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    How Today's Restaurants Can Be Modern and Authentic

  • Limited-service concepts need to stay true to their identities, even as they grow.

    Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
    "We’ve been fortunate to stay true to our roots, and our organization is made up of people who have been with the company in some capacity since our conception in 2008," says Artichoke Basille’s Pizza.

    Brands founded on unique personalities and family legacies start off with defined identities, or personalities that they can use to stand out from the crowd. But how does growth impact these identities? We asked three industry experts with unique brands of their own for their tips on staying authentic in the face of change.

    Francis Garcia & Sal Basille

    Cofounders, Artichoke Basille’s Pizza

    We’re fourth-generation New York City restaurateurs. The idea for Artichoke was sparked when we were working in our family’s restaurant in Staten Island. We’d sneak slivers of our now-namesake Artichoke Pie into the bread baskets, and people loved them. A few weeks after we opened our first location—a space in a centuries-old New York City tenement building—a guy came in with his girlfriend and told her that his father has been taking him to our pizzeria since he was little. When we told him that was impossible—we’d only been open a few weeks—he refused to believe us. It was then we knew we managed to pull off the look we set out for.

    We work hard to achieve the authentic feeling of a classic pizzeria and have continued to mimic the brick-and-tin look in locations using antiqued tin or uncovering properties that already have those characteristics. Our franchisees follow our brand specification guide, which outlines all of the finishings customary of Artichoke. We’ve been fortunate to stay true to our roots, and our organization is made up of people who have been with the company in some capacity since our conception in 2008. We work hard to preserve the brand and its identity because the authenticity of what we do every day is everything. We pride ourselves that we’ve been able to keep Artichoke different from other competitors all these years and even as we’ve expanded.

    Balahan Bobus

    Founder, Dill & Parsley

    Dill & Parsley delivers modern diners a collection of traditional and authentic Mediterranean dishes that date back millennia. I treat the menu as a living document; I have personally developed the recipes and menu based on my family’s history. Our recipes come from the Aegean coastline, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Our food defines our brand, and we work hard to preserve authenticity. We are committed to preserving Mediterranean food in its true and natural form and sharing it with the modern world.

    Challenges arise when we begin to adapt traditional recipes to make them healthier and more compatible with our current standards, lifestyles, and social needs. We do not compromise. For example, while other restaurant groups are jumping on the faux meat bandwagon, we will not. Faux meat is extensively processed, so it doesn’t fit in with our natural brand. We see bigger Mediterranean brands shifting more toward the salad concepts, with emphasis on ingredient offerings as opposed to dish offerings. While this makes for an easier operation, these bigger brands start blending in with the salad chains, and the lines between Mediterranean dining and salad bars blur. Dill & Parsley has kept its original recipes. It is not without substantial hard work.

    Our food comes first. As we expand, we spend most of our energy training our staff to understand our food culture. Instead of taking the easy way out, we have been working to instill a culture in our community and team, so that we can succeed in expanding with these wonderful and healthy flavors.

    Paul Altero & Bill Hart

    Cofounders & Co-CEOs, Bubbakoo’s Burritos 

    Bubbakoo’s Burritos is an American/Mexican restaurant with a coastal skate and surf edge. We are both from coastal areas of the Northeast U.S., and while we grew up in different areas and did not meet until later in life, we share the same background in restaurants and the same love of music and skate culture. We’ve always been true to what we wanted to do. We play a mix of high energy rock, reggae, and today’s hits to keep our guests’ ears entertained. We keep their eyes busy with fun surf and skate scenes on TV screens. Our food is unique in the variety of toppings and flavors that can be mixed and matched to allow our guests to create something different.

    The only thing that has changed as we’ve grown is that we’ve gotten better at building cooler, more visually appealing restaurants. Our menu has gotten better as we’ve partnered with some great brands that have created new products we can use to enhance our food, and our service standards have become more intense. We are who we are because we have created a concept that resonates with people and brings something different to the table. We’ve come this far by staying true to who we are—why would we change it?