Having spent a career in formal, full service, chef-driven restaurants, partner, Cody Taylor and I wanted to create comfortable space that functions as much as a home away from home as a traditional restaurant. For as long as restaurants have been a part of American culture and until not too long ago, going out to eat was a special occasion, an event, an indulgence. But what used to be more about entertainment than satiation has become just that, a commodity that we expect every day and several times a day.
Understanding this, the traditional linear 90 minute script we’ve followed to just to eat a meal (hostess, assigned table, doting server, appetizer, entrée, dessert, leave) makes little sense to the modern consumer who is, more than anything, just looking for a comfortable space to socialize, have a business meeting, send an email, catch up with family and friends, and relax. This is called a “ third place,” or a “leveler” where blue-collar and suit and tie can break bread in the same space, a model first epitomized by local coffee shops 20 years earlier. If you’re not at home (1) and not at work (2), where are you? Where is your “Central Perk” on Friends, “The Max” on Saved by the Bell? Simply put, and more important than ever in this digital and impersonal age, people want to be where people are. Industry is about creating a space to foster that energy and be that home away from home, with minimal friction to getting food or drink.
The counter service-hybrid experience is bullet-pointed for the guest right when you walk in with “how to act.” We say, “Open up, Post up, Hang out, Walkout.” When you first walk in, from the ping pong table to the easily accessible, yet cozy bar, to multiple seating areas of different heights and energy, to the patio with games, and finally to the clear path leading you to the order counter, we are setting a clear expectation. You can order quickly and casually, but you don’t have to do it right away, and you don’t ever have to leave.
This is contrary to true counter service, fast casual model where you queue in line, pay immediately before receiving food or service, then are rushed to uncomfortable seating that encourages turn and burn. At Industry, unlike any place we know of, when you order you are simply opening a tab, encouraging the guest to stay awhile, order another round by flagging down a staff member, and when you’re ready to leave… just walk out and we’ll add 18% gratuity. And people get it.
Nobody hangs out at their local taco shop for 3 hours and nobody tips more than 15% when they have to order and pay at the same time, having no idea what service they’re about to receive. Yet at Industry we average 20% tips, and our guests have no assigned server and have
no formal service expectations. We make the guest feel comfortable and welcome to stay as long as they want, and they tip for that experience. Our entire business model, aimed at achieving prime costs of 50% instead of 60%, hinges on creating a culture of tipping without requiring expensive hourly staff. A full restaurant requires only a handful of front of house that are paid mostly by appreciative customers, not us. Low labor is half of our strategy. Low food cost is the second.
Another key to “ingredient” to being an everyday home away from home is a menu that satisfies every day without being your cheat meal, Did we set out to be a healthy restaurant? No. But can anyone eat chicken fried chicken and burgers 5 days a week without consequences? They cannot. While these are natural best sellers, Industry’s menu is known for being over 50% vegetarian, with sensible items you can choose from 5 days/week. Using a state of the art indoor, yet wood-fired, commercial smoker is another advantage in cooking healthy food, but also food that’s ready fast. Smoking imparts flavor and tenderness to inexpensive ingredients that might otherwise require salt or oil, and because we smoke almost everything from vegetables, to meat, to starches, our menu doesn’t need to be cooked to order. It’s ready within minutes. The food and labor margins of our friends’ barbecue restaurants helped inspire Industry and ultimately became the lynchpin in our business model.
With the kitchen moving quickly, the bar has to keep up as well, and so we have yet another feature that makes industry “everyday” also separates us from all the competition. In addition to a full bar, Industry has 7 unique draft cocktails, 4 draft wines, multiple draft beers, and cold brew coffee on tap. Draft cocktails allow for the craft experience, in an instant, while assuring consistency of product and providing a unique selling point to the guest.
The bar is the focal point of Industry and it’s as beautiful as it is functional. But the underlying theme of our restaurant expressed through the décor, the menu verbiage, the serving dishes, and our service culture is what we are most proud of. Industry is a celebration of life in the service industry, and we make it our mission to make those working in it feel like they have a home. By staying open late, offering special menu items and discounts, and educating customers to their point of view we are guaranteeing a baseline group of ambassadors for our restaurant. Servers and cooks, if you will, have the biggest budgets, strongest opinions, and loudest mouths when it comes to food and drink.
When you ask a local bartender where to eat, we want them to say “Industry” without hesitation. To the casual customer, who’s never worked in a kitchen or bussed a table, the omnipresent service industry theme almost goes unnoticed by design. To the rest of the world, the idea of industry embodies hard work, a lack of pretention, an almost utilitarian approach to grabbing a bite and a drink.
Our modern industrial décor or of brick, wood, and steel ads comfort to that ideal while our service style and our creative yet approachable menu solidifies the experience, making industry an instant favorite among the local restaurant scene… or is the bar scene…coffee shop?
Industry, at the end of the day, is no more a restaurant than it is a bar. Industry is just where you want to be; Industry is just a part of your life. Our tagline says it all: “Eat. Drink. Everyday.”