What’s Your Legacy?

Words of wisdom from Russ & Daughters’ Niki Russ Federman.

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A fourth-generation restaurant owner talks tips for staying evergreen.

When EatDenver announced its lineup for the 2021 virtual ED Talks earlier this year, everyone was excited for headliner chef and cookbook author Marcus Samuelsson. But it was Niki Russ Federman, fourth-generation owner of the 107-year-old Russ & Daughters in New York City, who dispensed the best advice to an industry looking to the future. For Federman, there is no business without the mindset of longevity.

Here are three takeaways:

  1. “In this industry we talk a lot about trends. I’d argue that trends run counter to longevity. They come and go. If you’re chasing a trend or basing your business model on that, there’s going to be a limited time span before some other new shiny thing comes along.” 
  2. “As an industry, we’re trained to think about how to constantly reinvent ourselves. [It’s] change the menu, come up with new drinks, change the decor…but resist the urge to constantly redo. Create things that become classics. It’s the things that last that create what I call ‘madeleine moments.’ For those who are familiar with Proust and Remembrance of Things Past, the character bites into a madeleine and is flooded with an involuntary memory of childhood. We all have those moments, and we all have the ability to create madeleine moments for our guests.”
  3. “Having a focus on longevity will make you more conservative and it will enable and empower you to take big risks when it makes sense.”

Talk to us! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com

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