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In the latest episode of Hospitality Hangout, Michael Schatzberg “The Restaurant Guy” and Jimmy Frischling “The Finance Guy” chat with Meredith Sandland and Carl Orsbourn, Authors of Delivering the Digital Restaurant: Your Roadmap to the Future of Food, to discuss their new book, ghost kitchens and how to win at off-premise.

Sandland talks about her background in the industry. She shares that she has spent over 10 years in the space, initially at Taco Bell, where she worked on brand turnaround, and then in real estate development. As she continued to scale the brand and opened locations in more expensive markets that had deliveries accounting for 40% of sales, she thought to herself, “It would be so awesome if there was just a commissary that we could deliver tacos out of.” Her forward thinking became a reality a few years later with the launch of ghost kitchens. Sandland connected with and joined the team at Kitchen United. She says, “They were making the thing, that I, as the customer, the Chief Development Officer of a big national chain, wished existed, and so I went and joined them.” She teases that this part of her story intersects with that of her co-author, Carl Orsbourn.

Orsbourn, who held a senior level position at a major convenience retail leader, where he was accountable for $1.3 billion in sales of all in-store products, shares that during his experience in that role, he started to see a change in dynamics of food, and the way in which customers were becoming increasingly more demanding about convenience and better foods. He talks about his interest in getting involved in the start-up environment, which led to a mutual friend introducing him to Meredith Sandland. He shares that although he was new to the ghost kitchen concept when Sandland first mentioned it, but once he realized the opportunity in building out a customer success model and being able to scale it, he knew it was the right next step for his career.

Schatzberg asks Sandland and Orsbourn to talk about what led to them writing their book, Delivering the Digital Restaurant: Your Roadmap to the Future of Food. Orsbourn shares that between the two of them, they had been working and communicating with “pretty much every major restaurant chain in America”, and as they spoke to many independents, those conversations all had a similar thread, restaurants were having an immense challenge in trying to figure out how to win when it came to off-premise. Operators wanted to know, “How do we succeed in a ghost kitchen? What are some of the ways in which we need to be better, or what we do to succeed?” Sandland shares that they decided to buy a book to help navigate operators through those uncertainties, but after doing some research, no such book existed, so they decided to write one. Sandland recalls saying, “Let’s write that book. Let’s help the industry. Let’s try and take all the various different players that are doing some really exciting things in this space, and tell their story.” They discuss the process of interviewing numerous players in the space, such as technology and restaurant leaders, to gain the insights and strategies to winning the off-premise game. They acknowledge that although some operators have shared their fears about this being “a very scary time to be in the restaurant industry.” Orsbourn says, “It’s also one of the most optimistic and exciting times as well, and the future is bright and hopefully anyone that reads Delivering the Digital Restaurant will get that feeling.”

Frischling says, “I think your book is not just for the industry, but it’s also I think, for the consumer and our guests to understand what is going on in this transformation and how all these different generations are interacting with the food service and hospitality industry.”

Sandland adds, “It has been really well received. We’re very pleased about that.”

To hear more from Sandland and…

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