Exclusive culinary tour aims to school food industry leaders on innovation

At 11:30 a.m. a group of restaurant owners, food industry CEOs and restaurant chain executives gathered to embark on a 25-hour, 16-stop food odyssey by bus. The mission? Experience some of the most innovative food, coffee and cocktails in one of the food capitals of the world — New York City — and they’ll only have a six-hour nap as a break. 

But you can’t buy a ticket to this event — you need to be invited by culinary insiders Alice Elliot and Damian Mogavero, as CBS News correspondent Jamie Wax was. Elliot is a premiere industry headhunter and Damian Mogavero‘s Avero software helped launch a revolution of restaurant tech innovation. His book, “The Underground Culinary Tour,” exposed how big data is changing the food industry.

CBS News

“The software company that I started, Avero, aggregated data that showed wide disparity of restaurant performance. Some restaurants were killing it, while others were getting killed. And so the idea of this is just to really create a unique experience that’s immersive, to use New York City as a restaurant laboratory to really showcase innovation,” Mogavero explained. 

That innovation was on display in the venues they visited, hosted by a mix of celebrity and emerging chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers and baristas. One thing that united everyone was an adventurous spirit.

“We look for people that come from all different walks of life, all different disciplines, but at the end of the day, they are curious. They want to be better,” Elliot said.

The “Impossible Burger” at Momofuku Nishi

They know they have to be, given today’s increasingly demanding and discerning consumer. 

“We are in a grand foodie revolution. The consumer is changing so quickly. They’re now demanding highest-quality ingredients everywhere. The idea is, how can we take this diverse group that Alice is mentioning and these leaders, and really showcase innovation so they can, in turn, think about how they are going to evolve in order to meet the ever-changing needs of the consumer,” Mogavero said. 

That’s what brought Meenakshi Nagarajan, director of product innovation for Domino’s, on the tour. What she learned could impact what you see on their menu.

“What it does is opens our eyes to understand where the trends are. We know what Domino’s Pizza brings, we know what our customers are looking for, but we are still looking to see what’s missing for that one Domino’s Pizza…

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