Reporter's Notebook

The NRA Show through a new lens

Veteran restaurant executive Howard Gordon tours floor as entrepreneur

Howard Gordon has been attending the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show for about 20 years. For 12 of those years, he was with The Cheesecake Factory. He left his role as Cheesecake’s senior vice president of business development and marketing a few years ago to try his hand at something new. Gordon, who is now president of Gordon Restaurant Group in Los Angeles, will in August debut a new concept called Itriya Cafe Spaghetti & Ssam in Irvine, Calif., so this year he walked the floor as an entrepreneur, which he noted was a whole different experience.

What did you look for as a corporate executive?
As a corporate person, it’s more about solutions, whether it was equipment or technology to help speed service or improve visibility to get the word out. I never spent any money on advertising while at Cheesecake.

What are you looking for now as an entrepreneur?
Things that streamline operations in regard to cooking, technology, and food and beverage products. You have to really know who your customer is and look for things that can be tailored to the location. Because of my corporate background, I was exposed to the bigger picture and know what I’m looking for. I also have relationships with the vendors, which helps even though [my new venture] is on a much smaller scale.

What have you seen at the show that impressed you the most?
GPS table locators and a kitchen management system. There used to be tons of front-of-the-house items, and now there’s a lot more for the kitchen. Oh, and chairs. Chairs today were a big thing for me.

Contact Robin Lee Allen at
Follow her on Twitter: @RobinLeeAllen

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Reporter's Notebook is NRN's newsroom blog, where our editors give their points of view on news happening in the restaurant business.


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