Turning the Tide: The Inspiring Leadership of Geoff Alexander

An illustrated image with Geoff Alexander in the front

In this episode, we welcome Geoff Alexander, President and CEO of Wow Bao and a seasoned professional in the restaurant industry. 

Geoff Alexander is known as one of the key pioneers of technology and innovation in the food and beverage industry. From being one of the firsts to introduce online ordering to adopting Web3 and NFTs, Geoff has led the adoption of some of the most challenging innovations of our times. 

As a CEO of Wow Bao, Geoff has taken the brand from three brick-and-mortar locations to over 600+ virtual kitchens across the U.S. and Canada. The company has also opened multiple new revenue channels by launching at airports and college campuses. 

Hop on as we talk to Alexander about his journey to success and learn insights into the restaurant industry.

In Conversation With Geoff Alexander, President & CEO of Wow Bao

In this episode of F&B Talks, we speak with Geoff Alexander about his journey into the hospitality industry – from an underdog to the president of Wow Bao. 

We’ll discuss how he adopted the concept of self-ordering kiosks, the importance of human touch and product quality in restaurants, and how to properly nurture staff. Don’t miss out on reading his tips on growth, effective management, and cultivating a nurturing work environment.

Journey into the Hospitality Industry

Geoff Alexander began his journey in the hospitality industry as a general manager at Lettuce Entertain You in 1993. He worked his way up from a number four manager to a number two manager at Big Bowl, a small Asian concept restaurant in Chicago. He eventually grew into an area director role overseeing all the GMs.

He worked his way up and gained valuable experience in menu development and restaurant design while working at Vong under Jean-Georges Vongerichten, eventually becoming the CEO of Wow Bao, a fast-casual Asian restaurant chain, where he continued to apply his knowledge and experience in the hospitality industry. One pivotal moment for Alexander was when he was given the freedom to make a bold design decision for the Minnesota kiosks. 

He recalls calling Kevin Brown, the CEO of Lettuce Entertain You, and saying, “I think we need to make this wall green. Kermit the Frog green.” Brown’s response, “It’s only paint,” empowered Alexander to take risks and make bold decisions.

Embracing Self-Ordering Kiosks Early On

Alexander adopted the self-ordering kiosk technology way before it was a common thing — in 2008. The inspiration to implement the technology at Wow Bao came when he was asked to wait in line or use a voting machine instead. He realized that technology could be a game-changer for his restaurant. 

Lo and behold, post-installation, Wow Bao clocked in amazing changes: 

  • An immediate increase in check average (average amount of money that a customer spends at a restaurant) and tripled their flow through (incremental profit)
  • Eliminate a cashier and save on payroll
  • Ordering and receiving time was cut down to 54 seconds

Importance of Balancing Tech with Human Touch

Alexander coined the term ‘hospitechality’ to describe the combination of tech in hospitality while emphasizing that the human touch — the essence of hospitality didn’t need to be sacrificed.

Alexander believes that food is not just about sustenance – “If you think about food, we’re surrounded by food at all times. We celebrate with food, and we commiserate with food. You always have to have food available. And if you remove the hospitality factor that the connection that food brings, that’s a problem,” he says.

During the pandemic, the restaurant industry relied heavily on technology; human interaction was minimal or non-existent. However, Alexander did the opposite. “… during COVID, when everybody was trying to stop having hospitality, right, and go to pick up and not have interaction, I actually ripped out all those machines and went back to counter service,” he says. 

While AI and online reservations may be convenient, Alexander believes that a human can only handle special requests and personal touches. 

Using NFTs in Restaurant

Alexander sees NFTs as a way to create a community and a direct relationship with customers who invest in the restaurant by buying an NFT.

By using NFTs, Wow Bao hopes to restore the connection between the restaurant and customers. The goal is to offer different tiers of customers with corresponding benefits and create a dialogue with owners of the NFT. Additionally, via NFTs, restaurants can:

  • Exchange ideas
  • Share feedback
  • Offer a personalized experience to a select group of loyal customers. 

Wow Bao plans to start slow by being there, possibly as a billboard on their journey. Gradually establish a presence by having a Wow Bao vending machine where customers can order food without leaving the metaverse. There’s much to learn from his journey in the restaurant world.

He recalls calling Kevin Brown, the CEO of Lettuce Entertain You, and saying, “I think we need to make this wall green. Kermit the Frog green.” Brown’s response, “It’s only paint,” empowered Alexander to take risks and make bold decisions.

Envisioning Restaurant-Less Future for Wow Bao

Alexander envisions Wow Bao to be available wherever its customers are. It has already established a significant physical and online footprint in airports, college campuses, stadiums, and Amazon/Walmart.

Plus, they have expanded to over 400 grocery store locations and 1000 sushi counters through partnerships with sushi groups. It has 700 dark kitchens or virtual restaurants throughout the United States and Canada, further expanding its reach to potential customers.

Wow Bao’s ability to manufacture their product and ship it frozen also opens various doors for the brand, something that cannot be said about other brands. This versatility allows the brand to be placed in even unlikely places such as a space shuttle or a Tesla charging sites. When asked about their next steps, Alexander believes that the potential for Wow Bao is enormous – “We’re at the beginning of where we could be,” he says.

When asked about their next steps, Alexander believes that the potential for Wow Bao is enormous – “We’re at the beginning of where we could be,” he says. There’s much to learn from his journey in the restaurant world.

Maintaining Product Excellence in Dark Kitchens 

The dark kitchen model is a delivery-only restaurant concept that operates out of a commercial kitchen without a storefront, and Wow Bao operates on the same concept. While the dark kitchen model offers benefits such as lower overhead costs, it also presents challenges such as maintaining quality control and brand consistency.

But some cons Wow Bao faces are:

  • Cooks at partner locations may not even be aware they are cooking Wow Bao dishes. This leads to inconsistencies in the quality of food. 
  • Cooks may not appreciate working with Wow Bao and may not be invested in maintaining its high standards.

“So this is the most dangerous thing a company can do. And all we can do is teach and share culture. And if someone’s not doing right, we can turn them off, and we have the right to turn them all at once,” Alexander says. 

Importance of Social Listening for a Restaurant 

Social listening refers to monitoring social media platforms to gather insights and customer feedback about a brand, product or service. At Wow Bao, Alexander stresses the need for pattern recognition when addressing customer complaints in the restaurant industry. 

He emphasizes the importance of understanding the problem before attempting to solve it, as external factors may be at play, such as third-party delivery fees. After that, responding positively to positive and negative reviews can help mitigate negative feedback’s impact. 

According to Geoff, the key is dedicating resources to social listening and understanding what is important to the brand. As he says, “It (Social media) is as simple. It’s just, are you dedicating resources to it?”

Hiring and Nurturing Talent

Alexander shares tips on how to hire and nurture the right talent for your restaurant. He believes it essential to assess whether the candidate fits the company culture and if they’ll be good in the bullpen with all the other players. As Alexander puts it, “If I don’t get that emotional spark that you’re going to add value to the team, that’s the problem.”

Regarding nurturing talent, Alexander emphasizes connecting with your team members. He advises entrepreneurs to invest in their employee’s growth and development and give them opportunities to learn and advance. 

He says building a nurturing environment is key to retaining top talent. “People want to know that you care about them, that you’re invested in their growth, that you’re invested in them as a person,” he says.


Alexander’s tenacity and vision have earned him industry-wide recognition as one of the Top 25 Executives in the Fast Casual Industry for six consecutive years (2014—2021). 

He has also been hailed as one of the most influential restaurant CEOs in the country by Nation’s Restaurant News, cementing his status as a formidable force in the culinary world.

Beyond his love for the culinary arts, Alexander is a fitness enthusiast and doubles as a Spin Instructor, where he uses his passion for helping people stay fit and healthy with indoor cycling workouts.

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Prachi is the Marketing Manager at Restroworks. In her current capacity, she establishes connections with key stakeholders in the F&B industry and serves as the host of The Restaurant Times talk show, "F&B Talks," tailored for the restaurant sector. With hands-on experience in international sales and marketing, Prachi has led initiatives in the LATAM and USA regions, contributing to the platform's global outreach.


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