A few months back, we introduced one of our favorite pop-up restaurants, Good-to-Eat-Dumplings, to our buddies over at Pixar. Pixar is coming out with a new short film focused on dumplings, called Bao, and we thought it would be a great idea for these two companies to work together on the film’s launch. They did, and it was terrific! In fact, it was so successful that now they’re going to be working together on all press events for the movie. It’s really exciting to see how Good-to-Eat has blossomed since starting out at Forage Kitchen. They do pop-ups all over the Bay and sell out at every BatchMade Market on First Fridays.
It’s not an accident that they’re so successful.
Yesterday I was talking to Angie, one of the owners of Good-to-Eat, and I was really impressed by how methodical she and her team are. They pop up everywhere, mostly at breweries in Oakland and SF, but their focus at these events isn’t just on profit. Angie explained to me how intensely they document the experience for market research, with the end goal of identifying a future brick and mortar location.
Who comes to the events? What do they buy? Where do their customers come from? Did they just stop by, or did they travel a long way to sample their food? What was well received, what wasn't, and how can it be improved? What dish is most popular at each location? They focus on these questions and then meet as a team for hours to discuss each of these data points.
Their focus on their recipes is no less intense. Right now, they’re developing a new bao (which we’ll keep a secret for now). Instead of limiting themselves to what seems good the first time around and then serving it, they spend weeks testing the recipe, getting feedback from the other chefs in the kitchen, and they meet again to discuss how to improve it.
We in the food world too often lose this focus, and I’m no exception. I would organize an event, hope it went well, and then move on to the next one. I was intensely focused on what I wanted to create, and on making people happy, but it was always through the lens of my experience rather than an objective look at the event itself. I never took the time to step back and look at the other factors shaping my success. In my case, it was underground dinners and food markets, but the lessons still apply.
A lot of us in the food world think of what we create as our art, and often our attitude is, “If people don't like it, that's their problem.” Of course, it’s important to focus on what you want to create, rather than being vulnerable to the changing winds of opinion. If you take advice too freely, you won’t create anything unique. But I think we can learn a lot from Good-to-Eat’s mentality. They want to create something great, and they use the information around them as fuel to help them get there, rather than as a challenge to their vision. That’s definitely a lesson I could have used over the years.
Co-founder: Forage Kitchen