The Future of Restaurants

The Future of Restaurants

Check out the latest episode below. Mr.Biz Radio provides business owners with the knowledge and insights needed to drive their companies forward.

Mr. Biz Radio: The Future of Restaurants

Unedited transcription of the show is included below:


Welcome to Mr. Biz radio BizTalk for biz owners during the next half hour, Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth, a leading business adviser, and two time bestselling author we'll cover topics that will help business owners run their companies more profitably and more efficiently. If you're ready to stop faking the funk and take your business onward and upward, this show is for you. And now here's Mr. Biz Ken Wentworth.


All right. Welcome to another episode of Mr. Biz radio with me, Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth. And we have a treat for you this week, and I know I try not to overuse that, but I say treat in, in quotation marks. So there, there is a pun involved with that to some extent. So our guests this week is the, I'm sure you guys will be at least familiar with part of his resume. He is the creator of a little show that you may have seen one or a hundred episodes of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”. For those of you based in Columbus, Ohio, where a Producer Alan and I are they've been here a few times. And so and I w my wife, no lie. It is one of her favorite shows. My wife is obsessed with Mrs. Biz watches, either food shows.


So “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”, Triple D as Guy Fieri says she watches that she watches another. Is it beating Bobby Flay? I think. And then there's, there's one other one Guy's Grocery Games or something like that, those three, or like a murder mystery, 20/20, Dateline kind of thing. If the TV's on, she's watching one of those types of shows. So that being said, and also by the way, our guest is the author of his most recent book is called “Food Americana”. That's why I said you have a treat in quotes, pun intended and our guest this week is Mr. David Page. David, welcome to Mr. Biz radio.


Thanks for having me. I've just been sitting here, faking the funk.


Well, don't do that. We don't allow faking


The font day. Okay. No, no, no fake funk. It's still, it's still a joy to be here. Thank you. I appreciate


That. So gosh, I don't even know where to get started here. I guess let's, let's start with let's start with sort of your journey, right? So you, you went from a couple of decades as a, as a TV journalist then obviously moved to, into food television, and now you're writing books. So, so walk us through that journey if you will.


Well, it's all journalism, it's all, it's all storytelling. And I've been in TV mostly for the better part of half a century. And, and in that part of journalism, you're, you're known as whatever you were last, I've been an investigative journalist. I've, I've been a lifestyle journalist. I've been a foreign journalist. I spent much of my career overseas during some of the most important events of the 20th century. I walked through the Berlin wall, the night that it opened it's all the same path, but along the way, the, the kind of journalism you're focusing on changes depending upon any number of factors. And, and often it changes simply because of luck or, or happenstance. I ended up as a food journalist because that's the path that, that opened to me when, when I needed something to do after decades as a pretty straight news journalist, which had included a number of years overseas, then a number of years, as a show producer at both NBC news and ABC news, I went out on my own opened my own production company, which really is shorthand for decided not to have any regular income stream.


And that basically turned into no regular income stream pretty quickly. And I was looking around for a way to feed my family. And I called a friend of mine who in addition to his network job had opened a production company of his own. That was Al Roker. When I ran the weekend today show and Al was not yet on the main show. He worked for me. So I called him up and said, Hey, I opened a production company. He said, how's it going? I said, lousy, I'm starving, only work. And he said, as a matter of fact, I'm doing a fair amount of work for the food network. Would you like to take some of it on? So I said, sure. And, and it was with that completely accidentally momentous decision that I became a food journalist. I did a number of things for Al and then attempted to move on to doing business directly with the network myself, which was a resounding failure.


I would continue to call a particularly kind executive at the network and say, Hey, here's an idea. And she would say, no, thank you. And I'd call and she'd take the call and say, no, thank you finally, on, you know what, must've been my 500th call. She said to me, don't, don't you have anything else about diners? I had done a documentary on diners for Al and I said, oh yeah, I'm developing a show called diners drive-ins and dives. And she said, well, that sounds interesting. Have a write-up on my desk Monday, we have a development meeting Tuesday. This was either late Thursday or late Friday. I put the phone down and I on the one hand was ecstatic because they were finally interested in something. On the other hand, I did not have a show called “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” that I was developing.


I had just pulled the name out of either thin air or a body part, depending upon how scatological you want the story to be. And I had basically two or three days to come up with that show. I back in those days, there was this thing called the telephone that you used to use to actually speak to other people. So I used that thing called the telephone, and I made a bunch of calls around the country, and I wrote up a proposal for a one hour special delivered it on Monday and shortly thereafter, they, they picked up a one hour show for,


And then from there, right? Obviously it went well. Yeah, no,


It was, again, television's a funny business because William Goldman, one of the greatest screenwriters in film history has had a rule in one of his books. Goldman's rule of Hollywood was no one knows anything. The, the reason this became a success was because no one knows anything. What happened was the network had been hoping to use this to keep guys face in front of the public while they had a major production company come up with a one hour I'm sorry, a, a prime time regular series for him that that could run every week. Unfortunately for them, when they got the proposals from the big boy companies, they didn't like him. And the only thing they had kicking around was this diners thing. So a warning me that they did not think the show would have legs, that there were not that many places in America that would qualify. They picked it up for a short first season. I did the first 11 seasons it's in the season, 30 something. Now I think it's fair to call it the most successful show in Food Network history. So I'm, I'm glad nobody knew anything.


Well, no kidding. I mean, but you know what though, here's what I, I hear from throughout your, your story, your journey, David is it's, it's something we hear often with our guests in their entrepreneurial journey, even though yours wasn't, you know, start a business here, start a business there, you had many of the same challenges slash trappings. If you will, of many people who start their own business, right. You struck out on your own. Had some successes, had some failures along the way, had plenty of failures. It sounds like. And just like we all do. And so I think, you know, it's, it's an interesting spin on an entrepreneurial journey. That's, you know, kind of a different path than we usually hear. So I think it's it's pretty fascinating.

So again, this week we've been talking with Mr. David Page, he was the creator of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”, and the author of a book called “Food Americana”, which you can find on Amazon. And I got my own copy of it about a week ago. I'll be honest. I haven't read the entire thing, but I did skim through it as I was doing some prep work for the show. It's an very interesting thing, not just because Mrs. Biz likes all the food shows, but it's a very interesting read. I would definitely encourage you to go check that out again. “Food Americana” on Amazon, we're going to hit a break here, come back and give the Mr. Biz Tip of the week on Mr. Biz radio


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All right. Welcome back to the show and it's time for the Mr. Biz tip of the week. And this week's tip is short and simple. No one shrinks their way to financial success. And this goes in a lot of different angles from a lot of different angles. I should say anyone who's thinking that, you know, especially with COVID and a lot of businesses were hit pretty hard by that struggling. You know, I encourage a lot of my clients and thankfully we were able to have a lot of success. My clients all made it through some of them had even record years during COVID last year and, and in our position and having record years on pace to have a record year again this year. So the net messages, you know, you really have to think hard about when you, when you're pulling back the reins.


I know sometimes it's absolutely necessary, but you, as we've talked about on the show, many times, be careful about where you pull back the reins. You don't want to choke off the pipeline that you have in development, where would that be sales future opportunities, et cetera. So you have to be very careful. A lot of people just really kind of crawl into the fetal position and pull back the reins and, and that ends up being a very detrimental thing in the, in the past.

And then by the same token when things are going well, sorry about that. I'm getting tongue tied here and get so excited about this when things are going well, you really have to put not just one foot, but two feet on the gas pedal really, really push it, take advantage of those times when things are robust, continue to grow your business. Because again, no one shrinks their way to financial success. So that is Mr. Biz tip of the week.

And let's get back into talking to Mr. David Page. I know we left off talking about you know, your journey through all facets of journalism as it was and creating “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”. And so I guess I can't let you, we can't fall off of that topic without you got to give us at least one kind of funny behind the scenes, triple D a story for us David.


Oh, sure. Right. right from the start I didn't know, Guy he was given to me by the network having won their food network star contest. And when I, when I first saw them, you know, I was expecting a TV food host, and what I got was a spiky haired, overgrown child in short pants. And that's what I thought I got now, once I got into the field with him and we started shooting the pilot, I realized he was a very special talent, but that, that followed my initial feeling, being screwed. Nonetheless, we went on the road and Guy very much is a product of the west coast. As in, he really didn't know what an east coast diner per se was when we started that the west coast equivalent might've been a coffee shop, but, but this whole east coast diner thing, and he's a quick study, he picked it up in about 10 seconds, but, but it, it was a revelation.


And as we began shooting the pilot, we went to a place in New Jersey across from a petroleum refinery in Linden, New Jersey, the bay way, diner that was as caricature toured a diner and a New Jersey event, as you could get. And we had guy behind the counter and he was interacting with customers and calling up orders and making some jokes that no one was laughing at because they were about the mafia. And I finally asked a pull Guy out from behind the counter, walk outside with him and put my arm around him and say, Guy, you know, all those jokes you're making, they, ain't funny here. The guy at the end of the counter is actually packing. So why don't we turn in a different direction? And that was Guy's first introduction to the New Jersey diner.


Wow. Yeah, I can see, I mean, you could, you could tell I'm sure. Especially early on when he was really trying to get his, his feet established in the industry and he's probably trying really hard to be funny. And so I, I mean, I that's, that's a good one. I appreciate that. And I can absolutely see that with his personality, how that come across and you know how he's probably thinking, gosh, these are funny jokes. People


On the west coast laugh about this. I live in Jersey. I know Jersey don't do that in Jersey.


Yeah. So guess let's transition a little bit, David, what, what led you? So we talked about your journey and everything. And now I mentioned that you're the author of your most recent book, “Food Americana”. What, what drove you to wrote that book? Write that book years


Of thinking about writing a book among other things, most TV producers, people don't realize PR writing for television is a unique kind of writing than on the one hand is very fulfilling. On the other hand can drive you crazy for the following reason. When you write for nonfiction narrative television, you're basically looking for your words to do as little damage as possible as they quietly and surreptitiously slide the viewer from one event occurring in picture and sound to the next event occurring in picture and sound. You are writing to maximize the viewers grabbing on to embracing an event in which he or she can be enveloped. You don't get to sit down and write. It was a dark and stormy night, and then Oedipus killed his father. There's no direct storytelling if you're doing it well. And on the one hand I'm very proud of, of the specific skills it takes to make television and the degree to which there's a kind of filmmaking involved.


On the other hand, anyone who's written for television for a long time, deep inside them wants to just sit down one day at a keyboard and say, here's my story. And write it. Secondarily, you have a freedom in writing without pictures and sounds that you don't have when you're making television in terms of how deep into detail you can go, whether there is something that needs to be repeated for the viewer. You can repeat it. Or frankly, you can assume that the viewer will get to the end of the sentence and say, I want to read that again. It's a completely different kind of journalism with words. And after years of thinking about it and after stockpiling a whole lot of facts, and even more than that impressions worth retelling, I looked at myself one day and said, well, I'm not getting any younger. Let's write that book.


Yeah. I think that's where a lot of people get to at some point. I know I never had a plan of writing a book and I've written a couple now. And yeah, you know, you bring up a great point though, David, I never really thought about the dichotomy between the two and that, you know, to your point with writing for television, you've got, you know, you have the pictures to do a lot of the speaking for you and with a of it also


Can constrain what can you can then speak about? Sure. Yeah. If I can't show it to you, I can't discuss it.


Right. Yeah. Yeah. So it would be, oh my gosh. I never even really thought about that. That would be, especially from myself again, I've only written two books, but I can't even imagine trying to write for television based on that, because I guess I'm so used to the other way. So the fact that you were able to successfully make that transition from writing for television to writing a book is a, is pretty, pretty monumental. So congrats on that. Thank


You. I think the one that I think it's easier in that direction than the other, because in, in writing a book, basically you end up describing what you're used to describing through picture and sound. So you're still telling that same story. You're just getting the teller.


Yeah. Yeah. Makes sense. Makes sense. Well, again, this week we're talking to Mr. David Page, we're going to hit a break and we're going to dive into some more talking about the future of restaurants, the most popular style of pizza, stay tuned. Are


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To submit questions to the show, email them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Now once again, here's Mr. Biz.


All Right. Welcome back to the show. And I do want to mention, once again, you can find out more about David's David's most recent book here, “Food Americana”, on Amazon again. I would suggest you go out, especially man, if you like watching any of these food shows, I promise you will love the book. My, I was just recently, me and Mrs. Biz were on a little bit of business/vacation down in Florida. And I, I took the book with me in anticipation of interviewing David and she saw that I had it in my, my wife is not a reader whatsoever, but she picked it up one day when I had business, almost all I got back. And she had made it like a quarter of the way through the book. She said, this is a really good, I'm like, oh my gosh. I said, if it got you to read, that's like a miracle.

So, so David, I do want to, I do want to say you definitely captured her interest and she still has the book as a matter of fact with her and she's been chipping away. And again, my wife never reads, she is not a reader whatsoever. So I think her love of food television and the quality of your book speaks for itself. So


I will gladly accept the Mrs. Biz seal of approval at any time. Yes.


She, she definitely approves of it. So look, there was a lot of changes, obviously that happened in the food industry specifically with restaurants when COVID hit a lot of changes, a lot of pivoting, a lot of adapting and things like that. So, you know, how do you see that, David? What w what do you see as the future of restaurants?


I see changes that were forced on the industry because of COVID becoming a standard part of the restaurant experience. Specifically the number of meals eaten in restaurants versus the number of meals taken away delivered or picked up curbside is going to remain depressed from pre COVID. The concept of delivery. The concept of takeaway, the concept of not eating at the restaurant is going to be with us relatively permanently, not at the level it was during the height of the COVID pandemic. What it will remain elevated in the industry is in fact, reacting to that, by adding drive-throughs to restaurants that never had them by creating drive through only versions of certain restaurants, there's a hot dog train in Chicago called Portillos that has just unveiled a takeout, only three lane drive through concept.

That's going to be with us for quite a while. I also think, and I'm not sure this is such a good idea, the ghost kitchen, which entirely does a way with a brick and mortar restaurant and replaces it with a virtual brand that is only deliverable, not even able to be picked up anywhere. I think you're going to see a continuing increase in that. It had started to some extent before COVID, it's bad news for anyone well, virtually anyone who works in the restaurant business, because it does away with a tremendous transfer of personnel and puts a whole bunch of kitchens for different concepts in the same place, thus maximizing efficiency. But again, reducing the number of people actually employed in the restaurant business. I don't think that's a good thing personally, but I think it's, it's inevitably here.


Yeah, I agree. So I guess, excuse me, I guess along those fronts you know, I had been thinking about this as well, because I worked with some, some restaurants and some some food industry, I guess businesses. What are your thoughts on, how would the impact beyond more upscale restaurants? The, the, the, not necessarily Michelin star rated restaurants, not high level, but not, not your middle of the road type restaurants either, but the more expensive plates do you think there'll be impacted in the same way, or do you think there'll have a little bit more staying power?


No, I think, well, it depends on what level you're talking about at the very highest level, something obscene that was just reported, which is that per se and Masa two of the, I think five Michelin, three star restaurants in New York city have just upped their top price for their tasting menu to 800 bucks because the richest of the rich are going to come out of the pandemic where they made a whole lot of money reminding us that they're, super-duper wonderful and they can afford things. We cannot personally, while I have paid a lot of money for a meal, the concept of charging me 800 bucks to eat sushi at Masa is virtually criminal below that level. I think the upper end restaurant for people who are willing to spend more than a hundred dollars a person is going to be fine, because again, and this gets into personal opinions of the American social structure.


At the moment, you can't lose money betting that people with money want to show off the fact that they have money. Absolutely. So I think that level of restaurant is, is, is going to be fine. I think the real damage has been done to the most important restaurants in our country. The mom and pops were individual people, making minimal margin are pouring their, their hearts and souls into what really is the hospitality industry, making people good food that makes them happy. And the restaurants that have disappeared during the pandemic never to return, I am guessing are to a great extent, mom and pops. They had no to survive downtimes the way chain restaurants did. And I think historically anthropologically, we're going to look back on this period in time in 20 or 30 years as a terrible, terrible era in the history of American cuisine.


Yeah, I would concur. I, it's funny, you mentioned all that because you know, I, I did a video on this recently as well about the impact on restaurants and literally you and I are absolutely in lockstep sync. So I feel much better now because you're, you're, you're, you're an expert in the industry. I'm, I'm just a business guy. So the fact that we are our opinions on how things are shaking out and how it will impact over the longer term we're we're in lockstep. So I feel good about my opinion on that. So we've only got a couple of minutes left here, but I did mention, I did want to mention again, you hear this debate all the time. Depends what part of the United States you're in or even what part of the world you're in, but the most popular style of pizza and your expert opinion and, and your experience, what is the most popular style pizza David?


Well, this is going to bore the hell out of you. It's cheese pizza. I mean your basic kind of generic American almost delivery style, crust cheese pizza is always going to be number one. And pepperoni's always going to be number two, the one I'm glad to see hanging in there. I mean, I'm looking at one particular online list that, that, that then goes to meat lovers and veggie. And at number six, they list what really is very classic pizza that started at all in America, which is margarita, which is pizza Napolitano. And unfortunately, Lee, I hate to say this or for some of you, I guess you like it, number 10 on the list. Is that Hawaiian pizza with pineapple? Yes. People get very passionate about that. Yes. It should be a crime.


I agree. I love pineapple and I love pizza, but I do not like pineapple on pizza. I'm I'm with you for sure. On that.


Yeah. You're right.


Well, David look as always time flies by so quickly. So I again, we've been talking to this week with David Page, who's the creator of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and the author of “Food Americana”, which you can find on Amazon. David, thank you so much for being a guest on the show. It was a, it was a pleasure having you,


Ken. It was a real pleasure on my part. Thank you. Absolutely.


Absolutely. Well guys, thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed the show. I'm sure you did have a great week and don't forget as always cash flow is king.


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