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Archive for March, 2007

Karen Bremer

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

March/April 2007

By Hope S. Philbrick

Salute to Women

Our industry has become more realistic with understanding the importance of balance and family. – Karen Bremer

Karen Bremer owns two of the most popular Peasant Restaurants, Dailey’s and City Grill in Atlanta, and has launched her own company, Great Hospitality. Previously, she was president of Atlanta’s Peasant Restaurants and Mick’s Restaurants. Bremer serves on the board of the National Restaurant Association as well as the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and is a past president of the GRA and has a continuing role as an advisor to the board of directors.

A native of Montreal, Canada, Bremer first worked at restaurants during high school and college. Food “was an important thing in my family,” she says. “Any sort of occasion was marked with food.” Her parents taught her and her siblings how to make “things an occasion with limited resources. Service and teaching others was pretty strongly instilled.”

She majored in public relations but was drawn back to the foodservice industry through an internship with a restaurant group, working for someone who was “super eccentric.” She “fell in love with operating restaurants” especially “getting a group of people together to move in unison to create a great guest experience and the ten thousand things that go into that.”

Attracting workers, perhaps especially females, to the restaurant industry can be a challenge since peak hours are “when people are traditionally at home with their families,” Bremer says. Working long shifts and on weekends and holidays takes its toll. In this arena, Bremer notes positive change. “When I started in this business it was standard to work six days a week and 12 hours a day. As time has evolved, our industry has become more realistic with understanding the importance of balance and family” by offering flexible schedules. “Because that’s what is it all for, you’re working for your family.”

Secret of Success
“Don’t just focus on how to do something, but understand why you are doing something. Ask lots of questions.”
-Karen Bremer

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Shelley Pedersen

Friday, March 30th, 2007

March/April 2007

By Hope S. Philbrick

Salute to Women

Shelley Pedersen is the senior catering executive for Edgar’s Catering at the Goodwill Career & Conference Center in Macon. Previously, she owned Beyond Cuisine, Inc., a catering and professional consulting company based in Atlanta that specialized in events with custom menus. In Milwaukee, WI she launched her foodservice career working as director of catering for two upscale gourmet markets. She first came to GA in 1988 to work with Tom Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Restaurant in Atlanta’s Virginia-Highlands neighborhood. A frequent seminar speaker, industry panelist and workshop presenter, Pedersen is also a GRA board member, chair of the Macon Chapter, and chair of the catering roundtable.

Sometimes, a career path can be a circle: Pedersen first worked at a Goodwill store in Milwaukee as a part-time cashier during high school and college summer breaks. Returning to the company made sense, she says, since “there’s a respect for the individual that I’m just a maniac about.”

Though perhaps “when you think of a chef you still think of a man,” Pedersen says that she’s “never found it a barrier to be a woman” in the foodservice industry. “Who’s got the best chops for the job, the drive and creativity, the stamina to be in this business?” she asks and then answers: “Sometimes a guy, sometimes not.”

The key to success is to “find what you’re good at. You can’t do it all. If you’re the chef, be the chef and hire the business piece. If you’re the business leader then hire the chef,” she says. “I owned a very successful catering company for 14 years and wasn’t a chef at all. If you think as an entrepreneur that you have to do it all, something is going to suffer.”

Secret of Success
“Find out what you do best and that’s where you’ll shine.”
-Shelley Pedersen

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Nancy Oswald

Friday, March 30th, 2007

March/April 2007

By Hope S. Philbrick

Salute to Women

Seek out highly visible jobs and be willing to take calculated risks. – Nancy Oswald

Nancy Oswald is co-owner and franchisee of five Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses in the Atlanta area and Alabama and president of Creative Marketing Concepts, an in-house advertising agency and marketing/public relations firm. She is one of three franchise representatives on the Ruth’s Chris Steak House National Advertising Committee and serves on the board of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. She is the immediate past chair of the GRA and will continue to sit on the executive committee for 2007; she is also a member of the marketing and events committee.

Oswald grew up in the food town of New Orleans but hadn’t planned on a foodservice career. It was after she grew dissatisfied with newspaper advertising management that Oswald heeded her dad’s advice: “If you want to do something that’s truly customer-focused, get into the restaurant business.” She worked with Ella Brennan of Commander’s Palace and Ruth Fertel-the ‘Ruth’ in Ruth’s Chris, the company she’d later turn to when looking for a franchise opportunity-who she says taught her “to be collaborative and not let egos ever get in the way, something I think women generally have an easier time doing than men.”

“In order to be successful in any business,” Oswald says, “you need to seek out highly visible jobs and be willing to take calculated risks. Along with that, be sure to seek out the knowledge you need. Further, you need to be willing to take credit where credit is due. Generally, I think men are better at blowing their own horns than women. Having the savvy to market yourself within your organization and networking through associations are paramount to success.”

Oswald credits her mentors with teaching her the importance of diversifying experience and skills. “Know every department of your organization, cross-train wherever and whenever you can. The foodservice business is about mobility-you can move up or down. It’s relatively difficult to remain still.”

Secret of Success
“Perform beyond expectations and always have integrity-without character, you have nothing. Keep an open mind and never stop trying. Most importantly, realize you don’t always have to be right and you will never be perfect.”
-Nancy Oswald

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Lenore Krentz

Friday, March 30th, 2007

March/April 2007

By Hope S. Philbrick

Salute to Women 

Once one woman has cleared that path it’s easier for others to get there in that organization and in organizations that company touches. – Lenore Krentz

Lenore Krentz is chief financial officer and chief administrative officer for FOCUS Brands, Inc. in Atlanta; which franchises and operates Carvel ice cream stores, Cinnabon bakeries, several Seattle’s Best Coffee cafés and recently acquired Schlotzsky’s sandwich shops. Krentz first joined Cinnabon in 1986 “when there were eight locations and the company was a division of Restaurants Unlimited, Inc.,” she says. Since then Cinnabon-and Krentz-went through five different ownership structures. In October 1986 she was named Cinnabon’s controller, advancing to vice president of finance in August 1999 (that same year she moved to Atlanta from Seattle). In January 2002 she was named Cinnabon’s chief financial officer; the company was acquired by FOCUS Brands, Inc. in 2004 and her current position in 2006. This year she has been named the chair of the GRA, after previously serving as treasurer.

Her first employer really jumpstarted her career, Krentz says: “They were so progressive about the development of their people.” She received “extensive training in goal setting, vision, setting priorities. They built a foundation for me that was sustainable over time.” It’s no wonder she says the second key to success is to “pick a good company.” Most critical, however, is to “be good at what you do.”

Growing with a small company, Krentz has experienced a tremendous amount of change. She enjoys working as part of a larger organization, she says, because, “There are so many resources available.” But whether or not formal programs are available, Krentz recommends finding a mentor: “Don’t wait for someone to find you or to be put into a mentoring program. Find people you admire who are influential and that you respect, align yourself with them and learn from them.”

On a career ladder, the top rungs are trickiest; while there are few female CEOs, “that’s changing. Once one woman has cleared that path it’s easier for others to get there in that organization and in organizations that company touches. You’re changing the real experiences of people, and I don’t think that’s a fast process. I think we’ve come a long way. We’re changing the structure of business leadership in the country, not just the restaurant industry.”

Secret of Success
“Have a voice; it is so important to be heard. A lot of time you do that through contribution, and then people seek you out and over time your influence grows.”
-Lenore Krentz

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Anna Hsu

Friday, March 30th, 2007

March/April 2007

By Hope S. Philbrick

Salute to Women 

Anna Hsu owns and operates Atlanta’s Silk, Hsu’s Gourmet Chinese and Pacific Rim Bistro along with her husband, Raymond. A Korean native of Chinese descent, Hsu met Raymond while attending college in Seattle; the two married and dreamed of owning and operating their own business. Hsu had discovered that she “thought corporate life was boring” while working as a teller and then in the loan department for a bank in Seattle, so turned to the restaurant industry, a natural fit for the couple: his family has over 20 years of restaurant experience and hers has more than 30. After moving to Atlanta they first realized their dream with Empress of China II in Marietta. Restaurants in Buckhead and Sandy Springs followed, but the Hsus were eventually lured downtown by Atlanta’s energy. Hsu was a founding member of the GRA and today is on the board of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and chair of the restaurant council for the Midtown Alliance.

Though Hsu says a glass ceiling doesn’t exist-“a lot of time at GRA meetings there’s more women than men,” including in “key roles”-she has felt the sting of sexism: “Because we’re an Asian restaurant, most chefs are Chinese or Japanese. Not that they look down on the woman, but usually in Asia they don’t do business with a woman. Sometimes when I talk to the chefs I can tell they’d rather my husband talk to them. They do give me the respect and all that, but it’s our culture.”

“Dealing with people” is an ongoing challenge. As an example, Hsu says that her customers are warned that certain dishes are spicy. “Some say it’s not hot enough, some say it’s too hot. Pleasing people is hard. You pretty much have to know how to read their mind.” In this regard, perhaps, females have an advantage: “I feel like women are more sensitive than men. I can stand in the dining room, look around and say, ‘This customer wants something,’ but my husband does [not necessarily see that; he’s more focused on] detail things.”

Secret of Success
“Don’t let them intimidate you. Show them how serious and sincere you are and the good job you do. Some women sometimes feel like men don’t respect them. I feel like if you wear a skirt, people will look at your legs; if you don’t want them looking at your legs, wear pants. If you want something bad enough and work at it you will get it, especially in America.”
-Anna Hsu

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Cathy Colasanto

Friday, March 30th, 2007

March/April 2007

By Hope S. Philbrick

Salute to Women

Cathy Colasanto is director of operations for Turner Foods & Spirits Company in Savannah, which owns seven restaurants in the area including The Exchange Tavern, One-Eyed Lizzy’s, Pearl’s and the Oyster Bar. Most recently, the company purchased The Pirate’s House, a Savannah icon in the state’s oldest home (circa 1733). Merging an existing restaurant into a company presents challenges: “We’ve been in business as a company since 1983, so we have certain systems in place; when we purchase an existing restaurant I work with the staff there to bring them to our systems as far as how we do things companywide,” says Colasanto.

Like many in the restaurant industry, Colasanto “started out waiting on tables.” Looking back, she says that working in independent restaurants accelerated her career-growth opportunities: “I wound up being the manager on duty; in small restaurants I’d relieve the owners so they could get a night off.” In the 1980s she had an opportunity to enter management more formally with a restaurant in Charleston, SC. The career “just wound up being something that I did that was fun,” she says, and “has a passion for” providing excellent customer service.

Gender neither “hurts nor helps necessarily,” but empowerment is essential. “We feel it’s important, from our company’s perspective, that [employees] feel a part of the restaurant. For management, it’s their operation to run and we give them that freedom. They make the decisions [since] they’re [the ones] in the restaurant greeting the guests. I can’t be in every restaurant, though I always feel accountable for everything that goes on.” The trick, she says, is “hiring the right people.” Of course, relationships go both ways; it’s equally crucial for employees to choose the right employer.

Secret of Success
“Love what you do. It’s that old saying, if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. For this industry you have to have passion and then it’s not a job, it’s what you do and what makes you who you are.”
-Cathy Colasanto

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Lee Chadwick

Friday, March 30th, 2007

March/April 2007

By Hope S. Philbrick

Salute to Women 

Lee Chadwick owns and operates The Metropolitan Club, a 35,000-square-foot catering and event facility in Alpharetta. The fifth generation chef has been a featured writer and speaker in various local and national television productions and recently released her first book, Some Assembly Required. She’s a board member for several community organizations including Georgia Alliance for Children and is also on the state board of the GRA.

Chadwick didn’t plan on a career in the restaurant industry-she studied design and architecture-but says “everything led me back to it.” Lacking the formal business training she felt that she needed, she “looked up the syllabus at Harvard Business School and read all the books.” Still, she says, “what prepared me most effectively was having been an employee of other people. Having a bad boss is as good an illustration as having a mentor,” providing a vivid exhibit of what not to do.

Because the fast-paced foodservice industry offers a “more responsive kind of workplace” than that found in many other industries, Chadwick says, workers deal “with reality day to day instead of supposition.” Getting ahead is “predicated on the ability to respond,” the “work you do and the choices you make” and a “true service mentality.”

Because the workplace is “not driven by the economy as much,” Chadwick says, a foodservice career offers opportunities to demonstrate talent on a daily basis, “whereas in the [slower-paced] corporate world, it can take years and years before talent is recognized.” The key is “not a business plan as much as the ability to be responsive.”

Secret of Success
“Leap and the net will appear. Learn to trust your instincts and your abilities.”
-Lee Chadwick

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29TH — 14th Annual Taste of Marietta

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

on the Historic Marietta Square features 40+ restaurants. (770) 429-1115. www.tasteofmarietta.com.

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Weighing In On Diet Trends

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

March/April 2007

By McCall Mastroianni

Healthy restaurant concepts and healthy menu options on restaurants throughout the metro area make it possible for Atlantans to enjoy the city’s thriving culinary scene without packing on the pounds.

Green’s Salads & Grill adopts a “healthy as you wanna be” motto that came about when the Atlanta-based parent company, Raving Brands, first began building its original brand. All Raving Brands concepts (The Flying Biscuit Cafe, Moe’s Southwest Grill, PJ’s Coffee, Boneheads, Monkey Joe’s, Mama Fu’s Asian House, Planet Smoothie Cafe, Shane’s Rib Shack and Doc Green’s) serve healthy food, lots of vegetables and fat free dressings, alongside selected comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, steak, mashed potatoes and gravy. This approach gives customers the ultimate choice.

“Not everyone wants to eat healthy all of the time,” says Carl Griffenkranz, Vice President of Operations and Brand Leader for Doc Green’s Salads & Grill. “I hear a lot of men that come in to the restaurants on the phone with their wives proudly announcing, ‘Honey, I’m having a salad for lunch!’ even though their lettuce is covered with steak and blue cheese dressing. We have a lot of options; you can make it ‘healthy’ any way you want. This is America. We’re a country built on freedom and choices; people should be able to eat any way they want to eat. Restaurants should provide nutritional information, but it’s a large, cumbersome process to do so. I don’t think it’s fair to force this process upon small family chains, but larger organizations should have the infrastructure to provide it for guests interested in their health.”

Cristina Caro, MBA, RD, LD, and President of the Greater Atlanta Dietetic Association, agrees that it would be unfair to penalize the entire restaurant industry. “There are no bad foods; there are bad habits and bad choices,” she says. “Consumers should make informed choices, but the reality of posting nutritional information is that consumers don’t understand things like trans fat. They don’t think in grams. When I talk to patients, I talk about frequency.”

Seasons 52 is in line with Caro’s dietary guidelines. The restaurant, with locations in Dunwoody and Buckhead, provides nutritional values for each dish. The mini desserts, which are real indulgences like red velvet cake and Boston cream pie, are served in scaled-down portions that make it possible to indulge while staying within a day’s recommended calorie count, as long as eating choices made throughout the day are good ones. Staying away from sweets altogether is not always the answer to a balanced diet nor does it ultimately prevent binges.

“Putting mental limits on yourself can lead to disordered eating,” says Caro. “It’s a vicious cycle because the grass is always greener on the other side: as soon as you can’t have that piece of cheesecake, you HAVE to have it. I tell my patients, ‘You don’t have to take away your favorite foods, but ask yourself how you can make them better.'”

Last November, Doc Green’s did extensive menu research to expand the selections and appeal to its core market. As a result, the stores added wraps and carved ham, increased the soup selection to four or five choices per day, and also expanded the signature salad selection to include nine options. Since then, the stores have seen a six percent shift to signature salads in only two months.

“A lot of people from Weight Watchers come by the restaurant and say how great it is for them to eat at Doc Green’s,” notes Griffenkranz. “We have a nutritional calculator on our website and offer acceptable portions according to the Weight Watchers plan, which makes it easy to eat out and still stay within their point range.”

The stores even see a substantial increase in store traffic during January, when guests are more likely to get on the healthy track in order to stick to New Year’s resolutions. “January is our best winter month, and one of our top months overall,” says Griffenkranz. “Throughout January we tread higher than one might expect for a salad concept during the colder time of year. In February, business begins to drop off a bit when people start to say �the heck with this diet,’ but then they all return in March just in time for bathing suit season.”

Caro also sees a substantial increase in patients after the New Year: “I find that referrals call after the holidays because they’re expecting me to tell them that they can’t have anything, which is nearly impossible in November and December. September through December is my downtime.”

For other restaurants that aren’t built upon a calorie-counting premise, accommodating diners who are looking for a healthful meal comes down to what they don’t offer.

For Chipotle Mexican Grill and its 11 locations in Atlanta, it’s what’s not in the sour cream that counts. As a company known for “Food with Integrity,” Chipotle continues its quest for better ingredients far beyond the use of naturally raised pork. Now, in all of its more than 530 restaurants, the company uses sour cream that’s free of the synthetic hormone rBGH (recombinant bovine somatotropin). This synthetic hormone is given to dairy cattle to stimulate milk production and works by increasing levels of Insulin Growth Factor (IGF), a naturally occurring hormone. To source the rBGH-free sour cream, Chipotle worked closely with its primary supplier, Daisy Brand, to establish a regional network of dairy farms that are committed to keeping their cattle free of added hormones. This rBGH-free sour cream furthers the company’s efforts as a proponent of natural and sustainably raised foods.

According to Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder, chairman and CEO, the company has long favored an approach to farming that emphasizes care over chemicals, which translates into higher quality meals and better tasting food for customers.

“‘Food with Integrity’ is our daily focus, and we are constantly looking for better and healthier food choices so that our customers feel as good about eating our food as we do serving it,” says Monty Moran, the company’s President and COO.

Another restaurant company responsible for a slimming down of sorts is Fifth Group Restaurants, which recently removed trans fat from all seven of its concepts (South City Kitchen Midtown, South City Kitchen Vinings, The Food Studio, La Tavola Trattoria, Sala-Sabor de Mexico and Ecco), including the company’s catering arm (Bold American Catering). Though a city-wide ban has not been proposed for Atlanta yet, Fifth Group’s partners have taken it upon themselves to initiate this transition among the city’s restaurant community. According to Partner Robby Kukler, this is the company’s way of offering guests the foods they want without sacrificing taste, while also making healthy options readily available for patrons.

While food industry professionals such as Griffenkranz, Caro, Kukler and Ells are taking healthy dining steps, in order for this to occur on a large scale, the whole food industry needs to work together, including manufacturers. “Consulting with a dietician is the best way for restaurants to find a balance because we’re the ones working with their consumers,” suggests Caro.

Caro also recommends restaurants offer a healthy menu special the same way they would a seasonal special, to avoid overhauling a menu for health purposes. Offering more a la carte items, like many ethnic restaurants do, is another way diners skip the fried sides without creating hassles for the kitchen staff. For Italian restaurants that often serve dishes high in carbohydrates, putting whole-wheat pasta on the menu will please guests watching their carb intake.

These are just a few ways that local restaurants are helping diners break bad health habits without sacrificing flavor and quality. The fight against artificial additives and fatty substances has Georgia restaurants rising to the occasion, but the battle of the bulge has only just begun. Even though patrons may only see this as a seasonal sacrifice, restaurants have to work out full time plans to exercise healthful strategies.

McCall Mastroianni works for Melissa Libby & Associates, a PR firm with several restaurants among its clients. She can be reached at (404) 816-3068.

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25TH — Project Open Hand “Dining Out For Life”

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

at approx. 200 Atlanta-area restaurants who contribute 20 percent or more of gross sales to benefit POH. Contact Michelle Duncan, (404) 419-3333. www.dineoutforpoh.org.

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