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Amsterdam Falafelshop Expanding Rapidly

Amsterdam Falafelshop Expanding Rapidly

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The Washington, D.C.-based mini-chain has signed deals on 9 franchises in the past 12 months

Yelp/ AnnieT

Amsterdam Falafelshop

Since opening in Washington, D.C. eight years ago, Amsterdam Falafelshop has become somewhat of an institution in the nation’s capital. Run by founders Scott and Arianne Bennett, their unique recipe for the popular vegan Middle Eastern fried balls of goodness has brought them a lot of popularity, along with the restaurant's European-inspired décor and choice of 21 different sauces and toppings and option to go pita-free.

Two years ago the duo began a franchising program geared toward expanding the restaurant beyond D.C. proper. Within the past 12 months, they’ve signed deals to open nine new franchises.

In July 2012, the first franchise opened, in Somerville, Mass.’s Davis Square. So far it’s been successful, and three more are set to open in Boston, two more are coming to Washington, D.C., and three more are slated to open in Maryland and Virginia.

As for the secret to their success? "People are still eating out in this economy; they're just being more selective and cost-conscious of where they go, and that works in our favor," president and CEO Arianne Bennett said in a release. "An Amsterdam Falafelshop customer can get a full meal for between $5 and $10."

Future Food Exhibition

Last week I visited the exhibition “Future Food” at the Studio, NEMO’s newest venue “The Studio” at the Marineterrein in Amsterdam. While wandering through the space I got to understand new production techniques for foods of the future and tried my first grasshopper. It was an eye opening experience which made me realize that the use of those supposedly futuristic ingredients in our own kitchens are already more accessible than we might think. I chatted with Chloé Rutzerveld, a Food Futurist and the creative brain behind the exhibition. Her curious mind which is in continuous search for “what’s next?” made Chloé join forces with Next Nature Network. Together with Tanja Koning and graphic designer Sjoerd Koopmans, they created “Future Food” to make us all wonder about new ways of food production and consumption.

The Franchise Formula

For upstart quick-service restaurants considering the move to franchising, the path can precipitate a major shift in business model and operations. Beyond the economic investment in franchising, experts say, operators must ensure their brand will consistently deliver quality across all locations.

“They need to have a replicable model,” says Lynette McKee, managing partner of consulting firm McKeeCo Services. “If you have a vision of where you want your company to be at some point in the future, we can take that and back it up and understand all the parts and pieces you have to bring to the table to get you there.”

For quick serves operating under a small, informal system, franchising will require an examination of the minutiae of the business in greater detail. McKee recommends clients have a formal business plan complete with a profit and loss statement.

What small operators may lack in business acumen, she adds, they more than compensate for in zest.

“The common theme that I’ve seen, especially in the restaurant concept, is that many of them don’t understand the noneconomic investment that it’s going to take to make it a success,” says John Norling, an attorney at Jennings Strouss law firm who advises brands taking the first steps toward franchising.

Starting and maintaining a franchise should be treated as a separate business from the original restaurant, Norling says. Operators can build a team of specialists to divide the responsibilities and prevent burnout.

When Brian Bailey, CEO and cofounder of Canton, Ohio–based Ichor Restaurant Group, opened Old Carolina Barbecue, his company’s first quick serve, in 2006, he and his business partner Tim Hug already envisioned a restaurant group comprised of multiple restaurants and franchises.

“We hired a dedicated franchise support person who knew that franchising is a different business model,” Bailey says. “Being a sales and marketing person, I wasn’t opening a restaurant just to sell food. From the very beginning, we’ve always treated it that it was going to be a chain. Can everybody do that? No.”

Norling recalls a client who aspired to be the next Mrs. Fields, but because she baked cookies by taste rather than replicable recipes, the business could not expand beyond her own kitchen. “It’s a large leap from having a great idea and making that leap into a franchise-able concept,” Norling says.

To succeed, franchisors must create a prototype that will garner appeal beyond the original market, Bailey says. He and his partner conceptualized a brand that could travel from market to market without relying on market-specific branding. He adds that having franchising as a goal from the get-go was key.

In recent years, McKee says, she’s observed more operators planning to franchise from the very beginning. “It seems like their whole intent was, before they put the first shovel in the ground, they positioned this company to be franchised,” she says.

Operators who develop a replicable model from the onset might have an initial advantage, but it does not preclude those who decide to franchise at a later time.

When Amsterdam Falafelshop opened to positive consumer interest in a busy D.C. neighborhood, cofounder and CEO Arianne Bennett says, the company received many requests for franchising. Though that was never her plan, Bennett and her husband and co-owner Scott began documenting their procedures and policies with the intention of franchising within one year of opening the first unit. Franchisees now own three additional locations in Washington, D.C. Annapolis, Maryland and Boston. Bennett says the number of franchise inquiries skyrocketed following the company’s first franchisee opening.

“Once that store opens, everyone comes knocking,” she says. “They see the vision that we have. They see the happy franchisee and that kind of goes back to getting it right in the beginning.”

In addition to streamlining business operations, franchisors should take steps to protect and promote their brand, experts say.

Former “Top Chef” contestant Spike Mendelsohn opened the fast-casual burger concept Good Stuff Eatery with his family in Washington, D.C., in 2008 with the intention to franchise later down the road. He and his team began actively searching for franchisees in 2013, and the first Good Stuff Eatery franchise location is set to open in Chicago soon.

“We were able to keep the integrity of the design by keeping our same designer. However, we tailor it to the location so it feels more local,” says Catherine Mendelsohn, director of operations for Good Stuff Eatery and Spike’s mother. “There are certain things that are constant.”

Mendelsohn and her husband, Harvey, manage the business arm of the brand while Spike runs the kitchen. Essential to their franchising process was fostering a relationship with new business partners, she says. “We encourage them to be involved, because we want them to feel that it’s their restaurant and that they’re going to take pride in it as well.”

Those relationships can be easily fostered if a brand takes the time to find the right business partners, says Aziz Hashim, president and CEO of National Restaurant Development (NRD), a multibrand holdings company based in Atlanta. NRD partners with major players like Domino’s Pizza, as well as smaller franchisors.

“I think sometimes the emerging brands have a more open view. They almost think of their franchisees as a resource,” Hashim says. “They see the value in partnering with larger franchisees.”

These large franchisee groups can be ideal for a brand whose owners may not have a robust background in business or did not intend to get into franchising, he adds. However, for an operator who has the know-how, it can be beneficial to seek less-experienced franchisees. Ichor’s Bailey says the benefits of these individuals are their excitement for the business and willingness to learn.

“The one without [experience] became easier to work with, to be honest,” he says. “They wanted to learn from us.”

The size and professional background of potential business partners is a matter of personal preference, but experts and operators agree that a passion for the brand and genuine connection with the owners is the most important factor.

“You see in the last few years many, many new brands. Competition is as fierce as it’s ever been,” Hashim says. “Those brands that are succeeding today are the ones that have strong relationships with their franchisee.”

Wonder Women

The argument could be made that foodservice, like so many other industries, has long been a boys’ club, one in which the top leaders and innovators are, more often than not, male. And today, men continue to dominate the foodservice C-suite.

But women are on the rise, and that’s especially true in fast casual. Today, female founders lead several up-and-coming fast-casual brands across the country.

Many of them are flocking to fast casual from different fields: In a prior career, Bun Mee founder Denise Tran was an attorney Roz Edison and Kamala Saxton were educators before they founded Marination and Marian Cheng worked in fashion before starting Mimi Cheng’s with her sister Hannah.

Other women were restaurant veterans before launching their limited-service ventures. Chef Archna Becker of Bhojanic Market worked in fine dining and catering before setting her sights on fast casual Christine Sfeir franchised Dunkin’ Donuts in Lebanon prior to founding Semsom Eatery and Donna Lee of Brown Bag Seafood Co. first learned her trade as a Noodles & Co. manager and publisher for DiningOut magazine.

Regardless of their origin stories, nearly all have a drive that goes beyond the bottom line—whether it is offering healthier, affordable food exposing consumers to new flavors and cultures or affecting a more sustainable supply system.

“Women have to believe in themselves and surround themselves with people who believe in them,” Sfeir says. “The support ecosystem is what allows women to thrive and overcome challenges.”

Meet the 26 women building that ecosystem in fast casual.

Roz Edison & Kamala Saxton

Cofounders & co-owners • Marination

Roz Edison (pictured above) and Kamala Saxton were educators before they founded a food truck that blended Hawaiian and Korean cuisines in downtown Seattle.

“We caught the tip of the wave of a couple of flavors that Americans were opening up their palates to,” Edison says.

No longer just a food truck, Marination has grown to include three brick-and-mortar stores, the newest of which is located at Amazon’s headquarters. Each location serves a few core items and the same “aloha vibe,” but other menu offerings vary from store to store, which Edison says makes for a more fun, localized experience for guests.

Looking ahead, Marination’s sights are not set so much on unit count but impact. Edison says she and Saxton would like to establish a scholarship program for emplo yees and a restaurant incubator program called the Marination Foundation.

“We talk to people who want to start their business all the time,” she says. “So many of the skills that we learned in public education have translated over to being in a restaurant. [When] you work with a young, ambitious team, you’re constantly teaching people.”

Cofounder & CEO • Amsterdam Falafelshop

Arianne Bennett and her husband, Scott, opened their first Amsterdam Falafelshop store in a bustling Washington, D.C., neighborhood in 2004. Through company-owned and franchise stores, it has grown to four locations in the D.C. metro area and two in Boston. As the brand continues to open new shops, train staff, and consider new menu additions, Bennett says, she and Scott remain committed to bringing forth healthy, affordable food.

“Long term, we’re hoping to help a new generation of kids coming up to learn to eat fresh vegetables in a way that excites their palate,” Bennett says.

In fact, Bennett says, what excites her most about the fast-casual scene is its access to great, fresh-made food—not just pizza and subs—at all economic levels.

“A more imaginative relationship with food can temper the amount you eat and increase the quality and nutrition of what you eat. And that is good for all,” she adds.

Cofounders & co-owners • Mimi Cheng’s

Even in New York, Marian and Hannah Cheng could never find dumplings that rivaled their mother’s. So they decided to open their own fast casual specializing in authentic Taiwanese-Chinese dumplings.

In addition to authenticity, Mimi Cheng’s is dedicated to sourcing sustainable, natural produce and meats from small farmers.

“By using quality ingredients, we are setting the bar higher and higher along with other likeminded brands, such as sweetgreen,” Marian Cheng says. “We won’t settle for anything less because we believe wholeheartedly that we are what we eat.”

Cheng says the fast-casual experience reminds her of Taipei, which is filled with mom-and-pop restaurants serving delicious food in a no-frills environment.

Cheng, who worked in fashion before opening Mimi Cheng’s, advises aspiring operators to gain restaurant experience before opening their own. Beyond that? Just be a boss.

“Be comfortable with the unknown, be resilient even when it feels impossible, and be a boss in every sense of the word,” Cheng says.

Founder & owner • Brown Bag Seafood Co.

If you ask Donna Lee what excites her most about fast casual, she’ll tell you her answer would have been different five years ago.

“The market had far more room for growth at that time, but as we’ve all seen, the word is out!” she says.

Despite an increasingly crowded fast-casual scene, Lee is planning for growth and would even like to create a “foolproof” guide to opening additional units of her Chicago-based Brown Bag Seafood Co.

She also doesn’t let gender stereotypes slow her down.

“As women, we are often put in a mindset that we are at a disadvantage. That itself is the No. 1 disadvantage,” she says, adding that all women in fast casual have their own unique set of skills. “If you’re tough, smart, and creative, you’ll weasel your way in.”

Natasha Case & Freya Estreller

If you ask CEO Natasha Case (pictured at left) about Coolhaus, she’ll tell you that she and business partner and wife Freya Estreller might just have a $100 million brand on their hands. She says the “wackiness” of the brand (namely, its architecturally inspired ice cream sandwiches) allows Coolhaus to dominate a specific category.

“I really believe there is no ice cream sandwich like ours in the world, and now that we have notoriety, we can branch out into other novelty categories and beyond,” Case says. She adds that Los Angeles–based Coolhaus also garners broad appeal it pairs well with other categories like burgers, pizza, farm to table, Mexican, and Japanese.

For a long time, Case says, men in the restaurant industry were making decisions about what consumers wanted when the majority of the decision makers were women. But now that dynamic is shifting.

“These days, there are more women in leadership/executive positions to make those choices and guide the direction of how fast casual is evolving,” Case says. “There is more of a seamless tie-in behind and in front of the counter.”

Cofounder & co-owner • Saucy Porka & Spotted Monkey

Although Amy Le spent several years in corporate media, her roots remained in restaurants. Le essentially grew up in her mother’s Chinese restaurants in St. Louis. One was full service and the other more quick service and carryout, but Le’s mother always took the time to ask customers about their days.

“It is such a simple gesture, but it is a gesture sometimes lost in the hustle of an industry dependent upon speed and efficiency,” Le says. “I believe it is a necessity to treat your quick-service restaurant with the same amount of detail and service as any fine-dining

The restaurant industry is a demanding one, but Le says the fast-casual lunch sector provides more balance for family time. Unlike her mother, who worked until 10 p.m. every night, Le works until 6 p.m. at her two Chicago-based Asian-Latin fusion concepts, Saucy Porka and Spotted Monkey, allowing her to make it home for a family dinner.

Christine Sfeir & Carine Assouad

CEO & managing director • Semsom Eatery

Christine Sfeir had already built a restaurant empire (including a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise) in the Middle East before she brought her Lebanese-with-a-twist fast casual Semsom Eatery stateside. In addition to locations in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and the UAE, Semsom opened two New York stores last year and plans for 20 in the U.S. by 2020.

“With bold, different, and fresh flavors, we aim at being the reference in Mediterranean cuisine,” Sfeir says.

Sfeir runs the business with her sister, Carine Assouad, who serves as managing director of Semsom U.S. She recently gave a commencement speech at the Culinary Institute of America and was happy to see that half the graduating chefs were women.

“Entrepreneurship and passion are not gender related,” Sfeir says. “The best piece of advice I give aspiring women in the Middle East is, ‘If your partner does not support your dream, change your partner, not your dream.’”

Founder and owner • HipCityVeg

For Nicole Marquis, the key word that any aspiring fast-casual founder must heed is plan. She spent years planning down to the most minuscule of details for her Philadelphia-based concept HipCityVeg, which specializes in plant-based foods.

She says a strong plan is not a fix-all for the unknown, but it certainly makes the process less overwhelming. She also sees more accessibility within fast casual compared with full service.

“As far as restaurant culture is concerned, fast casuals may be a little more egalitarian in that there is not a (typically male) chef/owner who occupies a position far above everyone else,” Marquis says. She adds that women can’t look for excuses in a restaurant setting, but they can use inherent skills—like being able to ask for directions. “Seek out mentors and helpers and weigh their advice carefully. Create allies. You’ll be surprised at how many people want to help you.”

Moving forward, Marquis hopes to open at least 50 locations in the next five years and bring about significant change in how people eat.

Chef & founder • Bhojanic Market

Growing up, Archna Becker was always in the kitchen, learning to cook from her grandmother. Her first professional venture was an award-winning catering business followed by the fine-dining Atlanta restaurant Bhojanic, which features authentic, home-style Indian fare.

Last year, Becker launched a food truck to bring Bhojanic to festivals and special events. Now she is entering the quick-service space with Bhojanic Market, which opened on Emory University’s campus in January. She’s already relishing the new format.

“The best part for me is to see a guest from the decision point to the actual consumption and to see the reaction. That is much harder in a full-service situation since there are so many layers of people between the creators and the eaters,” Becker says. “It’s a great platform to get your passion and style out there.”

She hopes to bring the concept to three to five more neighborhoods in Atlanta over the next five years.

In 2011, when Denise Tran left her career as a lawyer to launch Bun Mee in San Francisco, she says most of her friends and colleagues didn’t even know what a banh mi was.

“When I launched Bun Mee, my mission was to make the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich a part of the everyday lunchtime vernacular,” Tran says. “It’s the most rewarding feeling to know you’ve played a part in expanding people’s culinary taste buds.”

Having worked in an industry far different from foodservice, Tran says the restaurant world is not so different from other industries when it comes to the challenges faced by women. Although male founders and leaders outnumber women in hospitality, she tries not to focus on it, but rather on what she can do.

“The best advice for women in this business is to have thick skin, work hard to know your operations, be decisive in your decision making, [and be] fair and firm when dealing with others,” she says.

Samantha Wasser & Chloe Coscarelli

Creative director & cofounder • by CHLOE

For Samantha Wasser (at right in photo), a picture can be worth a thousand words. The cofounder (along with Chef Chloe Coscarelli, left) of new vegan fast casual by CHLOE has an eye for Instagram and knows that serving food that is not only tasty but also photographable drives customer engagement.

“We’re seeing diners … considering how their food will photograph almost as much as how it tastes, and the fast-casual space enabled us to play to that much more,” Wasser says.

Indeed, the brand’s Instagram and Facebook pages are filled with dazzling pop-art photos, and the aesthetic extends to the physical space itself. Located on a charming street in New York’s Greenwich Village, by CHLOE features a bright open space that welcomes even the most carnivorous of diners.

“We’re seeing that eating vegan food is not so much a trend, but a lifestyle,” Wasser says. “Because of that, we are hoping to expand by CHLOE beyond New York in the coming years.”

Cofounder & COO • Roam Artisan Burgers

Roam Artisan Burgers’ mission is a serious one: to positively impact the planet by serving nutrient-dense burgers. But cofounder Lynn Gorfinkle says these tenets do not detract from a lighthearted, warm dining experience.

“What’s really wonderful is you come into Roam, and it’s not thrown into your face. We don’t use the word healthy because it means a lot of different things to a lot of different folks,” Gorfinkle says.

This approach allows San Francisco–based “smart casual” Roam to attract customers who deeply care about what they put in their bodies, as well as those who just want a good burger in a comfortable atmosphere without the pretension.

“There seems to be a real need for more higher-quality places accessible in a casual setting,” Gorfinkle says. “For us, it’s everything from a few families coming in with kids at 5:30 … and an hour later it rolls into more of an adult crowd who’s sitting there having their really great glass of wine and craft beer.”

Co-Owner & CEO • LoLo’s Seafood Shack

LoLo’s Seafood Shack—“where the Caribbean meets Cape Cod”—is actually not so far afield. Opened by restaurateur Leticia Young-Mohan and her husband, Chef Raymond Mohan, in 2014, this Harlem restaurant is the first concept in Young-Mohan’s newly launched Island Time Hospitality Group.

“Our brand is hinged on quality and value,” she says. “The fast-casual model allows us to feature quality ingredients at an accessible price in part by having a more compact front-of-house team.”

She finds the challenge of engineering a diverse menu (like a sustainable spiny dogfish sandwich, steampot combos, and seafood boils) in an efficient and consistent manner to be exciting. Her ultimate plan is to develop new concepts within Island Time Hospitality. After all, she says, it’s also a great time to be a woman in foodservice.

“Women are great multitaskers and traditionally are thought to be genuine caregivers,” Young-Mohan says. “Quite naturally, we have what it takes to be successful in this industry.”

Founder & managing director • Dee Daa

When it comes to running a fast casual, Mallika Sukjaro relishes an opportunity to turn the status quo on its head.

For example, her concept Dee Daa uses authentic Thai ingredients in its sauces, which are flash-frozen and delivered to New York City.

“This food science is what allows me to bring my beloved Thai cuisine to our restaurants on the other side of the world in a fast-casual format,” Sukjaro says. “I’m excited to see how technology can be utilized in a fast-casual setting.”

Like many Fast Casual 2.0 concepts, Dee Daa will soon launch a dinner menu that builds on the “street food” lunch menu.

Whether it’s experimenting with dayparts or piloting new tech solutions, Sukjaro likes being on the cutting edge and recommends a pioneering perspective.

“Keep your eyes on the horizon, and keep your feet grounded so you don’t get lost in your own ideas,” she says.

Founder & CEO • Grabbagreen

Keely Newman was a vice president at CitiGroup before she founded healthy fast-food concept Grabbagreen with friend Kelley Bird. She was also a mother who was frustrated by the lack of wholesome food options when she traveled with her children.

Newman attributes much of Arizona-based Grabbagreen’s success to the fact that she didn’t start in the restaurant industry and therefore didn’t follow convention. She also says being a woman in what has often been a boys’ club can also be a positive. “In a lot of ways, that sometimes plays to your advantage because you’re an anomaly,” she says.

While she is excited by the rapid, word-of-mouth growth of the brand, her No. 1 goal is encouraging healthy eating habits among children.

“We have a children’s table in every location, [and] seeing that table filled with little kids who drove their parents to Grabbagreen is what is very exciting to me,” she says.

President & COO, Sweetgreen

Karen Kelley, a restaurant industry industry veteran and startup whisperer, joined sweetgreen as president and chief operating officer in late 2013 after successful stints with fro-yo concept Pinkberry and salon chain Drybar. Kelley has been tasked with helping founders Nicolas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru, and Jonathan Neman scale their vision for sweetgreen while protecting the brand values at its foundation. Click here to read more about how Kelley is building on the concept's momentum.

Bettina Stern & Suzanne Simon

Fifteen years ago, Chaia cofounders Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon were in a cookbook club together and wanted to open a business. When their hopes to launch a food truck were dashed, the pair decided to direct their enthusiasm into a blog named “Loulies,” for Stern’s grandmother. The blog featured recipes, kitchen tricks, and shopping tips. Having established a foothold on the D.C. food scene through the blog, Stern and Simon finally launched their business in 2015: Chaia, a Mexican fast casual. Read more about the business here.

Chef Melanie Molinaro has all the trappings of a rock star chef: a fine-dining pedigree, a smattering of stylish tattoos, and close ties with a trendy, local farm. What’s less expected is this chef’s new concept, Stall 11, which will be elevating vegetarian and vegan fare. Molinaro’s Stall 11 was the second concept to come onboard Baltimore food hall R. House, which will eventually host a total of 10 limited-service concepts. Find out more about Stall 11 here.

Owner and Chef, Kasa Indian Eatery

When Anamika Khanna cofounded Kasa Indian Eatery in San Francisco in 2008, she wanted to start a revolution: She wanted Americans to fall in love with Indian cuisine. But long before entering the fast-casual scene, Khanna held a deep passion for food. Throughout her time growing up in the projects, attending the London School of Economics, and working as a lawyer and later a stay-at-home mom, Khanna has always loved to cook. Read more about Khanna and Kasa Indian Eatery here.

Owner and Cofounder, Pica Pica

Eight years ago when Adriana López Vermut gave birth to her first child, her father asked how she would stay connected to her Venezuelan heritage. The two hatched a plan to introduce the Bay Area to Venezuelan cuisine and thus Pica Pica was founded. Specializing in authentic arepas—hot corn-patty pockets stuffed with hearty fillings like beef and plantains—Pica Pica has become a mainstay in the Mission district and was even featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” Read more about Vermut and Pica Pica here.

After launching from NYC, Mamoun's Falafel has closed in Dallas

When Mamoun's Falafel opened in Dallas in February 2018, we called it "the biggest New York City-related food news to hit Dallas since the Halal Guys opened in mid 2016." The thrill is over, though: Mamoun's Falafel closed in Dallas' West Village on Nov. 11. It was open for nine months.

CultureMap quoted a spokesperson as saying that "sales were not going well." Mamoun's CEO, Hussam Chater, explained in a statement that "we have decided to close the location and mutually part ways due to different operating philosophies." The statement goes on to explain that they are now looking for new franchisees to open new restaurants in Dallas.

Mamoun's sold falafel sandwiches as well as other Middle Eastern dishes like hummus, baba ganouj and shawarma. Vegetarians would have found lots to eat here.

Unaffiliated restaurant Amsterdam Falafelshop closed in Deep Ellum in mid-2017. It's another example of a falafel-focused restaurant that didn't make it in Dallas.

The company made a big leap by opening a Mamoun's in Dallas, since the concentration of restaurants are in the northeast, mostly in New York and New Jersey. (The original Dallas franchisees, however, were from D-FW.) The original was opened in New York City in 1971 by Mamoun Chater.

In early 2018, the plan was for Mamoun's to expand far beyond the northeast, to cities like Chicago and Atlanta. Philadelphia was also on that list, and a restaurant opened there in mid-2018. The CEO confirms that the company is still looking for leases in Chicago and that a restaurant in Atlanta is expected to open in 2019.

These Houses Have the Ultimate Water View

Few places in the world are as married to the water as Venice. Not only has the Floating City replaced streets with canals and land with islands, but its buildings also sit on wooden piles, driven into the ground deep below the water. Like much of the sea-hugging world, the city is also facing an existential threat as the waters rise and its ground sinks.

The city’s art and architecture Biennales (the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale starts on Saturday and runs through Nov. 11) have long reflected this simultaneously magical and dire condition, with exhibit after exhibit addressing sustainable architecture, climate change and rising seas.

Many have even drifted along Venice’s canals themselves, including Mike Bouchet’s (doomed) floating house Croatia’s floating pavilion Kunle Adeyemi’s floating school Joana Vasconcelos’ floating artwork, Trafaria Praia and Aldo Rossi’s floating Theater of the World.

As is so often the case, life is imitating art, and floating architecture is emerging as one of the built world’s most promising markets — for many of the reasons pinpointed at the Biennale.

“We see architects as spanning between infrastructural ideas and society,” said Yvonne Farrell, one of the Biennale’s directors, who posits that if architects can take a leading role on vital environmental issues through emerging technologies like floating buildings, then they can also help re-establish their primacy in the construction process.

“You cannot not deal with environmental issues if you’re an architect these days. It has to be an essential part of your value system,” added Shelley McNamara, who is also one of the directors. “We’re all connected. We have to find solutions where art and culture and industry can all find a way to survive.”

Architects, boat builders, developers and city planners worldwide are seizing on the opportunity as cities run out of space to build, tides continue to rise and demand for efficient construction spikes. They’re creating inventive designer homes and floating resorts, and even floating cities that can be prefabricated off site and simply floated into place.

“For many, floating is something new and adventurous,” said Max Funk, co-editor of “Rock the Boat: Boats, Cabins and Homes on the Water” (Gestalten, 2017). The book reveals an explosion of creativity in buoyant architecture, including an egg-shaped floating cabin in England, floating spas (with working saunas) in Finland and the United States, and floating geodesic domes in Slovenia.

“Having a floating home used to be something only for vacationers or the uber-wealthy,” Mr. Funk said. “Now more people are realizing they can do it. And with downsizing becoming a trend, it goes along with the idea that quality of life is more important than size.”


Claudius Schulze, whose floating art studio graces the cover of “Rock the Boat,” built his 32-foot-by-16-foot timber-sided box, coated in fiberglass resin, for about 20,000 euros (about $24,000) with the help of friends, including a structural engineer. It has state-of-the-art amenities like Wi-Fi, onboard water filtration and solar power. It has its own motor (technically making it a houseboat), and Mr. Schulze has used it in, and en route to, Amsterdam, Paris and Hamburg, Germany, mooring it in each location for about €200 a month.

“It really is the perfect studio space,” he said. “It has all the inspiration and little of the distraction.”

On Seattle’s Lake Union — which has hosted floating homes since the 1920s and now has more than 500 of them — William Donnelly has lived in a multilevel floating home designed by Vandeventer & Carlander architects for more than seven years.

“I enjoy smelling the water, hearing the water,” he said. “I love the idea that my home isn’t fixed to the land. It’s freeing.” It’s not all perfect — the lake is popular, and sometimes his tightly surrounded home feels like a fishbowl — but he said that he would never live on land again.

Thanks to such situations, and to the rise in the price of waterfront property, the market for floating architecture is growing in North America, said Allison Bethell, a real estate investor analyst at Newer homes and their slips are not cheap, but since the market is young and houses are limited in size, they are rarely as expensive as prime waterfront real estate.

Outside of Seattle, where houseboat construction is being curtailed because of the potential impact on local salmon populations, Ms. Bethell said, the most prominent areas in North America for floating homes are the San Francisco Bay Area Vancouver, British Columbia Key West, Fla. and Portland, Ore. where the number of floating homes has doubled since 2012.

The trend is also expanding rapidly in Asia and the Middle East, but it is furthest along in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, which is mostly below sea level. Estimates report that the country now has more than 10,000 floating residents, none more densely packed than in Ijburg, a growing development of floating homes clustered off man-made islands on the eastern edge of Amsterdam.

Over 50 of these residences — featured in the 2014 U.K. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale — were designed by Marlies Rohmer Architects & Urbanists and developed by Amsterdam-based Monteflore. The simple, industrial-inspired homes, floating on concrete bases (the current norm) were fabricated in a factory and floated into place.

“Most of the world now lives in cities, and most cities are near water,” said Ton van Namen, managing director of Monteflore. He said his team was working on a floating development along the west coast of Wales, and had been approached by interested parties from China, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Dubai and Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates.

Koen Olthuis, an architect from the Netherlands who founded Waterstudio.NL, one of more than a dozen European firms specializing in boutique buoyant homes, sees floating architecture as the future. He said he had built more than 150 floating residences in the last 15 years, including a group of floating villas in Dordrecht, south of Rotterdam, that use heat exchange power and have extra-large foundations to create terraces and other outdoor spaces.

Now he is increasing his repertoire as both a designer and a planning consultant for floating hotels, restaurants, stores, resorts and private islands, and even floating cities.

Bits & Bites: Things to Do and Chew in Dallas This Weekend

Take the time this long weekend to explore new cultures and appreciate some good ol’ classic American grub. Here is your guide.

Amsterdam Falafelshop Anniversary Party
Want a taste of that European get-away? Head over to Amsterdam Falafelshop in Deep Ellum between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to celebrate their one-year anniversary in Dallas. Chow down on $1 falafel bowls and sandwiches and discounted Shawarma bowls, and then wash it all down with $1 pint beers. Open to all, there will be live music on the patio and a raffle.

Saturday (and Sunday)

2017 Thai Food and Culture Festival
Expand your palate and dive into the culture of Thailand this weekend at the Buddhist Center of Dallas. The annual festival features a marketplace, a tour of the temple and traditional Thai dancing and boxing. Wander through a bazaar of booths from local Thai restaurants and breathe in the sights and smells of food representing every region of Thailand. Don’t forget to check out the cooking demonstrations offered on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 11:00 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Margarita Meltdown
Drink. Judge. Drink some more. Judge some more. Come out to the West End, try margaritas from more than 20 vendors and vote your pick for the best in Dallas. Sampling begins at 4 p.m. and a winner will be announced at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 and sales close Friday night. Tickets for designated drivers are $15. Buy your tickets here.

Memorial Weekend Late Night Vegan Karaoke Pajama Breakfast
Throw on your pajamas and rock out to “Don’t Stop Believing” because V-Eats Modern Vegan at Trinity Groves rescheduled their late-night karaoke for this Sunday from 8 p.m. to midnight. Partake in some breakfast off the special vegan menu or one of the drink specials and jam on.

Like giant beer pong? Like sumo wrestling? Deep Ellum Brewing Company is hosting its seventh annual Brew-BQ from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. There is entertainment for all ages with live music, carnival games, barbecue, and, of course, beer. Although VIP tickets are sold out, you can still snag a general admission ticket for $35. If you’re under 21, that price drops down to $15 (no alcohol, y’all), and kids under 12 are free ($6 for a barbecue plate). Bring your dog to hang out in the field. Doors for general admission open at 6 p.m. Buy your tickets here.

Brunchfest at Mudhen Meat and Greens
Listen to music eat a pancake pet a pig. Spend your Memorial Day at Mudhen Meat and Greens’ Brunchfest. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., enjoy a $20 buffet of pancakes, bacon, eggs, pastries, etc., a $6 build-your-own Bloody Mary and Double Mimosa bar, and a petting zoo from noon to 3 p.m.

Memorial Day Workout & Brunch
Do a crunch. Get some brunch. After working up a sweat at OakFit’s Memorial Day workout, reward yourself with brunch following the session. This kid-friendly event is free for members and only $20 for everyone else.

Memorial Day in the Backyard
Sit back and enjoy Chelsea Corner’s new patio for Memorial Day. Starting at noon, there will be $5 drink specials as well as DJs, and food specials all day.


Prior to the disputed invention of the hamburger in the United States, similar foods already existed in the culinary tradition of Europe. The Apicius cookbook, a collection of ancient Roman recipes that may date to the early 4th century, details a preparation of beef called isicia omentata served as a baked patty in which beef is mixed with pine kernels, black and green peppercorns, and white wine, isicia omentata may be the earliest precursor to the hamburger. [11]

It is not known when the first restaurant recipe for steak tartare appeared. [12] While not providing a clear name, the first description of steak tartare was given by Jules Verne in 1875 in his novel Michael Strogoff. There are certain similarities between steak tartare and the German dishes Labskaus and Mett. Other similar raw, chopped meats appeared in the 20th century. One of the oldest references to a Hamburgh [sic] Sausage appeared in 1763 in Hannah Glasse's Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy. Hamburgh Sausage is made with minced meat and a variety of spices, including nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, garlic, and salt, and is typically served with toast. Other dishes are also made with minced meat, such as meatloaf, [13] the Serbian pljeskavica, the Arab kofta, and meatballs.

The word sandwich was not recorded until the 18th century. Many cultures claim invention of the sandwich, but it was given its name around the year 1765 in honor of the English aristocrat John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who preferred to eat sandwiches so he could play cards without soiling his fingers. [14] However, it was not until 1840 when Elizabeth Leslie Cook included a sandwich recipe in her cookbook that it appeared in the local cuisine of the United States. [15]

Hamburg and its port Edit

Minced meat was a delicacy in medieval cuisine, red meat usually being restricted to the higher classes. [16] Very little mincing was done by medieval butchers or recorded in the cookbooks of the time, perhaps because it was not part of the sausage-making process that preserves meat.

During the first half of the 19th century, most European emigrants to the New World embarked from Hamburg, and New York City was their most common destination. Restaurants in New York offered Hamburg-style American fillet, [17] [18] or even beefsteak à la Hambourgeoise. Early American preparations of minced beef were therefore made to fit the tastes of European immigrants, evoking memories of the port of Hamburg and the world they left behind. [19]

Hamburg steak Edit

In the late 19th century, the Hamburg steak became popular on the menus of many restaurants in the port of New York. This might consist of a fried patty of chopped beef, eggs, onions, and seasoning, [20] or it might be lightly salted and often smoked, and served raw in a dish along with onions and bread crumbs. [21] [ page needed ] The oldest document that refers to the Hamburg steak is a Delmonico's Restaurant menu from 1873 which offered customers an 11-cent plate of Hamburg steak that had been developed by American chef Charles Ranhofer (1836–1899). This price was high for the time, twice the price of a simple fillet of beef steak. [18] [22] [ page needed ] However, by the end of the century the Hamburg steak was gaining popularity because of its ease of preparation decreasing cost. This is evident from its detailed description in some of the most popular cookbooks of the day. [13] [ page needed ] Documents show that this preparation style was used by 1887 in some U.S. restaurants and was also used for feeding patients in hospitals the Hamburg steak was served raw or lightly cooked and was accompanied by a raw egg. [23]

The menus of many American restaurants during the 19th century included a Hamburg beefsteak that was often sold for breakfast. [24] A variant of Hamburg steak is the Salisbury steak, which is usually served with a gravy similar in texture to brown sauce. Invented by Dr. James Salisbury (1823–1905), the term Salisbury steak has been used in the United States since 1897. [25] Nowadays, in the city of Hamburg as well as in parts of northern Germany, this type dish is called Frikadelle, Frikandelle, or Bulette, which is similar to the meatball. The term hamburger steak was replaced by hamburger by 1930, which has in turn been somewhat displaced by the simpler term, burger. [26] The latter term is now commonly used as a suffix to create new words for different variants of the hamburger, including cheeseburger, porkburger, baconburger and mooseburger. There are other foods with names derived from German cities that are shortened in different ways in American English. An example is the frankfurter, often abbreviated as frank. [26]

Many recipes and dishes traveled along with transatlantic immigrants to their destinations in the New World. Some authors question whether the Hamburg America Line was part of this, arguing that the hamburger was created to meet needs that arose amongst immigrants already in the New World. [18] [27] Others, however, support the thesis that the Hamburg America Line brought the first Hamburger steaks from Europe to the Americas. [21] [28] The hamburger as it is known today has multiple invention claims ranging between 1885 and 1904, but it is clearly the product of the early 20th century. [8] During the following 100 years, the hamburger spread throughout the world as a result of the emerging concept of fast food and a new business model: the franchise.

North America Edit

The industrial use of mechanical meat shredding was the technical advance that helped popularize the Hamburg steak. The first meat grinder was invented in the early 19th century by the German engineer Karl Drais. The machine made it possible for minced meat to be sold at market in large quantities at reasonable prices. By 1845, numerous patents existed for improved meat grinders in the United States. [29] [30] These machines could all shred meat to sizes before unimaginable. Before this, minced meat was prepared by hand at home using specialized chisels, intensive manual labor that severely limited the amount that could be produced. [31] It is very likely that the invention of the meat grinder contributed directly to the popularization of Hamburg steak, while the steak gradually became distant from its German roots in the minds of many Americans. [18] Minced meat also came to be used in other popular American foods, including hot dogs and meatloaf. [31]

Another development facilitating the invention and popularization of the proto-hamburger was the increased production of beef through livestock intensification. By the late 19th century, an increasing amount of land was being devoted to cattle and a growing number of people being employed as cowboys, resulting in the United States becoming one of the world's largest producers and consumers of beef. [32] The 1880s were declared The Golden Age of Beef, during which the abundance of rural beef production made vital its transportation by rail from agricultural to urban areas. This gave rise to various methods of meat preservation for making possible the consumption of fresh meat in urban and industrialized areas, among the refrigerator cars and different methods of packaging meat (such as corned beef), which were promoted by industrialists like Gustavus Swift (1839–1903). Around this time, the city of Chicago, along with other cities on the East Coast, became a focal point for the large-scale processing of beef. Beef was already inexpensive at that time, and it was available to the working class. This put the Hamburg steak within reach of the vast majority of the population, giving rise to what some authors jokingly call the "American beef dream". [18] In this era, the number of steakhouses that specialized in serving steaks increased markedly some restaurants even served steak along with seafood, in a dish known as Surf and turf.

The high production and consumption of beef cattle in the United States made the meat industry increasingly powerful by the end of the 19th century. [31] Corruption problems soon arose in the meat industry, problems that endangered both quality and hygiene. At the beginning of the 20th century, Upton Sinclair published The Jungle, a novel about conspiracies and corruption in the American meat industry, intended as a veiled criticism of the industry itself. The book raised popular awareness about the safety of meat processing and helped lead to the creation of the Pure Food and Drug Act, which was sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration. The Jungle was a milestone in the subsequent history of the hamburger, as it led the American public to force restaurant chains to prove the safety of their cooked meat. [18] In 1933, Arthur Kallett published a similar book, entitled 100 million guinea pigs Dangers in Everyday foods, drugs, and cosmetics, which warned consumers specifically about the content preservatives in hamburgers.

Controversial origins Edit

The exact origin of the hamburger may never be known with any certainty. Most historians believe that it was invented by a cook who placed a Hamburg steak between two slices of bread in a small town in Texas, and others credit the founder of White Castle for developing the "Hamburger Sandwich." Records from that time are scarce, however. [2]

All claims for invention occur between 1885 and 1904, making it probable that the hamburger was created sometime in these two decades. Despite varieties, there are common elements in all of the narratives, most notably that the hamburger was born as a food associated with major events such as amusement parks, fairs, conferences, and festivals. All the hypotheses also share the presence of street vendors.

One of the first "birth of the burger" stories belongs to Canton, Ohio, natives Frank and Charles Menches who were food vendors at the 1885 Erie County Fair outside of Buffalo, New York, also known as the Hamburg Fair. Legend has it that during the course of the Fair, the Menches ran out of their signature menu item of pork sausage sandwiches. Their local supplier, Hamburg butcher Andrew Klein, was reluctant to butcher more hogs during a period of unseasonable late summer heat and suggested to substitute the use of ground beef. The brothers fired some up, but both found it dry and bland. They added coffee, brown sugar and other ingredients to create a unique taste. The original sandwiches were sold with just ketchup and sliced onions. With new found success with their beef sandwich, they christened it the “hamburger” after the Erie County Fair's home town of Hamburg. "National Birth of the Burger Day" is celebrated on September 18th to honor the invention of the burger in 1885 at the Hamburg Fair. In the 1920s, carnival historian John C. Kunzog interviewed Frank Menches about his experience at the Erie County Fair. His detailed hamburger story was published in this book, “Tanbark & Tinsel” published in 1970.

One of the possible fathers of the hamburger is Charlie Nagreen (1871–1951) of Seymour, Wisconsin, who at the age of 15 sold Hamburg steaks from a street stall at the annual Outagamie County Fair. Nagreen said he began by selling Hamburg steaks, but these did not have much success because people wanted to freely move around the festival without the need to eat them at his stand. In response to this, in 1885 Nagreen decided to flatten the hamburger steak and insert it between two slices of bread, so that the public could move freely from booth to booth while eating his sandwich, an innovation that was well received by his customers. [33] This became known as the "Hamburger Charlie", and Nagreen's creation was sold at the festival until his death in 1951. To this day, his accomplishment is celebrated annually with a "Burger Fest" in his honor in his hometown of Seymour.

Another alleged inventor of the hamburger is the cook Fletcher Davis (better known as "Old Dave"), who claimed to have had the idea of putting ground beef between two pieces of Texas Toast when one of his customers was in too much of a hurry to sit down for a meal. The customer walked away with his Hamburger Steak and seemed so content that Old Dave offered his new carryout meal as a staple menu item at the end of 1880 in Athens, Texas. Fletcher had a stall with his wife at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. Texan journalist Frank X. Tolbert mentions a salesman named Fletcher Davis who served hamburgers in a café at 115 Tyler Street in Athens during the late 1880s. [34] [35] The locals claim that Davis was selling beef sandwiches during that time, without having a clear name for his invention. During the 1980s, the Dairy Queen ice cream chain filmed a documentary about the birthplace of the hamburger featuring Davis' story. The story of "Old Dave's Hamburger Sandwich" is also found mentioned in Ronald L. McDonald's book The Complete Hamburger. [2]

In the same year that Charlie Nagreen claimed to have developed his "Hamburger Charlie", the brothers and street cooks Frank and Charles Menches of Akron, Ohio, claimed to have sold a ground beef sandwich at the Erie County Fair. [27] They assert that the name of the hamburger was derived from the town Hamburg, New York, in Erie County, the first place in which it had been sold. This statement has been very poorly documented or substantiated, and in the case of an oral tradition, it is not without its contradictions. [ citation needed ] Its famous description of the secret ingredients used in the recipes, such as coffee or brown sugar, is primitive.

Another version of the creation of the hamburger is that of German cook Otto Kuasw, who created a very popular sailors' sandwich made of a fillet of beef patty fried in butter, served with a fried egg, between two toasted buns in 1891, at a post in Hamburg, Germany. The sandwich was called the "Deutsches Beefsteak", German for "German beefsteak". Many of the sailors traveling on ships between Hamburg and New York requested a similar "Hamburg style" sandwich at American steakhouses.

There are many additional claims as to the origin of the hamburger. Some enthusiasts claim the hamburger could have been created in São Gonçalo, a municipality located in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, in the 18th century by a Chef named Sauerbrown "Little" Victor, but this claim has no supporting evidence to back the opinion. A local newspaper claims that Louis Lassen, a Danish immigrant who arrived in America in 1880, sold butter and eggs as a street vendor. In 1974, in an interview with The New York Times, he recounted how he created a hamburger steak sandwich with small strips of beef for a restaurant known as Louis' Lunch. Lassen's family claims 1900 as the year of his invention. Revealed in a public confrontation between the grandson of Louis, Kenneth Davis Lassen Fletch, and his uncle, documentation signed under notary in 1900 demonstrates the development of the hamburger, as it stresses the difference between a "hamburger steak" and a "hamburger sandwich". [36] Louis' Lunch flame broils the hamburgers in the original vertical cast iron gas stoves manufactured by the Bridge and Beach, Co., St. Louis, Missouri, in 1898. The stoves use hinged steel wire gridirons to hold the hamburgers in place while they cook simultaneously on both sides. The gridirons were made by Luigi Pieragostini and patented in 1938. [37]

Ingredients Edit

Hamburg steak, once served between two slices of bread, began to be prepared with a variety of different ingredients that were included either in the sandwich itself or as a side dish accompanying it on a plate. One of these accompaniments, which is still common with today's burger, is ketchup, a type of tomato sauce with a blend of flavors between sweet and sour that was first produced commercially in 1869 by entrepreneur and chef Henry John Heinz in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. His company was originally called the Anchor Pickle and Vinegar Works, but in 1888 it was renamed F. & J. Heinz. [38] The use of ketchup by American consumers grew quickly after this date, and it was not long before hamburgers were almost universally accompanied by ketchup by the end of the nineteenth and into the early 20th century. [1] [39] Mustard is a significantly older condiment, as it is thought that the ancient Romans used a dressing made with non-fermented grapes and grape seeds known as "mustum ardens". [40] Another ingredient incorporated into the burger, mayonnaise, appears to have been present in 18th century France, after the naval victory of Louis-François-Armand du Plessis de Richelieu in the port of Mahón in Menorca around 1756. [41]

Among the vegetables that come with the hamburger, the first described in the literature on its history is the onion, usually finely sliced in rings. [3] [42] Thus, the hamburger came to continue the long American tradition of sandwiches featuring some kind of plant product, whether that be lettuce (as in the case of the BLT sandwich), sauerkraut (as on the reuben), coleslaw, or pickles. It is possible that after the creation of the hamburger by uniting the steak with the bread, vegetables were included to give the finished product a more "natural" appearance and taste. [39] All of these condiments were incorporated into the classical image of the hamburger during its golden age, the 1940s. [39] In some cases, the hamburger is prepared differently and distinctly to add regional flavor, as in the case of Tex-Mex style burgers, which are served with a side of chili con carne.

French fries are an invention of the Low Countries, [43] [44] and Belgian historian Jo Gerard mentions that they originated around 1680 in both Belgium and the Spanish Netherlands, specifically in the area of "the Meuse valley between Dinant and Liège". The people of this region used to prepare meals with small amounts of fried fish, but when the river froze over and fishing became impossible, they would cut up potatoes and fry them in animal oil. [43] French fries were introduced as a snack in American cafés during the early 19th century, [44] but they did not become popular until large fast food companies such as McDonald's and Burger King incorporated them into their menus during the mid-20th century. The improvements in potato freezing technology made by J.R. Simplot of Idaho City in 1953, made the large scale production of French fries possible. Before the potatoes were frozen, however, they had still lost some of their flavor during frying, but new processes such as a further improved Simplot invention avoided this inconvenience by 1967, largely thanks to the use of a mixture of cow tallow and soybean oil. [44] This allowed Simplot and McDonald's founder Ray Kroc to collaborate, resulting in ready-peeled potatoes from Simplot's farms being delivered directly to McDonald's kitchens, where they were fried and served to customers. Initially, however, there were safety concerns raised over some fries and the kitchens in which they were prepared, leading some companies, such as White Castle, to remove them from their menus during the 1950s. [44]

At the end of the 19th century, a new generation of cola emerged, a beverage that would soon join beer as the most traditional drinks served alongside the hamburger. The first recipe for Coca-Cola was invented in 1885 in Columbus, Georgia, by grocer John Pemberton. [45] Originally called coca wine (the trademark was "Pemberton's French Wine Coca"), it may have been inspired by the formidable success of Vin Mariani, a European coca wine. In the late 19th century, it was sold as a bottled soft drink in most of the United States. In the early 20th century, another beverage, Pepsi, was created by pharmacist Caleb Bradham and quickly came to rival the sales of Coca-Cola. Strategic alliances between large burger restaurant chains and these two soft drink companies greatly increased the beverages' availability to the general public.

The dawn of the 20th century witnessed the need to provide food for people living in highly productive urban centers with high population densities. Food also had to be economically affordable for the working class in order for them to maintain their labor and industrial production. The burger was born in a time when people needed to eat both "fast" and "cheap". [46] Technological advances in the field of food preservation, as well as improvements in agricultural production and transportation, made it possible for hamburgers to be a practical choice of food for urban dwellers since their very creation. The socio-economic environment of the United States at the time of the burger's rise to popularity coincided with the end of World War I and the beginning of the Great Depression of 1929. This environment was particularly favorable for fostering inexpensive food, which was one reason why five-cent hamburgers were so popular. After its invention during the first decade of the 20th century, the hamburger came to be marketed on a large scale, after "visionaries" realized that it would benefit greatly from a mass production process. [47]

The first automobile production line was created by Karl Benz in Germany in 1888. The widespread appearance of telephones occurred at the beginning of the 20th century, along with other modern means of communication, including radio. For the average American who had not eaten in a restaurant in his or her entire life, [48] the fast food chains that appeared in the cities offered an alternative form of restaurant in which eating was very much a public activity. The concept of a "greasy spoon" was thus born with these restaurants [ citation needed ] , in which hygiene suffered in exchange for more inexpensive food. On the other hand, there was a growing interconnected world in which trips by car, bus, and rail became increasingly available. All these means of transport were improving at the time, and soon it was necessary to feed a growing population that was "in permanent transit", frequently moving through different cities on business. [49] [50] George Pullman invented the sleeping car and the dining car in response to the needs of these people in the 1870s. Similarly, the English immigrant Frederick Henry Harvey was the first to use "dynamic mass movement" in restoring the Fred Harvey Company, which catered to the patrons of a chain of hotels located near railway stations, as well as offering catering, services, and high quality products on the trains themselves. [47]

Contemporary American society also witnessed the creation of new fast foods that originated from the traditional cuisine of various ethnic groups from around the world. For example, German immigrant Charles Feltman invented the hot dog in 1867 in his stall in Coney Island, New York by pairing a frankfurter with a bread bun. [51] Imitators such as Harry Magley and Charles Stevens soon began selling hot dogs at New York Polo Grounds baseball games. Similarly, Italian immigrants sold ice cream from vending carts in the streets or pasta at their restaurants. Chinese immigrants initially opened restaurants to cater to their fellow Chinese-Americans, but they gradually became accepted by the American clientele, sometimes resulting in truly Chinese-American cuisine such as chop suey. In this diverse world of ethnic foods, the hamburger was able to rise to mainstream popularity and become a national food of the United States.

White Castle System Edit

On November 16, 1916, chef and entrepreneur Walter "Walt" Anderson opened a hamburger stand in Wichita, Kansas, that used hygienic cooking methods, including grills and spatulas, and impressed his Wichita customers so much that many would become regular patrons. At this time, the hamburger was still not widely known by the American public. Anderson added onion rings to the burgers while they grilled, giving them a distinctive flavor. [42] As demand increased, customers often bought his hamburgers by the dozen, giving rise to the company's subsequently popular slogan: "buy 'em by the sack". Despite some growth, Anderson had opened only four stands in the busiest areas of the city. In 1926, Edgar Waldo "Billy" Ingram collaborated with Anderson to open the first White Castle restaurant in Wichita. The restaurant was founded on the idea of cooking a hamburger quickly, giving it the honor of being the first fast food restaurant.

Ingram soon realized that the word burger evoked connotations of circus performances at livestock markets and greasy pieces of meat eaten in the poorest districts of the city in the collective mind of the American public. He tried to change those connotations from White Castle's earliest days. At the same time, he became known to some as the Henry Ford of the hamburger, [18] while inventing a restaurant concept he called the "White Castle System", which helped the hamburger achieve fame. [47] Between 1923 and 1931, the "White Castle System" established almost a hundred restaurants in cities throughout the Midwestern United States. In order to raise awareness among White Castle employees, a newsletter entitled "The hot hamburger" was circulated throughout the company, which challenged the employees to improve the sale of the burgers with a simple idea: to be able to prepare burgers rapidly so anyone could purchase and eat them anytime and anywhere. Instead of waiting for half an hour to be served at a traditional restaurant, the White Castle System provided rapid service and a menu centered around the hamburger. At the time, the hamburger was typically served with coffee. [47] Upton Sinclair's The Jungle had already caused public outrage over the safety of processed meat, so by the 1920s, the general public had come to expect a clean and hygienic hamburger. In addition to offering clean and safe food, White Castle offered regularity and standardization, ensuring that each patty was served in the same manner in each restaurant. At the time, this was an entirely novel idea that would revolutionize the sale of food itself with a style that would come to be known as fast food. [47] During its early years, White Castle emphasized providing quality coffee, and collaborated with universities to publish studies on the nutritional quality of their hamburgers.

The success of the White Castle chain was rooted largely in the power of propaganda, something that was both an original innovation and necessary to change the public's negative perception of the hamburger. [47] In 1931, it became the first restaurant to advertise in newspapers, using its old "buy 'em by the sack" slogan. White Castle also pioneered the concept of take-out service, and the restaurant is further known for being the first to market square burgers, called "sliders", which were sold for five cents into the 1940s. [47] White Castle was founded in March 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, by Billy Ingram and his business partner, the cook Walter Anderson, and they opened a second restaurant in Kansas City in 1924. In 1932, White Castle created its first subsidiary: Paperlynen Company, which provided the cartons and wrapping paper that the food was served in, as well as the hats worn by the kitchen staff. It acquired porcelain companies in a similar fashion, placing them in charge of building small White Castle restaurants using white porcelain facades.

Walter Anderson contributed a number of novel ideas to White Castle during its early years, including the creation of a special spatula and a special bread for the burgers. In 1949, an employee named Earl Howell calculated the amount of time that it took to break hamburgers apart in a presentable fashion, eventually leading him to create the perforated burger. By 1951, White Castle had incorporated five perforations into its burgers. [42] Before Anderson, hamburgers were cooked on a grill for an indefinite period of time and minced meat balls were "crushed" into conventional slices of bread, like a sandwich. The meat was frozen and hamburgers came to be cooked from frozen, instead of using fresh meat. White Castle revolutionized the burger-making process by regularizing the finished products and using hygienic preparation techniques that were in clear view of the customers. [42]

White Castle had a very large progression of sales, and its success was such, that by 1926, it had already generated competitors and imitators in the emerging hamburger business. One of these imitators also had a highly similar name, White Tower Hamburgers of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, founded by the father and son tandem of John E. and Thomas E. Saxe. The creation of White Tower led to numerous legal battles between it and White Castle during the 1930s. By 1930, White Castle already had 116 restaurants spread over a distance of 2,300 kilometres (1,400 mi), all of which were located within the United States. [1] The company eventually became a large restaurant chain, however, there has never been a restaurant outside of the United States. [49] The American shortage of beef during World War II had little effect on sales across White Castle, due to the effect of vertical integration along with the appearance of fast food chains that operated on a franchise model that emphasized horizontal integration. [47]

McDonald's era Edit

In 1937, Patrick McDonald and his two sons Richard and Maurice inaugurated the simple restaurant "Airdrome" on Huntington Drive (Route 66) near the airport in the American city of Monrovia, California. The success of its sales eventually led to the May 15, 1940, opening of a restaurant named McDonald's along U.S. Route 66 in San Bernardino, California. After analyzing their sales, the brothers discovered that, to their surprise, 80% of their revenue was coming from selling hamburgers. [52] The menu initially featured 25 different dishes, the majority of which were barbecued. Through their new restaurant, the McDonald brothers introduced the notion of fast food to parts of the Western United States by 1948. From the beginning, McDonald's focused on making hot dogs and hamburgers as efficiently and quickly as possible. [9] [52] During the 1940s, simple and formative concepts took root at McDonald's, including the preparation and service of burgers in just one minute and the ability for customers to eat in their own cars in a drive-in style. All the while, the restaurant was trying to further develop a hamburger that was inexpensive enough to be within the economic reach of most Americans. By the 1950s, the concept of drive-in style service had become firmly established and hamburgers and cars had become closely connected in the minds of many Americans. It was now not only possible for a customer to purchase a hamburger without getting out of a car, and a customer also no longer needed to wait to be served. [9] The McDonald brothers built upon the achievements of their original San Bernardino restaurant when in 1953 they began franchising their now famous chain restaurants, starting in Phoenix, Arizona, and Downey, California (the latter of which is still in operation). Later, Ray Kroc opened one in the northwest Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, Illinois on April 15, 1955, which has now been converted into the McDonald's Museum. [9] It is noteworthy that the original McDonald's mascot was a hamburger faced cook called "Speedee" that would serve as the iconographic identity of the company until being replaced by the clown Ronald McDonald in 1963.

The McDonald brothers intensively studied the existing kitchen protocol of their restaurants in an effort to improve them. They looked at different options that could increase the speed of cooking hamburgers, designing and patenting special grills that had a higher output, made their cutlery and other kitchen utensils disposable, and introduced dishwashers that reduced the costs of water, soap, and labor. The brothers also created a detailed system for operating each kitchen throughout the franchise in a similar and largely standardized manner, as well as recruiting adolescents as employees in the kitchens. [9]

The company began to expand at a much faster rate when 52-year-old ice cream machinery salesman Ray Kroc took over as its chief executive. [52] Kroc was the initiator of both McDonald's expansion across the United States and the definitive standardization of its burgers. He was not alone, however, as some of his co-workers were also very productive and innovative. McDonald's executive and food scientist Herb Peterson invented the McMuffin in 1972 and also the now famous greeting, "May I have your order, please?". In another key development, Jim Delligatti of the Pittsburgh franchise invented the Big Mac in 1967. The McDonald's successful expansion was mainly due to its use of the franchise system, an innovation borrowed from a sewing machine manufacturer, the Singer Corporation. Singer had developed it during the late 19th century, and it was so successful that it was soon adopted by its competitors. [53] Nowadays, McDonald's even has its own university for training its staff: Hamburger University, located in Oak Brook, Illinois. Graduates receive a degree entitled "bachelor of hamburgerology with a minor in French fries". [54] As McDonald's expanded into other countries, it encountered more opposition and general difficulties, as was the case in 1996 when it opened a restaurant in New Delhi amid outcry from Indian leaders. [55] In 1995, the country with the most McDonald's restaurants (aside from the United States) was Japan, followed by Canada and Germany, while the company itself had restaurants in more than 100 countries. [55] Throughout its history, the company has become a symbol of globalization and Western culture, sometimes resulting in it being the subject of anger and protests in various parts of the world. [7]

Variants Edit

Many different variants of the hamburger have been created over the years, some of which have become very popular. Much of this diversity has been the product of other restaurant chains that have tried to reproduce the success of McDonald's and White Castle, while others served to influence McDonald's. An example of a restaurant that influenced McDonald's and its imitators is Big Boy, which was first opened in 1936 by Bob Wian in Glendale, California, and became known in that locale as Bob's Big Boy. [56] It was at this restaurant that a major hamburger variant, the double deck cheeseburger, with two beef patties, was first made. Wian's creation was distinctively served by Big Boy restaurants with the bun sliced twice, the center slice—known as the club section—separating the two patties. The chain also popularized the drive-in restaurant format, taken and simplified by McDonald's type fast food operators. By the 1960s, Big Boy had expanded throughout the United States and Canada. Despite the benefits it provided to Wian, the chain was sold along with the rights to their signature Big Boy hamburger to the Marriott Corporation in 1967. This same year McDonald's franchisee Jim Delligatti, created an imitation of the Big Boy — the Big Mac. [57] An example of the many McDonald's and White Castle imitators is Kewpee Hamburgers, a fast-food chain founded in 1923 in Flint, Michigan, by Samuel V. Blair as "Kewpee Hotel Hamburgs." [47]

As with the invention of the hamburger, the exact origins of the cheeseburger are unknown. Several chefs claim to have been the first to add a slice of cheese to a hamburger. Lionel Sternberger of Rite Spot in Pasadena, California, takes credit for the cheeseburger, claiming that he invented it between 1924 and 1926. [39] A description from a 1928 menu from the O'Dell Restaurant in Los Angeles reveals that it was serving burgers with slices of cheese at the time. [4] Luis Ballast, owner of the Humpty Dumpty drive-in restaurant in Denver, Colorado, made an attempt to create a cheeseburger with a registered trademark known as a "yellowburger" in 1935. J.C. Reynolds, the operator of a bar in Southern California from 1932 to 1984, popularized a pimento burger. [4] Processed cheese, the type of cheese most used in cheeseburgers, was invented in 1911 by Walter Gerber of Thun, Switzerland, although the first U.S. patent awarded for it was given to James L. Kraft in 1916. [58] [59] Kraft Foods went on to create the first commercial version of sliced processed cheese, which was first introduced to the market in 1950.

After World War II, a number of hamburger restaurants known as InstaBurger King (later Burger King) began emerging, the first of which was opened on December 4, 1954, in a suburb of Miami, Florida. It was established by James McLamore and David Edgerton, both of whom were students at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. [60] McLamore had visited the original McDonald's in San Bernardino, California, when it was still owned by the McDonald brothers, and saw the potential that existed for the mass production of hamburgers. He was so inspired by this visit that he decided to create a similar burger chain himself. By 1959, Burger King already had five restaurants in metropolitan Miami, and its early success prompted McLamore and Edgerton to expand throughout the United States by using a franchise system that allowed them to grow the business at a relatively low cost. They formed Burger King Corporation as a parent company to the franchises they were selling throughout the United States. [61] The Burger King Corporation was acquired by the Pillsbury Company in 1967, and during the 1970s, it began to expand outside the United States, principally in South America and Europe. Burger King's core product has long been the Whopper, which was created in 1957 by founder James McLamore and initially sold for 37 cents. [62]

Wendy's was founded by Dave Thomas and John T. Schuessler on November 15, 1969, in Columbus, Ohio. By the late 1970s, it had become the third largest hamburger company in the United States. [63] [64] Wendy's has consistently tried to differentiate itself from other hamburger restaurants by its claim that it makes its burgers using fresh, not frozen, beef. Wendy's sparked a controversy and entered into American pop culture in the 1980s with its "Where's the beef?" advertising slogan and an accompanying campaign stressing the primacy of the beef patty over the hamburger's other ingredients.

The hamburger was very popular among Americans during the postwar period following World War I, [50] even in popular culture. An example of this was the prominent appearance of hamburgers in E. C. Segar's Thimble Theatre comic strip, which prominently featured a cartoon character named Popeye the Sailor who ate spinach to sustain his superhuman strength. Popeye's first appearance was as a supporting character on January 17, 1929, alongside many other characters. One of these characters was J. Wellington Wimpy (often shortened to just "Wimpy"), a lover of hamburgers who was both polite and gluttonous. His signature phrase, "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today", became popular and widely known. During the height of his popularity in the 1930s, Wimpy introduced the hamburger to the youth of the time as a healthy food. It also resulted in the creation of a chain of fast food restaurants called Wimpy's in his honor, which sold hamburgers for ten cents. [44] In a similar fashion, the fictional character Jughead Jones, who first appeared in Archie Comics in 1941, was passionate about food generally, and hamburgers specifically.

Fictional characters related to the hamburger, such as the Ronald McDonald clown character designed by Willard Scott who first appeared on television in 1963, [65] soon became a recognizable part of American culture. The burger also made appearances in underground comix such as Zap Comix#2 during the late 1960s, in which cartoonist Robert Crumb designed a character called "Hamburger Hi-Jinx". By the end of the decade, pop art was including the hamburger as an artistic element, appearing in the works of Andy Warhol (Dual Hamburger), Claes Oldenburg (Floor Burger), Mel Ramos (Vinaburger, 1965), and more recently, David LaChapelle (Death by Hamburger, 2002).

An example of the popularity and identification that the burger enjoyed among the American public was the name of the Battle of Hamburger Hill, which occurred in May 1969 during the Vietnam War. Its name was inspired by the number of American and Vietnamese casualties, which made the scene resembles a "butcher". [66] The hamburger was also the inspiration of Star Wars creator George Lucas's design for the Millennium Falcon ship. [67] Hamburgers also appear in computer games, as in the case of BurgerTime, an arcade-style game created in 1982 by Data East Corporation. The hamburger also appears prominently on American television shows such as American Eats and Man v. Food.

By the 1960s, American society had become highly motorized, largely due to the 1956 Federal Highway Act passed by President Dwight Eisenhower and inspired by the German Autobahn, as well as the impressive growth rates of American automobile manufacturers at the time. [2] Due to the extensive use of cars at the time, hamburgers were often served at drive-ins, often by waiters known as carhops. Drive-in restaurants first appeared in the United States in the early 1930s, and gradually become a common sight across the country. The ability to serve hamburgers to customers in their cars was seen as a business opportunity by countless fast-food chains, especially McDonald's. [9] The popularity of the hamburger grew rapidly among the American population during this period, and statistics indicate that the average American was eating three burgers per week. [5]

During the Cold War, the hamburger became a national symbol of the United States. As private outdoor social events, often held in backyards and featuring a barbecue, became more widespread during the mid-1950s, the hamburger gained a new culinary and social relevance in the country. [68] [28] By the late 1960s, hamburgers began to grow in size as various burger chains competed with each other, resulting in Burger King launching the Whopper and McDonald's launching the Quarter Pounder. As the race between the major chains grew more intense, the prices of their burgers increased, and the days when a hamburger could be bought for just a few cents were numbered.

In the 1970s, major hamburger chains began to use considerable resources in marketing their products. They began to compete directly with each other through their advertising, much of which was comparative and often featured direct allusions and comparisons. [54] The event came to be jokingly referred to as the "burger wars" by many Americans. By the end of the 1980s, the era of slogans in large chain restaurants had begun.

The modern hamburger was developed in the United States, but by the end of World War II, around the middle of the 20th century, it began to spread to other countries as fast food became globalized. [6] The main cause of this gradual globalization was the successes of the large restaurant chains. Their desires to expand their businesses and increase their profits resulted in them creating franchises around the world. [6] McDonald's was among the first of the burger chains to take the global establishment of its brand seriously, [7] but it was not the only one. Wimpy began operating in the United Kingdom in 1954, 20 years before McDonald's began operation in the country, and by 1970 it had expanded to over a thousand restaurants in 23 countries. [69] On August 21, 1971, in Zaandam, near Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Ahold opened its first European franchise. In the 1970s, McDonald's began to expand into Europe and Australia. In Asia, Japan saw the establishment of its own fast food chain in 1972: MOS Burger ( モスバーガー , Mosu bāgā) , an abbreviation of "Mountain, Ocean, Sun", which eventually became a direct competitor to McDonald's. All of its products, however, were variations on the burger adapted to the Asian world, including the teriyaki burger, takumi burger, and riceburger. [10] In Hong Kong, Aji Ichiban competed with large chains before it spread quickly throughout Asia. [55] One of the first hamburger vending machines debuted in Amsterdam in 1941 under the brand FEBO, its name derived from its original place of creation, the Ferdinand Bolstraat.

At the same time the hamburger was growing in popularity around the world, it took on a variety of local features in different locations. Such examples of this include ground meat made from local animals, such as kangaroos in Australia, [70] or Tex-Mex-style dishes like chilli con carne.

The expansion and standardization of the hamburger has led to the creation of a price index that can be used as an economic reference between different countries known as the Big Mac Index. It measures the worth (in US$) of a burger in different parts of the world, allowing for the comparison of the purchasing power parity of 120 national economies in which McDonald's does business. [71] American sociologist George Ritzer coined the related concept of "McDonaldization" in his 1995 book McDonaldization of Society. [7] Another byproduct of the globalization of fast food was the creation of international competitive eating contests that involve contestants from many different countries. One of the best known is the Krystal Square Off, run by the fast-food chain Krystal and sponsored by the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOC), which has been held annually since 2004.

In the 20th century, the hamburger has appeared as the central topic in some books on the literature of culinary topics. An example of this is Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, published by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser in 2001, that examines the local and global influence of the American fast food industry. [50] An example of a modern variation of the hamburger is the so-called gourmet burger, which is made by haute cuisine chefs with patties that include luxury ingredients. One of the first such burgers was cooked in New York City by chef Daniel Boulud in June 2001, and subsequently sold for US$29 with loin, ribs Bres, canned black truffles, and a mirepoix of vegetables. The Manhattan restaurant "Old Homestead", one of the oldest steakhouses in the country, offers a $44 hamburger with beef-bred Japanese wagyū. [4] An haute cuisine burger created by Richard Blais, a student of Ferran Adrià, was introduced in 2004 at a restaurant in Atlanta, where it is served with a crystal chain and a silk ribbon. In response to the haute cuisine take on the hamburger, others have created more humble versions. Alberto Chicote of Madrid makes homemade hamburgers in his kitchen, using Iberian pork along with homemade ketchup and mustard. [72] In 1993, Max Schondor created a hamburger made of soy. In a 2005 episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, the adventurous title character visits Mr. Krabs's popular Krabby Patty burgers, where hamburgers figure prominently in the story.

In the United States during the 20th century, there have been numerous celebrations marking the centenary of the burger. Two locations in particular organized high-profile events to celebrate 100 years of the hamburger. One was held in Athens, Texas, in November 2006, in honor of Fletcher Davis. In a resolution made by the state of Texas, it was established that Athens is the "Original Home of Hamburger". However, in August 2007, the state of Wisconsin made the same claim on behalf of the town of Seymour, the home of Charlie Nagreen who also claimed to be the creator of the hamburger. [8] These two decisions have split the honor of creating the hamburger between these two American cities. The town of Seymour continues to annually celebrate a "Burger Fest" on the first Saturday of each August.

Nutritional controversies Edit

Since the latter part of the 20th century, the burger has undergone several controversies regarding its nutritional values. In an era in which a growing amount of the world's population has become either overweight or more conscious of weight and the need for a healthy diet in general, the appearance of exceptionally larger burgers (popularly known as "XXL hamburgers") has generated considerable controversy. [73] One example of this is the Triple Whopper, which surpasses the one thousand calorie threshold established by the Health Strategy Against Obesity, which is promoted by the health institutes of the Spanish Association of Food and Nutrition Safety (AESAN). AESAN works to prevent the growth of the incidence of obesity in all people, particularly children. More generally, dietitians are beginning to see that the consumption of foods high in calories can cause excessive appetite. [74] In response to this message, many restaurant chains have reduced the calories in their burgers since the beginning of the 20th century. The late 20th century witnessed a lawsuit brought by McDonald's against two environmental activists, Helen Steel and David Morris, that was colloquially known as McLibel. McDonald's took action following the publication of a pamphlet by Steel and Morris that was entitled What’s wrong with McDonald’s: Everything they don’t want you to know, which was subsequently developed into a documentary called McLibel.

Media Edit

In 2004, Morgan Spurlock addressed the obsessive consumption of hamburgers by some Americans by directing and starring in the documentary film Super Size Me. In the film, he himself eats only McDonald's food for an entire month and documents how his health changes. That same year saw the premiere of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, a film in which White Castle restaurants played a vital part. Two years later, in 2006, the film Fast Food Nation presented a fictional representation of the intrigues and machinations of the meat industry on the border between Mexico and the United States. It is largely based on the 2001 book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal.

7 things to do in the D.C. area on the weekend of March 21-23

Friday-Sunday: After its opening was postponed by more than three months, the new Dolcezza Gelato Factory and Coffee Lab will finally open near Union Market. The 4,000-square-foot Northeast warehouse is the production hub for the rapidly expanding business, which now includes four retail storefronts, plus restaurants serving Dolcezza sweets. As of Friday, it's also a walk-in gelato and coffee shop, where you'll be able to taste freshly churned gelatos and sorbets, served in porcelain or glass with real silverware or drink a coffee or espresso from Stumptown. Friday through Sunday, the shop will offer tours at 2 and 4 p.m. daily pints (usually $10.50) will be half-price. The shop, at 550 Penn St. NE (202-333-4646), opens at noon Friday. Read more about the factory and its coffee program here.

Friday-Aug. 31: Even amid the high-definition, color-saturated landscape that is 21st-century popular culture, the works of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and the pop artists of the 1960s still possess a futuristic vibrancy. Theirs are among "Pop Art Prints," one of the perfect-for-spring exhibitions opening this week at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The collection of 37 prints that obscured the lines between art's high-brow and low-brow, including works by Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Indiana and Mel Ramos.

Friday-May 4: Diplomacy wonks will be paying close attention to "Camp David," a dramatic adaptation of 1978's 13-day Middle East peace summit between President Jimmy Carter (Richard Thomas), Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (Ron Rifkin) and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (Khaled Nabawy). The play, which makes its world premiere at Arena Stage, is written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright, a staff writer for the New Yorker. The opening performance is Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $55-$110 get them here.

Friday: At its best, Detroit duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. makes irresistibly catchy lo-fi electro-pop songs with a sheen of new-wave nostalgia in the bubbling guitar lines and skewed synth lines. (Case in point: The standout single “If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t on the Dancefloor.)") Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. performs at the 9:30 Club with Chad Valley before heading over to Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar, where they’ll DJ at a free party. (Doors at Little Miss Whiskey’s open at 10, but there’s no telling what time the band will start its set.) Tickets for the 9:30 Club show are $16 get them here.

The Expanding Case for ESG in Private Equity

Customers, employees and limited partners are demanding more sustainable, socially conscious corporate behavior. PE firms that can deliver are reaping the rewards.

By Axel Seemann, Dale Hardcastle, Deike Diers, and Jacqueline Han

The Expanding Case for ESG in Private Equity
At a Glance
  • ESG investing continues to face skepticism in the private equity industry, especially in the US.
  • But proactive firms aren&rsquot waiting for ROI studies to pan out before incorporating sustainability and social responsibility into how they invest and operate.
  • ESG isn&rsquot just a nice thing to do. It is becoming a critical element in gaining market share, engaging employees and raising capital.

This article is part of Bain's 2021 Global Private Equity Report.

Until there is consistent data establishing a positive link between ESG investing and financial returns, there will always be skepticism among private equity investors. That&rsquos just the way the industry is wired.

We&rsquove all seen the anecdotal evidence that companies can actually &ldquodo well by doing good&rdquo when they adhere to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) standards. But no matter the ownership model, there is reluctance to dive in headfirst, and PE firms face a unique mandate to produce substantial returns quickly.

ESG is broad and amorphous, notoriously hard to define. We lack time-tested standards for measuring either results or impact. That, not surprisingly, leads to muted enthusiasm among some firms and check-the-box efforts among others. Very often, it seems, firms skew toward the &ldquoE,&rdquo putting new labels on cost or efficiency initiatives that they would have implemented anyway. As Institutional Investor put it in a June 2020 headline, &ldquoPrivate Equity Makes ESG Promises. But Their Impact Is Often Superficial.&rdquo

This clearly isn&rsquot always the case. TPG, for instance, has enthusiastically adopted ESG principles both internally and within its portfolios. It is also a leader in launching impact funds and made a high-profile announcement in January that former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson would join the firm as executive chairman of TPG Rise Climate, a new fund focused on climate-related investments. At the same time, signatories to the United Nations&rsquo Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) jumped 28% last year and now number more than 3,000 institutional investors and PE firms, representing a staggering $103 trillion of assets under management.

Yet a closer look at the numbers suggests that real commitment to ESG is less monolithic. While the PRI signatory list includes 431 PE firms from around the world, only 16 of them disclose ESG&rsquos impact on financial returns, according to Institutional Investor, and only half use ESG principles in monitoring more than 90% of their portfolio companies.

There&rsquos also a wide gap in adoption between the PE industry in North America and that in Europe. While 80% of the top 20 EU-based institutional investors have committed to either the PRI, the UN&rsquos Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance or the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, less than half of the top 20 North American institutions have done so, and many of those are based in Canada (see Figure 1).

Limited partners in Europe lead the world in committing to global standards for responsible and sustainable investment

An analysis of ESG performance among PE firms by EcoVadis, a leading global supplier of business sustainability ratings, shows that portfolio companies owned by US-based firms trail those owned by EU-based firms by 12 points. Yet even in Europe there is ample room to grow. Looking at sustainability factors only, the great majority of EU-owned portfolio companies haven&rsquot launched meaningful initiatives (see Figure 2). And the broader corporate world isn&rsquot much further along. EcoVadis data shows that PE-owned companies and corporations are pretty much neck and neck when it comes to ESG maturity scores in both the US and Europe.

European LPs have embraced ESG much more eagerly than those in North America, but there’s still room to grow

A building wave of change

So is ESG one of those particularly persistent investment fads that will eventually fade away? We wouldn&rsquot bet on that any more than we&rsquod bet against the historic groundswell of global concern around climate change, social upheaval and corporate responsibility. What&rsquos made the PE industry successful in the past is its ability to anticipate future currents of value creation and to think more broadly about how they will reveal themselves. We believe this is one of those moments.

Sensing that broader economic forces are rapidly changing behaviors and attitudes, many firms aren&rsquot waiting for ROI studies to prove out before banking on ESG. A growing segment of the industry believes that investments in sustainability, social welfare and good governance require a different calculus for now&mdashat least if they want to get ahead of the game.

In the few short years since ESG appeared on the scene, the industry has tended to view it as a sideshow&mdashsomething good to do in addition to a fund&rsquos normal business of buying and shepherding companies. Some firms have actually segregated these efforts into discrete funds wholly devoted to impact investing, where the goal is to generate social or environmental impact at market-rate returns (see Figure 3).

Leading firms see ESG investing as a core part of creating value and mitigating risk

As ESG matures, however, the firms leading the charge&mdashmostly in Europe&mdashtalk less about discrete, segregated ESG initiatives and more about delighting customers, gaining market share, engaging employees and creating the best work environment. As with sector expertise or technology acumen, they have come to consider ESG a core part of what differentiates them as competitors, baking ESG principles into sharpening due diligence, building stronger value-creation plans and preparing the most compelling exit stories.

Private equity has always focused on governance risk and increasingly sees the value in cutting costs through sustainability. What&rsquos changing is firms&rsquo growing awareness that environmental, social and governance issues are highly interrelated and that the biggest benefits over time accrue to companies that balance efforts between all three.

The desire to contribute to a better world is certainly a motivator, but the rationale is all business. These firms recognize that consumers, regulators, employees and sources of capital are energized by the notion that investors can and should use their economic clout to address the many existential crises we face as a society. Each of these groups is ramping up demands for change and, in many cases, rewarding it (see Figure 4).

Stakeholders of all kinds want companies to be more sustainable, socially conscious and well governed

Consumers. Survey after survey shows that consumers&mdashespecially the surging wave of millennials and post-millennials&mdashare flocking to companies that they believe act responsibly. &ldquoDoing the right thing&rdquo may be an imprecise concept, but consumers clearly know it when they see it. Increasingly, it is becoming a critical element of customer loyalty, as measured by Net Promoter Scores.

A 2020 Capgemini survey of 7,500 consumers and 750 executives globally found that 79% of buyers were changing their preferences based on sustainability. At the same time, only 36% of organizations believed consumers were willing to make these changes. This disconnect is surprising given that companies clearly see a payoff when they buy into the shift in behaviors. A full 77% said sustainability initiatives increased customer loyalty, and 63% have seen a revenue uptick.

What&rsquos clear from the data is that capturing the favor of these ESG-minded consumers has enormous upside. Nielsen estimates that, in the US alone, buyers will spend up to $150 billion on consumer packaged goods viewed as sustainable by 2021.

CVC is one of the firms that speaks less about ESG in isolation and more about using it to create value. As managing partner Jean-Rémy Roussel said in a recent episode of Bain&rsquos Dry Powder podcast, &ldquoIt&rsquos not a trade-off, it&rsquos not a risk management/litigation issue, it is not conformance to regulation. It is a unique opportunity.&rdquo

CVC has developed a systematic approach to embedding ESG and corporate social responsibility initiatives into its value-creation plans, with the specific goal of improving market share and increasing deal multiples. The approach is rooted in the belief that private equity&rsquos traditional focus on boosting EBITDA is actually less effective than focusing on customer loyalty and employee satisfaction, which ultimately generate more value and therefore higher multiples. When CVC buys a company, one of the first things it does is collect hard data on customer and employee satisfaction. It then helps management figure out how to target six key areas&mdashcustomer focus, simplification, human capital, communities, environment and governance&mdashto improve performance.

A good example of how this works is CVC&rsquos 2017 acquisition of Żabka, a Polish chain of franchised convenience stores. In diligence, CVC identified a number of ESG-related efficiencies and savings. It replaced refrigerants in 2,200 stores and took other measures to reduce annual carbon dioxide production. It reduced the weight of the packaging for one of the chain&rsquos sandwich brands, eliminating three tons of plastic waste. At the end of 2020, it launched a more comprehensive program to reduce CO2 by at least 5% per year and reach net zero by 2050. It is currently investigating the most credible way to offset CO2 production at the company level.

The big upside was reengaging with customers to grab market share in a largely stagnant industry. As Żabka studied how to optimize the assortment in its stores, it saw that consumer tastes had shifted dramatically away from typical convenience store fare. The company worked with suppliers to source healthier and more responsible ingredients for its products. It became the first retailer in Poland to use 100% recycled plastic bottles in its branded beverages. It started taking the market lead in selling plant-based food products, hailing their &ldquotriple benefits&rdquo: customer health, environmental friendliness and animal welfare.

Corporate social responsibility also became increasingly core to the company&rsquos ethos. Żabka now trains employees and franchisees to sell alcohol more responsibly and to recycle more effectively. It has set up programs to eliminate food waste by transferring surpluses to food banks. The company runs career development programs for employees, and it funds scholarships and internships for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The results have been impressive: Loyalty and satisfaction scores have soared among customers, employees and franchisees. That led to 20% annual revenue growth from 2017 to 2020, while gross margins increased by 3.9 percentage points. The chain added 652 new stores in 2019, and employment has risen sharply. Social responsibility initiatives have raised the company&rsquos profile across Poland, and a broad corporate campaign to communicate these values and successes has embedded a new sense of purpose throughout the organization.

Employees. As Żabka has discovered, a commitment to sustainability and social responsibility is rapidly becoming essential to attracting and retaining key talent. Research shows that employee loyalty increasingly hinges on a belief that they are working for a company with a nobler mission than just churning out quarterly earnings. A global HP survey of 20,000 workers in 2019 found that 61% believe sustainability is mandatory for companies (on par with diversity and inclusion), and nearly 50% said they would only work for a company with sustainable business practices.

At Unilever, which has made a major public commitment to sustainability, about half of all new employees entering from college say the company&rsquos ethical and sustainability policies are the main reason they wanted to hire on. A sense of mission leads to greater satisfaction, which in turn leads to higher productivity.

Limited partners. One reason ESG is top of mind for PE firms around the world is that a growing number of LPs are demanding it. According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Institutional Investors, 88% of LPs globally use ESG performance indicators in making investment decisions, and 87% said they invest in companies that have reduced their near-term return on capital so they can reallocate that money to ESG initiatives. As noted above, European LPs have demonstrated more commitment to ESG than their counterparts in North America, but the biggest institutions in the US and Canada, including the CPP Investment Board, CDPQ, CalPERS and the California State Teachers&rsquo Retirement System, are firmly on board.

For general partners, this means that ESG is fast becoming a central factor in raising money. CVC&rsquos Roussel, for instance, said that one-fifth of the LPs invested in the firm&rsquos recently closed Fund VIII required an audit showing evidence that ESG was part of the firm&rsquos decision making during both due diligence and ownership. CVC has commissioned EcoVadis to undertake annual assessments of its portfolio companies to demonstrate how ESG maturity has improved under its ownership.

Bankers. Despite the lack of evidence linking ESG to returns, a growing slice of the financial world assumes that sustainable, socially responsible companies are less risky. As a result, PE firms are finding ways to monetize their ESG strategies by lowering their cost of capital. EQT, for instance, launched two ESG-linked subscription credit facilities in 2020 worth &euro5 billion, with interest rates that decline if the firm performs well against a set of ESG indicators. Firms like Investindustrial and KKR have developed other financing vehicles with ESG incentives or targeted uses. In late 2019, Jeanologia, a Carlyle-owned company that creates clean technologies for jeans manufacturing, agreed to a loan with a rate tied to water savings.

Per Franzén, cohead of the EQT Private Equity Advisory Team, calls the shift to credit-linked facilities &ldquoa game-changing moment&rdquo for the private equity industry: &ldquoBy linking sustainability objectives to hard incentives, we are really challenging ourselves and the portfolio companies to fully embrace the potential of sustainability.&rdquo

Regulators. If ESG-linked credit facilities are the carrot, regulation is the stick. One reason European firms are addressing ESG more urgently than their US counterparts is that EU regulators are on the case. The EU Taxonomy, a landmark initiative aimed at channeling private capital into sustainable assets, will take effect in December 2021. It will force asset managers in the EU to disclose their share of taxonomy-aligned assets under management, inevitably creating an incentive to raise that share to remain competitive.

By contrast, US regulators are headed the other direction&mdashat least for now. The US Department of Labor in November 2020 issued a rule discouraging fiduciaries from using nonfinancial (read: ESG) principles in screening pension investments.

Taking the lead

This push and pull between skeptics and believers is typical of game-changing moments. The market, of course, will eventually decide the case, but momentum is building in powerful places. While the top 20 LPs in the US on average may be less inclined or incented to join their global counterparts in committing to ESG, fund-raising is a global business, and GPs still face firm pressure from investors to show progress on these issues. Meanwhile, the firms in the lead are building ESG investing into a differentiating capability. They are convinced it will give them an edge in a PE market that has never been more competitive.

What does it look like to build ESG into the value-creation cycle from beginning to end? Consider EQT&rsquos approach in 2016 when it bought AutoStore, a Norwegian maker of warehousing robots that is headquartered on a remote fjord, a six-hour drive from Oslo. The warehouse industry had limited focus on environmental or workplace issues at the time. But the firm and management saw an opportunity to change the conversation with AutoStore&rsquos flagship robot, which automates retail warehouses by wandering through a compact shelving system, picking and packing.

EQT anticipated two ways it could create value at AutoStore. First, the firm would encourage the company to address its own footprint with a series of cost-saving initiatives aimed at decreasing consumption and reducing carbon emissions. Second, it would focus the company&rsquos marketing on sustainability and workplace quality. AutoStore&rsquos robot already used less energy and was significantly quieter than any other product on the market. But the management team and salesforce weren&rsquot hitting those value arguments in their sales pitch.

EQT&rsquos perspective came from the top of the firm―one of its primary investment themes is that sustainability attributes are increasingly becoming key purchasing criteria in any industry, and the AutoStore deal team was convinced warehousing was no different. To bring the company&rsquos leadership on board, it launched a set of value-creation initiatives linked to sustainability and put a regular reporting function on the board agenda, tying environmental concerns to governance. The company also launched a project to determine if the robot&rsquos sustainability features were a point of differentiation among customers. The answer was yes.

Leadership directed the company&rsquos R&D lab to make its robot even more sustainable and worker friendly. By switching from a lead-acid to lithium-ion battery and increasing the share of recyclable components, engineers significantly reduced the carbon footprint of the product while maintaining its remarkable energy efficiency. (The robot uses one-tenth the energy of a vacuum cleaner.) By running in the dark, it also reduces energy usage within the warehouse.

Armed with a much improved next-generation product, the company then retooled its communication strategy to focus on sustainability and savings alongside the robot&rsquos impressive technical abilities. The new message resonated loudly with customers globally. During EQT&rsquos ownership, its global installations grew by 2.5 times, the number of installed robots tripled, revenues quadrupled and EBITDA increased by 4.5 times. And the social impact was significant: During ownership, global employment doubled, including in the small village where the company has its headquarters and is an important contributor to the local economy.

ESG isn&rsquot about doing good for good&rsquos sake it&rsquos about recognizing what customers really want and turning that into a strategy that creates tangible value.

EQT&rsquos insight was that, even in a hard-bitten B2B industry like warehousing, sustainability matters. ESG isn&rsquot about doing good for good&rsquos sake it&rsquos about recognizing what customers and other stakeholders really want and turning that into a strategy that creates tangible value. Funds are finding that ESG issues that weren&rsquot necessarily a factor commercially a few years ago are now front and center. And Covid-19 has only accelerated the pace of change. A Bain survey of more than 12,000 consumers in the US and EU showed that 44% agree or strongly agree that sustainability will be even more important in the wake of the pandemic (see Figure 5).

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers are embracing sustainability more than ever

The message is gradually sinking in across the PE industry. During a recent refresh of its value-creation plan for a paper company, a PE firm identified a potential 3- to 5-point EBITDA uplift tied to a series of sustainability initiatives, including revamping its product lineup in a sustainable way. Responding to consumer demands for products easier on the environment, the company plans to rapidly expand its 100% recycled products and those made from alternative fibers like cotton. That will give it time to tap a set of lucrative new markets by developing paper-based alternatives to plastics in products like transparent-window envelopes and composite packaging.

Sustainability is becoming a central theme in its marketing and changing the company&rsquos positioning globally. The plan anticipates that revenue growth&mdashand avoided revenue loss&mdashwill be the biggest contributors to improved results (see Figure 6).

One PE owner plans to use ESG initiatives to boost cash flow at a recently acquired paper company

The opportunity even exists in industries you wouldn&rsquot expect. ESG value creation seems obvious in &ldquoclean&rdquo or socially conscious sectors&mdashelectric vehicles, alternative energy, education, healthcare and so on. But GPs are recognizing that the next buyer will often pay a higher multiple for a company in an environmentally questionable industry that has become more sustainable and responsible than its competitors.

Investindustrial has developed a potent franchise in sustainable investing partly by finding&mdashand fixing&mdashcompanies like Polynt-Reichhold, a specialty chemicals player with some 40 manufacturing facilities globally. Through various sustainability measures, the company reduced its carbon intensity to a level approximately 40% below its best-performing peers. A global shift to LED lighting shaved 400 megawatt-hours of electricity usage per year. Improving insulation on its storage tanks in Norway saved 800 megawatt-hours annually.

The quest for a winning ESG formula

While ESG investing has crawled out of its infancy, it remains early days. Even the leading firms are still figuring out where to play and how to win. One thing is already clear, though&mdashmaking it work takes the same level of commitment and ambition firms devote to developing any new differentiated capability.

In our experience, the firms getting it right have a few things in common:

  • Clear definition, alignment and ambition. ESG can mean a lot of things, so it is critical that firms define what it means for them and build on that. Winning firms also go well beyond lip service by securing alignment around their chosen ambition, starting with the investment committee and extending to individual portfolio and deal teams. Setting up a central ESG team and hoping for the best is not a recipe for success.
  • Focused execution. Different companies in different industries need to apply ESG differently. What&rsquos important is to pick a few things that really matter and move the needle in those areas. Increasing diversity or reducing the carbon footprint are good places to start, but it takes real commitment and execution to produce results. It&rsquos also important to build on early wins to communicate success and expand the scope.
  • Full integration. Capturing the true value of ESG requires embedding it along the entire PE value chain, from due diligence through ownership to exit. While it might not be an investable theme in all deals, it certainly should be a consideration in every diligence. The most effective firms treat it as a capability. They strive to make ESG second nature&mdashan integral part of value creation. Simply tracking random KPIs isn&rsquot enough. Firms need to have a value-creation strategy specific to their industry and customer base.
  • Capability investment. Most firms that have adopted ESG have started with risk mitigation and compliance issues. Taking the next step to value creation requires adding capabilities to identify, track and manage ESG risks and opportunities effectively. Firms also need to learn how to take advantage of sector-level ESG experts, partners and other ecosystem resources to support value-creation plans.
  • Measurement of results and continuous improvement. As with anything else, getting better at ESG investing relies on continuous learning and not waiting for the perfect answer. Firms that have built a track record of ESG value creation have been willing to experiment and then develop winning approaches into playbooks and repeatable models that lead to consistent results. That means establishing clear measures of year-over-year continuous improvement and setting up processes to roll up and monitor ESG performance across the portfolio.

Skepticism around ESG will persist as long as we lack empirical evidence that it pays off. Devising the right measures will take time and creativity. That said, ESG is rapidly moving to the center of how many firms view the value-creation process as they pick up and follow what the market is telling them.

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