UW Now: Restaurants today and in the future

MADISON, WI (March 1, 2021) — Like many in-person services, the restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. Approximately 17 percent of U.S. restaurants have closed their doors permanently since the beginning of the pandemic — more than 110,000 establishments — and others are struggling to get by. What factors have affected restaurants most, and just how severe has the impact been? Have government programs to protect these businesses helped? How can restaurants move forward in the current market — and how might the industry continue to evolve after the pandemic is over?

On the next UW Now Livestream: a panel discussion regarding the challenges facing restaurants and how the industry will change in the future. The talk will be moderated by Mike Knetter, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association.

Featured guests:

Craig Culver is the former chief executive officer of Culver Franchising System, Inc. Together with his wife, Lea, and parents, George and Ruth, he cofounded Culver’s restaurants in Sauk City, Wisconsin, in 1984. Known for its ButterBurgers®, frozen custard, and cheese curds, Culver’s grew from a single restaurant to number six on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list in 2019.

Kim Ruhl, PhD, is an associate professor of economics and the Mary Sue and Mike Shannon Chair in Economics. He is also associate director of the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy (CROWE). Ruhl’s research focuses on international economics, models of firm heterogeneity, and national income accounting. He is currently a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a special sworn employee of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, where he studies the ways that multinational firms produce and sell goods and services around the world.

Gabriel Stulman is the chief executive officer and founder of Happy Cooking Hospitality. His restaurant group owns nine locations in New York — including five in a cluster of the West Village dubbed “Little Wisco” by the New York Times. In 2012, he was named Restaurateur of the Year by Esquire magazine.

Caitlin Suemnicht is the chief operating officer of Food Fight Restaurant Group, a locally owned and operated restaurant group in the greater Madison area. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, working as a server, event planner, sommelier, and general manager, and brings the perspectives gained from those experiences to her leadership role. She has led concept development for Food Fight since 2012, opening eight restaurants with an eye for matching service and design with culinary direction. Her responsibilities also include steering company operations, creative strategy, and manager and employee development.

When: Tuesday, March 2, at 7 p.m. CST

Where: The UW Now Livestream: allwaysforward.org/uwnow/restaurants/