On June 26th, the OpenTable team took their show on the road to Chicago where they gathered with the city’s most influential restaurateurs to chat innovation and the industry. As CEO Christa Quarles told the crowd, the first restaurant on OpenTable was in Chicago, so many of the attendees were longtime members of the network. From a fireside conversation with Eleven Madison Park’s Will Guidara and Anthony Rudolf of Co.create NYC to a lively chat about social media and millennials with The Infatuation co-founder Andrew Steinthal, the day was full of nuggets of wisdom about hospitality, technology, and beyond.
Here are some of our favorite snippets:
Moderated by Rudolph, a panel of established Chicago restaurateurs, including Donnie Madia of One Off Hospitality, Alpana Singh of The Boarding House, chef Beverly Kim of Parachute, and Phillip Walters of B. Hospitality Co. engaged in conversation about the market-specific issues faced by Chicago’s restaurant community as well as universal topics that concern the restaurant audience nationwide.
“Consumers need to know how much labor has gone up—we cannot be a non-profit business.” – Beverly Kim
“Real estate is telling your business don’t make your restaurant too big.” – Donnie Madia
“There is an IKEA stat that says 60% of people live near a city. Grubhub takes 30%. When is automation going to show up for restaurants? – Alpana Singh
“Even in the age of automation, human interaction will always be a need.” – Alpana Singh
Given OpenTable and The Infatuation’s product integration and ongoing partnership, Andrew Steinthal was in conversation with Francesca Burke of OpenTable’s brand content team, to talk about how a restaurant can set itself up for success in a social-first, millennial driven age.
“People want to come together and create community under your brand banner.” – Andrew Steinthal, on how a restaurant can build its brand to attract and cultivate social-obsessed regulars.
“Social is the currency of cool.” – Andrew Steinthal. Even the average back-of-the-house moment has appeal to people who love to follow food and restaurants.
“Food discovery is situational and experiences are everything.” – Andrew Steinthal, speaking to the “perfect for” tags The Infatuation uses to create lists for just about any occasion and experience popular with their audience.
On Mental Health:
Kat Kinsman of the Chefs with Issues project addressed the crowd with a sobering but important message encouraging each attendee to prioritize mental health in their restaurant. Whether it’s asking someone on the line how they’re doing or creating a forum of resources and education for team members who may be suffering from anxiety, depression, or other emotional concerns, it is our job as a community to create a culture of support, acceptance, and rehabilitation.
“Put your oxygen mask on first.” – Anthony Rudolf, on how important it is to take care of yourself in order to be the best team leader you can be.
“You’ve got to make it cool to care.” – Will Guidara, on creating a healthy company culture where everyone is invested in the work and feels supported.
This was the Innovation Summit, after all, so the future of technology in restaurants, our product offerings, and the way to stay ahead of the industry game were hot themes throughout the programming. Anthony Rudolph, always the forward-looker, put forth his attitude towards progress:
“Find that person you are at odds with and have that conversation. Be on the design side. We can design the future. We don’t have to just react to what’s being designed for us.” – Anthony Rudolf, on taking control of your business and tackling the challenges that move us all forward.
Welcome Conference founders Will Guidara and Anthony Rudolf closed the day with a lively discussion about their approach to hospitality and restoration, a poignant topic in light of Kat’s call to action and the often mentally and physically taxing work that is owning a restaurant:
“We’re a service industry — hospitality is a philosophical belief.” – Anthony Rudolf
“It’s impossible to be hospitable if you don’t know what it feels like to receive hospitality.” – Will Guidara
“Be a guest in your own restaurant.” – Will Guidara, on how he sits down for dinner at Eleven Madison Park with Executive Chef and business partner Daniel Humm four times a year when they change the menu.
“Restaurants are filters of society. It’s easier to take the negative and shift towards positive than seeing the couple walking in already elated.” – Will Guidara