Jon Springer: Your new book is called
“Family Table” and combines recipes
with parenting advice. What was the
Robert Irvine: My own family. “Family
Table” represents what I’ve learned about
how to be a better parent and lead children by
setting a positive example. A few of the essays
center on blocking out the negative influence
of technology; we’ve all gone out to dinner
and seen the families where everyone’s
staring at their phones instead of talking to
each other. And I’m not some curmudgeon
when it comes to technology. It’s about
appreciating what’s right in front of your face
because kids grow up so fast. ... Now with the
phones, I get an uneasy feeling that there’s a
generation coming up now who won’t really
know their parents. But when we quiet the
noise and are truly present with one another,
everything in front of us takes on a deeper
meaning, especially family. We can’t stop the
advance of technology, but we can take back
dinnertime. The kitchen, the dinner table—
these places should be an oasis. More than
just physical nourishment, dinner can be
time to feed your family’s soul.
You are known to many as the guy who
saved failing food businesses. What were
the most common problems you came
across in that endeavor?
Poor communication is one of the most
common threads throughout every
restaurant I’ve helped. At the onset of
a restaurant’s downturn, most owners
turn to the staff and management as the
cause. Resentments begin to build to a
point where lashing out becomes the sole
means of discussion. At a certain point,
communication ceases completely and any
chance of improvement goes out the window.
What are a few lessons supermarkets
could learn from successful restaurants?
1. Talk to your customers. And not just
when problems arise. Having a proactive
conversation with customers nurtures
loyalty and relationships, addresses
issues before they become problems and
provides feedback to determine business
2. Technology is your friend. Use it to pay
close attention to what’s moving and
what’s not and be quick to toss things that
just aren’t working.
3. Cleanliness and friendliness. It doesn’t cost
much to keep your establishment clean
and organized, and it costs nothing to greet
customers with a smile and make sure they
found everything they were looking for.
Let’s face it: Grocery shopping is a chore
for most people. If you can find any way
to make it an enjoyable experience, your
customers are going to love you for it.
What are the origins of your passion
I have always loved cooking. When I was
younger, I helped my mom prepare Sunday
roasts, which is still one of my favorite go-to meals today. But my first real interest
in cooking came when I took a home
economics class. It was the first time I was
really educated about food, nutrition and
the balance of healthy and delicious meals.
I continued cooking when I joined the
British Royal Navy and haven’t stopped.
With Signature meals, FitCrunch, etc.,
you’re also in the CPG business. What
have you learned about what makes for
success on supermarket shelves?
Consumers appreciate items that are
healthier than typical prepared foods,
affordable and above all taste great. We
use quality ingredients for everything.
It’s also really important to gather and
listen to feedback from buyers and make
changes where necessary. Lastly, I think it’s
important to start small, to stay organized
and streamlined and find out what works.
Then once you’re firing on all cylinders,
you build up from there.
Celebrity chef Robert Irvine is
the author of a new cookbook and
markets food products through his
Robert Irvine Foods label.
BREAKROOM A one-on-one conversation with an industry impresario
What was your first job? I joined the
British Royal Navy when I was 15.
Your arms are so massive, it’s easy
to overlook your tiny waist. I go the
gym every single day. Usually an hour
or more each visit.
What’s your go-to breakfast?
Muesli. There’s really no right or
wrong way to make it.