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The Business of Food: Boston Women in Finance September Kick-off Event

25 Sep 2014 2:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Food is big business. Whether it's homestyle or healthful,  classic comfort or fine dining, food is a commercial enterprise.   The business of food includes filling seats, moving product, managing people and making sound financial decisions.

Our September kick-off event, graciously hosted by Brown Rudnick, featured a panel of foodie all-stars including:  Alexis Gelburd-Kimler, Owner, West Bridge Restaurant;  Shirley Leung, Columnist, The Boston Globe; and Aimee Morgida, Director of Operations, Roche Bros. Supermarkets.

 Our Speakers:
Alexis Gelburd-Kimler,
Co-Owner, West Bridge
 Shirley Leung, Columnist, The Boston Globe
 Aimee Morgida, Director of Operations, Roche Bros. Supermarkets
1st Course - Trying Something New

Alexis had been on the management side of the restaurant business for years when she teamed up with a partner to start a restaurant of her own.   Shirley had been a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, The Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal when she decided to come back to the Globe to try a management role.   Aimee started her career at Whole Foods, took time off for her family, and was recruited by Roche Bros, a smaller family-owned business.

2nd Course – Location, Location, Location

Aimee used her Whole Foods real estate siting experience to help Roche Bros determine a second location for their newest venture, Bros Marketplace.  Using analytics to support her thesis that “mermaids don’t shop,” Aimee guided away from oceanfront locations.   After 24 months of site visits and data analysis, the former Filene’s store in Downtown Crossing was chosen as the best spot to open the next location of Roche Bros.

Alexis was guided by another philosophy as she figured out the best location for her restaurant. “Sit on a lot of park benches,” she was told.   She did, all over the city. She knew she had to be passionate about the location and find a spot that would add to the heart of the restaurant. Kendall Square had transformed over the years into a vibrant neighborhood with a diverse mix of people. Now her restaurant draws all different types of guests who add to its unique personality.

3rd Course - Driving traffic

All the marketing in the world will not counteract a low quality product. When you provide an exceptional customer experience, be it holding the door open for a guest or accommodating a special request, the stories customers tell are worth more than a marketing campaign. Creating the right culture –- or Kool-Aid – will build strong relationships with your employees. They will buy into the story behind your business and empower them to take care of your customers so they keep coming back.

4th Course – Trends: Leading or Listening?

Food is a dynamic business. Not only have food preferences changed, but the way we buy food is different as well.  Shirley has young children and loves to cook. Her dilemma: she hates grocery shopping, but wants to feed her family a proper meal. And she’s not alone. This has led to the growing trend towards supermarkets offering prepared or ready to cook food.

Aimee believes trends are based on where her customers are in their lives. A family of four typically only makes one shopping trip per week for ready to cook or prepared foods that can accommodate everyone’s food preferences and schedules. Empty nesters or singles shop every few days for fresh food.

Alexis listens to trends. Palettes have become more sophisticated and customers crave exciting food. West Bridge is now famous for the Egg in the Jar appetizer. Although the menu changes every 2-3 months, this is a staple. Alexis also creates trends. If she plans to remove a very popular dish, she’ll use social media to announce the change and entice customers to the restaurant to savor the dish for one last time.

Dessert – Fun-size servings of advice

At the end of the meal, um, event, we asked each panelist for some parting words of advice.

Aimee told us to remember who your real friends and family are. Know whom you can trust and who will be there for you in the long run. She also told us to be fearless and to be true to yourself.

Shirley wants us to have “our Dick Cheney moment” and raise your hand for a big job. She shared a story of how her boss was looking for a new columnist and asked her to lead the search. He didn’t consider her for the role and neither did anyone else. However, she raised her hand, asked for the job, and got it.

Alexis offered this advice: repeat every name back to you, every face you see, every hand you shake is important. It was through meeting as many people as she could that led her to the success of her restaurant.

At our next program, on October 28th, we’ll talk about The Art of Leadership.

Editor’s note:  Special thank-you to Wendy Berk for writing this summary.

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