When FIELDTRIP was founded in 2019, it was designed to be a culinary experience around Afro-Carribbean dishes. The chain took that global identity a step further Monday with its latest opening at Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas.

The new restaurant offers an array of rice bowls, shareable sides, and beverages similar to FIELDTRIP’s three locations in New York City.

The chain is run by chef JJ Johnson, a James Beard Foundation Award winner. Before opening the new store, he participated in the first Nassau Paradise Island Wine and Food Festival and joined a table takeover series at the Atlantis, which involved international chefs taking over restaurants for a few days.

QSR recently caught up with Johnson to learn more about FIELDTRIP’s latest location and what it means for the brand.

How did the Atlantis store come about?

I’ve been fortunate over the last two years to be doing events at the Atlantis, indirectly with the Atlantis team and directly with the Atlantis team. I think of who I am—I’m a big proponent of building with people and I was able to build with the right folks and they were able to taste my food and really love it. And that’s how it really came about. 

Do you think there’s anything about FIELDTRIP, what you offer on the menu, that makes a particular fit with this location?

I think there’s a lot of great fits. I think the great thing about FIELDTRIP, which I think is very different than a lot of other fast casual “rice bowl shops,” is you can eat FIELDTRIP through the lunch and the dinner period. It’s a complete meal. So at the Atlantis, you have families that are running around that weren’t able to make a reservation. It’s one of the amazing restaurants. They’re like, ‘Oh, I can just go to FIELDTRIP.’ Or that person who is like, ‘I’m dead from the beach today,’ or, ‘I’m tired and where can I go to eat that I can bring back to my room and it’s going to hold its temperature and flavor?’ I can get FIELDTRIP. Or ‘Hey, I want to share something with somebody poolside or beachside, I can get FIELDTRIP.’ So it really works out in a multitude of areas. I think it’s a really great value perspective. There’s a lot of value in FIELDTRIP. So if you’re a family of four or a family of six and you order for FIELDTRIP at the Atlantis, you can still feel like you’re getting value for the money that you’re spending.

Operationally, how are you guys going about overseeing the restaurant, making sure everything goes smoothly according to what meets FIELTRIP’s standards? And how do you maintain that operational control?

I don’t think from my perspective, there’s a sense of concern on the operational side. I think a place like the Atlantis would make us better operationally. But the great thing is that we’re all spending time together. The Atlantis team has been in New York for weeks training. The FIELDTRIP team is spending months at the Atlantis to train their team. And there’s a straight, open line of communication back and forth between manager to manager, operational director, VP of food and beverage. There is nothing hidden. When you go to that FIELDTRIP in the Bahamas, you will feel like you’re in any other FIELDTRIP in New York, but it will have a slightly different touch to make it very unique to the space. The food will be exactly the same with a couple of exclusive items.

Could you describe to me what those exclusive menu items will be in the Bahamas?

We’ll be working with local fishermen. Our fish bowl in New York City is cod but in the Bahamas, it will be snapper. Also with the FIELDTRIP bowls at the Atlantis, you’ll be able to swap our wok vegetables for our spicy cabbage slaw. You can also spike your drinks in the Bahamas at the Atlantis. So you’ll be able to spike all of our house-made drinks. And soon we’ll introduce, probably in a couple of months, what we consider a very local bowl that will give the manager of that location some autonomy to feel even more ingrained into FIELDTRIP, whether it’s rice and peas and oxtails, if it’s curry goat—whatever it might be to really reflect that region of FIELDTRIP.

In terms of other expansion opportunities that you may foresee for FIELDTRIP, do you anticipate anything maybe happening stateside with FIELDTRIP?

I’m always rocking and rolling. I’m always trying to make it happen. I think the goal is, I’m taking it slow and steady. I will say that the Atlantis is getting millions and millions of people coming through. And it’s going to put FIELDTRIP on a grand stage. So having a good partner within them will probably lead to a lot more opportunities essentially worldwide, statewide for us. My focus right now is getting the Atlantis open and going and keeping the locations here in New York the best that we can be, but always trying to disrupt the food scene or the culinary world.

From a chef’s perspective, what is the consumers’ taste? What would you say we are the trending toward cuisine wise?

I think the consumer wants flavor. They want their taste buds to dance. They want to feel connected to something. They want to be able to feel that place they traveled to and get some of that flavor back at home. That’s what FIELDTRIP does with rice and using our slogan, ‘rice is culture.’ Rice is culture and connects amazing people. So when people come to FIELDTRIP, they are feeling connected because they have some type of connection to rice, either they grew up on it or they’re a lover of rice or whatever it might be.

But what I’m seeing is the restaurants, the chefs, the concepts—that are not what can be considered fads, we have a lot of restaurants and places out there that have a long line for a short period of time—these places are true to that person that has created it from their diaspora somewhere. If it’s Mexican from a specific place in Mexico, if it’s Italian food from a specific place in Italy or if it’s a food of the African diaspora and that can be many different places all around. That’s what I’m seeing trending heavily. All those things have flavor. There’s some type of unique flavor that is making people get very excited about that. They can’t get it anywhere else.

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