4 Ideas to Borrow From ‘The Bear’

Key ways to build a brand, a menu and a collaborative culture
The Bear season 2
Image: Twitter.com/TheBearFX

Creating a food-first culture is a top priority for any convenience retailer tackling foodservice—or at least it should be. As I streamed the second season of the Hulu hit series, “The Bear,” I realized the fictional story had real-life food lessons for us all about innovation, culture and teams.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of streaming the show yet, it’s the story of a young, successful Michelin-starred chef named Carmy who returns to Chicago to run his deceased brother’s Italian Beef sandwich shop. Carmy’s effort to transform the restaurant from neighborhood dive into a respected dining establishment is rooted in his quest to honor his family, friends, employees and patrons by serving great tasting food.

Here are a few things that any foodservice manager could borrow from his approach:

1. Simple With a Twist Works Every Time

In Episode 9, called the “Omelet,” Carmy’s chef partner Sydney demonstrates the delicious majesty of creating a simple omelet. The camera teases the viewer and tantalizes our taste buds as Sidney makes an uncomplicated French omelet with Boursin cheese. Her flourish at the end, one that has made it the top on-line searched recipe this summer, is she adds crushed sour cream and onion potato chips as a garnish on top. It was all you could do not to rush to the kitchen to create your own version.

We all are searching for distinctive food recipes. What is your version of a simple recipe with a twist that would make it uniquely yours?

2. Go on a Food Adventure

Episode 3 is titled “Sundae.” It’s an ode to Chicago’s culinary delights. Sydney spends a day sampling food from across the city. She is seen studiously taking notes and bringing her ideas to life in her test kitchen. Most don’t work, but the mistakes fuel new ideas.

When was the last time you spent the day on a food-exploration adventure? It’s amazing what you can create when you give yourself a moment to explore new taste profiles and approaches. Your adventure is sure to spark a new idea. You won’t know if you don’t explore!

3. Find Your Hidden Food Gem

In Episode 8, titled “Bolognese,” Carmy, in a moment of inspiration, decides to transform a traditional family recipe for cannolis from sweet to savory. It’s both surprising and mouthwatering. A crispy parmesan cheese shell is filled with meat and topped with caviar and chopped pistachios.

We all have food and beverage items on our menus that customers love. Perhaps, it’s possible to elevate it. It might be as simple as making it savory instead of sweet or perhaps even both? The ideas are endless. It’s time to find the hidden gem on your menu.

4. Family Meals Matter

The importance of family is a golden thread that runs throughout “The Bear.” Prior to daily opening, the restaurant team comes together for a family meal. This is a common custom to build a culture of camaraderie both on the show and in the real culinary world. New recipes are tried and feedback given to improve them.

Do you use your store operations team to taste test and perfect new recipes? When you launch a new menu item, do you have your office and store teams sample it and endorse it? The Bear series reminds us that serving great-tasting food is an expression of love. It’s an important lesson for us all to remember as we serve our customers.

This is just a tasting menu of ideas from “The Bear” that you can use in your business.

Polly Flinn is a former convenience retailer the founder and principal of Flinnstone Strategies. Reach her at polly@flinnstonestrategies.com.

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