Food Entrepreneurship: Surviving the Recession—Strategies to Remain Profitable in Hard Times

Note: This post was uploaded on behalf of one of my awesome bloggers, Alicia Salmeron. – Catherine Limcaco, Senior Media Manager

There wasn’t a moment of hesitation when I registered to attend last week’s Entrepreneurship Forum on “Food Entrepreneurship: Surviving the Recession, Strategies to Remain Profitable in Hard Times.” I am very much influenced, motivated, and obsessed with food, so it naturally made sense.

During the first hour of the event, guests walked around the Bank of America Forum and tried different types of jerky, vegan cookies, oatmeal, chocolate, hummus, cupcakes, samosas, and granola. Bay Area entrepreneurs served their innovative products with those in attendance, promoting their business and sharing their unique stories. There were about a dozen food companies, including 18 Rabbits, That Takes the Cake, Slow Girl Foods, Kraze Jerky, Derrick Sky, Casa de Chocolate, Fava, and Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods.

I’m not going to admit to how many red velvet cupcakes I actually ate—but after a certain number, I headed to Andersen Auditorium to listen to the panel discussing food entrepreneurship during tough economic times. The three panelists were Bob Burke, Joel Gott and Noah Alper. Yep, THE Noah, founder and former CEO of Noah’s New York Bagels. I found the panel to be extremely interesting and educational.

Here are 6 random takeaways from the panel discussion:

  1. San Francisco is one of only two cities that require restaurants to provide full benefits for fulltime employees with paid sick days and healthcare.
  2. Groupon is great to drive immediate traffic, but Groupon customers generally give lower ratings in online reviews.
  3. Don’t discount your core product—it will never recover.
  4. The recession improved the restaurant labor force and service quality because employees are over qualified and working harder to hold onto their jobs.
  5. There are approximately 3500 restaurants in San Francisco. That means a ridiculous number of competitors for those of you thinking about the restaurant or food industry in the Bay Area. This is the highest ratio per capita than all of the United States.
  6. Social media is here to stay in the food industry as well—better embrace it or lose out to your competitors.

Food start-ups are undeniably hot—and pushing through despite the difficult economic climate. I noticed throughout the evening that most all of the up and coming companies followed certain trends—their products were innovative, healthful (except for my cupcake stakeout of course), and paid attention to the freshness of ingredients and artisan presentation.

I believe that the Lester Center of Entrepreneurship holds the most interesting and stimulating events. I urge all students to take advantage of these great learning opportunities. The next event in the ‘Best Practices Series’ will be on October 25th and is titled “Intellectual Property for Entrepreneurs”.

Representatives from 18 Rabbits Granola and Bars
Haas Undergraduates enjoying samples from Sukhi's Gourmet Indian Foods
Haas Student Shaun Mullen with That Takes the Cake's co-founder Keisha Williams
Alicia Salmeron, Class of 2012

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