Holiday Inn Worldwide (HIW) has announced it will be opening a new franchise of upscale boutique-style restaurants in select cities worldwide. CEO Sean Rand says that the restaurants, named Innards, will cater to sophisticated clientele with unique culinary interests.
The first two Innards will open in June in central-city locations of New York, and Dallas. Openings in London, Brisbane, and Madrid will follow soon thereafter. Rand says that HIW will limit the total number of restaurants to thirty five or fewer, in order to insure the freshest and best possible preparations. A skeptic might think that the limitation is more likely intended to create a certain mystique that often develops when a popular high-end product is available in a limited quantity. Of course, that can't-get-it mystique drives more demand.
As the name suggests, the Innards menu will be devoted to organ meats and other entrails, with recipes based on preparations by indigenous people from around the globe. Rand said there was quite a debate about the name, but in the end, just more than half of HIW's Board of Directors favored Innards over the alternate, Vice Viscera.
Andrew Zimmern from the Travel Network TV show Bizarre Foods has been retained to get the new chain of fine food establishments on its feet and running. His job will be to identify the best sources for the viscera and to help train chefs in their various unique methods of preparation. Most ideas for the menu will come from areas of South America, Asia, and Africa, but Zimmern says there will be a limited number of seasonal specials based on preparations from more temperate climates (think putrefied shark meat from Iceland).
Zimmern was reluctant to give away too much information about the Innards menu before any sites are open, but he did share a few hints. "We will of course have all the standards that everyone knows and loves. Things like heart, stomach, liver, and tongue. But where we really hope to make our mark is with the more exotic meats like pancreas, brain, pituitary gland, rooster testicles, and yes, intestines." He went on. "There is a whole world of people out there that have lost the food preparation skills and tastes of their grandparents and great-grandparents. People are interested in getting back to their roots. We think this is a market waiting to explode. For example, many people assume that they would not like the taste of intestine. But I can assure you , blindfold someone and serve him or her a hot, steaming plate of fresh mountain Yak intestine stuffed with diced red potato and wild rice, simmered in a buttery brandy rue, and they just go wild over it!"
Rand said "Andrew brings more than just his experience with exotic foods. We want Innards to be a destination, but not just for an exquisite culinary experience. We want it to be fun, and Andrew really knows how to add that element as well."
Rand says that Innards will restrict their main course menu to viscera, but Zimmern has convinced him that ventures into other unique cuisines could also prove profitable in a franchise, possibly even in a fast-food arena. It would be a new area of operation for HIW, but Rand gets excited when he speaks of the potential. "We'll see - it could happen. There is no one out there serving worms, bugs, slugs, or even penis on any kind of scale. These foods are staples in many parts of the world. Except for a few places in various Chinatown's, this market is virtually untouched in Europe and here in North America. Imagine pulling into your neighborhood drive-through in your Bimmer or Volvo XC and ordering barbeque bull's penis on a sesame seed roll, with a side order of wine-simmered banana slugs. It's not only healthy food, it is a rational way to minimize waste and thereby show respect for animals."
One editor at Barrons was skeptical about the success of the new HIW venture, but said he was keeping an open mind. "It will either flop or explode," he predicted. The street apparently thinks the latter, as HIW stock is down since Rand's announcement of Innards. But Rand is a man on a mission, and Zimmern might just be the fellow to make sure the blast-off is picture-perfect.
"This is so 21st Century. There is no reason it will not work" says Rand.