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In the latest episode of Hospitality Hangout, Michael Schatzberg “The Restaurant Guy” and Jimmy Frischling “The Finance Guy” chat with Carin Stutz, president and chief executive officer at Native Foods. Stutz has been in the industry for five decades and worked with brands such as Red Robin, Wendy’s, Cosi, Applebee’s and more. Stutz said looking back at her career and her early start at McDonald’s, she loved being in the restaurant business.

Native Foods, the plant-based fast-casual brand launched back in 1994 before the plant-based restaurants were popular. They have twelve restaurants in three states, Colorado, California and Illinois. Stutz says that the brand is really leaning into vegan comfort food, delicious, nostalgic food with a twist. Recently they hired a new chef to bring innovation to the brand.

Frischling talks about plant-based foods and says, in the U.S. alone plant-based foods are a $7.4 billion dollar market and are growing three times as fast as overall food sales and grocery retailers nationwide. He says despite these numbers there are still some wary customers. Stutz talks about soy benefits as a protein and the myth around it as well as the innovation around vegetable proteins.

Stutz offers advice for operators that may not have plant-based foods on their menu, to introduce consumers to plant-based foods. She says, operators need to go all in to vegan if they are adding a plant-based menu item. Stutz says it is an easy sustainable message. She adds that there are usually three reasons you see the guest come to your restaurant for plant-based options, one is health, second is environment and lastly is animal compassion.

In addition to Native Foods, Stutz sits on several boards including Kura Sushi and Checkers & Rally’s Restaurants. She says it is an honor to be on a board and she looks at board service as her giving years. She wants people to look at the foodservice industry as a real career.

To hear more about Stutz’s insights on the industry, technology and innovation and her answer to her Trivia Tuesday question about George Clooney, check out this episode of Hospitality Hangout.

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