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Archive for October, 2007

Sip on This: Creating a Profitable Cocktail

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

By McCall Mastroianni

Cocktail crafting grows more competitive with each passing happy hour. To stay afloat in the specialty drink market, restaurateurs and bar staffs are going to new lengths. Some of Georgia’s beverage buffs met with Restaurant Forum to share their secrets for modern mixology.

What’s in a Name?
Do clever titles for liquid concoctions provide the ultimate icebreaker and convince customers to try them? For Gregg Smith, sommelier and bar manager at Silk restaurant in Midtown Atlanta, each cocktail has a story to tell. Smith has been with the restaurant since its opening in 2004 and immediately gained recognition for his innovative drinks. He also has a history of stirring up iconic inspiration when naming his cocktails.

Smith’s newest cocktail heroine is Bebel, named for Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto whom he recently met when she was in town for a concert. The drink features Brazilian cacha�a, fresh strawberries, Martinique sugar cane syrup, grapefruit juice and a splash of ros� to add an effervescent sparkle. It’s the perfect balance between sweet and sour and just as smooth as Gilberto’s bossa nova sounds.

Another is Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle of Grand Marnier fame and owner of Chilean winery Casa Lapostolle. “Alexandra is an inspiration to every businessperson in the world,” says Smith. “She is a vivacious and unstoppable woman dedicated to quality control. The Madame Alexandra cocktail is an homage to her.” The ultimate liquid compliment, this cocktail combines Grey Goose Le Citron with Grand Marnier and Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc and is garnished with frozen white grapes.

The Mango Picchu, a clever take on the ancient Incan ruin located in Peru, was recently introduced by Smith. The base is made with a pureed egg mixture known as leche de monja (“nun’s milk”). Whole raw eggs are covered with lime juice and stored in the refrigerator for two weeks while the lime juice “cooks” the eggs. During this time, the shells dissolve and the eggs continue to “cook” in the mixture until turning into a translucent white liquid. This liquid is strained through a fine sieve and combined with mango puree, mango liqueur and Pisco brandy from Peru.

For Ecco, part of the Fifth Group Restaurants portfolio, drinks are typically named for ingredients or perhaps the action that may result from its consumption. A wintertime cocktail called The Caroler is a “well-endowed hot cocoa” that has been known to send guests roving the streets humming favorite holiday melodies, while the Gingerberis Maximus is a Latin take on the generous splash of piquant Modern Spirits Ginger vodka. The Port-O-Call, the only drink on the menu that utilizes wine, is a complex combination of grapefruit-honey vodka and ruby port.
Ecco’s Beverage Director Vajra Stratigos also likes to honor the greats. The restaurant’s Sir Edward Hamilton cocktail pays respect to the rum guru that introduced sugar cane juice spirits to the United States as a connoisseur’s beverage.

Putting Fresh to the Test

With a high demand for seasonal ingredients on restaurant menus, the same expectations are now common for the cocktail menus as well. According to Smith, fresh ingredients can make a very noticeable difference, even in a drink as simple as a screwdriver. “You absolutely have to use fresh lime juice in a Pisco Sour,” he says. “It makes a huge difference and so do the correct proportions.”

Ingredients can also be rooted in the restaurant’s culinary tradition, such as Silk’s featuring shiso leaves (also known as Japanese basil) instead of the traditional mint leaves in its raspberry shiso mojito.
Silk’s sake caipirinha, a drink introduced by the Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce, was a trendy drink in San Paola last summer and now Smith has made it a refreshing change of pace here in Atlanta by offering the cocktail in different fruit flavors such as kiwi, raspberry and strawberry. The bar “juices to order” and changes the flavors as different fruits come in season. Unlike traditional caipirinhas that are almost entirely alcohol, this twist uses sake instead, which results in lower alcohol content and a more refreshing edge when combined with the fresh muddled fruit.
Wowing guests is one benefit of original and fresh cocktail ingredients, but Stratigos acknowledges that it’s not feasible for a restaurant to go overboard with fussy components. “We recognize that Ecco is a high volume restaurant,” he explains. “We are trying to bridge the gab between the kitchen and the bar, so most ingredients utilize a kitchen component.”

Stir Things Up or Stick to the Classics?
Georgia restaurants are finding subtle ways to honor the old but bring in the new.
A fun twist on a French classic at Silk is La Vie en Rose (“life in pink”) � a classic French 75 prepared with Mo�t et Chandon Brut Ros�, Van Gogh gin, fresh raspberries, fresh lemon juice, sugar cane syrup and crushed ice.
At Ecco, Stratigos wanted to find a way to soften bourbon and make it more feminine. He accomplished this by turning the traditional Manhattan into the restaurant’s El Gravitizer by adding imported Amarena cherries to Woodford Reserve bourbon for a taste of Kentucky-meets-Italy. “The intensity of the cherries balances out the woodiness of the bourbon,” he says.

Garnishes: Glorified or Gratifying?

Sometimes a simple garnish gives way to a memorable moniker. Bonefish Grill, a seafood restaurant new to Johns Creek, created the Icicle Aphrodisiac, which features Skyy Vanilla vodka and passion fruit nectar adorned with a watermelon icicle that is created with a combination of fresh watermelon puree and a hint of Monin watermelon syrup. A cinnamon stick serves as the “handle” of the watermelon popsicle. Bonefish Grill’s beverage department and Patrick Henry Creative Promotions came together to create this chilly concoction, and it paid off. Last year, as a company, Bonefish Grill sold about 100,000 of these cocktails.

“Our guests really enjoy the interaction with the Icicle Aphrodisiac,” says David Harrell, Director of Beverage. “The color, scent, taste and chilly temperature make it appealing on many levels. The drink is truly an ‘inside-out’ cocktail. As the watermelon icicle begins to melt, it infuses the beverage with a shot of color and additional flavor,” he explains.
Frozen grapes can serve double duty as a garnish that keeps the cocktail colder for longer. This technique can be found in drinks at Silk and also in the signature martini at ONE.midtown kitchen.

Ecco tops off its Bloody Mary with French smoked sea salt on the glass rim and a skewer of pickled vegetables for a “natural graduation of the drink,” says Stratigos. The pickled vegetables include okra, red carrots, turnips and pan seared cauliflower that’s put through four different brining baths. The same theory is applied to The Gibson cocktail, which is garnished with house-pickled cipollini onions that complement the drink’s earthy truffle vodka.
“The matter of allure and intrigue comes into play when we tell our customers that we make our garnishes in the restaurant,” says Stratigos. “This is when the impression is made. We want to make sure that our beverage program as a whole is consistent every time.”

Georgia restaurateurs have found a way to make their bottom line easier to swallow by mixing things up for guests.

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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Leveraging Purchasing Power

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

LP Enterprises, Inc. Provides Strategic Solutions for Supply Programs

October 2007

By McCall Mastroianni

One of the most common problems restaurateurs encounter when growing from their first location to multiple stores, is they don’t have the skeletal system in place to support additional locations. The supply programs that served a restaurant company well when they first opened can often create problems for their growth goals in the future. Lee Plotkin and his company, L.P. Enterprises, Inc., help growth-minded Georgia restaurants and clients nationwide maintain their quality, service levels, pricing and brand integrity as they grow.

lee_plotkin.web.jpgHiring a director of purchasing is not a cost-effective measure for many growing restaurant companies. By outsourcing these duties, restaurants become armed with a customized purchasing program that can be in place and running smoothly within six to eight months. This solution is ideal for start-ups and firms that are in growth mode or who desire professional expertise without the associated full-time salary expenses.

“I get a great deal of enjoyment from working with small growth chains,” says Plotkin. “Structuring programs for them is like creating a new way for them to do business, and I am proud to construct a foundation for these emerging brands to reach their maximum potential when it comes to cost-saving purchasing measures,” he adds.

Many of Plotkin’s clients previously relied on a good supplier representative to ensure orders were placed and delivered on time. While these factors are all important to the ongoing day-to-day operations of a restaurant, there is no foundation put into place for consistent value. Growth chains often don’t look at their supply plan closely, and this is where Plotkin’s strategic skills come into play. The key is to customize the primary supplier program to fit the restaurants needs. A broad-line distributor such as SYSCO or U.S. Foodservice carries a wide array of products that cover many categories from meat and produce to chemicals and soft drinks. While this type of distributor may be ideal for concepts that have quality levels that match all the products these broad-liners have in stock, many restaurants rely on companies who only deal in one category such as produce or seafood.

Since distributors make their profit by having more cases on a delivery truck, restaurateurs that use more of their products are more lucrative customers. Consequently they get the best prices.

For restaurant companies whose specific needs are best met by dedicated meat, produce, seafood and small wares, L.P. Enterprises would structure a cost plus program with separate suppliers for category items and use the broad-line distributor for regular groceries and paper products. It still becomes a win-win situation; distributors have a commitment in place and the restaurants have lower delivered costs.

A cost plus program is one where a company the mark up or margin that the distributor will be charging the restaurant company is negotiated, providing one of the checks and balances for the program. The delivered cost is defined as the landed cost to the distributor plus the approved mark up. These types of programs are auditable, and putting them in place enables the restaurant company to feel comfortable using one supplier for an item such as produce rather than bidding out weekly with three different produce companies. This program pricing must be benchmarked, assuring competitiveness and appropriate checks and balances should be in place to ensure contract compliance.

Plotkin begins strategizing with the customization process, which entails getting the restaurateur to define what their needs are from a quality and service standpoint, and then tailoring programs to fit those needs.

As part of a chef-driven restaurant company that did not originally have any programs in place for food and non-food products, Fifth Group chefs formed their own relationships and purchased from suppliers they believed best suited their needs. Because the company’s restaurants are different in nature, they do not utilize exactly the same products, but they all share similar categories like meat, produce, liquid and solid dairy, paper disposables and small wares.

“I understood that Fifth Group would better embrace dedicated produce and meat programs from discussions with the partners, so an overall program with one dedicated supplier might not fit their needs as well,” explains Plotkin. “It is also necessary to get the buy-in from the individual chefs to ultimately make these programs successful and illicit a good feeling about them among the restaurant staff.”

After gathering all related usage information and extensively bidding with dedicated suppliers, Plotkin was able to show partner Robby Kukler of the Fifth Group the impact of using one dedicated supplier in each category. Plotkin’s approach included consolidating volume with one primary supplier for necessities like meat, produce, chemical programs and contract lighting.

“We were able to demonstrate a strong savings potential by creating cost-plus primary supplier programs,” explains Plotkin. “Even partnering with Fifth Group’s chosen suppliers can impact the company’s bottom line over the course of the year if there is a commitment to buy in place.”

Plotkin’s job is to guide his client through the process and help them customize realistic programs to fit their exact needs; making sure the contracts are in their best interest. In addition, he helped in the start up and implementation (transition) of these programs. In turn, these restaurants become more valuable customers to the suppliers because they know they can now rely on the restaurant company’s business.

“As we’ve grown, leveraging our purchasing power has been the most important result of these supply programs,” says Kukler. “We have more to offer a purveyor now that we are committing all Fifth Group units to buy from one company. We receive a lower margin, and the supplier is guaranteed a certain amount of sales. It really is a win-win for both ends.”

Here to Serve Restaurants, another top Atlanta restaurant company and one of Plotkin’s newer clients, has eight outlets and operated in a similar manner as Fifth Group Restaurants before Plotkin’s services. Plotkin’s worked with Chef Peter Kaiser of Twist to further define the quality levels in each category before tabulating the results and reviewing with Here to Serve Restaurant executives.

Plotkin must also define his customers’ delivery needs. For example, does the company need to have a supplier sales representative in the restaurants taking the orders or are they comfortable with placing orders via the internet, fax or phone? How many deliveries are needed per week? Do the restaurants have limited storage space that would require more deliveries? These factors can further influence and reduce costs for restaurateurs.

“Not only do we receive better pricing but Plotkin’s services also alleviate time that would be spent on the bidding process and dealing with a larger number of purveyors, deliveries and invoices,” says Kukler. “With everyone’s time and energy used to process an invoice, it costs us about $25 per statement. Limiting the number of companies we use creates a great deal of efficiency in addition to the cost savings.”

The next step is the qualification process, which is especially important if a company wants to move beyond their immediate area. While some suppliers are nationwide or have partnerships with other suppliers across the country, some are regional and assistance from a consultant such as Plotkin is necessary to create cost plus programs that can be audited in order for restaurants to participate. So they can make informed decisions, Plotkin ensures his clients have a clear understanding of suppliers that can help them grow.

Plotkin suggests restaurateurs ask the following questions of their distributors:

  1. Are they able to support the company in other areas of the state or even nationwide with other distribution centers or affiliated sister companies?
  2. Do they have computer systems in place to send out contract pricing, manufacturer deals and your defined margins to other distributors in their network? Will those agreed upon margins translate to other areas?
  3. Can the distribution network produce volume reports that tie in all of your purchases, no matter where you are located? Can those distribution houses be audited?

Selecting a food distributor that best fits the restaurant company’s needs is critical to the overall success of the business. Restaurants deserve to have an account executive from their distributor who understands their specific needs and has the authority to affect change where necessary.

“The wave of the future is to work towards creating partnerships with the right supplier and putting in place the appropriate checks and balances and price controls,” says Plotkin. “Creating win-win relationships in this manner can result in lower overall costs and help set the foundation for growth.”

Plotkin will be sharing his expertise with attendees at the 2007 North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) Show at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on October 12. During this time, he will speak about the aforementioned supplier programs and setting the foundation for successful growth, in addition to providing a template for how restaurants can sell their growth potential and develop strategic plans with supply partners to address future growth.

For more information on L.P. Enterprises, Inc., or to enlist a set of expert eyes on your restaurant company’s bottom line, visit www.leeplotkin.com or call 214-328-3530

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Workforce Shortage: Grooming Future Employees

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

October 2007

By Debby Cannon, Ph.D., CHE
School of Hospitality, Georgia State University

James Canton in The Extreme Future The Top Trends that Will Reshape the World for the Next 5, 10 and 20 Years (Dutton, 2006) states:

A global war for talent will be the top driver of competitive advantage, pitting nations, individuals, and companies against one another as talent grows scarce.

Canton goes on to emphasize that “finding high-tech skilled employees from a global talent pool will be the greatest challenge for every organization and every nation. Workforce crises that arise in the near future will be traceable to the lack of skilled workers.”

Others, such as Ken Dychtwald in Workforce Crisis How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent (Harvard Business School Press, 2006) support Canton’s prediction. The basis for the impending talent war is that nearly one-third of all Americans, 76 million people, were born between 1946 and 1964. It is expected that a large percentage of these “baby boomers” will be leaving the workforce over the next 20 to 25 years. This wave of retirement will start to be evident within the next five years.

Based on these demographics, Dychtwald predicts that by 2010 the United States will experience a shortfall of 10 million workers. For the restaurant industry, predictions target an increase in Georgia from the current 382,500 employees to 460,400 in 2017. This figure equates to a 20.4% increase within ten years for an industry that is already challenged with a labor shortage.

Past articles have elaborated on the importance of employee retention and strategies aimed at better hiring, training and coaching necessary to maximize an employee’s tenure with an organization. We also have to start thinking creatively of building critical partnerships to reach younger generations with the message of career opportunities in our industry.

These partnerships can be structured in ways that target both organizational needs as well as what will ignite the passion of our future restaurant employees.

For example, this past summer the senior capstone class at Georgia State University’s School of Hospitality partnered with The HoneyBaked Ham Company to engage in an in-depth project that focused on possible new distribution channels for the organization. The executive team of HoneyBaked including President and CEO, Chuck Bengochea, visited the class on several occasions throughout the seven-week semester to discuss the company’s core values, mission, vision and strategic direction. The outcome was mutually beneficial. HoneyBaked gained nation-wide data collected by the students as well as creative menu and marketing ideas.

The students’ learning surpassed any “hypothetical, textbook” examples. In addition to refining their research skills in the strategic planning process, the students were mentored by the HoneyBaked execs throughout the semester and saw first-hand excellent role models of leadership and professionalism.

Partnership opportunities abound at all educational levels including:

  • Go to area schools with samples of new menu items and get student ideas on naming the items
  • Participate in elementary, middle and high school career information days to discuss what it is like to be a restaurant manager, chef or owner
  • Participate in college and university career fairs
  • Contact local schools and universities to offer the services of your business in providing guest lecturers or field trip sites
  • Ask local Parent Teacher Associations how your business can get involved in supporting your neighborhood schools (remember parents often play a big part in shaping the career expectations of their children!)
  • Find ways to inform school guidance counselors of career opportunities in the restaurant industry. Several restaurants may even want to collaborate in hosting an “info luncheon” or “info break” for teachers and counselors to discuss career options emphasizing career ladders that lead to restaurant management and ownership.
  • Design student internships where students can work in part-time positions along with experiencing meaningful mentoring and coaching during the process.

What can help optimize the positives of these encounters?

  1. Realize the benefits may not be immediately evident. You are “planting the seeds” of interest that are vital to a workforce “in the making” for the future of our industry.
  2. Emphasize the positives of the restaurant industry. Many restaurants are multi-million dollar � and some even billion dollar – businesses. Managers have to be knowledgeable and skilled – comparable to other high-level business operators. The encounters with students, faculty, counselors and parents present opportunities to create positive, professional images of the restaurant and foodservice industry. Sending representatives from your company that epitomize passion for the restaurant and foodservice industry is absolutely critical.
  3. Make the visits memorable. Give out gift coupons. These can be for reasonable amounts and they bring in new customers. Take photos with the classes and give them copies. Get student e-mail addresses or home addresses and send company newsletters, personal letters at key times of the year (i.e. summer is approaching are you looking for a summer job?), and updates on job opportunities for older students.
  4. Think of ways to make the partnerships beneficial for all involved. For example, with the HoneyBaked project at Georgia State, all parties were actively engaged from the top corporate leaders to the students. The students felt supported and that their talents and perspectives were valued and appreciated.

Partnerships, like those described above, are a better fit for some organizational cultures than others. To reap results, companies have to embrace a collaborative approach of investing now for the future. For many restaurant companies, this is a natural fit. These businesses will most likely find the partnering results positive and worth the long-term investment.

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How Safe Are You? Protecting Your Restaurant Inside and Out

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

October 2007

By Christy White

In June 2007, two armed men robbed a restaurant in North Georgia. During the robbery, a customer asked one of the suspects not to hurt a female employee. The robber lifted his gun, pointed it at the customer, and shot him dead.

Such incidents are startling and scary. Still it’s easy to think it couldn’t possibly happen at your restaurant. “Murphy’s Law is going to guarantee that something will occur. What you’re really doing is fighting the odds to reduce the amount of loss, the potential loss and liability involved with that loss,” says Carl Diaz, president of The Preolo Group, a Marietta based loss prevention consulting firm.

Still, many restaurateurs spend their days juggling the demands of running a business and don’t dedicate time towards protecting their establishment or employees until something happens. Big mistake. “Everything has to be proactive. If you wait until the issue occurs, your insurance premiums are going to rise. Already, the notoriety of the situation is going to become a public issue,” Diaz says. “You lose your clientele, you lose your good name, and you lose your reputation. It’s a lot more than loosing $500 or $1,000. And ultimately, you can lose a life.”

When it comes to protecting your restaurant from such violent crimes, it is imperative to incorporate exterior and interior lighting as well as a security system into your building. Diaz also recommends a time-delay safe so even if someone breaks into your restaurant, the police are on their way by the time the safe finally opens. Also introduce yourself to the local police precinct and encourage them to visit your restaurant for a meal and to help train staff on safety measures.

“You do not know, regardless of the issue, when someone is going to do something completely out of the norm, like shooting someone or beating someone,” Diaz says. “It happens. You never know when, but you have to prepare for the inevitability that it will probably occur at your location at some point in time.”

When Theft is an Inside Job
Such crimes seem random, but according to Diaz, 80% of criminals targeting restaurants are getting help from someone within the restaurant. “That pretty much says someone inside already knows what’s going on and is providing information purposely to a person on the outside.” In fact, many crimes are committed by the employees and restaurant staff themselves. “It’s much more than just the fellow who runs in with a gun in hand and says ‘Stick ‘em up, give me all your money,’ ” he adds. “There are lots of other levels of loss that are due to fraud and theft.”

More prevalent is the money stolen by employees or products snitched from the supply cabinet. These filches add up, and can cause considerable damage to your business.

According to a 2003 National Retail Security Survey Report, U.S. companies lost $33.6 billion of inventory due to employee theft, external theft, administrative error and vendor fraud. $15.8 billion of these losses resulted from employee theft.

So how does a restaurant owner protect not only his livelihood, but also his customers and employees? “In my opinion, it always begins with a company code of conduct,” Diaz says. “Knowing what you expect from your employees can go a long way towards reducing internal crime at your restaurant.”

Conducting employee screening during the interview process, using a system of checks and balances and creating standardized protocol, policies and procedures all help to proactively protect your restaurant from internal theft. “Obviously, if you’re hiring cashiers, the first liability and exposure is going to be the temptation to take something from the register,” Diaz says. “If you have somebody who’s in the managerial position, that individual has a lot more access to opportunity regarding inventory and inventory control, documentation manipulation and also association with outside sources that may be involved in something contrary.” In other words, the higher up the position, the bigger the opportunity for loss.

“It’s not that you cannot trust anyone—because that would also be an unfair thing to do—but you should have a standardization of checks and balances that applies to every single individual in the organization, including the owners.” Make it a habit to audit your cash registers, do full inventory reviews and oversee the receiving process with vendors. “Things will pop out really quick,” says Diaz. “Inconsistencies are going to stand out.”

Many simple steps can be taken to protect your business and staff, but also consider hiring a loss prevention consultant to help identify your security and safety strengths and weaknesses. “It’s difficult for anyone to see the trees through the forest,” Diaz says. “After all, that’s why you have an attorney help you with the legal issues and an insurance agent to help deal with response to liabilities. Bringing in a loss prevention consultant allows them to identify your strengths and weaknesses. They can then build a tactical plan to help. Even the very smallest of entrepreneurial restaurateurs today can call in a consultant, spend a few days working with that person, and have that individual provide them the basic, rudimentary tools necessary to standardize a regular, basic safety security practice,” he adds. “It’s not that difficult to do.”

After all, you may be busy with marketing, fine-tuning your menu, hiring and managing employees, but as Diaz notes, “what good is all of this work when anything that you’ve actually made never makes it to the bank?”

Top 5 Safety Tips from Midtown Blue
Restaurant Forum talked to Colonel Wayne Mock of Midtown Blue, which oversees restaurants and businesses in Atlanta’s Midtown district, for tips on how to protect your restaurant from external crime.

  1. Lighting. “Lighting in and around the restaurant is probably the sole most important thing,” he says. “The more well lit it is, the better off you are.” He recommends making sure 360 degrees of the entire perimeter is well lit. “It’s the one thing that will save you virtually from being broken into.”
  2. Alarm System. “The alarm needs to be audible and have flashing lights, and it needs to be locally monitored by a company who will respond and notify the police immediately.”
  3. Daily Night Deposits. “Do not leave amounts of money, even large amounts of change, in the cash registers or in the safe in the business overnight,” he says, noting that some criminals break in, steal the entire safe, and remove the money elsewhere. “Some restaurants make deposits occasionally or wait until Thursday when they expect a big weekend or Monday or Sunday after a big weekend, but night deposits should be made every night. Cash, checks, credit card receipts should never be laid vulnerable in there.”
  4. Video Monitoring. “Fixed cameras should be mounted and operating 24/7 at the rear doors, a side door or front door,” he says, adding that the cameras should be mounted on the inside, not outside, of the building.
  5. ATM Machines. “The smaller ATMs that are inside of the businesses are easy targets, especially if they’re visible and vulnerable from the front door of the business, where you can smash the doors, load the ATM in a truck and take it out.”

Opening and Closing Dos and Don’ts
Perhaps one of the most common ways for someone to rob a restaurant and possibly harm employees is during the opening and closing of the establishment. Loss Prevention Specialist Carl Diaz recommends the following Dos and Don’ts to help protect your restaurant—and your employees.

DON’T

  • Open and close by yourself.
  • Come in or out through a rear door.
  • Unlock or leave alarms disarmed.
  • Let anybody inside before business hours unless he is a scheduled employee or she is a vendor.
  • Let anyone inside after closing.
  • Leave a restaurant by yourself at the end of business.
  • Hang around after the restaurant is locked up.

DO

  • Follow a routine to open your location.
  • Walk around the building before you enter.
  • Observe your surroundings and keep an eye out for suspicious people or unusual activities.
  • Look for signs of forced entry before entering the restaurant yourself.
  • Enter through the front door.
  • Walk in and make sure that everything is in place and that it is safe to go inside.
  • Lock the doors immediately at the close of business.
  • Leave the cash register drawers open and empty to demonstrate that they are empty.
  • Make sure that doors are closed and windows are securely locked before exiting the building.
  • Check through the restaurant, including the restrooms, to make sure everyone is out of the restaurant before closing.
  • Leave security lighting on after closing.
  • Leave the restaurant as a group.
  • Leave by the front door.
  • Go directly to your car or your bus stop upon closing the restaurant.

Video Security Best Practices
There are many legal concerns that face a restaurant in considering a video surveillance security system. The advice below, Charles Y. Hoff, Esq., suggests a number of best practices a restaurant should undertake when implementing a system.

The benefits of a video surveillance system to a restaurant are clear. Such a system provides: quality assurance; evidence of employee wrongdoing; increased security; and overall risk reduction. However, the use of video surveillance also gives rise to legal concerns about privacy, the possibility of increased premises liability exposure, and how to preserve the video properly in order to be able to have it admitted into court should the need arise.

Best Practices for Implementing a System

1. Develop a restaurant policy for the use, monitoring, and preservation of the video generated by the surveillance system.

2. Post a sign in employee work areas that indicates video surveillance cameras are being used throughout the restaurant and that the cameras will be used to monitor employee and patron activity in places outside of the restrooms.

3. Revise employee handbooks to clearly inform employees of the restaurant’s policy on video surveillance and obtain their consent to the receipt of this policy.

4. Devise and provide restaurant managers with a surveillance system checklist with basic instructions for use of the system, maintenance of the cameras, and written notice that they are expected to keep the cameras operational.

5. Formulate protocol to establish a chain of custody for the video, so as not to take any risk that it may not be admissible in court.

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Background Checks, Limiting Your Liability

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

October 2007

By Charles Y. Hoff, Esq.
Hospitality Practice Group
Taylor, Busch, Slipakoff & Duma, LLP

On November 27, 2006 a Burger King manager was strangled and stabbed to death at his BK restaurant in Illinois. A fellow employee was charged with his murder and is awaiting trial. The victim’s family has filed a lawsuit alleging that Burger King and the local restaurant’s operator were negligent in hiring the accused in that they failed to determine prior to hiring that the employee had served prison time for rape and unlawful gun possession. The family alleges that a simple criminal record check by the BK operator would have revealed this prior background and the accused would never have been hired and placed in a position where he could do harm to another employee or restaurant patron.

A similar case in North Carolina involved a BK night shift employee who was convicted of assaulting and injuring another employee while robbing the BK store. In 2002 a North Carolina Court of Appeals court concluded that the Burger King operator engaged in misconduct by failing to perform a background check that should have revealed that the employee hired to be a night shift employee and perform a security function had been convicted prior to his employment of several crimes including second degree murder. A legal question arose as to whether Burger King’s misconduct was simply a form of “negligence” or if it was so flagrant as to be construed as “intentional” in nature, and thereby justifying punitive damages. This distinction is also important to the operator as it may determine whether or not the restaurant’s insurance carrier will deny coverage of the claim under their policy.

As these cases illustrate, failing to properly scrutinize an application and verify background history can lead to serious legal problems. Not only may there be dangerous consequences to human life, but there is also immense exposure to legal liability facing the restaurant. Legal liability attributed to the employer generally stems from the doctrine known as negligent hiring. This doctrine may even apply to off- duty employees if it can be established that the employer knew or should have known that the employee was likely to behave in a wrongful manner and there is a connection between the job and the misconduct. Legal exposure is even greater for employees that have frequent customer contact.

Once a restaurant operator recognizes the wisdom of performing background checks to mitigate their risk and protect their employees and patrons (8 out of 10 employers complete criminal record checks on applicants according to the Society for Human Resource Management), the restaurant is not out of the woods as it must navigate a legal and regulatory minefield ensuring it does not inadvertently violate the law or invites another form of lawsuit. For instance, there are the following wickets to watch out for:

1) State Laws: Many states have laws granting prospective employees with certain protections relating to public record disclosure. Although protections vary from state to state, job applicants do not have to disclose any information pertaining to an arrest or criminal charge that did not result in a conviction. The same is true for convictions pardoned by a governor. Moreover, states such as California, Massachusetts and Michigan have been known to file suit when they feel that their protective public record statutes have been violated.

2) EEOC Guidelines: The EEOC offers its interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin and religion. According to the EEOC, rejecting prospective employees on the basis of the type of financial information that comes from a credit report has sometimes been found to disproportionately exclude some minorities and have an “adverse impact” on a legally protected group. However, Title VII is not violated if the employer can show requiring the financial criteria is job related and consistent with a business necessity. For instance, some courts have provided an exclusion to the extent that employers can use credit report and financial information to screen employee applicants for jobs requiring handling a considerable amount of money as this would constitutes a “business necessity.”

The EEOC guidelines also prohibit the use of arrest and misdemeanor information to exclude an applicant without giving consideration to the four following factors: 1) Did the applicant actually commit the offense? 2) What is the nature and gravity of the offense? 3) How long was the offense? 4) What is the nature of the job?

The EEOC is also of the mind that employers should not directly ask prospective employees about arrests which have not led to convictions as they are concerned that this would have a chilling effect upon minorities and discourage them from applying for the jobs.

3) Federal Laws: The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs the activities of consumer reporting agencies, employers and others who use such reports. This federal law, as well as state laws modeled after the FCRA, contain notice and disclosure requirements, authorizations, pre-adverse and adverse notice action disclosures.

4) Consumer Reporting Agencies: Make sure that you are working with a reputable company that is knowledgeable of the state and federal rules. Be careful in reviewing consumer reporting company’s service agreements as some of them seek to hold the client responsible for any damages caused by the information they provide regardless of whether the consumer reporting agency submitted inaccurate or prohibited record information (such as purged or sealed documents).

Pre-employment background checks are highly recommended but be sure that you call on your trusted legal advisor to help you ferret out your legal responsibilities in managing the information.

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Beilstein; Lyons Head AFC

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

May/June 2007

AFC Enterprises, Inc., the franchisor and operator of Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, announced the resignation of Kenneth L. Keymer, AFC, CEO and President effective March 30, 2007. Since joining Popeyes, Keymer has re-energized the brand.

Frederick B. Beilstein, former CFO of AFC Enterprises from 2004-2005, has been appointed the interim CEO. Beilstein has been a Managing Partner of Equicorp Partners, LLC, an Atlanta-based investment and advisory services firm since 2005. He remained an active consultant to AFC and the Popeyes brand since his departure.

James W. Lyons, the company’s Chief Development Officer, has been appointed to the newly created position of COO. Lyons joined the Popeyes management team in July 2004 and has played a key role in improving the company’s development pipeline and accelerating new restaurant openings.

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Hollberg Named Executive Chef

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

May/June 2007

Chef Bennett Hollberg has been named Executive Chef at the Atlanta Grill of the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta.

Hollberg grew up in Virginia Highlands, so his affinity for southern foods came naturally. But his road to cooking took a few detours. He performed in musicals at Paideia, went to Furman to play baseball, changed majors a few times, then without any cooking experience but “knowing it was right,” left in his junior year to attend culinary school at the Art Institute of Seattle.

After graduating, he returned home and applied for a position at the Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead. He got the job and after four years and many promotions, working first with Bruno Ménard and later Arnaud Berthelier, he became Sous Chef.

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Kaur Named Restaurant Manager

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

May/June 2007

The Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar & View has hired Awneet Kaur as Restaurant Manager. Kaur brings more than 15 years of leadership and restaurant management experience to her role.

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Klein Named Executive Chef

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

May/June 2007

Michael Klein, CEC, was recently named Executive Chef of the Emory Conference Center Hotel in Atlanta. He joins the Emory Conference Center Hotel from Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America, where he served as the National Education Manager and as the Dean Of Culinary Arts. With over 25 years of hospitality experience, Klein has served as an Executive Chef, Food & Beverage Director and Director of Operations at several establishments. He began his career as a Sous Chef at the Midnight Sun dinner theater, formerly in downtown Atlanta, after an externship in Cincinnati, OH at the Mobil Five Star Le Maisonette restaurant. He trained at the CIA in Hyde Park, NY, and earned the designation of CEC through the ACF.

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Seidman Named SVP

Saturday, October 27th, 2007
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May/June 2007

Paul Seidman has been named the Senior Vice President Avado Brands and will oversee R&D, purchasing, product development and quality control for both the Don Pablo’s Mexican Kitchen and Hops Restaurant and Brewery brands. He brings more than 20 years’ food service experience to the role, most recently as vice president of food and beverage/procurement for COSI Inc. He attended the CIA in Hyde Park , NY, and received a B.S. in hotel and restaurant management from Florida International University in Miami. He is a member of the Research Chefs Association and the International Corporate Chefs Association.

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