy pasta?!

While there is naturally a kitchen-heavy focus in all of the Galleys, let’s not forget about the other important part of the dining experience- the bar! Located just up a short ramp from the kitchens sits a long, communal table and a rustic 12-seat bar. There is also a large area of restaurant seating on the far side of the facility beyond the kitchen/ordering area but I typically situate myself in the bar area. It is adjacent to a small espresso bar just inside the second entrance, it has easy access to food and beverage ordering and with a clear view of the kitchens there is simply more happening on the bar side, which is a draw for me. Their drink menu features a mix of standard and local spirits, a small but on-trend wine list and a largely local draft list. Craft cocktails are just that; cocktails made by people who love their craft. They have a monthly charitable donation set up for rotating organizations where $1 from any purchased “Charity Cocktail” listed on the menu will go toward a good cause.

Overall, Smallman Galley- and the entire Galley family, have kind of nailed the restaurant experience. In one visit you have the option to eat at four different restaurants, support a rising restaurateur, perhaps donate to a charity while enjoying a thoughtfully crafted cocktail, choose from a delightful wine or craft beer list, and enjoy the company of friends, old and new in their community-driven atmosphere. If you see a Galley opening in your neighborhood or a destination you are visiting, I strongly suggest checking them out. You won’t be sorry.


Stop…In the Name of Grub!

Over the holidays, my wife, myself and our dog Theo flew into London, then drove up to Western Scotland for two weeks of peace and quiet on the side of a Loch. On our drive up the M6, passing through the County of Cumbria, we pulled off into the “Tebay Services” area, what we would call a rest area, and my wife took Theo to run around while I procured us some coffee. Other than a gas station, the only building was a relatively non-descript structure with a sign on it that said “Farmshop”.

Let me stress, we were in a rest area on the side of the biggest highway in England, most of which feature Burger King and KFC. What I walked into was the Northern English version of Eataly. First, they had a “Quick Kitchen” offering stews, pies, soups and salads plus sandwiches, cakes and drinks to take away. Next, they had their “Kitchen’ restaurant, a cafeteria style concept offering homemade soups, a carving station with lamb and beef from the owner’s nearby farm, a deli and salad counter, home baked cakes and a wide range of hot and cold drinks.

Finally, and most improbably, they had a “Farmshop” offering visitors products that unique to Cumbria and the surrounding area, featuring items from over 70 local producers. I’m not just talking jams and jellies…which they did have. The Farmshop offered a wide selection of wines, liquors and beer, dozens of each. There was a tremendous amount of beautiful local produce. It had a traditional Butchery selling beef and lamb produced on the family farm, deli counters packed with tasty sausage rolls, scotch eggs and pies, a cheese counter, featuring the county’s specialties including Thornby Moor Dairy’s Cumberland Farmhouse and Eden Valley Brie from Appleby Creamery and a Patisserie with delicious salted caramel tarts, eclairs, scrumptious macarons, cakes and more all handmade by Cheltenham based Patisserie Box.

Apparently, when the M6 was built in 1972, it cut through the family farm of John and Barbara Dunning. Not ones to be daunted in the face of adversity and with a spirit of innovation that they credit to their community of Westmoreland, they started as a small 30 seat café serving home cooked, locally sourced food, which has gradually grown into the unbelievable business that it is today.

I eventually bounded out of the Farmshop to the car where my wife was waiting, bemused as to why I was a tad more excited than she was used to seeing me when leaving a rest area food court.

Clients often ask me what is possible for their property. Having been to the Tebay Services off of the M6 in the County of Cumbria, I can now confidently say that literally anything is possible. People’s attitudes toward food is changing. If this small family operation can execute this level of food and service from a rest stop, what should the standards be for our iconic museums and cultural institutions? If you aren’t sure of the answer, give us a call.


Matchmaker, Matchmaker Find Me…. an Operator?

JGL manages 15-20 RFP processes every year and after more than 20 years of doing this I still find it fascinating. It is a lot like match making; sometimes it is all about the fit. Most of the time we are able to accurately predict who is the likely winner early on, but sometimes we are surprised. Many of our clients want our opinion and ask us to participate in the voting while quite a number of others just want our professional input. While some food service partners think we have a strong influence on the process, the truth is a well-run process (like ours!) more often than not results in consensus among the selection committee.

We recently had a client that self-operates tell us they “were just going to go find a management company” to operate their restaurant and catering business. Hearing that made me reflect that the client perhaps did not understand how critical the selection process is to achieving a successful food service operation. I have listed (in no particular order) some of the areas where we see selection processes go awry from both the food service partner side and the client side.

  • Fit – A food service partner might look great on paper but at least 20% of the time they come to meet with the client team and the fit just isn’t there. They don’t listen well, their goals are not aligned with the client, their team is not diverse, the point person on the client team dislikes the food service partner’s key point of contact, and the list goes on.
  • Lack of alignment- Many of our museum clients view their café operation as most important while many food service partners are more interested in catering. While this is not likely to change for economic reasons, it is important for food service partners to put the same effort into the café that they put into catered events.
  • All about us – I have sat through too many presentations where the food service partner talks only about their company and how the addition of this museum or venue into their portfolio will work well for them. That approach is clear to show the selection committee that the museum or venue is a means to an end (and likely to be an end to discussions).
  • Boring café concepts – Be creative and have fun with the mission, collection or culture of the client. Nothing excites clients like a café concept that reflects their organization and a food service partner who has done their research.
  • Shifting priorities – If a client is not clear on their goals and relative priorities, the RFP process can suffer. The classic example is a client who claims not to be financially driven yet prioritizes the strongest financial offer in an out of proportion manner. There is nothing wrong with prioritizing a significant financial investment, but it is best to be clear about its priority in all communication to prospective bidders.
  • New stakeholders – We always advise our clients to develop a selection committee in advance, schedule all key dates and inform them of the time commitment required by the process. Nothing can derail a process faster than a new committee member showing up in time to questions all previous decisions and meet two of the four bidders.

I hope this list provide food for thought or those of you who might be considering an RFP process in 2019.




Many years ago I decided to make the same resolution every year, not to make promises that I couldn’t keep. Clever, right? I thought so. How many times can I say that I want to eat better and work out more? Well, this year for 2019, I have decided to change the repetitive mantra and make a promise for the future that has nothing to do with me personally.  

I like to think of myself as a socially conscious individual, but I find that more often than not, convenience, distraction or habit inhibit me from taking on the initiative to make change. After working on an RFP process with a higher education institution, I am making a conscious commitment to making change happen in the small way that I can. For purposes of this blog, let’s call the institution that I worked with, College X.

Prior to developing an RFP, it is typical that we meet with key stakeholders to discuss their goals and vision for how food service can make a more positive impact on the future of their organization. As part of our information gathering process with College X, we met with leaders of the school’s Student Government Association. These students were amazing!! Not only were they eloquent and passionate, but they were very well informed. One of the main topics discussed was sustainability and the reduction of single use plastic straws on their campus. The selfless nature of their argument for the greater good was incredibly inspiring to me.

After listening to our next generation of leaders discuss their views on making changes that support the well-being of marine life and the future of our environment, I felt compelled to learn more.

It was astounding to learn that it is estimated that Americans use over 500 million straws a day and that the world’s ocean is filled with more than 150 million tons of plastic. The idea that in thirty years there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish is horrifying.  

Major companies (Starbucks, Hyatt, Royal Caribbean, Marriot UK) and cities across the globe are banning the use of plastic straws. This is a movement that can make a huge impact with very little effort on our parts.

I learn something new on every project that we work on, so it’s not surprising to walk away with new knowledge. The exciting element that I came away with after speaking with these students was the inspiration to affect my own personal change.

It costs nothing to just say ‘no’ to single use plastic straws. There’s no better time of year than January to start something new. I plan on saying goodbye to single use plastic straws as my way of saying hello to 2019. #DOYOURPARTIN2019

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Quality is the Secret Sauce!

Scenario: A charming foodservice consultant (ahem) audit’s an operation and finds that the food quality is not where it needs to be, but your customers will not tolerate a substantial price increase. For some, these two problems are diametrically opposed. How can prices stay low while simultaneously increasing quality? Of course, in a large, complex operation there are frequently all manner of inefficiencies that can be eliminated to reduce costs, but for now we will examine the two most direct contributors to this problem: food and labor cost.

 All too often, when a food service provider is asked to improve the quality of their offerings, their reaction is to go “gourmet”. Customers don’t want to buy my turkey and swiss sandwich? They’ll love my turkey, goat cheese, pesto, and sundried tomato sandwich on cornbread!!! The truth of the matter is, if you start with a poor base product, no amount of layering toppings and condiments onto it will make those ingredients good. If you start with a great base product, every ingredient that you add can actually lose more customers than you gain. Rather than trying to create a Dagwood Frankenstein abomination, operators are much better suited to focus on the basics. That means using great bread, turkey and cheese, and handling those ingredients properly. Bad burgers? Rather than putting onion rings, barbecue sauce and chili on top of it, why not focus on the quality of the ground beef and bun? Suffering from terrible tacos? What’s in your tortilla?

For the purpose of comparison, let’s take a look at a burger that gets mediocre reviews. This basic burger features a 5oz patty made from distributor-bought ground chuck, a 1oz slice of American cheese and a basic white bun. At $3.50 a pound for the ground beef, $3 a pound for generic cheese and a $.35 white burger bun, the cost of this burger would come in at $1.63.Targeting 28% food cost, you would need to charge $5.82.

 To make this burger more popular, you could add two strips of bacon ($.70 cents cost), avocado ($.50 cost) and garlic aioli ($.25 cents cost), which would bring the total food cost to $3.08 at a price of $11 for the customer. By contrast, you could get a great potato bun for an extra $.30 cents and a high-quality cheddar for an extra $.19…but what about the ground beef?

 Grind it yourself. Seriously. JGL has clients that serve thousands of customers per day who grind their own beef, in-house every day,and there are lots of benefits. From a financial perspective, it’s a lot cheaper.That $3.50 a pound ground chuck is about $2.00 a pound if you buy a whole chuck round. You can save even more, and make a better-quality burger, if you use the trim from your steaks in the blend. If you’re required to serve your burgers medium-well, you could use hard fat like suet in your 80/20 blend which won’t drain away onto the grill like soft fat, preserving the burger’s juiciness and saving another $1 a pound for that portion of the burger. The product cost of your custom burger patty is now $.59, as oppose to $1.09 for the pre-ground beef. It is also a safer product because factory ground meat is a much bigger risk for food-borne illness than properly in-house ground.

 But what about the increased labor associated with grinding the beef? A competent employee making $12 an hour can grind and shape approximately 60 burgers per hour, bringing the labor cost to an additional$.20 per burger and adding $.60 to the burger’s price, bringing the overall cost of the burger to $6.54.

 Here’s the best part…it doesn’t just work for burgers! Why use expensive, high end deli meats when you can cook off your own turkey, ham or roast beef for a fraction of the product cost and virtually no associated labor? Why use frozen fries when real potatoes are half the price per pound and quickly dispatched on a potato slicer?

 At a time when minimum wages are on the rise, the popular sentiment is that labor must be cut back, but what it really means is that labor must be used efficiently. Shifting funds from buying products pre-made to making things in house, especially by utilizing slow periods during the day before and after peak service times, gives the operation more control over the quality of the product without substantial increases in over-all cost…and in some cases, it can even save you money! Don’t pay another company’s employees to make your food, invest in your own staff and it will pay dividends both now and down the road.


What is your favorite museum restaurant?

I wrote an earlier blog about how I routinely dodge the question about “my favorite restaurant”. Add the word museum to that question and I will gladly give you a list. Going from West Coast to East Coast below are my recommendations for museum restaurants I love and those I still want to visit. I have denoted the projects we worked on with an asterisk.

  • Sunday at the Museum at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco – Newly opened this year, Sunday at the Museum has received nods from the NY Times and others. * note JGL worked on this project but has yet to visit since it opened 🙁
  • Wise Sons at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco – Amazing smoked trout salad and great alignment. Enough said.
  • In Situ at SF MOMA in San Francisco- Chef Corey Lee has created an homage to famous chefs of all times.
  • Otium at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles – On my list to visit based on the rave reviews I have read!
  • Esker Grove at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis – Offering creative cuisine celebrating seasonal ingredients with a seasonal outdoor terrace, this restaurant is effortlessly cool. * JGL project.
  • Fika at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis – The well- crafted menu in this hidden gem makes for some difficult decisions.
  • Marisol at the MCA in Chicago – Marisol has a great vibe with an eclectic mix of ladies who lunch, business people, families and twenty somethings. Their sunflower seed hummus is delish!
  • Terzo Piano at the Art Institute in Chicago – Beautiful food in a gorgeous setting. * JGL project.
  • Café Modern at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth – Elegant a la carte setting with a focus on seasonal, local and artisanal offerings.
  • Mitsitam Café at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC – Great aligned and exposure to so many new delicious foods.
  • The Source at the Newseum in Washington DC – This perennially popular Wolfgang Puck restaurant never disappoints.
  • Rats Restaurant at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton NJ – An entirely magical experience particularly if you go during the temperate months and enjoy the grounds before or after your meal. * JGL project.
  • Flora Bar at the Met Breuer in New York – This lower level space is gorgeous; Chef Ignacio Mattos seems to have the Midas touch. * JGL project.
  • Morgan Dining Room at the Morgan Library in New York – This intimate dining room hearkens back to the Gilded Age and is a special treat for lunch. * JGL project
  • The Modern at MOMA in New York – While anybody who knows me has heard me say the Modern is not really a museum restaurant, more simply a great restaurant that happens to be connected to the museum but nonetheless this list would not be complete without its presence!
  • Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie in New York – This restaurant is so well aligned with the mission of the Neue; you can’t imagine one without the other.
  • Verde at the Perez Art Museum in Miami – This restaurant has a fresh and creative menu, great staff, and amazing views. *JGL project.Let me know if I have missed any of your favorites. Stay tuned – some exciting openings on the way in 2019!

The celeriac and goat cheese profiterole plate with tomato and parsley served at In Situ at SFMOMA in San Francisco, Calif.



Sunday at the Museum