Part of Pop Hospitality, R&D Provisions was founded in the spirit of innovation and a shared passion for great food and accessible technology. R&D not only acts as a delicious community anchor in the Atlanta area, but it also serves as a test kitchen for ongoing tech product development for restaurants. We recently sat down with R&D’s Executive Chef, Desmon Short, to chat about his inspiration for the menu, his plans for continued experimentation and growth, and all things tech and hospitality.
What made you decide to become a chef? Can you share a little about your professional background?
I like to say culinary found me. I was raised on a farm in North Carolina; planting, harvesting, curing, smoking, pickling, and baking created early foundations on the road to a culinary career. I spent several years working as a journeyman in my home state; then moved to Chicago to work at Charlie Trotters before coming back to NC to Johnson Wales University. That path ultimately brought me to Georgia, where I was introduced to culinary research and development. l found opportunities to train under two Certified Master Chefs (CMCs), held corporate leadership roles, and committed time to continued education—all of which provided a solid foundation beyond the knife.
How would you describe the culinary experience at R&D Provisions?
R&D’s grassroots are as a QSR (Quick Service Restaurant), but as we grow full-service hospitality will be part of the experience. We are a scratch kitchen, focused on detail and execution—the small things set us apart.
We cure, brine, and smoke all our proteins in-house and dressings, sauces, soups, and flatbreads are made daily. Our bread, pastries, and desserts are seasonal and feature local small artisan bakeries who share our passion for great food. As we earn the trust of our guests, we will transition to a seasonal menu while keeping our fan favorites.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your food?
Home—and every meal that took place there. Whether cookouts in the summer, feasts during the holidays, or “just-because” gatherings, we always cooked to nourish. Travels both stateside and abroad have and continue to serve as the cornerstone for creativity; every great taste memory is involved when we’re iterating new dishes and exploring global cuisine.
What kind of ambiance can guests expect?
We want R&D to not only be a restaurant for dining, but a moment to break away. The ambiance is welcoming, rooted in southern hospitality—we’ll always greet you with a smile and sincere gratitude for choosing us.
We have a lounge area for coffee or a quick bite, a community table for breaking bread and stimulating conversation, and small tables for a friendly catch-up over a meal. Keep an ear out for your favorite song as music trickles through the restaurant. R&D is a whole vibe—a place to eat, connect, relax, and take a load off.
You say that R&D is where the power of food, technology, and ideas converge. Tell us about the tech-enabled experience you offer and how it creates a unique experience for guests.
Convenience and technology drive our day-to-day. Powered by Popmenu, our guests have several options in how they can place an order. Our website and menu have a direct link to place an online order so our guests can order from their desks and quickly pick up. For those who want to dine in-house, we use a QR code scan with their phone which directs them to place an order which we then bring to their table. As we continue to grow, we’ll implement Popmenu’s table tabs technology where guests can scan the QR code to start a tab for themselves and control their pace of service and dining experience. We also have a partnership with third-party delivery services to meet the needs of the guests who want R&D brought directly to them.
Why do you think tech-enabled hospitality both on-premise and off-premise is so important today?
We have control over the guest’s experience with us online. Where we benefit is in delivering on our promise of hospitality—serving our guests in the way that’s best for them—without disrupting our operations. We’re also able to capture a lot more information about our restaurant and our guests; we look to the menu for dish likes and reviews, run ordering reports to see dish popularity from a revenue standpoint, and capture guests’ email and phone numbers. We’re then able to use that data and feedback to inform the changes we make to our menu and guest experience. Not to mention, we know more about our guests—like their email and order history—so we can invite them back with a personal touch.
Technology broadens our reach as a new business. It helps drive traffic to our door, keeps us in touch with our guests and their wants and needs, helps us build community, and covers the gaps created by staffing shortages. Without technology, we could not have opened or had the fast growth we are experiencing. Our technology is critical in how we serve our guests and scale the business. The power of Popmenu’s technology gives small businesses like us, a huge platform.
What is your long-term vision for R&D?
Growth!! We have several key amenities in the works. Outdoor patio seating, additional tech upgrades that reinforce seamless quick ordering, introducing breakfast options to our menu, craft cocktails from a full-service bar, and hospitality-minded service staff. R&D is the first brand concept with plans for additional restaurants in the future—we’ll use our technology to continue testing several food concepts in-house, build brand awareness, and cultivate a community of R&D regulars. Stay tuned—delicious things coming!