Q&A Bruce and Eric Bromberg

Co-Owners at Blue Ribbon Restaurants in New York, NY and Las Vegas

What attracted you both to the restaurant industry?

BB: We love cooking and making people happy. Restaurants were always such a huge part of our childhood, and we had our favorite in every place we used to travel to.
EB: Rocky Aoki of Benihana was a huge inspiration.

Who influenced your career paths?

BB: Rocky Aoki, our dad, our grandma Martha, and Chef Robert Chassat who was the chef of Le Recamier in Paris, where we both did stages.

How did you select the Cordon Bleu to study? What was the value of that education?

BB: It focused on basic cooking principles and nothing else, which seemed liked the most relevant way to learn how to cook.
EB: And it was in Paris. If you want to learn how to play baseball, you should play in America. If you want to learn how to cook, you should study in Paris.

Take us through Bromberg on Restaurants 101? What are the keys to operating and maintaining a successful restaurant?

EB: Number one focus is customer satisfaction and comfort. Number two is employee satisfaction and comfort. If you have that, then everything else falls into place.

Milea February 2019 728×90

What are the challenges that make winning in New York different from other cities?

BB: I don’t think New York is any different from any other city. I never thought of it in those terms, we just focus on our customers and our staff no matter where we are.

Your Blue Ribbon concept has endured for 20 plus years. How have the needs of your customers evolved?

BB: Trends come and go, but the basic need of having a great dining experience where you don’t have to worry about anything except having a great time with your friends has stayed constant, and probably will for eternity.

You spent considerable time in Paris. We always hear about access to fresh product, how has that impacted your approach to menus? Is farm to table and local to table important?

EB: In Paris we had access to the best ingredients all throughout the world, as we do in New York. Sourcing the freshest and best tasting products is one of the keys to success in any restaurant.

What attracted you to the sushi business? What are the dynamics of a successful sushi restaurant?

BB: We wanted to make a sushi restaurant accessible in a time when sushi restaurants were not commonplace and not terribly accessible to the average diner. We felt it was important to serve amazing product, treated in a traditional manner that made sense to the New York public in 1995. That seems to have resonated with customers back then, and still holds true today.

You’ve also conquered everything from baked goods to burgers. How do you match real estate to concept?

BB: In general, I don’t think we match real estate to concept. Sometimes it is more about the actual space than the neighborhood. We just get a sense of what we would like to eat in that particular space, and that is how we make our restaurants. In the case of Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen, the discovery of the 140 + year old wood burning oven was the motivation for that project. We just knew we needed to bring it back to life.

How did the opportunity in Las Vegas come about and what are the goals for the project?

BB: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas asked us if we wanted to create exactly what we had made in New York, and that was appealing. They were the first people who asked us to do that, as opposed to creating a Las Vegas version of our restaurant.

What’s your approach to designing and building kitchens? Do you have a go-to consultant and/or dealer?

BB: We’ve worked with Asfour Guzy Architects and Jacobs Doland Beer Kitchen Designs for the last 20+ years. Functionality is key over anything else. We try to create an environment where all of our employees can be successful day-in and day-out, and also a place they are excited about coming to work every day.

Where do you guys go to find new ideas? Trade shows-travel?

BB: The world is one big inspiration for restaurants, whether it is travel, driving the kids to school, eating at local diners or a three star restaurant in Paris, it all adds to the vision and inspiration for what kinds of restaurants we want to create and how we want them to feel.

What’s your approach to vendor relationships? Do you go to bid every week or look to build and reward loyalty? Have you centralized purchasing or can each chef do his/her own thing?

EB: We develop personal relationships with vendors and stick with them. We check the market for pricing, but we are very loyal to our purveyors. Each chef in each location orders their own food, and there is constant communication between the varying restaurants about what they are ordering and serving.

You’ve lived through so many issues. From no smoking to a $15 minimum wage and maybe the elimination of tips, what are the issues that you see?

EB: I don’t know that the elimination of tips is actually occurring. It is a far bigger conversation than it actually is a reality at the moment. The main issue in New York City right now is rent, specifically employees being able to live within a decent travel distance to work to be able to support the restaurants.

I would imagine that 20 years ago you would promote your restaurants with print advertisements and depend on a Zagat review? What’s your approach to marketing your restaurants today in a world driven by social media?

EB: We never did print ads. We have grown by word of mouth and we continue to do that today. Social media is also a current version of word of mouth.

Looking into your crystal ball, what lies ahead for the Brombergs?

BB: Maintaining our existing restaurants, expanding our brand, and feeding and making as many people happy as we possibly can.
EB: Yeah!