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Shaking Up the F&B Industry: The Wildflower Café

Updated: Apr 16

Todd Hudson | Owner & Executive Chef of The Wildflower Café | Mason, Ohio

Todd Hudson and his family

Describe the Client Experience in Your Restaurant.

The majority of our clients have explored their favorite wine region and may be familiar with some areas on an extensive scale. They don’t want to drink the same wine every time and have faith in us to recommend and suggest new producers. Many of our clients return three or four times per week, and we’ve become known for creating different experiences every time. They’ll ask us: “What’s good today?” and they mean food and wine. They trust us and that’s how we have become successful.

How Would You Describe Your Wine List?

Wine is a descriptor of a place and time and we love to share this experience. Our menu changes all the time, representing different regions of the world. We try to have wines that will balance the intensity. If the food is 3 out of 10 on the intensity scale, the wine needs to be complementary. We are mindful of pairing different types of wine based on what we’re serving. I have always collected and held back certain vintages – some for over 13 years. We offer 4,000 bottles total.

What is Your Favorite Varietal?

My favorites are Chardonnays from all over the world. A well-made chardonnay is beautiful to me. There are more wines that I love than not, and I’m not partial to one variety over the other.

How Long Have You Been Working With Vanguard Wines?

About a decade. With Vanguard Wines, you can get a variety of producers and any style of wine you want. With other distributors, that’s not always the case. From economy priced up through Grand Cru Burgundies, Vanguard Wines covers everything. They master all regions, not just one, with their worldly book.

Tell Us How You've Changed Your Business Model in Response to COVID.

Before COVID, we were a fine dining restaurant on the expensive side. And we were really small—in a 100-year-old former house that originally had four tables. Our concept was to pack in as many people as we could. But, during the pandemic, we couldn’t make any of the guidelines work. I lost 65 seats. We had to find ways to evolve, so we flipped our model and put in a wine shop and “grab and go” options with limited seating. Now, you can buy a case of wine and homemade pasta in minutes for the same money as a 2.5-hour dinner seating. Our potential is probably double now because of the speed.

What's Your Outlook Moving Forward, Past the Pandemic?

More so now than ever before in this industry, we have to take a much stronger team approach. If we can’t sell wine, there is a domino effect back to producers. We get that. We have to work harder, be smarter, be more resilient—but we all have to be on the same team and have each other’s backs. We are co-dependent, and will need to remain so to see each other through this time.

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