From added food preparation lines to reconfigurations that expand space for people to stand and wait for takeout orders, joining the digital revolution has required restaurants to make physical changes in their kitchens and dining areas. And industry watchers say it's only the beginning.
"It's proliferating widely right now, especially with quick-service and casual dining," said Doug Roth, founder of the restaurant consulting firm Playground Hospitality.
But smart overbooking is also about how you manage guests as they arrive, said Doug Roth, founder of consulting group Playground Hospitality in Chicago, which most recently developed three concepts for the McCormick Place Hyatt, including the full-service Third Star and soon-to-open Arc Bar.
“I used to have a 20-minute rule. If it went over 20 minutes beyond the booking, you would always send — never a drink, because they probably already had one — always food, and it gives you an opportunity to let the guest try the product.”
Sometime in the mid-2000s, chefs became more than just the people behind our favorite restaurants. They were bonafide celebrities — TV stars, cookbook authors, and brand ambassadors. This shift prompted a rush toward turning all chefs into personalities, and then building eateries around them — it’s a rush that is still happening today. But is this actually a sound business model for a restaurant?
Adds Doug Roth, the CEO of the Chicago-based restaurant consulting firm, Playground Hospitality, with concept-driven spots, “It is a clearer sell. It gives guests an immediate impression of what you are trying to convey. You don’t have to rely on just one individual making or breaking that restaurant.”
It’s also important to remember that, for the vast majority of the public, a great restaurant concept matters so much more than a name-brand chef. When Roth opened his restaurant Bistro 110, he poached a then-unknown chef, Dominique Tougne, from Joel Robuchon’s restaurant empire, to run the kitchen. “I knew what type of cooking I wanted, and all I needed was someone who had the tools to deliver that food. I didn’t care about the name,” he says. The place was a huge success, as it delivered on its promise to provide high-quality French bistro food. “Even if I had a name-brand chef,” he asserts, “ninety percent of my diners wouldn’t have known who that was.”
It’s not enough to say, I want to create an Italian restaurant, Roth says. “Ask yourself, ‘What region of Italy? Which dishes from that region? What makes those dishes authentic? Who can make great versions of those dishes? What is the lifestyle of the people from that area?’ And then you have to convey that in the food, the service, the music, the drinks, and the décor. If even one of these things is out of sync, the place doesn’t always work. This is a business of details and consistency.”
Doug Roth featured on The Opening Bell with Steve Grzanich
"...looking towards the first official day of summer, Doug Roth (President & Founder of Playground Hospitality) and Martin Pfefferkorn (Director of Culinary Experiences of Hyatt Hotels) told Steve about their trip to the Evanston Farmers Market and certain factors to look out for when buying fresh food."
Doug Roth was recently quoted in the Tribune article, "The modern food court: Food halls to grow sharply in Chicago."
"They are a destination. They bring excitement," said Doug Roth, founder of Playground Hospitality, a restaurant consulting firm. "Panda Express just can't do that."
To be successful, these multirestaurant food halls have to be well-balanced, with food options to appeal to a wide range of tastes, said Roth, of Playground Hospitality. That includes not just a selection of standard fare like fried chicken and more daring trendy foods like poke, but also a mix of prices and recognizable and new restaurant names.
"All the dots have to be connected," he said. "They all have to work together."
WGN-AM “The Opening Bell” with Steve Grzanich featured Doug Roth and Ralph Brennan in an interview on the state of the restaurant industry.
"After becoming the new home to the James Beard Awards, the hub for the National Restaurant Association Show, and cooking up some of the best food in the world, it makes sense that Condé Nast named Chicago as the best restaurant city in the country. Steve touched on all of this with Doug Roth (President & Founder of Playground Hospitality) and Ralph Brennan (Owner of Brennan’s in New Orleans)."
Newcity's roundup of the top behind-the-scenes influencers in Chicago’s food and drink scene: The Big Heat: Chicago’s Food and Drink Fifty.
Newcity is pleased to announce the return of our biggest culinary issue of the year, The Big Heat: Chicago’s Food and Drink Fifty.
“I didn’t want to be an S.O.B.: Son of the Boss.” But no getting around it: Doug’s dad is Don Roth, legendary restaurateur/owner of the Blackhawk, a classic mid-century Chicago restaurant. “We’d eat there, just my dad and me, and he’d sit facing the dining room, keeping an eye on things. I’d usually end up eating alone because he was always jumping up to make things right for guests.” That laser-focus on the guest continues at Playground Hospitality, a restaurant consultancy founded with Gale Gand and Dan Smith, built on the old-school customer-service principles embedded in Doug’s DNA.
Doug Roth, whose family ran the legendary Blackhawk Restaurant, has formed a hospitality company that’s transforming Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.
Playground Hospitality, which Roth founded, is developing three restaurants at the hotel. It’s a counter-punch to the newly built JW Marriott hotel nearby.
Roth, the company’s president, is collaborating with chefs Gale Gand and Dan Smith. Also advising is Richard Kincaid, former CEO of billionaire Sam Zell‘s Equity Office Properties Trust.
Roth grew up with the Blackhawk, went on to found Bistro 110 with Larry and Mark Levy of Levy Restaurants and has worked in sports marketing and on real-estate ventures.
Playground Hospitality brings all those experiences and expertise together, he says.
“Our hope is that we’re developing a restaurant that’s great for people visiting Chicago for the first time,” he says. “It’s for people from Paris, Texas, to Paris, France.”
The three restaurants pay homage to the Chicago 1893 World’s Fair and foods introduced to Americans during the event.
Third Star will feature an international menu. Sixes and Eights refers to the lucky numbers of Japanese and Chinese culture, respectively, and will offer an Asian fast-casual menu. And ARC Bar’s name is a takeoff of the arc of electricity (also introduced at the fair). On the menu: shareable plates and “worldly” drinks.
Bringing together good food, atmosphere and service “is like a theatrical show,” Roth says. “Our job is to make sure all those elements are in sync.”
Longtime restaurateur Doug Roth announced his restaurant consulting company, Playground Hospitality. With 35-plus years of restaurant concept development and operational expertise, Roth and his team are aiding food service startups and established restaurants alike in refining a notable brand concept to stand out in the crowded industry. In addition to consulting, the team is hard at work developing its own concepts to be announced later this year.
Restaurants help make up the unique culture of Chicago, but it’s a difficult industry to break into. Having a mentor with proper expertise might be the only way to lead with success and that’s what Playground Hospitality brings to the table.
Steve Grzanich sat down Doug Roth (CEO of Playground Hospitality) to talk about how his Chicago roots, and industry knowledge will lead the way to where we want to eat next.
Playground Hospitality Helps Restaurateurs Break Through With Visionary Restaurant Consultant Doug Roth at the Helm
New Restaurant Consultancy Introduces a Variety of Fresh Dining Concepts in 2017
Longtime restaurateur Doug Roth is excited to announce his restaurant consulting company, Playground Hospitality. With 35-plus years of restaurant concept development and operational expertise, Roth and his team are aiding food service startups and established restaurants alike in refining a notable brand concept to stand out in the crowded industry. In addition to consulting, the team is hard at work developing its own concepts to be announced later this year.