Where Industry Meets University
City Group Hospitality advances its digital ordering process with insights from LSU, Cornell in Harvard Business Review study
Baton Rouge is known for its concept restaurants, like the six that sit under the umbrella of City Group Hospitality (CGH). The restaurant group’s online ordering efforts are now being studied by students at Cornell, and Louisiana State University. For Stephen Hightower, Managing Partner of CGH, the past year blossomed a new partnership with Professor Gabe Piccoli at the E. J. Ourso College of Business at LSU. Piccoli is the lead author on his newest published study for the Harvard Business Review titled Fostering Digital Relationships with Guests at City Group Hospitality.
Piccoli met Hightower last year on the local Baton Rouge podcast “Out to Lunch.” The topic of their episode was The Art and Science of Hospitality. After that conversation, the seed was planted for them both to understand what could be next for the industry in relations to technology, digitalization and food delivery.
Third-party food delivery apps used to be considered a competitive advantage for restaurants, but now they’re more a lifeline for continual sales. Paying for the service comes with high commission fees, which can severely erode a restaurants profit margin. Yet, the positive elements—reaching a new customer base, increased check sizes and receiving more orders during downtimes—seem to outweigh the negative in a post-pandemic world, for some operators.
Using the third-party apps does require work to execute the orders successfully. Many restaurateurs worry about the food handling, and time between restaurant pickup and home delivery. No matter the effort on the establishment’s part, the minute the order is carried out the door, the restaurant has lost control of its product, leaving the customer experience unknown. Hightower grapples with the feeling of dependence all too well.
“Food delivery companies promise incremental sales, but they aggregate demand and concentrate power in their own hands,” Hightower said.
The published case study focuses on the digital transformation of restaurants, and how business owners are learning to work with, or without, food delivery apps.
“University-industry partnerships are win-win situations for everyone involved,” Piccoli said. “These partnerships can not only result in experiential learning opportunities in the classroom, but businesses can gain access to expert knowledge from professors and fresh perspectives from students.”
Each class came to a similar conclusion of a hybrid approach by staying on the third-party apps, and then transition to a native app (app owned by CGH). Staying with the likes of UberEats and DoorDash for some restaurants under CGH’s umbrella will draw new customers for conversions. Currently, Hightower and CGH’s marketing team are working with PopMenu to handle their online ordering, and they’ve seen positive feedback.
“PopMenu has been a great integration for us,” said Hightower. “We have intertwined our operational digital transformation with a pointed marketing effort to capture incremental added sales across all of our restaurants. This focused approach to online traction, and using the latest in restaurant technology, has been a rewarding and successful process for City Group Hospitality.”
For now, Hightower and his teams plan to analyze the study’s findings, and evaluate each concept before deciding on their future. Overall the partnership has opened doors for his businesses.
“It was a monumental shift for me to engage with Piccoli,” said Hightower. “To be a real business leader, you must seek out other perspectives. This partnership has rejuvenated me to take City Group Hospitality to another level.”
Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month honored by Mister Mao
The month of May celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a commemoration of the influences Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans have had on the culture and achievements in the United States.
In honor of the month-long occasion, Sophina Uong, the Cambodian-American Chef/Owner of Mister Mao in Uptown New Orleans, will be rolling out a very special cocktail fundraiser and sharing one of her favorite Cambodian recipes.
From Thursday, May 11th - Monday, May 29th guests can head over to Mister Mao or its quirky cocktail bar, Naked Bills, to imbibe on the ESL – a boozy incarnation of Southeast Asia’s sweet mango sticky rice. Created by Bar Manager Mad Chao, the ESL features rum, falernum, pandan, coconut, mango and sesame served over crushed ice. For every cocktail sold, 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the The New Neighbor Project, a non-profit organization in New Orleans dedicated to providing support and assistance to immigrants.
Chef Uong is also sharing one of her favorite recipes, Pot Ang. Just in time for summer, the Cambodian grilled corn dish features coconut milk, serrano chiles and fish sauce; and is easy-to-prep and throw on the grill.
All photos courtesy of Mister Mao. To learn more about AAPI Heritage Month visit their website.
Chef Jimi Setchim Showcases the Sweet, Tropical Fruit on Prix Fixe Menu
New Orleans, Louisiana— Broussard’s Restaurant & Courtyard is celebrating spring with a special prix fixe dinner menu featuring bananas, or plantains, in every dish. Chef Jimi Setchim has crafted specials for brunch and dinner. These dishes are also available on the a la carte menu.
“Most of us have eaten bananas before, whether as a morning snack, sliced into cereal, or mixed with vanilla wafers and pudding,” said Chef Jimi. “Here at Broussard’s, we endeavor to create a unique dining experience, and that is precisely what our spring menu does; we’ve highlighted familiar and exceptional flavors that pair well with bananas. It’s a sweet way to enrich our New Orleans cuisine.”
Chef Jimi’s prix fixe dinner menu includes a choice of starters: Spring banana salad with arugula, frisée, blueberries, pomegranate, shaved red onions, banana chips, and banana-feta vinaigrette; Cajun caviar on a roasted banana blini; and roasted banana and caramelized onion fritter with pickled pepper jelly, lemon cream, and crispy plantains.
The featured entrées are pan-seared duck breast with plantain cracklins’; Creole jerk chicken made from banana and cane spiced airline breast, accompanied by roasted banana grits, charred tomato coulis, and pickled okra; and grilled bone-in pork chop with banana-cane BBQ sauce, ginger sweet potato puree, mirliton and plantain slaw, and a pepper jelly vinaigrette. For dessert, Chef Jimi presents strawberry banana parfait prepared with Ponchatoula strawberries, banana sponge cake, white chocolate ganache and banana crumble; and brûléed banana éclair made with white chocolate montee, banana and pistachio powder, dark chocolate, and raspberry puree. The price of the banana prix fixe dinner menu is $55 per person.
The prix fixe brunch menu starts with Creole turtle soup or the Spring banana salad; entrées include King Creole pain perdu with candied bacon, banana mousse, peanut butter caramel, and brûléed bananas, and Gulf shrimp and tasso quiche. For dessert, Chef Jimi offers English toffee bread pudding and the strawberry banana parfait. The price of the prix fixe brunch menu is $48 per person.
A vegan option is also available: banana BBQ fried tofu crafted with plantain and mirliton slaw, ginger sweet potato puree, and pickled peppers.
To make reservations at Broussard’s, please visit broussards.com or call 504-581-3866.
Osteria Lupo – Uptown New Orleans’ highly-anticipated Northern Italian restaurant – will officially open to the public on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 at 4609 Magazine Street. The brainchild of Chef Brian Burns and Reno De Ranieri, who own the popular Spanish-inspired restaurant Costera, Osteria Lupo will offer locals and visitors refined Northern Italian cuisine featuring house made pastas, wood-fired specialties, and a stellar wine & cocktail program, served up in a chic and sophisticated setting.
Costera’s immediate success and popularity upon opening in 2019 had New Orleanians wondering what the next move would be for Burns and De Ranieri, who met during their tenure at the Link Restaurant Group. When the talented duo found two adjacent spaces on Magazine Street, they knew it was too good to resist and decided it was time to premier a new concept.
“Brian and I have had the vision for a Northern Italian concept for quite some time,” said De Ranieri who grew up in San Francisco and was exposed to rustic Italian cuisine and wine at a young age. “When the opportunity arose to open Uptown, not far from Costera, we knew it was meant to be.”
Osteria Lupo’s menu is conceptualized by Burns, a graduate of Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School and École Grégoire-Ferrandi, one of France’s leading professional training schools. Burns’ impressive vitae includes stints at Michelin starred Joël Robuchon and Château Cordeillan-Bages in France. In 2009, Burns returned to New Orleans, where he joined the Link Restaurant Group and served as Executive Sous Chef of Herbsaint before being tapped to help open Pêche Seafood Grill, ultimately working as Chef de Cuisine before leaving to pursue his own restaurant. This experience allowed Burns to develop a culinary style that resonates with guests in the New Orleans dining scene, while also providing an opportunity to develop the leadership skills necessary to effectively manage a professional kitchen and maintaining a level of quality that has been recognized twice by the James Beard Foundation.
Dishes, many of which will come from the restaurant’s central wood-fire oven, will showcase the bounty of the mountains and lakes of Piedmont, Liguria and other regions in Northern Italy. “There is such a rich culinary landscape in the north, with its own unique flavors and ingredients,” says Burns. “I’ve always loved these regions and am excited to shine a spotlight on them here in New Orleans.”
Antipasti, perfect for sharing, include Black Truffle Arancini with fresh Umbrian truffles over a creamy Val d’Aosta fonduta, Red Snapper Crudo – utilizing the best the Gulf has to offer, and served with tomato pesto and fried capers, and Seared Porchetta with local arugula and lemon on grilled focaccia. Pizze come straight from the wood-fire oven and include Clam with broccoli rabe, chili flakes and lemon, Mushroom with Taleggio, garlic confit and crispy leeks, and a traditional Margherita with tomato, Fior de Latte mozzarella and fresh torn basil.
Pasta at Osteria Lupo is made in-house and features specialties like Radiatori with Louisiana Blue Crab, Parmesan and basil, Spaghetti alla Chittara with Maine Lobster and Trebbiano; and Campanelle with Mushrooms – a ruffled, bell-shaped pasta with a rich porcini, shiitake, and oyster mushroom ragu. Secondi are large enough to share, and range from simply-prepared Rack of Lamb with pistachio verde, and Double-Cut Pork Chop Milanese with littleneck clams, prosciutto, rapini, and garlic, to Seared Yellowfin Tuna with coal-roasted spring vegetables and bagna cauda. A selection of desserts from Pastry Chef Sara Martin will also be on offer.
The beverage program at Osteria Lupo will be under the direction of De Ranieri, who cut his teeth running beverage programs across multiple restaurants as Corporate Beverage Director for the Link Restaurant Group. Paying homage to the classic cocktail bars of Milan and Florence, libations will focus on lighter Italian aperitivi aimed to whet the appetite, along with nods to New Orleans’ rich cocktail history. The wine program, 100 percent Italian, will have a strong focus on Piedmont and Tuscany, while highlighting small producers and dynamic wines. According to De Ranieri, “We will select our wines the same way (Chef) Brian selects his ingredients – by working directly with the small, local producers that have grown their own grapes and made their own wines for generations.”
Designed with New Orleans architect Brooks Graham, Osteria Lupo merges a former glass blowing studio and the original depot for Elmer’s Chocolate into one beautiful modern setting where sleek industrial elements are complemented by natural woods and warm hues of blue. In the dining room, an open exhibition kitchen and colorful mosaic tiled wood-fire oven serves as the focal point from nearly every seat, allowing guests to watch the action unfold. Polished concrete floors and exposed ceilings are offset by soft ambient lighting from antique brass globe pendants and paneled walls, all working harmoniously to create a stylishly vibey, relaxed ambiance. An adjacent area features additional seating, as well as a dramatic bar with deep blues contrasted by Carrera-Arabescata marble. The original 12X12 garage door has been redesigned with amber zellige tile and a glass and aluminum overhead door, allowing for open air seating on nice nights.
Osteria Lupo will open to the public on Wednesday, April 5th at 4609 Magazine Street and will serve dinner Wednesday – Sunday from 4pm to 9pm. For additional information please visit www.osterialupo.com. To reserve a table, please book on Resy.
Stay up to date on Instagram and Facebook: @osterialupo
Leading the Way
New Orleans Female Chefs Moving the Restaurant & Hospitality Scene Forward
In honor of International Women's Day, the LRA spotlights female chefs who have risen the ranks with the male cohort, and cemented their names into New Orleans culinary history.
Chef Zoe Chase
Chef Zoe Chase has been in the kitchen her entire life, that of her family, Dooky Chase's Restaurant. She grew up earnestly watching and learning from her great grandmother, Executive Chef Emeritus Chef Leah Chase. The passion for food & hospitality led Chase to enroll in culinary school at New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute. Under the guidance of her Uncle Edgar "Dook" Chase IV (Executive Chef and Leah's grandson), Zoe is currently a sous chef at Dooky Chase's Restaurant and is next in line to take the helm of their historied family restaurant. Tune into WYES-New Orleans on April 29 at 10 am to see her debut on their new series "The Dooky Chase Kitchen: Leah's Legacy."
Chef Bergen Carman
Meril is home to Chef de Cuisine Bergen Carman. Once the pastry chef at Emeril's Delmonico with nothing but her love of food and her new English degree from LSU, Bergen fell in love with the energy of the kitchen from day one. Her dedication to hospitality has moved her to the top of the ranks at Emeril's sister restaurant in the Warehouse District.
Chef Meg Bickford
Executive Chef Meg Bickford at Commander's Palace has carved herself into the idea of what diners know as "haute Creole cuisine." She landed at the Garden District restaurant after graduating from Chef John Folse Culinary Institute in 2008. For nearly a decade, she worked every position in the kitchen until she was named Executive Chef in 2020. Today, she's putting her own identity into Cajun & Creole dishes made classic by the late Chef Paul Prudhomme.
Chef Haley Bitterman
Corporate Executive Chef Haley Bitterman is stationed at Brennan's Restaurant on Royal Street, but her expert eye oversees the culinary program for the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group. A native of Cincinnati, she has called New Orleans home since the first moment working an externship at Mr.B's Bistro. Haley then helped open Ralph Brennan's BACCO, a Northern Italian restaurant in the French Quarter (since closed), and a few years after it's opening, landed the Executive Chef position there. Today, she has her hand in every kitchen of all the Ralph Brennan restaurants.
Chef Nina Compton
Chef Nina Compton at Compere Lapin was catapulted into the loving arms of New Orleanians after her stint on Bravo's Top Chef: New Orleans. The St. Lucia native had been in Miami as Executive Chef at Scarpetta, and then The Villa Casa Casuarina, when she decided to compete on the reality show. Taking home second place and the fan favorite award, Compton settled in the Warehouse District with the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery and Compère Lapin, responding to New Orleans' rich creole history that she identified with being from the Caribbean. Since, she has earned the James Beard Award for "Best Chef of the South," among other accolades. Compton's empire expanded with Bywater American Bistro, and continues with an upcoming fast-casual spot inside the soon-to-be Caesars Hotel.
Chef Aom Srisuk
Chef Aom Srisuk opened Pomelo last year on Magazine Street. Her boutique Thai restaurant honors her roots where she grew up in Thailand running her family's restaurants, and met the love her life--her husband Frankie who runs the business with her. Needless to say, Thailand holds a special place in chef's heart, and she loves sharing her authentic family recipes with New Orleans. Pomelo has since become a neighborhood fixture. She was working in the kitchen at Cho Thai, and then Saffron before opening a place of her own.
Chef Meg Forman
Executive Chef Meg Forman owns and operates Gracious Bakery. Her love for all things sweet inspired her to enroll at the New England Culinary Institute. She was the pastry chef at Bayona Restaurant for six years. Since 2012, Gracious Bakery has grown into multiple locations, and even entered the retail market with at-home kingcake kits.
Chef Martha Wiggins
Executive Chef Martha Wiggins at Cafe Reconcile is building hope and changing lives, one plate at a time. Wiggins helps 16 – 24 years old develop culinary & hospitality skills needed to be successful in today's fast-paced industry, while breathing new life into the dining experience of their cafe. The Washington D.C. native started in New Orleans nearly 20 years ago at the French Quarter spot Sylvain, under Executive Chef Alex Harrell. She soon took over, and then helped open The Hotel Peter & Paul and The Elysian Bar. Now, the Central City establishment is her home away from home.
Bridging the Gap
Chef Serigne Mbaye connects Senegal and New Orleans at his new tasting menu restaurant Dakar Nola
Tasting menus used to be a thing of past, but over the past few years, they’ve made a resurgence. Big cities like New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. are breathing new life into a style of dining that once seemed confining. That’s exactly what Chef Serigne Mbaye is doing in New Orleans at Dakar Nola, at just 29 years-old.
Honoring the capital of Senegal, Dakar Nola serves traditional Senegalese cuisine through a seven-course tasting menu (Wednesday nights offer a prix fixe $50, 3-course menu). Mbaye, nominated twice by the James Beard Foundation for Best Emerging Chef, was born in Harlem but lived most of his youth in Senegal, West Africa, where his Mother was born.
“Being nominated twice solidified that the work that we’re doing is important,” Mbaye said. “People want to hear what we have to offer.”
The ‘we’ being business partner Effie Richardson. Born in California to Ghanaian parents, Richardson witnessed Mbaye’s passion while he was working pop-ups at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB). The two connected immediately over food. Now they’re running Dakar Nola like it’s second nature.
Landing in the Crescent City
Mbaye attended culinary school at the former New England Culinary Institute. He decided to return home to Senegal once he graduated to help build a school for orphans in Gambia, with New Orleans mission group Giving Hope.
It was a chance encounter at the airport that changed everything. Cliff Ragan Hall, co-founder of the New Orleans Fish House, was also doing mission work with Giving Hope. The two got to know each other, and Hall offered an olive branch to Mbaye. Through his friend, former Commander’s Palace Executive Chef Tory McPhail, there would be a job waiting for him at the iconic Commander’s Palace. Mbaye accepted the offer.
He worked through every kitchen position at Commander’s in four months until he became the PM Sous Chef at the former Café Adelaide. Then he worked at SoBou, and helped open Picnic, Provisions & Whiskey. Next, he headed to San Francisco to work at 3 Michelin-star restaurant Ateleir Crenn, and then, the former 2 Michelin-star restaurant L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in New York.
He returned to New Orleans and started doing food pop-ups at SOFAB during the pandemic. He collaborated for dinner series with notable New Orleans chefs, like Chef Micheal Gullota of Maypop and Chef Nina Compton of Bywater American Bistro, among many others.
Eventually, he landed as Chef de Cuisine at the popular Mosquito Supper Club. The communal, multi-course tasting menu restaurant gave Mbaye a place to thrive. Chef Melissa Martin encouraged him to use her restaurant as a platform for Dakar Nola.
“I’ve always dreamed of opening a restaurant,” Mbaye said. “Working at the Mosquito Supper Club made me realize how it could be possible.”
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