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Episode 85: Kurt Berman and The Ropeswing Hospitality Group are Keeping Northwest Arkansas Fed, Happy, and Safe

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IANWA - Kurt Berman and RopeSwing (edited)

TZL Open [0:11] It's time for another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas, the podcast covering the intersection of business, culture, entrepreneurship, and life in general here in the Ozarks. Whether you are considering a move to this area or trying to learn more about the place you call home, we've got something special for you. Here's our host, Randy Wilburn.

Randy Wilburn [0:42] Hey folks, and welcome to another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. I'm your host Randy Wilburn, and I'm excited to be with you today. As you guys know, we try to find the best folks, the best representation of what Northwest Arkansas is all about, and bring them on the podcast to share with you. Whether you are from here, whether you are thinking about moving here because you're being courted by one of the big three, or whether you just rolled the dice and looked at the map and pointed to Northwest Arkansas and said, I'm going to move there. We try to educate you on what makes this place so special, and so my guest today is Kurt Berman and Kurt is the CEO of RopeSwing. And Kurt is here with us today to talk a little bit about his organization and RopeSwing is a Hospitality Group. They have a number of restaurants under that mantle, one of which we actually had on this podcast which is The Preacher's Son. Matt Cooper is the Chef Extraordinaire at The Preacher's Son, where if you have any type of gluten intolerance whatsoever, that's the restaurant that you need to go to on a regular basis. But I know that I don't want to take anything away from Kurt so I'm going to let him tell his story and then we will get into some of the great foods these guys offer here to Northwest Arkansas. But without further ado, Kurt Berman, how are you doing this afternoon?

Kurt Berman [2:00] Thanks, Randy. I'm doing very, very well as well as can be in the new norm that we're living in at the moment, but thanks for having me.

Randy Wilburn [2:07]. You have been with RopeSwing for almost three years now. For people that can't detect that you do have an accent, and you're from down under, but not the down under that we usually think about? you are from South Africa. I would love for you to tell the I am Northwest Arkansas audience a little bit about your superhero origin story and how you ended up here.

Kurt Berman [2:29] Great. As you said, I'm originally from South Africa. I started my career in the kitchen as a chef, which I think is a great place to start any career because it really teaches you very quickly how to deal with stress and pressure in a very heated environment. Like many South Africans my age, experienced our first start out of the country was generally London, England. I moved from England to Ireland and then back to South Africa to the Caribbean, and eventually moved out of the kitchen into more general roles within the Food and Beverage and the Hotel Industry. I managed private islands in the Indian Ocean, opening a wellness resort in China, managing a beautiful villa estate in Thailand. Now, as you said for the last three years, I have been here in Northwest Arkansas in Bentonville, involved in RopeSwing, which is very exciting. My family and I love living here, and we are all ex-pats to this region if you like. And in the three years that we have been here, we have seen such tremendous growth, and that's a big part of why we moved here originally was to be part of growing that community and making something truly special in this part of the world.

Randy Wilburn [3:42] I love that. So, what was it specifically though, because I mean as I was looking at your CV and some of your background and experience, you have done a lot and you have been all over; I would imagine that Northwest Arkansas wasn't on the pecking order of places that you thought you would end up, but that you're here, this is good because you can speak to this, after all, you have been all over. You have a seasoned palate as they say, and I've seen a lot and done a lot. How do you reconcile being here in Northwest Arkansas? What do you think about this area overall?

Kurt Berman [4:18] Well, I think for me I see the potential in this region, not only business potential but the potential for leading a great quality of life, and I believe in light of the current situation we are all living in, I think a lot of people in more developed areas are probably starting to look elsewhere and Northwest Arkansas is a place that could tick a lot of boxes for a lot of people that are looking for great quality of life. As a family, we have lived around in some beautiful places, but they have their challenges. Small private islands are fantastic when you are on vacation, but when you have a baby and need to get doctor's checkups, groceries, and keeping a wife not bored, those challenges can crop up pretty quickly. And we wanted to live in a place where we can lead some semblance of a normal life and that's what we are doing and we are loving living here in Northwest Arkansas.

Randy Wilburn [5:13] I love that. Everything that you have said is the same sentiments that we struggled with when we moved here. And you know, we overcame them, just in terms of wanting to make sure that we could have our fullest life possible but be in an area where---. I came from Boston 17 years up there. I'm not from there as I like to tell people, but I lived there for 17 years. So, moving here was a big change for me, but I think it was a welcome change. The thing I was blown away by was a couple of things, the culture as a whole and the people. And I think both played into each other because a lot of times Arkansas as a state gets a bad rap. And, you talk about some of the challenges that different parts of the State may experience just because of what it is. Still, then Northwest Arkansas being kind of the home base of three worldwide recognized companies that have done amazing things. And I mean, Walmart's one of the biggest companies in the world, one of the most successful companies in the world, and it's right here in our backyard, and so, I can't think of a better place. I think the canvas if I had to use an art term, the canvas here, the potential to create something special, it's still being realized right now.

Kurt Berman [6:29] Yeah, I couldn't agree more on sticking with the art analogy you started using. If you look at places like New York or London or Los Angeles, you know, that palette has been used a couple of times, and there are thick and rich layers of paint on that palette. Whereas here we almost have a blank canvas, we can create something without feeling curated or fake to some degree. We have the opportunity to be part of the organic growth of something that's going to be a very desirable place for everyone that lives here, and I think that's pretty unique. I have not come across any other place in my travels where there is that optimism and that potential in a region like this.

Randy Wilburn [7:12] Yeah. I would love to talk a little bit about this because when I first got here, I heard the name RopeSwing, I didn't know what it was. And then I started figuring it out. I started connecting the dots by visiting some of the different restaurants that are part of the group but give me an overarching picture of what RopeSwing Hospitality is in terms of describing that for anyone. Even I guess the uninitiated that isn't from here that might be coming here so that they know hey, I see the word RopeSwing, I know what this is all about.

Kurt Berman [7:43] As I mentioned earlier, I was very excited about moving here because I could play an active role in helping this part of the world to be the best place for everybody that lives here to enjoy. And the role that RopeSwing plays in is that we create and operate places for people to connect socially. We have everything from restaurants to an event space, even a private member's club with a very strong focus on wellness and community engagement. And RopeSwing's priority or RopeSwing's vision is to help bring people together. And whether that's in a restaurant or a bar or a member's club or an event space, that's what we want to do to enrich people's lives. It's not just a restaurant company, and it's not focusing purely on the financial aspects of the business; of course, that is important as well, but really, we see ourselves as being catalysts, if you like, to enrich people's lives for those people that are living here, and also those people that are thinking of moving here.

Randy Wilburn [8:45] Yeah. And I think it's great because I mean, you want to know that the place that you're coming to, maybe has some of the bells and whistles and amenities that maybe you're leaving. I know I felt that way, and my wife will tell you she's got her favorites of things that she misses from Boston. But then she came down here and we got into Crystal Bridges and we got to experience the Amazeum and all these things and now The Momentary, and it just seems like every time I turn around, there is something new happening here in Northwest Arkansas. And I think that speaks to that blank canvas that you were talking about that there's something new being created every day. And with that in mind, how do you as a leader in this hospitality company, how do you keep it fresh? How do you continue to evolve these different ideas? I mean, you have an eclectic palette of restaurants to choose from under your Hospitality Group. And I'm just thinking what's driving the decision making behind the scenes to say, hey, you know what, I think Northwest Arkansas needs X or it needs Y and what goes into that? I'm just curious.

Kurt Berman [9:56] Well, to be honest, there's no exact science. We identify either a gap in the market, something that's required something that's needed and that might not be something that the community yet realizes that they need. I am thinking about the Ramen concept Co-Op, for example, which is, unfortunately, temporarily closed. We are using this opportunity to refresh the menu, but to open a ramen restaurant in this part of the world with not the biggest population size is a little risky. Still, now we have two Ramen restaurants in this region, which I think is fantastic, so that is an example. And then some of the other restaurants like the Pressroom have been here for a lot longer and some people use it as a third space in their lives. It's not necessarily their workplace. It's not necessarily their home, but it's kind of a third-place that they call homework. And we enjoy it when people use our spaces like that. And then, of course, we have something like The Preacher's Son, which is more of a place where you would go for a celebration or a special occasion. And then we are also working on a couple of new projects coming up and they are somewhat delayed at the moment. And we are continually thinking through the challenges that COVID is presenting, not only to us but to the whole industry. And the way that I think people are going to want to use restaurant or bar spaces is forever going to be changed. And the way we think through those is something we are working on daily. I think it's also important that we collaborate with other businesses that are already in the region. I certainly don't want RopeSwing to be seen as a big competitor that comes in and makes it difficult for organic growth and friendly competition. I think we want to encourage that. So really, when we decide on a new project, there's a lot of factors that go into that a lot of brainstorming a lot of thinking to make sure that what we eventually come up with is timely. It's something that is a little bit ahead of the curve, but it's also something that people are actively going to support. Most times we have that right, sometimes we've had to tweak that. But, that's a challenging exercise, that's for sure.

Randy Wilburn [12:09] I can appreciate the fact that you have allowed a fertile environment to take root here with many different restaurants because I know a lot of the chefs of these restaurants are good friends. And I know some of the chefs of some of the RopeSwing restaurants are friends with other chefs that aren't affiliated with RopeSwing. And that's the thing I was amazed at is that there's all this commingling going on and everybody knows everybody else. And I think that's kind of cool in this environment here in Northwest Arkansas, and I think there's something to be said for that indeed, and you have mentioned it a couple of times. We haven't gotten into it, but at the time of the recording of this, we are still in the throes of the pandemic and it has impacted service organization service companies like yours that hire bartenders that hire bussers that hire waiters, and other individuals that do all the amazing things that we need doing whenever we go out to eat or whenever we go out to any type of hospitality event. And so, my question to you is as this has all happened and evolved, and I've seen some of the things that you've done, what has been the biggest challenge for you, as an organization in terms of trying just to keep it all together? And I'm going to lead you down a direction because I want to ask a couple of other questions. But I would just be curious to know what some of the biggest challenges are that you guys have seen personally?

Kurt Berman [13:35] I think our biggest challenge has been adjusting to the restrictions or the constraints that we have to operate under now, in terms of masks, gloves, limited seating, a much more hesitant consumer. People are much more nervous going out of the safety areas, and we have wanted to balance that with trying to keep as many of our businesses open as long as possible. Not only to provide variety for the community and to continue to provide opportunities for them to safely socialize but more importantly, for us to try and keep as many of our team onboard and employed as possible. And unfortunately, we haven't been able to do that all the time, obviously, and we have had to make some tough decisions just like all other businesses have had to do. And I think that's been the biggest challenge because that's not something we as a company have ever had to do before when I know, there are many companies out there that have never had to do that before either. I would say 2020 has proven to be the most challenging year that I think RopeSwing has ever been in operation. I believe that we are starting to see some glimmers of hope and that is encouraging. But I think until we see that actual light at the end of the tunnel with COVID particularly, I think the market will be very hesitant and our biggest challenge is to keep moving forward. But at the same time trying to run a responsible business for our employees and our team members.

Randy Wilburn [15:08] I have seen the thought process continuously concerning how you keep your restaurants busy. I know you have done several different takeout programs. You have pushed takeout and delivery now which traditionally with the type of restaurants that RopeSwing offers. I never thought about going to The Preacher's Son to get a takeout order. But then once you presented it, I was like, that's not a bad idea. I could do that and grab something, take it home and I know what I'm getting is going to be good. Whether I'm sitting in that beautiful, beautiful restaurant, which I believe that particular restaurant was--- it wasn't a James Beard award winner, was it or was it a nominee? Yes, it's gorgeous and their stained-glass windows, all of that just makes it a special place. I mean, you do feel like you are in church, but you're eating a great meal. I don't know if you know this. Did you know the little bit of trivia that I learned about this was that the thing that's unique about that restaurant is that it's directly across the street from an actual church and that church is where Matt Cooper's father preached his first sermon?

Kurt Berman [16:19] You know, it's funny you say that, because that's exactly the story he was telling me yesterday, which is pretty amazing.

Randy Wilburn [16:25] It is amazing. He shared that with me, and I was like, that's why I do podcasts because I love learning little tidbits like that. But listen, you couldn't print that up any better than him sharing that. But you've got this beautiful Methodist Church, it's right across the street, right. And then you have The Preacher's Son right there and they are vying for your attention because your eye cannot miss both of these buildings. But when you go into The Preacher's Son, aside from the food just being outstanding, it just is a place of reverence in terms of just taking in the time that went into it. So, I understand and get the fact that you guys were a James Beard a nominee for the design because it's absolutely stunning and I encourage anyone listening to this if you can go check it out in person. But the second-best thing would probably be to get some delivery from there because you will not be disappointed.

Kurt Berman [17:21] Can I just add to that Randy that in the last few months, we have done a lot of things that I don't think RopeSwing had ever thought about. For a brief period, converted The Holler, another one of our restaurants in the 8th Street Market. We created an online Bodega, essentially where people could order supplies that were a little hard to come by earlier on in this crisis like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and pre-made meals. And we also featured pre-made meals and items from a lot of our community partners from Yeyos and Markman Fitz and also all of the coffee companies because we saw that as a great opportunity to support them again as well. You mentioned delivery takeout. We have also expanded some of our outdoor patio seating areas, particularly at the Pressroom. The city has been very helpful in helping businesses like ours expand some of our outdoor patios and that's been successful. And then also the takeout options and online ordering. These are things that we always thought we would eventually get around to doing in some of the restaurants, but we were able to really duck and dive and pivot pretty quickly to get them activated during this crisis. And so, in some ways, a lot of things we tried either didn't work or we didn't feel like they were going to work for an extended period. And other things that we wanted to try later on we have had to move up a little earlier. So, it's been an interesting journey.

Randy Wilburn [18:47] Well that gives new meaning to 'Necessity is the Mother of Invention.' Because no matter what situation you're in, sometimes you are pushed into a corner. You have got to figure something out and you guys were certainly as was any hospitality organization, hotels, restaurants, you name it, have been pushed into a corner with this pandemic. And some people have kind of given up and others have come out swinging like you guys have and that is undoubtedly a testament. What are you hoping to accomplish next? What's in the works for you guys as you move forward with the understanding that I'm sure you have some plans in the works that you can't even unveil until things get back to normal? And when will that be? I don't know. But before that, what do you hope to present in the near future? What are you hoping to accomplish that if you could do it would be a real feather in your cap?

Kurt Berman [19:45] Yeah, that's a big question, Randy. And I would love to spend hours talking about what could happen for RopeSwing because I think we are at that position or at that crossroads right now. I think with this COVID crisis, where things are going to start getting better soon. And I'm not saying that they're only going to get better, there might be peaks and troughs but I think generally we are going to start looking on the upward. From a RopeSwing perspective, we are focusing on doubling down on what we have. We have had to reduce a lot of our operating hours now, just to really try and responsibly run each restaurant in that we have had to take away breakfast in some of the outlets where it wasn't working. But with school coming back as of yesterday, we were going to monitor that situation, and I think as things start to stabilize with schools around, we may see the opportunity to begin reopening some of those moments and I think that's encouraging. So really, doubling down on what we have is providing quality experiences. Looking at some of the opportunities that I'm focused on is making sure that what we have is operating to the max. And then what I wanted to add quickly is that there are two things that I think happened during this crisis that I'm particularly proud of that RopeSwing was able to achieve. One of those was right from the outset; we wanted to be big supporters of the frontline health care workers. Early April, we partnered with Brightwater, a Culinary Academy, and Tyson Foods, and we started providing daily meals to the hospitals in the area, the three big hospitals. And I think for a couple of months, we provided thousands of meals to those frontline workers, using our labor, our kitchens, our equipment, delivering the meals using products sponsored by Tyson using some of the kitchens sponsored by Brightwater. It was a perfect example of a collaboration between big corporations, small businesses, and an education institute. I thought that was fantastic.

The second thing throughout this crisis, we wanted to look after our employees as much as possible. We try to keep the restaurants open as long as we possibly could. We wanted to make sure that, as you know, servers particularly and bartenders, rely heavily on their tips. And obviously, those tips fell away completely as the market dropped off. So, we not only continued employment, but we paid their contribution for them for a significant amount of time, throughout that process. And that makes me proud that the workstream was able to do that. And I don't know of any other companies in the country that was able to do that, particularly in the hospitality realm. And, we didn't put that on a billboard. We didn't put that on the newspaper headline, because I think that it was more important for us to make sure that we looked after our teams as long as possible. Obviously, since then, we have made some changes as we move back into phase two of the reopening, which is where we are now. And we have started reopening some of the restaurants as we see some of that market coming back. We are eager to return to normal as quickly as possible, but I wanted just to mention those two things as well.

Randy Wilburn [22:59] I'm glad you mentioned that because I remember when I first saw that, I was like, wow, that was when I originally wanted to talk with you guys because I wanted to find out how that whole program was going. But then I spoke to some people that were affiliated with it and they said it was amazing. And it was such a blessing to get food from some amazing restaurants and just what you guys were able to do for those people on the front line was incredible. So, I appreciate you guys and what you're doing as far as that's concerned. So, I do want to bring up something and I don't want to be a Debbie Downer as far as that's concerned. But I did want to ask this question because I think that I grew up, I cut my teeth and I always tell the story, but I cut my teeth in a restaurant at a young age. I was like 14, serving Merlot and stuff to people when I shouldn't have been serving drinks to them. I worked at a very small mom and pop restaurant with a gentleman that was an outstanding chef. And I cut my teeth in the restaurant field. I'm surprised I didn't go into that field but I've always been at heart. I mean, I always waited tables. I bartended. I've always had the experience and I think I learned so much. I want my kids to all wait tables because I believe working in the service industry specifically and dealing with people teaches you so much. And it's one of the reasons I think that we as a society as a country, and I think every country is dealing with this differently. But I've been using the hashtag(#) save our restaurants all the time because I believe it is important for us to do that. Often, people say, well, restaurants weren't running well, to begin with, and maybe they should just go by the wayside. And I'm saying, no, you're missing the bigger picture here. It's not just the restaurant; it's all the people that make up that restaurant. It's the chef; it's the sous-chef, it's the dishwasher, it's the busser. I mean, there are so many people and so many families that are represented behind that. I would just be curious to know your thoughts about this whole movement, and why people should think of it differently to do whatever you can do. Of course, if you don't have the money to do it, fine, but to do whatever you can do if you're in a position to continue to support restaurants, regardless of where they come from. It's important, I think, and I would just love to get your thoughts about that, because I've spoken to several friends that are restaurant tours, and a lot of them are quite despondent about the future. And I think that's just the reality but they're going to be some survivors. But I would just be curious to know what your thoughts are about that?

Kurt Berman [25:27] What many people don't realize is that most restaurants are small businesses. For some families, their entire livelihood depends on that restaurant whether it's the owner or like you said, the person working in the dish or the bar or the kitchen or wherever. And traditionally, the hospitality industry is a tough business. Margins are very thin. You're trying to provide the best experience with the lowest possible margin you can and anytime something goes wrong, that just dissolves that little bit of a margin that you had and it makes it even more difficult to operate a restaurant. That's also one of the few industries where you're trying to sell something to somebody that they're not able to see; they're not able to experience it until it's delivered to them. And then they're expected to put it into their bodies, either eating or drinking it; that's a tough sell. You're buying a car, you can walk around, and you can kick its tires, you can take it for a test drive. But if you're ordering a meal, you're putting a lot of trust in the people that are working in that restaurant to deliver something that you feel is valid for money and good experience. And that puts the customer in a very powerful position in their transaction. And I think now is the time for the consumer to help restaurants and the hospitality industry work through this. A lot of people's lives are affected by it. I was just reading an article in The New York Times on Sunday about that exact issue that New York's restaurant scene has been decimated, and people are very despondent about what it's going to look like as we come out of this. The good news is people are genuinely social creatures. They want to be in spaces where they can socialize. Think about why restaurants were needed in the first place. People can cook at home, they can eat at home, they can make drinks. But restaurants are a business that has flourished because people want to go out and experience; something that they are not capable of doing at home. Perhaps, and more importantly, getting to experience that with other people, whether they know them. And I think that no matter what happens, as we come out of this COVID crisis, they are going to be challenges to work through but ultimately, humans are going to want to come back to restaurants and bars as soon as they possibly can and that's encouraging.

Randy Wilburn [27:25] It is. And that's why I just have it cut and pasted in my little browser. I'm always putting out the hashtag(#)save our restaurants whenever I'm posting anything, especially with any local places here in Northwest Arkansas. But even for some of my friends that are back on the East Coast, we got to do whatever we can to support them. So, I think it's really important. Now out of all of it, so you got The Preacher's Son, Pressroom, The Holler, the Ramen Bar, which is called Coop, right?

Kurt Berman [27:54] Co-Op.

Randy Wilburn [27:55] I'm sorry. The Test Kitchen, Undercroft, the Record, Louise, and BlakeSt. So those are all of the different entities. Now the only one that is closed right now is the Co-Op and anything else?

Kurt Berman [28:12] Yeah, Co-Op is closed at the moment because we are refreshing the menu. And then we do have limited hours in The Holler, Pressroom, and Louise. We are were closed on certain days of the week so please do check the websites. We try not to make too many changes because that can be confusing. But we also do want to respond as soon as we can to the market and as we see people wanting to come out and spend more time out, we are going to try and get back to full occupancy as soon as possible; at least full operation. The Record is our event space and obviously, at the moment, any large gathering of people is difficult. So even though the Record is not closed, we are actively encouraging bookings for later this year or even into next year. But it's not very busy at the moment, unfortunately for that reason.

Randy Wilburn [28:54] All right. Well, that's good. That's good to know. I'll make sure and everybody can go to to check that information, right? Or they can go to this specific website for that restaurant that's part of RopeSwing Group.

Kurt Berman [29:08] Correct. Each restaurant has its own website and social media accounts.

Randy Wilburn [29:12] Exactly. And you guys can follow them and learn all the great stuff that they're doing. I would encourage you if you like---. I mean, they're all good. I've been following Matt since I moved here and this was well before I knew him. His food just looks amazing. And again, I don't want to come across as a fanboy for Chef Matt, but the dude knows what he's doing so he can burn with the best of them. And I would highly if you haven't been to The Preacher's Son, out of all of the restaurants that RopeSwing has to offer, and I've been to several of them, it's just my favorite-- I love his food. I've tried to eat gluten-free as much as possible, but this dude knows what he's doing in the kitchen period. So check them out and tell them that the folks over at I am Northwest Arkansas sent you so I'm sure they will take great care of you. So, well man, Kurt, this has really been great. I appreciate you taking the time. And we love these long-form conversations that it's not just a news soundbite or anything like that. We like to go a little deeper so that people know who they're doing business with. And I certainly want to encourage anyone listening to this podcast. If you are coming to Northwest Arkansas, check out RopeSwing Hospitalities restaurants. You can again just go to and look at all that they have to offer. When you fly into X and A, you can make a beeline up to Bentonville, and there's plenty of choices for you to choose from. And I mean, we've got great restaurants all over and so with that in mind, I do want to put you on the spot Kurt, and I need you to give me a name. I know everything that RopeSwing has to offer is a favorite of yours but if I had to put a gun to your head and I made you take me to a restaurant, outside of the RopeSwing Hospitality Group, where would you go to eat?

Kurt Berman [30:55] Gosh, as a family we love going to Oven and Tap. [Inaudible 31:02], that's obviously just off the square in Bentonville as well. I love their Barqueda(sp)* which is right across the road from The Preacher's Son. I was actually there on Saturday night, and they have a great wine selection. And I think they're able to offer something that's a little different from what else is available in the region. I haven't ventured down to Fayetteville as yet too much. I've been to Hugo's, and I've been to Maxine's and there are quite a few places in Fayetteville that I would love to check out soon as I can. And then I love YeYos of course [inaudible 31:31] and you know, the restaurants, they do a great job. I feel like there's so many more in there that I'd love to talk about. I even love Willy's Soul Food around Rainbow Curve. Some of the best-fried chicken, that's fantastic. Not as healthy unfortunately so a bit of a treat now and again, but it's something I really plan for.

Randy Wilburn [31:51] There are so many places and there's always something new popping up. I actually just had the founder of KDKs Chicken and Waffles. He's down below the University of Arkansas on Razorback Road just right before you get to the baseball stadium there and it's a food truck. But I mean his chicken and waffles are out of this world and I don't know what he puts in the batter for his fried chicken wings and for his tenders, but they're certainly worth a try. And I'm a big chicken and waffle guy; if I can find good chicken and waffles. So yeah, I'll throw that one out there for you and that one was free. So, thank you so much for sharing those. And yeah, Oven and Tap is great and YeYos is one of my favorites as well. The 8th Street Market is just a place to go just to check a little bit of everything that's going on. It's why I was so sad that Bite NWA didn't happen this year because that's such a fun event here in Northwest Arkansas, where everybody gets to come together and taste a little bit of heaven in terms of all the different restaurants that are represented in this area, including several RopeSwing restaurants. So, it's definitely worth checking out when they have the next Bite NWA. But man, thank you so much, Kurt, for taking the time today to be with us. And if anybody wants to contact you, what's the best way for them to reach out to you?

Kurt Berman [33:09] Thank you. I would love to hear from you, just email me. My email address I think I can give you it's Kurt, K-U-R-T I'd love to hear from anybody who has an idea or suggestion. Whether you've had a good experience or a bad experience in any of our restaurants. If you have had a good experience in any restaurant and you want to share that I would love to hear from you. Yeah, please do that.

Randy Wilburn [33:35] Well, there you have it. You've heard it right from Kurt's mouth. Please reach out to him. Touch base with him, let him know if you've been to a RopeSwing restaurant that's really been an amazing experience for you or anything else that you'd like to share with him. That's what these guys do and they are in hospitality. They're constantly looking to continue to improve, as they say, I think the Japanese call it, Kaizen- it's just consistent improvement. Every day a little bit better. That's kind of what I say, right? One percent is better every day. So well, thank you so much, Kurt. I really appreciate you, man. Thanks for coming on the podcast.

Kurt Berman [34:04] Thanks, Randy.

Randy Wilburn [34:06] Well, there you have it, folks, another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. I really appreciate you checking this episode out. Please go to a RopeSwing Restaurant, tell them that you heard about RopeSwing from the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast. And if you happen to end up at The Preacher's Son, ask for Chef Matt and tell them that you know me and that I said to take good care of you and he definitely will do that. But in all seriousness, let's continue to hashtag(#)save our restaurants. Let's support our local restaurants here in Northwest Arkansas. Let's support our local businesses here because no matter what this pandemic will go away at some point in time, and life will continue to go on. And I really want to encourage you guys to be a part of what's happening in this area, both socially as well as economically, spiritually however you deem fit, but we want to encourage you to do that. Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. As always, we come out every Monday. You can find this podcast wherever great podcasts can be found. Check us out on iTunes or Spotify or Stitcher, SoundCloud wherever you want to listen to this podcast, and please if you get a chance to rate and review the podcast let us know what you think about it. And we appreciate that you can find us at and on Instagram at I am Northwest Arkansas. I'm your host Randy Wilburn and I will see you next week. Peace

TZL Open [35:31] We hope you enjoyed this episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. Check us out each and every week available anywhere that great podcasts can be found. For Show Notes or more information on becoming a guest, visit We'll see you next week on I am Northwest Arkansas.

We sit down with Ropeswing Hospitality Group CEO Kurt Berman to learn how the Restaurant Group has managed to maintain their wits during this pandemic.

According to Kurt, it’s all about managing expectations and figuring out ways to remain relevant in a difficult time.

With so many great restaurants in their group – Pressroom, The Preacher’s Son, Undercroft, RECORD, The Holler, LOUISE, and BlakeSt., they have figured out different ways to keep their restaurants open and patrons coming in. In addition, they have learned to fine-tune the Takeout + Delivery model during a time when so many are still not comfortable going out to eat.

All of this and more on this episode of the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast…

additional show notes and transcript coming soon  

Important Links and Mentions on the Show*:

Ropeswing Hospitality Group

*Note: some of the resources mentioned may be affiliate links. This means we get paid a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

This episode is sponsored by:

The Exclusive Real Estate Group – Serving all of Northwest Arkansas from Dickson St. to the Bentonville Square, Broker Chris Dinwiddie, and his agents are ready to provide first-class representation for any of your real estate needs. Click Here to contact them and be sure to mention that you heard about them from IANWA. 

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Thank you for listening to this episode of the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast. We showcase businesses, culture, entrepreneurship, and the lives of everyday people making Northwest Arkansas what it is today. Please consider making a one-time donation to our production team through PayPal to help with the expenses of keeping this podcast running smoothly