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Move over Danny Meyer, here comes Marcus Samuelsson

·Nicole Goodkind
Move over Danny Meyer, here comes Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus Samuelsson is a busy man. With 11 restaurants spanning four countries, six books, and a judging job on the Food Network, he’s carving out a food and lifestyle empire for himself.
He’s also following in the footsteps of other well-known restaurateurs like Danny Meyer and Bobby Flay who have dominated both high- and low-end dining experiences. Samuelsson balances restaurants like Red Rooster, with entrees hovering around the $30 mark (and a favorite of the Clintons), with his restaurant Street Bird, which sells a whole chicken for $24.
Like Meyer's Shake Shack, Samuelsson is considering taking Street Bird public. “Right now, we’re small, we’re private,” he says. “But with something like Street Bird, maybe one day.”
With restaurants spanning both wallet size and location, Samuelsson has a unique look into the minds of the consumers around the world. “We have restaurants in Scandinavia, Sweden, Norway. We’re opening in London, and we have places in Bermuda and New York,” he says. “Our consumer base is both local and global. But the one thing that does not change is value.”
The millennial-driven experience economy is impacting all businesses, and Samuelsson wants to take advantage. Consumers are willing to spend more money as long as they know it will be worth it, he says. He hosts gospel brunches with live music and dancing at Red Rooster every Sunday. Street Bird has a DJ every Monday and exhibits local artists.
Thanks to tools like Yelp, Facebook, and even Snapchat, people have higher expectations while dining out, and a typical restaurant experience no longer cuts it. “The price is almost secondary. The most important thing is that you have value,” says Samuelsson. “What’s important are memorable experiences. If you have that your consumer will most likely come back.”
Restaurateurs today are celebrities who spend time thinking about their brands. That includes partnering with other brands. “Like any business today, it’s tough and you’ve got to be really cutting edge and on top of your craft,” he says. Samuelsson is currently working with Pure Leaf tea on a series of pop-up events across the country. “We think about what type of content and dialogue with the customer we want. Part of that is partnering with a brand to create a pop-up experience.”