Inside the Culinary Department at SRG in Boulder

Our kitchen is an innovation lab for food clients

Let me paint a scene for you. It's one of the daily events I've come to appreciate in the two and a half years I've been at SRG in Boulder, Colo., since I moved from New York and TBWA\Chiat\Day. 

It's a weekday—pick any one. Let's say about 1:30 pm.

An aside: 

One of the perks of being a senior officer of SRG is my office—a nice space with big windows and a perfect view of the Flatiron Mountains. I also have windows on the interior, where I can survey the creative team, or as they call it, "the dojo." 

Back to our story… 

It's 1:30 pm. 

The time of day when people are looking for a bit of a break from the usual heads down, full throttle of work. Some have ventured out. Some are still catching up. 

But the smart ones are watching and waiting. 

Some even have lookouts, staking out locations and waiting on texts from informants. 

I am at my desk, innocently reading the latest Muse article (of course) when…

An email arrives: 

First floor Café release: Lunch and samples from innovation workshop with (fill in  pretty much any top QSR/fast casual restaurant/CPG brand—yes, even your AOR client).

I count to three, turn and look to the windows on the inside of the office. And there they go. The Jackals. The Vultures. 

Jockeying for position, bodies fly past my office like they're being chased by the bulls in Pamplona. I know. I've been one of those bodies. And you would be too. 

Why?

In addition to being a 360° agency and a consultancy for 34 years—decades ahead of what is now the business model de jour—we're an innovation practice, a brand design foundry, a strategy, insights and data think tank, and a culinary powerhouse. 

Wait—what was that last one? 

A culinary department. 

What the hell is that? 

The curt answer: It's the reason I gained 10 pounds in the first year I was here. 

If my office was on the same floor as Culinary, it might've been 20.

A commercial kitchen with the ability to replicate the back-of-the-house operations of almost any restaurant (QSR, fast casual or upscale). Our SRG culinary council of over 125 chefs (many Michelin Star holders and/or James Beard award winners), brewers, mixologists, sommeliers and wine makers, food scientists, nutritionists, food stylists and more. All helping us innovate with and advise our clients. And it's an in-house team of chefs creating many of the best-selling and most innovative new dishes at the most popular restaurants on Earth. And doing it every day. 

And as killer as the benefit of the food is in general, I should mention how seamlessly the department fits within the rest of the disciplines I mentioned earlier:

I give the example of a blue-chip CPG client who asked us to develop a new category of products in the beverage space. Culinary developed and tested the recipes and flavors; a cross-department creative team came up with product names; Insights and Innovation developed the positioning; Branding designed the packaging; Advertising brought it to the consumer; and the Data Group helps us continue to iterate to make it more successful. 

Equally fun are the restaurants with whom we work. Oftentimes after culinary redesigns and innovates the cuisine, the design team will not only create the logo and design what the menu looks like, but also design the environment as well—the architecture, the booths, the atmosphere. Then Advertising will bring the brand to market.

Make no mistake; we're not all about food. We have many clients in verticals that have nothing to do with food or drink. 

But as I write this, it's 1:27 p.m. on a Friday and I'm starving…

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Adam Wohl
Adam Wohl is executive creative director and partner at SRG in Boulder, Colo.

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