Call it the curse of celebrity: When your personal brand rises so high, it overshadows your creations. This isn’t a problem for some of the world’s biggest entrepreneurial chefs.
Speaking at an Advertising Week panel discussion this week called “Chefs as Brands,” Mario Batali, Dominique Ansel and Daniel Boulud didn’t spend time complaining about their name recognition. Instead, the culinary superstars--accompanied by moderator Adam Sachs of the Tasting Table--praised the notoriety as an opportunity.
“The brand should be an extension of yourself,” says Ansel, owner of the eponymous New York City-based bakery and the creator of the famed cronut. “It should be completely your personality and what you believe in.”
For Boulud, the owner of various restaurants across the country including Café Boulud in New York and Bar Boulud in Boston, entwining your personal brand with your business can pay dividends. “It’s an advantage to have your name give you business.” He adds that every aspect of a restaurant and brand is personal--and it should be. “We’re each our own personal entity. Our brand should reflect who we are and what we believe in.”
Still, growing a restaurant into a food empire requires more than a larger-than-life personality in the kitchen. Here are their top growth tips:
Know when to say ‘no.’ A chef can’t be in more than one kitchen at once. “I don’t go to every meeting or worry about every little thing,” says Boulud. “But I am in constant contact with the chef all the time.”
Hire well and delegate. For Batali, every employee has something to bring to the team, and he wants to harness that. “With 2,400 employees comes an incredible wealth of talent looking to get involved,” says the cookbook author and restaurateur. “It means I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room all the time.”
Seek efficiencies. This doesn’t mean that he talks to every single one at the same time, though. “I like meetings of three or four people.” says Batali. “That’s where I do my best work.”
But let’s be real here: If the food wasn’t any good, any amount of branding--be it personal or otherwise--wouldn’t help much. The food is what truly sells a restaurant. “Regardless of trend or fashion,” says Batali. “What transcends everything else is the cuisine.”