In the latest episode of Hospitality Hangout, Michael Schatzberg “The Restaurant Guy” and Jimmy Frischling delve into the innovative world of food with their guest, Andy Hooper, CEO of Hart House. Hart House, founded by comedian Kevin Hart, is revolutionizing the food industry with its mission to create craveable and nutritious 100% plant-based meals.
With over 20 years of experience in the restaurant business, Hooper takes listeners on a culinary journey, recounting his first gig washing dishes at a now-defunct eatery to leading teams at global franchised brands like Burger King. Today, as the CEO of Hart House, Hooper joins forces with Kevin Hart to create meals that are “better for you, your wallet, and the planet.”
From Dishwashing to Leading
The story begins in a town called Gig Harbor, where a young Andy Hooper worked at a neighborhood bar and grill called the Harvester. Although he joked about possible child labor laws being skirted, his early days in the kitchen provided an irreplaceable education in empathy and understanding of different walks of life.
“I will tell you, you learn so much about yourself and about the world and about people from different parts of the world and walks of life by working in the kitchen of a restaurant,” Hopper shared, acknowledging the influence of culinary icon Anthony Bourdain.
The Path to Hart House
After relocating to Miami for university, Hooper continued working in various hospitality jobs to pay for tuition at one of the country’s most expensive schools. A scholarship and part-time work helped him stay at the University of Miami, often referred to as “the U.” It was a time that would later prepare him for his partnership with Kevin Hart in crafting Hart House’s compelling brand.
Hooper’s experience, from the humble beginnings of dishwashing to leading major food chains, culminated in his collaboration with Kevin Hart at Hart House, aiming to redefine the future of quick-service food. The duo’s commitment to reinventing both the menu and employee experience positions Hart House as a potential game-changer in the restaurant industry, embracing plant-based cuisine for a sustainable future.
“So the brand positioning for this has been very deliberate. It’s not a vegan brand. It’s not a plant-based brand. It’s a QSR brand that serves burgers, chicken sandwiches and shakes.” Andy Hooper, CEO of Hart House
To hear the questions and the answers to Tuesday Trivia’s “Two Truths and a Lie,” plus the deep dive insights into operating a plant-based business check out this episode of Hospitality Hangout.