The Berghoff has reclaimed its roots.

A 116-year-old Chicago institution, the German-themed eatery debuted a trio of promotional dishes this summer featuring meats sourced from Eastern Europe, including a Smoked Pork Butt Sandwich that sold out in the first 24 hours of its 10-day run. While sourcing meats from overseas is somewhat unusual amid the rush to source local goods, The Berghoff recognizes opportunity.

“There’s something to be said for going back to your homeland, sourcing some key goods, and creating a classic dish,” says Ashley Mazur, Berghoff marketing coordinator. “We’re celebrating our roots, and that’s allowed us to create authentic, emotional connections with our guests.”

Now, the hope—at least from European meat purveyors—is that others will follow The Berghoff’s lead.

Earlier this year, the Poland-based Union of Producers and Employers of the Meat Industry (UPEMI) launched a promotional campaign, Tradition and Quality of European Meat, highlighting the European meat industry and seeking to expand business relationships with U.S. restaurants. In fact, European Union countries exported more than 41,000 tons of pork to the U.S. in 2013, a tally UPEMI managing director Agnieszka Różańska believes can increase 15–20 percent over the next five years and grow to include other meat products.

“As the American market is very rich in owning tasty products as well as cuisines from all over the world, I believe there is also a place for experimentation with European meats,” Różańska says.

Though pork belly and ribs are the most popular European meats Stateside, UPEMI’s campaign highlighted European hams and sausages, demonstrating how American restaurants can promote such offerings as alternatives to U.S.-sourced meats or as dishes inspired by European traditions.

And while Różańska acknowledges the locavore movement’s deepening roots in the U.S., she says chefs seek quality. She also thinks American consumers, increasingly interested in their foods’ origins and varied cuisines, will savor the diversity that sourcing international goods can deliver to American menus.

“I am sure that American consumers will appreciate these kinds of possibilities,” Różańska says.

At the five-star Radisson Blu Centrum Hotel in Warsaw, Poland, executive chef Dariusz Zahorański uses pork tongues and pork cheeks to capitalize on accelerating consumer interest in centuries-old recipes and meals that share a fresh twist on rustic dishes. If that trend extends to the U.S., Zahorański says, U.S. chefs sourcing European meats stand to benefit.

The Berghoff doesn't need convincing. In fact, the Chicago restaurant looks to continue incorporating European-sourced meats on its menu, including featuring a pork stew at its 29th annual Oktoberfest celebration this fall.

“We like how sourcing meats from overseas provides connections to our roots, but we also like how positively our guests have responded to these special dishes,” Mazur says.


Breaking into a new market can be tough, but breaking into a whole new country can be a real challenge. Giraffas, a Brazilian restaurant chain with more than 350 locations in its home country, is doing just this, opening its premier U.S. store in Florida. talks with CEO Carlos Guerra to find out more about the company’s venture onto foreign soil.

Giraffas is moving to Miami—its first U.S.location—to give diners a “Brazilian experience.” What is this “Brazilian experience"?

The Brazilian experience that we would like to bring for our customer starts when he opens the door and he has the first impression of our store: the smile of our crew, the relaxed and smooth music and ambience. And for sure, the main reason to accomplish this goal is our food, [with] the rich and flavor heritage that we have from all parts of the world.  

What attracted your company to the Miami market? Why was Miami the best spot to place your first

We chose Miami for many reasons. Miami is recognized to be a cosmopolitan city with a lot of influences, like Central America, Europe, Eastern Europe, and South America. Also we [did] some studies about the market [that] show Miami citizens are open for new experiences. We [did] some research about players, tourism, habits of consumers, structure of the food market in Florida, and also South Florida, and we decided to start from Miami.

Does Giraffas have additional plans for expansion in the U.S. and other countries?
Yes, we are looking to expand through Florida and after that to the other states. But first of all, [we plan] to open at least five stores, then check and adjust the necessary details to expand. About other countries, we don't have any plans for this moment. We are 100 percent focused on the U.S.

Will the Giraffas menu undergo any changes when it moves to the U.S. and encounters a different sort of diner?
Yes, we adapted our menu to match with the habits of consumers in the U.S. We changed some recipes of side [dishes], added some sauces and dressings, including new dishes like pasta and salads. But we didn't change our flavor, and we believe that is the difference between us and the others. Some of our players have a New York steak with fries and haricots, but they don't have our flavor.

Your restaurant chain has been around for 30 years. What finally pushed Giraffas to go for international expansion?
Since 2006, we have been looking to expand abroad and in our studies we saw a huge potential market in the U.S. … In Brazil we are close to our full capacity. To expand, we started this process. In 2008, we did the research in the U.S. and with the economic crisis, we saw a window of opportunity.

Where is the company headed over the next few years?
Our goals is to have, until 2014, all the stores in Brazil following the same design concept that we have here in the U.S. [We also want] a gross sales of $1 billion reais—something around $700 million U.S. dollars. For the end of the year, we plan to have 400 stores open—three in the U.S.—and for next year, 460 stores in Brazil and at least five stores in greater Miami.

By Mary Avant

Industry News