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The Official Publication of the Illinois Restaurant Association
APRIL 2017
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WELL SEASONED

How Going Green Can Lead to a Sustainable and Profitable Business

 

“Going green” is more than just a catchy marketing ploy; it’s quickly becoming a means to a successful business. According to a recent Neilsen study, 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for goods and services that come from a company committed to positive environmental impact.

Now more than ever, guests are more conscious of not only what food they are putting into their body, but where that food is coming from. In 2016, the National Restaurant Association predicted industry trends that were riddled with sustainability goals, including locally sourced meats, seafood, and produce, as well as food waste management.

What does this mean for Illinois restaurants? While going green may seem like the latest trend, committing to the process has a variety of benefits for restaurants. And becoming a sustainable restaurant is easier than one might think.

Changing restaurant operations to be more eco-friendly is a long process and an evolution to which the entire team must be dedicated. In order to be a truly sustainable restaurant, there are many components involved; from changing the way food is prepared and sourced, to waste management, energy use and reduction, and more.

While there are hundreds of articles out there discussing how to make your business environmentally friendly, we asked IRA members known for being sustainable to weigh in and share their insider tips on going green. While each member has their own unique practices, they all seem to agree on one thing: choosing local and forming a bond with farmers is an easy way to get started.

Kevin Jezewski, Director of Sustainability and Special Projects for SAVOR…Chicago, believes sustainability begins with building relationships with likeminded people. He describes SAVOR’s relationship with local farmers as a give and take, creating a mutually beneficial relationship that allows his team to operate as efficiently and sustainably as possible. “In order to tie into the local community, businesses need to be willing to get to know their farmers on a very personal level,” Jezewski explains. “Try to work with the farmer to learn not only what fruits and vegetables they are producing, but how you can help them and the community as well.”

SAVOR’s biggest project right now is a 2,000 square foot garden that grows produce for its concessions, retail, and the local farmers market in McCormick Square. SAVOR has recently begun growing heirloom plants, and working with the community to show unique ways to use plants in their food and drinks.

Frontera Grill and Topolobampo founder Chef Rick Bayless has been forming connections with Chicagoland farmers since 2003 with his Frontera Farmer Foundation. Along with his wife Deann, Rick saw the need to support struggling Midwestern farms, which promote biodiversity by planting a wide range of produce. Smaller operations are more likely to operate using organic practices and add immeasurably to the fabric of their communities. By their artisanal approach to agriculture, these farmers ensure the highest quality of food, something the Frontera Restaurant Group is keen on as well.

For Christine Tully Aranza, owner of Autre Monde Café & Spirits, it’s important to consider a 360-degree approach when it comes to “being green.” Not only does the restaurant work with small local farmers to buy organic produce, it also considers all areas within operations to be green. “If you’re building your restaurant from the ground up, or even just remodeling a space, consider the materials you use,” Tully Aranza shared. “Consider the paint you choose for your walls, the furniture you choose, the equipment, recycling, and so forth. Being a sustainable restaurant is than choosing the freshest food; it’s also about a incorporating green practices within your business.”

In addition to using repurposed items to build Autre Monde, Tully Aranza and her business partner, John Aranza, are working on a zero waste initiative. One way they accomplish this is by saving the restaurant’s cooking oil in a 50-gallon drum that gets picked up once a month by a company called Solvent Systems, who collects the oil and turns it into green cleaning products.

One thing our sustainable IRA members agree on is transitioning your business into a sustainable operation takes time, money, and patience. It’s okay to start small! Forming a connection with a local farmer, or even a farmers' market, is a great place to start. Then tackle larger operational processes. Everyone can benefit from being a little greener!

Flavor Profile

Patrick Cullen, Owner, Presidio

 

This month, we sat down with Patrick Cullen, owner of Presidio, a San Francisco-inspired restaurant that brings the culinary philosophies and traditions of the Bay Area to Chicago.

 

Tell us a little about your history. How did you get where you are today?  

 

I moved to Chicago in 2007 after graduating law school and started work at an accounting firm in the loop. After a few years of misery, I knew it was time for a change.

I come from a family of service and hospitality professionals – several of whom still work in well-known restaurants in the San Francisco/Bay Area. This background and a lifelong joy for the experience of drinking and dining lead me to completely reverse course in my career. I started picking up shifts as a bar back and bartending at a dive bar where a couple of my friends worked. Eventually I moved on to high volume sports bartending, restaurant bartending, and then floor managing at a couple of spots in Chicago.

Working in the industry from the ground up helped set the stage for me to become an operator. Around March 2014, the space where we now have Presidio was available and I knew that it was time to take the leap into ownership.

 

What is your biggest reward working in the restaurant industry?  

 
The most rewarding aspect of the restaurant industry – without a doubt – is the opportunity to interact with a huge spectrum of different people throughout any given day. It’s the people, both co-workers and guests, that make this world so rewarding and so addictive. There is no other professional industry that allows you to meet and get to know people with such different backgrounds.

To what do you attribute your success?


Well, I still don’t feel like I’ve reached ultimate success; but what I have accomplished thus far is due in large part to my commitment to continue learning and to applying what I have learned with my own business.

Whether it was a previous restaurant industry position where I learned what to do and what to avoid, or time spent in law school where I learned the best way to analyze and solve a problem, or a college internship where I learned the value of respecting every single person on your team, I am constantly applying skills I’ve picked up along my professional journey.

What are you looking forward to in the coming year?


We are beginning our third year in business at Presidio so I’m most looking forward to the growth of our team and our number of regulars there. Many of the people working with us have been there since day one. That has lead to really outstanding connections with our neighbors and regulars that sustain the business during lean weeks.

I have a couple of projects that we have been discussing in my close circle but we will see how that develops. Right now, I’m happy with the success of Presidio and want to be cautious about jumping into another undertaking given the massive growth that we are seeing right now with the bar and restaurant industry in Chicago. I want to make sure it’s the right move and that we are able to offer something we are truly passionate about.

What do you see as the most valuable resources/services the IRA provides you?

 
Opportunities for networking and learning. We just attended the IRA’s “Meet the Experts” event and it was an excellent opportunity for my GM and me to interact with different people in various capacities throughout Chicago’s restaurant industry.

Any advice for aspiring chefs and restaurateurs? 

 
Remember that you are never going to know everything – no matter what level you reach. I think across the board people are placing less and less value in the importance of being an apprentice, of learning how to walk before you try to run. Everyone wants to own their own place or run their own kitchen, but they haven’t always laid the groundwork that creates the foundation to get them there.

I am still learning something new everyday. This helps Presidio evolve and operate more efficiently. Whether reading, grabbing coffee with someone who inspires you, or grabbing a barstool at a great restaurant, learning and observing are key.

Beyond that, surround yourself with talented people who know more about some area than you do. Empower those people. Give them a sense of ownership and a commitment to the overall success of your venue. When members of your team feel valued, they are far more likely to go the extra mile or cover your blind spots.

 

Presidio

1749 N Damen Ave

Chicago, IL 60647

On Facebook @PresidioChicago

On Twitter @PresidioChicago

 

GOVERNMENT RELATIONS SNACK

Expect Guidance on EMV and Credit Card Chargebacks

 

Are you getting hit with increased credit card chargebacks? Need guidance on how to protect your business?

Join the Illinois Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association on Tuesday, May 9 at 3:00 p.m. for a call on EMV-enabled credit cards, credit card processor technology, and fraudulent chargebacks on businesses.

Laura Knapp-Chadwick, Director of Commerce & Entrepreneurship with the NRA, will lead a constructive conversation on merchant liabilities, mitigating risk of credit card fraud without EMV technology, best practices for training employees, and more.

For call-in information, or any questions, please contact Matt Quinn, IRA Government Relations & Communications Manager, at (312) 380-4122 or mquinn@illinoisrestaurants.org.

JAMES BEARD AWARDS WEEKEND

Is Your Restaurant Covered?

 

Chicago is ready for the James Beard Foundation Awards! Hosted by actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the Awards & Gala on Monday, May 1 are the anchors of celebrations in Chicago, but top restaurants around the city are hosting parties, cook-offs and more for those interested in celebrating beyond the main event.

 

You can party on with dozens of premier dinners, parties, tastings and more from acclaimed Chicago establishments in the days surrounding the awards. With both intimate and large-scale parties – including all-star chef collaborations, special menu offerings, backyard BBQs, pop-ups, panels and more – Chicago can feast on the revelry through Tuesday, May 2, with tickets still available for a slew of ancillary events. Full event details can be found here.

#EatsWeek is still in full swing too, with over 130 restaurants featuring James Beard inspired menus or dishes through May 1! Celebrations kicked off last week at the Sneak Peek Soiree, where over 300 foodies tasted and sipped bites inspired by the “Dean of American Cookery”. The first of many events surrounding the awards, Sneak Peek Soiree also launched JBF Greens chapter in Chicago, highlighting Chicago as a culinary epicenter and bringing together food lovers between the ages of 21 and 39 for tastings, hands-on experiences, multi-course dinners and more.

The Illinois Restaurant Association and Choose Chicago – hosts of the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago through 2021 – work to amplify the vibrant hospitality community of Chicago and Illinois year-round, encouraging local and national programming for diners to honor this special time of year. .

 
SPECIALS

Get Social with Sociale

 

Business partners John McLean and Martin Murch of Chicago-based Good Eats Group – the team behind the award-winning Burger Bar Chicago and Sono Wood Fired – bring you Sociale: a casual spot that serves globally influenced small plates accompanied by wines from around the world.

This stylish Printer’s Row hangout boasts a modern European chic setting with rustic brick, decorative tile details, reclaimed wood, and iron wrappings, anchored by a brilliant blue wood-burning oven. Walls of windows overlook Clark and Polk Streets, creating an airy space with a seasonal wraparound patio and a see-and-be-seen bar area that offers handcrafted cocktails and a global wine program.

Inspired by the owners’ global travels, Sociale’s menu breaks conventional routes and has an aura of cool internationalism dominated by shareable small plates. Fan-favorites include house-made feta burrata, an irresistible whipped mild feta cheese piped into a mozzarella shell, the charred eggplant purée, crunchy house-made focaccia toast, and the sumac crusted diver sea scallops on pistachio butter.

Meet for a date, meet for a bite, meet for a chat, meet for a drink, whatever! Meet at Sociale.

For a full menu or additional information, please visit www.socialechicago.com

 

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