Category: Food for Thought

Plant Forward Eating: Is This A Trend With Staying Power?

The 21st century has seen increased awareness of and efforts to be more environmentally focused as we begin to see the effects of global warming. The restaurant and culinary worlds are slowly beginning to transform as well, as new demands are put on the global food supply and customers increasingly demand ethically sourced food. One of the trends that has emerged over the past several years is the plant-forward diet; not vegan or vegetarian, but simply rethinking what is the centerpiece of a person’s plate. At first glance, this seems to be a catch-all diet for the 21st century; vegetables and fruits will become the mainstay of the population’s meal while the meat-eaters are placated with (albeit smaller) servings of their favorite animal proteins. I recently visited a plant-forward restaurant in Manhattan, 232 Bleecker, that opened only a few months ago. During my visit, I couldn’t help but compare it to my experience as a café manager at a large tech firm in Manhattan.

My initial exposure to plant-forward thinking at the foodservice management company’s account in Manhattan started on my very first day during orientation. It became very clear that plant-based eating and general healthy eating was the cornerstone of the firm’s culinary vision. Suggestive marketing tactics were one of the most subtle but effective strategies employed by the firm; instead of not carrying Coke, for instance, they simply put it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerators which had deliberately frosted glass from the waist down to block your line of sight. You could grab a ribeye steak if you wanted, but you first had to pass the custom salad bar (which was amazing), sandwich shop, and various other plant-based rotating stations. We deliberately stocked smaller plates beside the plancha and rotisserie stations to encourage customers to go and get a bigger plate of salad or veggie stir-fry nearby. For many of the firm’s employees, this was their first experience with plant-forward eating and they didn’t even realize it. Offering the customer the choice to have that Coke, or that steak, while subtly encouraging them to make healthier decisions made it feel like an organic process rather than a chore or a forced habit. But what happened when that employee left the office and cooked at home on Wednesday night, or was looking for new restaurants to explore on the weekends? I wasn’t so sure the employer’s marketing tactics made an impact on their eating habits and choices.

My recent visit to 232 Bleecker, a thinly disguised night out which I called “market research” was a completely different experience compared to my time as a café manager. Whereas the tech firm employees merely had the option to eat a plant-based diet, diners at 232 Bleecker most likely chose the restaurant specifically for Chef Cupps’ plant-forward ethos. I confess that I am a meat-lover and occasionally asked for that extra piece of salmon while I was a café manager. But the presentation of the menu items at 232 Bleecker looked just as appetizing as any filet or steak that I’ve ever seen. The vibrant colors and textures of different ingredients continually impressed me with each dish. I sat there thinking, “OK, I get it.” Instead of giving diners the option to drink Coke and eat a steak, 232 Bleecker was able to rely on the sheer attractiveness and flavors of its dishes; every diner immediately recognized they were eating at a plant-forward restaurant, unlike the tech firm’s dining program. Despite my wonderful experience, I couldn’t help but think of how few people are exposed to this restaurant. 232 Bleecker is one of very few plant-forward restaurants in the city and it only opened its doors in 2019. Combine the small seating capacity and relatively pricey menu, and it suddenly becomes a relatively exclusive experience. 232 Bleecker gave its diners an excellent look at plant-forward diets, but it couldn’t reach the same amount of people as the huge tech firm could.

After my visit to 232 Bleecker, I began looking into the plant-forward eating throughout the national culinary scene. What I found was encouraging; well-known restaurateur Jose Andres has opened his sixth location of the plant-forward fast-casual concept Beefsteak in Chicago, while other renowned chefs such as Amanda Cohen at Dirt Candy, Dan Barber at Blue Hill, and Kyle & Katina Connaughton at SingleThread continue to make names for themselves and bring awareness to various aspects of plant-forward eating. Although my experience as a café manager for a Manhattan tech firm and my night out at 232 Bleecker were extremely different with respect to plant-forward eating, I believe their two approaches are complimentary to one another. The tech firm is able to reach a huge crowd that would otherwise congregate for lunch at the numerous food trucks (none of which are remotely healthy or environmentally friendly) dotted throughout Manhattan. However, the subtleties of their plant-forward program may not be enough to change their employee’s eating habits when they leave work. That is where the 232 Bleeckers and Beefsteaks and Blue Hills come in; a radically different approach that makes people realize plant-forward diets can and should be a conscious decision.


A Resolution for the Greater Good = A Better Company

It’s a new year and a new decade and that means that all your New Year’s resolutions are likely well underway! Whether you have vowed to lose weight, live cleaner, or save more money, chances are that your carefully selected resolutions were chosen to better yourself. Cultures across the globe make strides to better themselves physically, mentally and emotionally every year, though only a small percentage keeps their New Year’s resolutions. Why is that?

Well, let’s start with asking how the “New Year’s resolution” came to be. Did you know that the tradition was originally rooted in religious practices and can be traced all the way back to Babylon over 4,000 years ago?! The Ancient Babylonians celebrated their New Year in March based on the start of the crop season. The ritual continued for another 2,000 years before landing in the Roman Empire, where January 1st was established as the start of the New Year (named for the god, Janus who looked to the past and the future). Many ancient resolutions would include promises or offerings (even sacrifices) to the gods to substantiate their resolutions in return for good fortune and a favorable crop season. The jump to the Western world was still reflective of many of these same ideas (minus the sacrifices) but with the idea of focusing on poor habits and making efforts to improve upon them within the church and community. While we no longer use our resolutions to pay homage to the gods in return for survival, the continuing tradition is still close to its origins.

Perhaps the old-world cultures were on to something. It seems that resolutions have gone from benefitting the greater good of the village or congregation to focusing on personal improvement. However, studies have shown that it is easier to make a long-lasting change if someone or something else is relying on you to maintain it.

If you are a business owner, consider starting a companywide New Year’s resolution. So many of the companies that JGL works with have taken major strides over the past several years to be more sustainable, purchase local, and give back to the community. These initiatives may have started as a simple idea, or resolution if you will, but they have the power to make a very pronounced difference. This line of thinking is becoming a sought-after proposed value-add. Many JGL clients look for these types of efforts when choosing a partner.

JGL’s 2020 resolution is for each team member to be a part of at least one community service project a year. We are hoping that sacrificing a little bit of our personal time will result in the gods offering bountiful crops to our friends in the food service industry!

There’s no time like the present to start a resolution- or expand on the great initiatives you already have! Be the change you want to be and make 2020 the best year yet!


Fun Facts About 2019 and JGL!

This has been a very exciting year for JGL. In addition to having the opportunity to work with many new clients throughout 2019, JGL has….

1. Added two new team members to the JGL family
2. Successfully placed a food truck concept into a Museum setting
3. Won the bid for consulting services for the largest convention center in the country
4. Helped a client reduce their subsidy by $600,000 (the largest reduction in JGL history)
5. Crushed the Chicago Market with five new accounts in 12 months
6. Survived a culinary escape room during the first ever JGL team retreat
7. Tracy Lawler, President of JGL became a published author!

As we transition from one year to the next, we thought it would be fun to look back and reflect upon all that our team has accomplished. We are so very grateful to all our clients for their continued support and faith in our abilities to help them accomplish their food service goals.

We can’t wait to see what 2020 has on the horizon for JGL!

New to the JGL Client List in 2019:

• Arkansas Arts Center
• Cary Park
• Comic-Con Museum
• Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
• Corporation of Fine Arts Museums San Francisco
• Edmonds Senior Center
• Goodspeed Opera
• Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association
• Greenwich Library
• Harvard Art Reparatory Theater
• Joslyn Art Museum
• LG Electronics
• Major League Baseball
• Memorial Art Gallery (University of Rochester)
• Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Inc.
• Metropolitan Pier Exposition Authority
• Mote Marine Laboratory
• Museum of Science and Industry Chicago
• New York Consolidated
• National Museum of Jewish Heritage
• Obama Presidential Center
• Shedd Aquarium
• The Strong National Museum of Play
• Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

New to the JGL Team in 2019:

Colleen Geyer – Colleen Geyer joined the JGL team in early 2019. She has over a dozen years of experience in the food and beverage industry, with nearly half of that time focused in arts management. Click here to read Colleen’s full bio:

Connor Leahy – Connor is the newest associate on the JGL team. Connor recently completed the Restaurant Associates Manager in Training (MIT) program and served as Café Manager for Google in NYC. Connor joined the JGL team full time in August of 2019. Click here to read Connor’s full bio:

Baby Boy McCallum – The newest member of the JGL team will be baby boy McCallum!!! He is expected to arrive on December 26, 2019, but he might just decide to wait for 2020! Congratulations to David and Michelle!


The Spririt of Thanksgiving

Whether you’re an aspiring chef or don’t know the difference between brie and brioche, you probably love Thanksgiving. It’s a time to gather around the table with your family, share great food, and be thankful for all that has happened over the past year. I have fond memories of catching up with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins as we listened to music, looked at pictures from recent vacations, watched the National Dog Show (we’re animal lovers, what can I say), and talked about college and my recent move to Hoboken.

Here at the JGL family, we have a number of things to be thankful for. Two new members have joined the JGL team full-time and we have reached major financial milestones we never thought possible. Despite this growth, we continue to deliver the same excellent product that we expect from ourselves and our clients deserve. But while we love what we do, the entire JGL team will be taking a well deserved break for Thanksgiving Day, and we hope you will as well!

But before we go, we thought it would be fun to share some not-so-common facts about Thanksgiving. We all have seen the Allstate commercial telling us how thousands of in-laws drive through their son’s garage doors, or how hundreds call the fire department on a flaming hot turkey, but what about the less obvious Thanksgiving trivia? If you want to impress your family with what you’ve learned this year, be sure to mention some of these facts around the dinner table this Thursday!

TV Dinners came about in 1953 when Swanson, a large meat-packing company had left-over Turkey from Thanksgiving. They didn’t want to waste it, so they packaged it with mashed potatoes and sweet peas. Voila, the TV dinner was born!

The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade took place in 1924. The main feature of this parade? Live animals from Central Park Zoo.

If it were up to Benjamin Franklin, the turkey would be our national bird, not the bald eagle.

Writer Sarah Josepha Hale is credited with convincing Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She is also credited the song “Mary Had A Little Lamb”.

Turkey trotters in Dallas set a Guinness World Record for the most people dressed up as turkeys; 661 runners took part in the YMCA event in 2011!

Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving and has similar traditions of eating turkey and watching sports, but they celebrate the holiday on a different day and for a different reason. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in remembrance of English explorer Martin Frobisher’s successful voyage to Canada in 1578. It is celebrated on the second Monday in October.

Plumbers love Thanksgiving. Or perhaps we should say, the day AFTER Thanksgiving. More drains, garbage disposals and toilets needs to be unclogged the day after Thanksgiving than any other day of the year.

While turkey may have been present at the first Thanksgiving celebration, the main star of the show was seafood. Because Plymouth was a coastal colony, the Pilgrims brought their daily catch to the celebrations.

Besides America and Canada, Thanksgiving is also celebrated on the tiny Norfolk Island off the coast of Australia. American whaling ships passing through the area brought the tradition to the locals, and it has stuck around ever since!

The term “Black Friday” was originally coined by the Philadelphia Police in 1966 to dissuade shoppers from going out and further clogging the streets while the annual Army-Navy game was played.

By: Connor Leahy


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.