The podcasts foodservice operators are listening to in 2018


Working in a fast-paced industry—in an increasingly fast-paced world—foodservice operators don’t always have time to crack open a book. Audio storytelling helps some industry folks stay relevant, and offers others 30 minutes of relief from an overwhelming schedule. For Maya Vincelli, assistant director of retail operations for the University of Richmond Dining Services (and self-proclaimed podcast junkie), the medium helps her brush up on foodservice knowledge and leadership skills.

Check out the podcasts operators are tuning into in 2018.

Maya Vincelli; University of Richmond

Maya vincelli

When Vincelli isn't on the floor with her crew, she’s in her windowless Richmond, Va.-based office, listening to podcasts. While catching up on her job's administrative tasks, the director listens to “Radio Cherry Bombe,” featuring women in the food industry. “Oftentimes, I feel like coverage of women chefs and entrepreneurs is not as readily available, so I find this podcast is very ‘finger on the pulse’ in a way that is entertaining, appealing and inspiring,” she says. “Their coverage on the recent harassment in the kitchen scandals has been very balanced and thought provoking.”

Food history podcasts “A Time and a Plate” and “A Taste of the Past” are her other go-tos, and help the operator develop more authentic menus. The 20- to 30-minute shows are the perfect length for a lunch break or walk with the dogs, she says.

After attending a leadership program, Vincelli also started listening to a podcast from the host of the training session, Cy Wakeman. “No Ego” helps Vincelli sharpen her problem-solving skills with a few small changes and "are perfect little bites to get you out of a rut that you may not have even known you were in,” she says.

Chris Burkhardt; Cleveland Metropolitan School District

Chris burkhardt

When Burkhardt, executive director of school nutrition at Cleveland Metropolitan School District, runs out of author Simon Sinek’s podcasts, he starts all over again. “Simon has transformed my way of thinking about business and business culture,” Burkhardt says. “Every decision is now more aligned because I ask myself, ‘Why?’” The operator says the podcasts have helped realign his thinking about millennials and better connect with the generation. 

Jude Kiah; Xavier University

Jude kiah

Kiah spends up to 90 minutes a day with podcasts in his ears. The assistant vice president of auxiliary services at Xavier University in Cincinnati uses podcasts such as “Freakonomics” and “Stuff You Should Know” as a way to get his brain working in the morning and as a palate cleanser after a long day. “On the way in, the podcasts prime my mind to think and to be at peak as soon as I get to work—I am not lagging,” Kiah said. “On the way home, my listening separates me from work and prepares me for being at home with my family or whatever are that evening’s activities.” He says listening to a podcast during his morning commute has increased his productivity and lowered his stress.

Ben Lustbader; Giant

ben lustbader

Podcasts have helped Lustbader, a restaurateur pressed for time, continue to engage with the world. “The food-related podcasts I listen to often provide cultural, scientific and historic context for foods or food issues I am already involved with,” he says. After listening to food science and history podcasts like “Gastropod,” the culinarian is learning how to make injera, an Ethiopian sour-sponge bread.

News and politics programming such as “The Daily,” “Pod Save America” and “Stay Tuned with Preet” have helped the chef stay connected to contemporary social and political issues, despite his workload.

Kristen Majdanics; Firehouse Subs

kristen majdanics

In the car or on a plane, good podcasts make travel time more useful, says Majdanics, vice president of marketing for 1,000-plus-unit Firehouse Subs. Majdanics doesn’t necessarily go into a podcast with the intention of gaining professional insights, but hearing stories ultimately helps her become a better manager and marketer, she says. An episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History” about how data was used in the Vietnam War helped show her that interpreting information is an art as well as a science. 

Majdanics also takes social pointers from Terry Gross of NPR's “Fresh Air”. "[Gross] brings a presence to each interview that is confident and warm, but also well-prepared and inquisitive,” she says. “I listen to her work to pick up tips on better ways to ask questions and connect with people I do not know well.” 

To become a better marketing storyteller, the executive listens to “You Are Not So Smart.” “Learning more about confirmation bias, building a compelling narrative and how to use optimism to make my team more successful are all tools I can professionally use,” she says.

Gerard Craft; Niche Food Group

Gerard craft

As chef-owner of St. Louis-based Niche Food Group, Craft is hungry for business insights. Craft, the founder of Pastaria, Sardella, Taste Bar, Brasserie by Niche and Porano Pasta, listens in to “StartUp” for advice on how to recover from business failures and succeed. The James Beard Award-winning chef also values the “The Tim Ferriss Show,” which interviews guests like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tony Robbins about their morning routines, favorite books and time management tricks. “Tim Ferriss’ podcast has guests on from all different walks of life and all of them have a very unique perspective on life and business,” he says.

Caroline Skinner; Tupelo Honey Cafe

tupelo honey cafe

For the latest on labor, Skinner looks to “Working Lunch” from consulting firm Align Public Strategies. The vice president of human resources for Asheville, N.C.-based Tupelo Honey Cafe says the podcast’s legislative scorecards help her stay current on the most important state and local legislation. But don’t be fooled—this 30-minute employment update is no snooze. “It sounds horribly boring, but they’ve got a good sense of humor and occasionally provide really important updates, like the status to Kid Rock’s campaign for Senate,” she says.

Paul Hibler; American Gonzo Food Corp.

american gonzo

People talking about food doesn’t do anything for Hibler, founder of American Gonzo Food Corp., parent company of Pitfire Pizza, Superba Food + Bread and Pie Society in California. “I’m not looking for any specific instructions,” Hibler says. “I’m constantly looking for tools to understand what people are thinking about.” He listens to programs that help keep him weird, such as “The Waking Up Podcast” by neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris. Management and marketing pod “The GaryVee Audio Experience” by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk and “FoundMyFitness” by Rhonda Patrick also help the industry pro understand the zeitgeist of his surroundings to help the people he works with.

Meherwan Irani; Chai Pani Restaurant


Irani, executive chef and founder of the Chai Pani Restaurant Group, gets business inspiration from NPR’s “From Scratch” and “How I Built This with Guy Raz.” Both podcasts share the journeys of notable businesses. "I love hearing founders’ stories, and the challenges, insights and breakthroughs are invaluable to how I think about my business,” says Irani, who leads the group’s four concepts in Georgia and North Carolina.

Tim Donnellon; P.J.W. Restaurant Group

Tim donnellon

Donnellon never misses an episode of “Social Media Marketing Podcast.” The digital marketing manager for P.J.W. Restaurant Group’s 21 restaurants says this podcast always has the scoop on the latest helpful tools, apps and processes. “Much of the SEO marketing I do is based on topics covered by ‘Social Media Marketing Podcast,’” Donnellon says. “It’s my main source of updates, whether [they're] algorithmic, trends [or] analytic opportunities."

Jenny Wong and Sheridan Su; Flock & Fowl

flock and fowl

Husband and wife team Wong and Su spend time decompressing from running Flock & Fowl and Fat Choy in Las Vegas with a comedy podcast. “We like to listen to a podcast that a comedian Jason Harris runs,” Wong says. “Humor is a key stress reliever, which helps us run a smoother operation.”


Corey Smale; Good Fortune

Corey smale

Smale admits to having a bit of a podcast problem. The co-owner of Good Fortune, slated to open in St. Louis this month, has about five podcasts in his rotation. “The Eater Upsell” helps keep Smale hip to the trends, people, places and concepts worth knowing. Smale also appreciates the candor of foodie Joe House as he invites famous eaters, chefs and writers onto his show “House of Carbs.” And the restaurateur finds community in “The Church of What’s Happening Now with Joey Coco Diaz.” Smale warns that the podcast is not safe for work, at all.  “[It’s a] family more than a podcast and keeps me hustling when I need it,” he says.

Dhara Shah; Parachute


Shah, accounts manager for Chicago’s Parachute, listens to podcasts to stay up to date on complex economic concepts. Shah appreciates how “Planet Money” breaks down marketplace and financial trends into words that anybody can understand. “Their recent coverage in 2018 tax reforms has definitely helped make sense of it all,” she says.

Matthew Kaner; Will Travel For Wine Inc.

Matthew kaner

Kaner, wine director and president of Will Travel For Wine Inc., uses podcasts to drink up more information about vino. His private selection includes “I’ll Drink to That!” by former sommelier Levi Dalton. “Levi is an old buddy,” Kaner says. “He has on wine professionals from all over the industry to speak about their work, and he gets people to open up in a way most don't.”

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