Memorable Michigan

While reviewing business in central Michigan, I took some time to see what was brewing in East Grand Rapids, Michigan.  My favorite stops included these five delicious establishments; That Early Bird Cafe, D’art Donuts, VanDer Mill Cider, Donkey Taqueria and Rowster Coffee

My overall synopsis of these five “gems”… They stayed in their lane. They know who they are. They didn’t overcomplicate service, food, presentation or their environments. They all have tight menus and know their strengths. And their food was excellent, creative, impactful and memorable.

Caterers of all sizes…as you evolve and grow, remember this. Stay in your lane and stay true to your core and who you are.  Remember why you started in this business and where your team's passions and talents should be focused.

Review these photographs and open these website links below for creative inspiration. And visit Grand Rapids, Michigan the next time you are traveling the Midwest. It’s a fantastic city to explore.

That Early Bird Cafe

That Early Bird Cafe

That Early Bird Cafe
thatearlybird.com
Maple Pecan Scone. Egg Sandwich on homemade English Muffin with savory Rosemary Aioli. Homemade Biscuits and Chorizo Gravy. Order at the counter and they deliver to you. Fresh, delicious food in a comfortable casual environment.

 

 

D’art Donuts
dartsdonuts.com
The perfect donut shop to get a box “to go” after you just ate a complete breakfast across the street at That Early Bird.  Michigan Honey Glazed, Lemon Blueberry, Boston Cream and Whiskey Bacon.

D'arts Donuts

D'arts Donuts

VanDer Mill 
vandermill.com
Flights of hard cider including Nunica Pine, Ancho Mama and Ginger Peach paired with the best plates of Ham & Doughnuts and Fried Smelt & Chips. Michigan at it’s finest.

VanDer Mill

VanDer Mill

Donkey Taqueria

Donkey Taqueria

 

Donkey Taqueria
donkeygr.com
Tacos al pastor, tacos carnitas, queso con chorizo an ice cold Pacifico and Sol. Sit at the bar and order the Oaxacan Old-Fashioned

 

 

 

Rowster Coffee

Rowster Coffee

 

Rowster Coffee
rowstercoffee.com
An absolutely perfect double espresso with sparkling water side and crafted cappuccino were served up to the bar counter with two croissants. Simple and delicious.

It’s Time to Get Back to School … Sales School!

fulton_market_consulting_sales_strategies.jpg

Ah, as an original Upstate New Yorker, there was nothing like this time of year. Crisp autumn mornings. Gorgeous yellows, reds and changing greens of leaves. Apple cider and cinnamon donuts. Football. Jeans and sweaters. Going back to school. Living in the Midwest now, I still get this fabulous change of seasons and September is still my favorite month of the year. I LOVE THE FALL!

There is something else I always loved about this season … it was also that time of year when I would sit with my sales stars to develop next year’s goals, individual sales strategies and plan for the upcoming year. It was that time to recollect on the year thus far, look at what worked, what didn’t work so well and focus on what was ahead. It was mentally “back to school” time to buckle down, strategize and get their individual plans together. As their sales leader, I then collected all the individual plans to develop a company wide annual revenue goal with overall strategic plan. Why did I start this process now? I wanted it to be methodical, well-thought out and “massaged” so the final result would be completed and buttoned up by mid-November. Once the holidays hit, we were all too busy to focus on anything strategic and then boom, it’s the new year.

This strategic goal development process is a daunting task if you have never tackled it before. However, it is imperative for sales and executive leadership to encourage this as they grow their organizations, now. SALESPEOPLE WANT GOALS. They want to be successful, accountable and have defined expectations. The easiest way to start measuring tangible success is writing down an agreed upon achievable numeric goal. This is the first and initial step toward individual sales success that in turn results in team success.

Get your team back to school now. Do not wait until the new year begins. That’s kind of like being the last person in the lunch line.

Front of House AND Back of House—not versus!

fulton_market_consulting_front_house_back_house.jpg

There is always a silly assumption in the catering business that the front of house and back of house does not get along.

“The sales team does not know how to sell food!”

“The culinary team never understands what the client wants!”

The list could go on and on. Get over it, caterers! You are missing out on the best, most collaborative internal business development relationship that I can guarantee will increase your sales, enhance your client partnerships, and improve team morale if you realize the culinary team can and should be an active and collaborative participant in your daily sales processes.

Encourage your sales consultants and chefs to tackle a few of these team initiatives together and see what happens:

 

Food is beautiful!

Tastings

This is imperative. START THIS TODAY. Food is cool. Food is trendy. Food is sexy. Your chef is the most exciting person for a client to see in the tasting room. This is their stage. Let the culinary team be the lead performers. Sales consultants should absolutely assist in best supporting roles. Please—no excuses that chefs are not “customer friendly.” This is not acceptable; arm the culinary team with client information, event and venue data, and then also provide communication and customer skill relations training if necessary. Lastly, have the culinary team sit in a tasting as a guest to “feel” the experience to understand the client and sales perspective.

 

Sales training educational sessions

Encourage hands-on training and educational sessions so sales consultants can better understand the products they are selling. Invite outside industry experts to your office to conduct training sessions—including your local farmers, wine producers, produce vendors, meat purveyors, and fish and seafood suppliers—anyone that can explain their products directly from the source. Knowledge is power and clients will buy from a salesperson that is confident in the product they are selling.

 

New product roll-outs with invited clients

Invite a select group of inspirational clients into the kitchen for a “casual” new product roll out. The environment should be as comfortable as if you are inviting them to your home.  Provide feedback forms, keep the roll-out to a structured time frame, and print tasting menus. Have service staff available and offer creative alcohol-free beverages. Taste a broad selection of menu items, show the products on new equipment, and create an environment for these trusted clients while asking them in return for valuable, honest feedback. It is very important that you curate an appropriate list of clients and keep the list small so this feels intimate and special.

 

Daily photo shoots

Create a photo lab in the kitchen. Keep a camera set up at all times and establish a process of photo share with the sales team that is manageable and timely. This will encourage the sales team to expand the portfolio of products they sell as they see more options coming from the kitchen and what other salespeople are selling and showing. Make sure the photos are client appropriate and visually appealing so you can use these for your social media initiatives as well.

 

Production meetings

Chefs and salespeople sit in hours and hours of production meetings. Rethink your meeting structure. Is it collaborative and forward thinking, or is the team spending hours over what happened in the previous week? Evaluate your existing communication systems and processes and the “meetings have always been done this way” mentality and start looking at the cost and time of these lengthy meetings.

 

Sales meetings

Invite the culinary team to every sales meeting and give them 15 minutes to share new ideas, implement changes, and be creative.

 

Dining budget

Give your culinary and sales team a monthly budget to explore hot, new restaurants in your city… together. Not only does it give the team a creative boost, but it also develops the relationship among your players and inspires new ideas and fun.

On, Wisconsin!

Mom and Dad were visiting for two weeks and we decided to escape Chicago and all the crowds of Lollapalooza invading my neighborhood.   In their young 75 years, they had yet to visit the wondrous land to our “North”.  The Badger State. America’s Dairyland. Cheese. Beer. Cherries. Supper Clubs. What else would we find? Here we come Wisconsin!

 

Mars Cheese Castle

How do you drive to Milwaukee without showing Mom and Dad where we would be stopping for “must haves” on the way home? We had to make plans and strategize what we would be buying on the return trip. Quick run through for the “lay of the land”. 

Mars Cheese Castle

Mars Cheese Castle

Sobelman's Baconado

Sobelman's Baconado

Sobelman’s, Milwaukee

Second Stop. The original Sobelman’s on St. Paul Avenue. Cheese Curds, Bloody Marys and The Sobelman. In that order. I really wanted to order “The Beast”. Or have someone around me order it. (Look at the menu online. Trust me.). But I was a wimp. Only had the Baconado and it was delightful.

 

 

The Iron Horse

The Iron Horse

The Iron Horse, MIlwaukee

Should have been ready for a nap. But there was a Blues band jamming in “The Yard” at the fabulous Iron Horse Hotel. Handed the valet our keys, ordered a couple of local craft drafts and listened to an hour of afternoon blues while the sun was shining. Stay here. 

 

Fixture Pizza

Fixture Pizza

 

 

Fixture Pizza, Milwaukee, Walker’s Point

Cheese on the bottom. Sauce on the top. Thin Crust. Paso Robles Cabernet. Chopped Salad. 

Walking Distance from the Iron Horse. Go.

 

 

 

Fuel Cafe

Fuel Cafe

 

Fuel Cafe, Milwaukee, Walker’s Point

Avocado Toast. Cappuccino. Went light. :)

 

 

 

Harley-Davidson Museum

Harley-Davidson Museum

 

 

Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee

Took an afternoon stroll next door to the Iron Horse to the Harley Davidson Museum.  Beautiful walking paths and lots of metal!

 

 

 

St Paul's Fish Company

St Paul's Fish Company

 

 

St Paul’s Fish Company, Oyster Bar, Third Ward, Milwaukee

My “Every Time I Go To Milwaukee” Stop. Oysters.  Fried Clam Strips. Steamed Shrimp in Old Bay Broth. Lobster Bisque. Ice Cold Beer.

 

 

 

 

Colectivo Coffee

Colectivo Coffee

 

Colectivo Coffee, Third Ward, Milwaukee

Stopped at the Foundry Cafe for a cappuccino for the drive to Door County.

 

 

 

 

 

Lambeau Field

Lambeau Field

 

Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Grandpa (Mom’s Dad) was a College Football Coach, Scout for the NFL and friend of Vince Lombardi. Had to pay our respect to the Motherland.

 

 

 

Chanticleer Guest House

Chanticleer Guest House

Chanticleer Guest House, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Fabulous B&B outside of Sturgeon Bay. A converted farmhouse and barn set amongst the orchards in Door County. Cherry-stuffed French toast. Bananas and strawberries with fresh Cream. Vegetable and cheesy-egg frittata delivered to my door in a sweet linen-lined basket with coffee and orange juice. Freshly baked cookies in the barn "lobby". Thank goodness for the bowl of apples and bananas. I felt like I was being "healthy". This B&B is a total gem.

 

Wood Orchard Farm Market

Wood Orchard Farm Market

 

 

Wood Orchard Farm Market, Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Cherry Strudel. Cherry Donuts. Cherry Pie. Cherry Fudge. Cherry Salsa. Sweet Cherries. Sour Cherries.

 

 

Sweetie Pies

Sweetie Pies

 

Sweetie Pies, Fish Creek, Wisconsin

The sweetest, most adorable pie shop ever. Peach Raspberry Pie. 

 

 

 

fulton_market_consulting_al_johnsons

 

 

Al Johnson’s, Sister Bay, Wisconsin

We didn’t eat here. But I had to see the goats on the roof. They were amazing. They just stared at Green Bay. We stared at the goats. My dad thought they were animatronic. We debated that for about a half hour until one started chewing his cud and gave us a nod.

 

 

 

Door 44 Winery

Door 44 Winery

 

Door 44 Winery, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Tasted bubbles, whites and reds all from Door County — situated on 44° North Latitude.  This latitude includes the great wine regions of Bordeaux, France and Tuscany.   Our favorite was the “Sparkler”.

 

 

 

Nightingale Supper Club, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

We had to try at least one supper club. Why did we not go to more?  Prime Rib, Baked Potato. Side Salad with Crumbled Blue Cheese. Mom and Dad had the Wednesday Night Special — Half Slab of Ribs with Broasted Chicken.  And of course we saved room for dessert.  Cherry Pie :)

Nightingale Supper Club

Nightingale Supper Club

Mars Cheese Castle - Part Deux

Applejack Cheese. Port Wine Cheese. Various Mustards. Cheese Curds. Kringle. Kolacky. We drove across the border back into the Prairie State and the Land of Lincoln.

I have shared this trip with lots of friends and I know, I missed a lot of "must sees". I need to stay and brunch at the White Gull Inn. How could I miss Donny's Glidden Lodge for their Prime Rib? I need to take the ferry over to Washington Island. And we didn't even head over to New Glarus for a Spotted Cow. Madison for a game, an Old-Fashioned and the Saturday's Farmer's Market. Mount Horeb to see the Trolls. The new "tech" scene in Beloit.  We are already planning our next road trip when Mom and Dad visit next summer.  We know we only scratched the surface of the great edible and liquid finds of the great state to our North. On, Wisconsin!

 

The “Very Early” Years

I am honored to be writing for Jennifer’s inaugural guest blog.  I am the “big sis” and could not be prouder of how Jennifer has paved her own pathway to success in the hospitality world.

Keany age 6

Keany age 6


First, though—I do not call her Jennifer, Jen, Perna—anything even related to her birth certificate.  She’s “Keany” to me.  She would prance around in little colorful bikinis as a young girl and “Keany-bikini” stuck.  I dropped the bikini part, but she is still Keany.

Second—her hospitality career.  It started way before what you can read on this great website.  Let’s go back to the mid-70’s, when she was about 6 years old.  Many weekends throughout the year, she would be the first one awake, and she would head to the kitchen.  We would be upstairs hearing cupboards, drawers, the refrigerator opening, and she would be busy.  She would call us down to dine at “Jennifer’s Place”.  She had a menu all written up.  Just one—so we would have to pass it around.  She even had a logo under the “Jennifer’s Place” part—it was a steaming hot bowl of something—probably oatmeal—with a spoon in the bowl and four puffs of steam.  Listed were the items available for breakfast.  Cereal 50₡, toast 25₡, butter or jam was an extra 5₡, juice 25₡, etc.  We would sit at the table and place our order—yes, she worked as server too—then she would go back to the kitchen.  Orders were prepared, one at a time, until everyone was served.


We ate and that was it.  Her service was over—guests were responsible for clearing their own dishes and cleaning up!  She was six—she was not doing everything.

So in summary—food, presentation and serving her guests has been her passion since well before her formal education and career began.  My best to Keany and to all those she serves—Jill McPhee

Mexico City. Wow.

Mexico City

“Are you going to Mexico AGAIN? Yes I am …but not the beach this time." I had this conversation four different times while scheduling appointments, consultations and dinners prior to traveling for a long weekend last month. 

With no plans for an upcoming weekend, a fabulous, spontaneous friend who explores a new city like the best of ‘em and four free days and nights with nothing on the calendar… fabulous friend and I got on a Monday night call with MacBooks on our laps to pick our destination for that coming Friday departure. 

The rules were:

  • City that neither of us have been before
  • Direct flight (me Chicago; she SLC)
  • Something culturally significant
  • Good weather
  • Great food and wine
  • Nice hotel
  • No rental car allowed

And the winner was? Mexico City.

Four Seasons Mexico City

Four Seasons Mexico City

What a trip. It was beyond a winner. It blew us both away. As a lifelong lover and appreciator of travel, design, cultural wonders, arts, outdoor markets and craftsmanship, stylized, creative cuisine as well as simple, good food, warm and welcoming service, great regional wine and beers and most importantly meeting wonderful people, I don’t think we could have found a more perfect city. Mexico City. Wow.

After arriving, dropping our bags at the Four Seasons Mexico City, D.F. and grabbing our walking map, we set off for the most famous restaurant of all, Pujol. We knew we wouldn’t get in but hey, maybe we could try to see if there was a chance to snag a spot sometime over the weekend (there’s a two month advance reservation and the hotel concierge tried although he knew it was a hopeless cause). Well, you don’t know if you don’t try in person and within three hours of landing we unexpectedly scored two available seats for the omakase taco and beverage menu tasting. Wow. Upon our first course,  we both decided that this was only our first visit to Mexico City. This was going to be a trip to explore it’s neighborhoods and eat, eat and eat. Next time we would visit the pyramids, museums and do all the stuff we were supposed to do. 

Everything we saw, heard, touched and tasted was just one awe-inspiring experience after another.   We logged over seven miles a day on our phone trackers from just walking and exploring the neighborhoods. Thank goodness because we ate, ate and ate in all of them. Condesa. Polanco. Juarez. El Centro. Roma. Zone Rosa. Only one uber to San Angel for the Saturday Market.  And that was worth the ride!

These are some of the culinary and liquid highlights:

Corn dog from Pujol

Corn dog from Pujol

Pujol

From the 12-course omakase taco tasting paired with custom "local" drinks. incredible.

Three I loved:

Corn dog with chipotle aioli flecked with ant ash paired with tamarind mezcal margarita

Tortilla with pressed green leaf, amberjack, jicama, greens from their garden, lime paired with Bocanegra Pilsner 

Blue corn tortilla with roasted lamb, squash blossom, avocado purée, watercress paired with Grapho Cabernet Sauvignon/Barbera/Nebbiolo, Baja California


San Angel Market and Saks

Mezcal tasting bar

Guacamole topped with grilled cebola, grilled Oaxacan cheese and grilled cactus with homemade tortilla chips (of course)

San Angel Market

San Angel Market


Gelatoscopio

Gelatoscopio

Il Becco (yes, I always crave Italian)

Lobster, burrata and white asparagus salad

Seafood risotto atop shrimp and whitefish carpaccio, topped with clams, shrimp and mussels

 

Gelatoscopio

Green tea gelato with caramel popcorn

Green apple sorbet with apple gelee

 

 


Fonda Fina

Fonda Fina

Fonda Fina

This is the “bistro” of the chef from Quintonil. We didn’t get in Quintonil- saving that for next time.  But Fonda Fina …. Wow.

"Drowned Taco" of pork carnitas & black beans

Arrachera with fried pot beans


Adios!

Adios!

Book a flight and go. And email me if you want recommendations.  Here is my first one- make a reservation at Pujol two months before you leave.  Who knows. I may be there again right alongside you at the omakase bar.  Adios!

Inspiration is easy ...

It was so easy developing my company name Fulton Market Consulting. I have lived on "Fulton Market Street" for nearly 20 years in Chicago. So when it came time to think about naming my company, it truly was a no-brainer. My daily life is set within a hospitality wonderland in Chicago’s hottest neighborhood. To actually work, breathe and exist in this environment inspires me when I step out on my porch each morning … and how fortunate am I that I can share this inspiration when it comes to encouraging growth and change as a consultant in the hospitality industry.

Every day I smell freshly baked breads coming out of the ovens across the street, homemade chocolate and cocoa being manufactured a block away and strong coffee roasted and brewed around the corner.  I am watching one hundred-year-old brick buildings being converted into restaurants, bakeries, hotels and boutiques by creative designers, artisans, chefs, architects and builders.  All of this is happening while the "el" zips by and this magnificent skyline continues to grow with gorgeous new buildings and the Chicago River flows just a short block away.


So ... as you can see, I love my street, I love my neighborhood and I love my city.  Here’s hoping I can share this growth and inspiration that surrounds me when I come to visit you.