Talking to people with a passion for their work is one of the greatest things about my job.
And whether I’m getting the scoop on how weird and wonderful it is that there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts inside the Pentagon (check out our Q&A with Chris Burr, director of nontraditional development for Dunkin’ Brands) or marveling at the integration of technology to create impossible standards of customer service (see Senior Contributing Editor Dana Tanyeri’s interview with Kyle Connaughton, chef-owner of Single Thread), there’s always something new to learn and there’s always another story about pushing established boundaries.
It’s a theme that’s come up again and again in recent weeks, through interactions with our readers and as our writers delivered their stories for this issue.
In this month’s Reader’s Choices, Deborah English reimagines what it means to be a grocery store by adding destination-worthy dining experiences. Hotel restaurants (page 40) are breaking past the boundaries of the hotel itself to become a worthwhile dining experience for locals (some hotels have to remember to save room for their overnight guests).
I recently hosted a webcast on Green Restaurants that featured two in-depth case studies on chains that approach sustainability holistically. We’d done a webcast on green building before, but for our audience of professional developers and designers, it was important to push beyond what they might expect of us — and of themselves. Paula Owens, purchasing and sustainability manager for Ted’s Montana Grill, gave us an overview of the things the chain has done that one might expect (like building a LEED-certified restaurant along with numerous in-house efforts to reduce the chain’s environmental impact) as well as the completely unexpected, such as the chain’s bison restoration and advocacy efforts.
Meanwhile, Shannon Allen, founder of USDA-certified Grown restaurants, another rd+d webcast speaker, shared her incredible story of going from an actress and songwriter to a restaurateur. Her young son’s Type I diabetes diagnosis upended the life she had with her NBA-star husband, Ray Allen. She told me in one of our off-air conversations that her quest to open an affordable organic fast-food chain took years, but as a songwriter, she saw Grown as a kind of love song — for her family and, ultimately, for the world.
It’s that kind of passion and poetry that drives each of us to push past the boundaries of what we believe is possible. I hope this issue has a hand in inspiring readers to push their own boundaries.