In September, Food & Drink Resources (FDR) had the great fortune of bringing on a new managing partner, Ric Scicchitano. Ric will serve alongside FDR Co-founders Richard Keys and Scott Randolph and will lead the development of new business growth. More specifically, he will work to bring on new agency clients, build existing client relationships, expand FDR’s range of services, and work side-by-side with the FDR culinary team.
Before joining FDR, Ric served as the President of Which Wich and prior to that spent 25+ years at Corner Bakery in a variety of roles, from corporate Chef / Baker in the early days rising to Executive Vice President of Food & Supply Chain before leaving the fast-casual brand. With culinary arts and baking & pastry training from the Culinary Institute America in Hyde Park, New York, Ric seems to always find his way to the R&D kitchen regardless of his title. Perhaps that’s why he’s landed at FDR–to be near recipe innovation more often, an FDR specialty.
FDR: Tell us about the early years. How did you get interested in food?
Ric: I’ve spent my whole life around food and have the tattoos on my arm to tell the story. Growing up in an Italian family, my grandmothers, aunts, and uncles all taught me how to cook at a young age. I was making holiday meals before I got my drivers license. In high school, parties at my house were the place to be. I’d host notorious barbecues and clam bakes for my friends when my parents were out of town.
My first job was in the kitchen at the local hospital where my father was Chief of Surgery. I think he parked me there to keep me out of trouble knowing I would gravitate to it without any pushback.
I started to pursue a degree in meteorology, but I just wasn’t passionate about it. So, I bailed on my bachelors and went to CIA.
What were your first career moves?
From culinary school in New York, I moved to Chicago to became part of the original Corner Bakery team. This was back in the early Lettuce Entertain You days in the fall of 1991 when Corner Bakery grew out of Maggiano’s.
As Corner Bakery evolved, so did my responsibilities. I worked as a chef and baker, running manufacturing, daily BOH kitchen ops and even putting on my sales hat, selling our baked goods wholesale to many top restaurants in Chicago at the time, all the while being part of a team that arguably was creating one of the original bakery-cafes.
What were the skills/experience you acquired throughout your career?
In the mid-to-late 1990s, Corner Bakery was purchased by Brinker International. Here I learned how large brands approach innovation, saw first-hand the inner workings of sophisticated supply chain systems and experience how growth-orientated chains aggressively grow. Our baking operations followed our development strategy so at one point I was running five manufacturing facilities spread across the US to supply the cafes daily. This is where I gained the bulk my manufacturing, sales, and distribution experiences.
During the early 2000s, I sold off our plants and became Vice President of Food & Beverage to focus solely on menu development and culinary strategy. Here’s where I expanded responsibilities by taking on supply chain and risk management creating a very rare position of not only being responsible for innovation but having the power and control to get them commercialized and rolled out. Having culinary and purchasing reporting to me was a match made in heaven. The responsibility of both grew and grew until we had oversight of a more $120 million food spend every year and an additional $20 million in furniture, fixtures, and equipment.
In 2006, we organized a buyout of Corner Bakery Cafe to carve the brand out of Brinker. I was part of a four-person team charged with creating the new stand-alone company. These experiences were hugely influential on my career. I saw and learned what goes into the sale of an organization and essentially starting a new one. Experiencing the sales process more than once has allowed me to comfortably present to many investors.
Why did you leave the bakery?
I took the President role at Which Wich Superior Sandwiches because I enjoy working with founders and get energy leading teams. This gave me a chance to break away from the bakery/cafe segment and experience another area of our industry. I believe that you need to have broad disciplines to round out your career and being a brand leader was a wonderful stepping stone in my career.
Why did you join FDR?
During my run of almost 30 years of being on the operator side, I was often fascinated and curious about the sales and consulting side of culinary innovation and knew there are only a few quality agencies performing at a high level. When my buddies at FDR presented an opportunity to grow their business with them, it was hard to turn down–so I didn’t. I guess you can say I got here as soon as I could.
What do you see as the future for FDR?
The way I see it, any time there is a new CEO, president, or CMO at a restaurant organization, they want to fix things and often see value in an outsider’s perspective to assist their in-house teams. They want an agency to partner with them. I’ve seen it. I’ve done the same thing many times. Today, there’s is a huge opportunity for FDR to “not be kings, but kingmakers,” as my friends Richard and Scott often say. We want to help brands find success in the food decisions they make.
In my career, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. Mistakes on menu concepts, marketing campaigns, hiring, and I’ve even burnt a few loaves of bread. They’ve all taught me how to correct course and have brought me to where I am today. I’m eager to apply those lessons here and help our clients not make the same ones.
What’s happening at home and in your kitchen?
I have a son and a daughter, both their early 20s. My wife and I travel often, and so I feel fortunate when I get to cook for her and the kids in my “big boy” kitchen at home. We enjoy the country living of North Texas, and food in our house has a monthly theme…be it “the summer of grilling meats outside,” pizzas in the giant stone oven, big skewers of veggies over a fire pit, or sometimes we take the month off from animal proteins and walk on the wild side with veggie cuisine. Outside of food, we “collect” French Bulldogs (some would say we have too many), and I often find myself mountain biking because I have a rad trail about two miles from the house.
To learn more about Ric or to connect, find him on LinkedIn.