The restaurant industry is in a crisis as customers, most especially moms and the millennial generation, question the source and impact of its products. The industry’s core revenue growth strategy of serving fast foods promoted through dollar menu pricing is now linked to the national obesity epidemic. Moms are increasingly viewing sodas and french fries, the profit margin champions of fast food, as a health threat to their loved ones.
The millennial generation is also shifting away from cheap fast food. The proven path to successfully selling the millennial generation is to be “cool with a purpose.” The fats, sugars, salts and chemicals contained in fast food and sodas are definitely not cool to this generation. And beyond a cheap meal, they question how the restaurant chains provide solutions to their concerns about community, the environment and their future.
Libby Auld: Successful entrepreneur pioneering the meaningful restaurant
Libby Auld, owner of Elote and The Vault restaurants in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is an example of a new generation of restaurants emerging across the U.S. These restauranteurs grow revenues by developing a meaningful connection with customers based on affordability, authenticity and purpose.
For example, Libby’s first restaurant, Elote, is packed with grandmothers, moms and children. Grandmothers and mothers bring their loved ones to Elote because at the heart of the restaurant’s menu is a concern for wellness achieved through serving fresh, locally sourced and sustainably produced food. Elote is also a fun place to dine with its often humorous decor built around Lucha libre wrestling (hardly a design that you would expect to attract women, but Libby has done a great job of smoothing over the machismo while capturing the sport’s vibrant colors and artistic masks). Elote’s core attraction is that the food tastes great and is affordable.
For Tulsa’s millennial generation, Elote is cool with a purpose. The restaurant’s bar is a prime social gathering point. Libby also epitomizes the millennial generation’s vision of entrepreneurship by being both a business success and a leader in making a difference. As President of the Deco District, she is spearheading the repurposing of Tulsa’s beautiful, but often vacant, downtown buildings into a social hub and commercial center. Tulsa’s millennials align with her goal of creating an urban social/economic hub just as cool and engaging as the more well-recognized millennial generation hubs in San Francisco or New York City.
Libby is also pioneering a sustainable best practice of farm-to-fork-to-farm in collaboration with Newsome Community Farms. Newsome Community Farms is owned and operated by Rufus and Demalda Newsome, who work within their community to help churches, schools and local citizens start their own backyard gardens as an alternative to food stamps and to enrich their diets with healthy, naturally grown foods. As entrepreneurs, they have a successful business selling some of Tulsa’s tastiest and freshest produce. Libby and the Newsomes have developed a sustainable farm-to-fork-to-farm system where Libby buys their produce and then returns any waste for composting that supports the growth of the next round of produce she then buys from the Newsome Community Farm.
This sustainable farm-to-fork-to-farm cycle hits a home run with the millennial generation on many issues, including the growing of local foods, supporting the community outreach by the Newsomes and the recycling of food waste. This sustainable best practice is also a smart business practice that strengthens key supply chain relationships, enriches brand identity with customers and provides meaningful motivation for work associates to execute food waste composting activities. Libby reports that it reduces operating costs by cutting pest control costs through eliminating the food waste that attracts pests.
Video interview with Libby Auld
This exclusive video interview with Libby Auld profiles more details on her best practices for designing and running a restaurant that wins customers through meaningfulness:
Bill Roth is an economist and the Founder of Earth 2017. He coaches business owners and leaders on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles business case studies of pioneering best practices that are proven to win customers and grow product revenues. Follow him on Twitter: @earth2017