Food Service

Delivering good food fast – Tork talks to restaurant industry icon Ellen Kassoff


“Most restaurants don’t make it past two years and there is a reason”

After over 30 years in the business, you would know a thing or two about running a restaurant. Ellen Kassoff has not only run numerous restaurants in different formats, she has also won two awards for her work. In an interview with Tork, she shared her insights from the industry and on the keys to succeeding as an efficient fast casual on busy days.  
Ellen Kassoff has significant experience and is an industry icon on the Washington, DC restaurant scene. With her husband, Todd Gray, she has led restaurant operations for 20 years, including several different types of formats. The couple owns and operates fine dining restaurant Equinox in downtown DC, serving regional and seasonal cuisine and is famous for its vegan brunch. The two also run a catering company and a coffee shop, and today Ellen is co-owner of fast casual Milk & Honey, a restaurant that offers all-day brunch and Southern specialties in a contemporary setting with a great vibe. With this diverse experience, Ellen knows very well that each restaurant format requires a different skill set, and that managers need to adapt according to the restaurant they are running. In fast casual, for example, guests expect good food, but they also do not expect to have to wait for it. During busy days everything has to run smoothly so that guests get the best experience. 
To run an efficient fast casual restaurant, Ellen says that it is important to make the most out of employees’ time. Since staff in this type of restaurant traditionally do not have as much culinary or hospitality training as in full-service restaurants, a lot of time will be spent making sure that they have the knowledge they need. Cultivating her team is a top priority for Ellen, and it is something she would like to spend more time on. The importance of happy and motivated employees cannot be overestimated she says. Happy employees provide the best result for the guests and ultimately the restaurant.
True to all types of restaurants, Ellen points out, is the importance to know your guests. She often sees restaurants making mistakes when they do not listen to what guests want and, for example, do not update their menus. To pay attention to what guests want means offering tailor-made concepts for the community that you, as a restaurant, are a part of. For her own operations, concepts are tweaked to respond to the markets -- in some cases on a daily basis. 
Taking limited time into account
To ease the workload for independent restaurants and minimize unnecessary time-consuming tasks, Tork has launched the new napkin dispenser system Tork Xpressnap Fit®. It is a smaller version of the best-selling Tork Xpressnap® napkin system, made specifically to fit smaller sized, independent restaurants.  
Benedicte de Croon, Product Management Director Napkins and Tabletop, at Tork said: "A product such as Tork Xpressnap Fit, takes the everyday routine of independent restaurant owners into account, facilitating a smooth workflow and making sure they do the most with the resources they have. The compact design and one-at-a-time dispensing save operators both space and time. For example, staff do not need to refill the dispenser as often as the traditional dispensers often used in independent restaurants, leaving more time to focus on food and guests. And the compact design makes for a perfect fit on crowded counters or tables, saving restaurateurs valuable space. We want to encourage managers to think about the details and considering things such as having the right napkin dispenser can mean benefits in the daily routines." 
A good workflow and efficiency in the restaurant affect everything. Ellen states that sometimes there can be too strict standards on what can and cannot be done, restaurants must be flexible and listen to what guests want. Being too rigid is a contributing factor to why many restaurants do not make it past two years, according to Ellen. That is were having a long-term plan comes in handy, enabling restaurateurs to make fast decisions and take advantage of opportunities. 
With Tork Xpressnap Fit, Tork wants to help managers to make the most of time and space, and its different features have been developed with this in mind. Tork Xpressnap Fit table top dispenses upwards, so every inch of space on restaurant tables can be used. The one-at-a time dispensing reduces waste and cuts unused napkins thrown away by more than 50 percent.* Tork Xpressnap Fit has a customizable advertising panel – AD-a-Glance® – for operators to be creative and communicate with customers and share marketing messages on the dispenser.
As a business partner to the food service industry, Tork is keen to help operators improve their business and think ahead. Below you find a short summary of important aspects of running a restaurant according to Ellen Kassoff. Ellen recently partnered with Tork, the National Restaurant Association and the World Wildlife Fund on a food waste study (  Sustainability is another factor that both parties agree is important to keep guests happy. For more information and inspiration on how to take your business to the next level, please see the newly-launched online platform Reach for the Stars an initiative from Tork to help spread knowledge to restaurateurs, by gathering accumulated experience from over 50 years in the industry.     
Ellen Kassoff’s four tips for how to run an efficient restaurant:
  • Happy team: Cultivating the team should be a priority. Spending time on training the team and building their skills will motivate the staff and set them up for success. Happy staff has the best outcome.
  • Be creative: You have to be able to make quick changes to react to the market and take advantage of opportunities, creativity makes this possible. 
  • Think long term: While you have to be flexible, you also have to think long term. Restaurant owners tend to pay too much attention to money, which risks resulting in short-sightedness. 
  • Be local: Listen to your customers on your local market and focus on what they want and adapt to that.
About Ellen Kassoff 
Ellen Kassoff is the co-owner Equinox Restaurant and Harvest Moon Hospitality Group, as well as co-author of The New Jewish Table, with her husband, Todd Gray. She was named Manager of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (2007) and received the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR) Golden Fork Award for Front-of-the-House Excellence (2009).
*1-ply napkin in Table top dispenser compared to Tall fold (Tork Dispenser: 1TBS and Tork Refill: D3052B).
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Media Contact:
Matt Longo, Weber-Shandwick
About Tork
The Tork brand offers professional hygiene products and services to customers worldwide ranging from restaurants and healthcare facilities to offices, schools and industries. Our products include dispensers, paper towels, toilet tissue, soap, napkins, wipers, but also software solutions for data-driven cleaning. Through expertise in hygiene, functional design and sustainability, Tork has become a market leader that supports customers to think ahead so they’re always ready for business. Tork is a global brand of Essity, and a committed partner to customers in over 110 countries. To keep up with the latest Tork news and innovations, please visit 
About Essity
Essity is a leading global hygiene and health company dedicated to improving well-being through products and services, essentials for everyday life. The name Essity stems from the words essentials and necessities. Our sustainable business model creates value for people and nature. Sales are conducted in approximately 150 countries under the leading global brands TENA and Tork, and other strong brands, such as JOBST, Leukoplast, Libero, Libresse, Lotus, Nosotras, Saba, Tempo, Vinda and Zewa. Essity has about 47,000 employees and net sales in 2018 amounted to approximately SEK 118.5bn (EUR 11.6bn). The headquarters is located in Stockholm, Sweden, and the company is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm. More information at 

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