6 Ted Talks That Every Restaurateur Should Watch


Running a restaurant is no easy task. Beyond the normal logistics, supply, staffing, and customer service issues, you have to continually think about the direction your restaurant is going. How can it improve? How will it become and remain competitive? A part of successfully running a restaurant is inventing and reinventing how you do things.

This is difficult, especially since it’s a never-ending task. Once you figure out one way that works for the restaurant, you almost immediately have to start thinking about the next idea so things don’t get stale. For most restaurants, the harsh reality is that while consistency is a must, change is equally important.

That’s why it’s nice to have some inspiration every now and then. It helps to get out of your own world and see how others are running their restaurant. What better place to get inspiration than from Ted Talks? From restaurateurs reinventing the reach and vision of their establishments to people talking about cooking and eating, here are six Ted Talks that will give you some food for thought.

A Vision for Sustainable Restaurants – Arthur Potts Dawson

It’s no secret that most restaurants produce a lot of waste on a daily basis. From trash to kitchen scrapes, feeding the masses is a messy, wasteful business. That is why many restaurateurs are looking for ways to make their businesses more environmentally friendly. From recycling to choosing dishes that produce less waste, the move towards a more eco-friendly future is here for the restaurant industry.

Arthur Potts Dawson, a chef and owner of three businesses, has wrestled with this exact problem.

In his Ted Talk, he discusses his own philosophy on sustainability, and it is extensive. He has managed to make everything in his establishments as sustainable as possible. His three restaurants serve as a proof-of-concept.

In his restaurants, all the building materials come from sustainable sources, and power is provided by renewable energies. Leftovers become compost, and even wasted space on the walls gets the sustainability treatment with extra shelving.

If you have ever wondered what a truly sustainable restaurant looks like, this Ted Talk will give you a detailed glimpse.

The Reach of a Restaurant – Thomas Keller

As a restaurateur, you probably know just how extensive a restaurant truly is. Beyond the servers, cooks, and food, a restaurant needs to make connections with suppliers and local communities to function. This is a fact that Thomas Keller knows all too well.

The owner of eight restaurants and two bakeries, Keller discusses his approach to running and owning a restaurant in this Ted Talk. In particular, he emphasizes what a restaurant ideally should be about: creating memories and experiences for customers. To him, a good experience or memory can be lifedefining. Given the impact of food on memory recall, it’s hard to argue that restaurants aren’t more than just places to have a meal.

Keller’s idealized look at the impact of restaurants on customers and communities is a great reminder of why restaurant owners do what they do in the first place. If you ever need that reminder, pull Keller’s talk up for a quick refresher.

Beyond the Zero Waste Restaurant – Matt Stone

Matt Stone, a chef and owner in Australia, wants to take the concept of restaurant sustainability up to the next level. While it is nice to recycle and compost, he believes the best way restaurants can function is by using a zero-waste model, so he set out to create a temporary restaurant. Popping it up in just a couple of weeks, the restaurant served customers for about a month, and then closed down without leaving a trace.

After the success of this trial run, Stone decided to try the same thing with a permanent establishment. In his talk, he emphasizes the strategies that allowed him to create a business practice that completely eliminated waste leftover. This started by looking at the waste coming into the restaurant. For example, his establishment mills its own grain, keeps milk on tap to avoid bottles, and encourages suppliers and farmers to eliminate unnecessary packaging/other waste on their end.

The techniques Stone discusses alone are worth a watch. To get some ideas on how to reduce or even completely eliminate the waste in your restaurant, this Ted Talk is a good guide.

Cooking as Alchemy – Homaro Cantu and Ben Roche

Cooking is a struggle between tradition and innovation. Food technology is, particularly, a place of contention between traditional and modern chefs. Are the oldschool ways always the best ways, or is there something to be said for new technology?

Chefs Hamaro Cantu and Ben Roche, owners of the popular Modo restaurant in Chicago, have turned their commercial kitchen into a scientific food lab. Their talk presents a new look at how

modern food technology can impact customers and people around the world. Describing their attempts to turn plant-based ingredients into tasty dishes, the pair believes that new technologies can cut down costs and make food available to virtually anyone in the world.

Pay particular attention to their version of cheese and nachos. Made as a dessert, this dish represents their philosophy of making alternative ingredients taste and act like the real thing. Chocolate as meat? Sure, why not?  

The Brain in Your Gut – Heribert Watzke

Here is a Ted Talk for some true food learning. Why do humans react toward food the way we do? How can a good burger make us weep or the smell of lasagna trigger childhood memories? Food scientist Heribert Watzke discusses the connection between the brain and the digestive system in his thought-provoking talk, The Brain in Your Gut.

Watzke makes the case that parts of the digestive system like the colon and intestine should be treated like a second brain. In fact, the intestine contains neurons that function in similar ways to brain cells: triggering signals when there is or isn’t enough food.

The most important thing is the connection between the two “brains.” Talking with each other, each brain plays a role in how food affects us. This is a good talk to watch if you want to appreciate why your customers continue to come in time and time again.

Something Better The Restaurant of the Future – GW Chew

What if a restaurant did more than just serve food? It’s hard enough to start one, but can you turn your restaurant into something more? These are the questions that chef and inventor GW Chew sought to answer in his Ted Talk. A vegan living in a meat-dominated society, Chew discusses how his approach encourages healthy eating habits in others. To him, education is the key to getting others to eat healthy foods. If you provide the how and why, people are more likely to respond accordingly.

Chew’s restaurant, Something Better Foods International, is a proof-of-concept for this philosophy. Beyond being a restaurant, Chew describes it as a “lifestyle education center” where people come to learn about healthy alternatives. Most importantly, Chew argues that there are certain things that need to happen to get people to eat healthily. The healthy alternatives need to taste good with a similar appearance and texture to their unhealthy counterparts. People also need encouragement and education to build sustainable eating habits.

Whether it’s getting a sense of how other restaurateurs are doing business or searching for new inspiration during the times when ideas aren’t flowing, these Ted Talks will get you back on track with your own restaurant. Go out and find your own talks for even more inspiration.

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