October 28, 2009 – www.garestaurants.org.
Archive for October, 2009
Serving a menu of French-influenced cuisine, Amuse! opened on October 19 in the ground floor of the Belvedere building in Midtown Atlanta. The restaurant is headed by Atlanta veterans Arnaud Michel of Anis and Andy Alibaksh of the CafÃ© Diem family, which includes AprÃ¨s Diem, Carpe Diem, Carroll St. CafÃ© and Village Pizza.
With a Japanese family background and a devotion to international flavors, Executive Chef Lenny Robinson helms the kitchen at Amuse! Prior to opening Amuse, Robinson served as executive chef at The Tasting Room Restaurant and Wine Bar in Sandy Springs, Ga., executive chef and owner of Downtown Atlantaâ€™s Les Fleur De Lis CafÃ© and executive chef of Buckhead neighborhood gem Anis CafÃ© and Bistro. While at Anis, Robinson worked with Owner Arnaud Michel, with whom he has reunited at Amuse! His unique culinary style of blending various cultural influences is a result of his international background. He grew up learning Asian style cooking with his Japanese mother and also spent time with his family living in Spain and studying Spanish culture and food.
Also joining the Amuse! team is mixologist Ralph Drake.
October 27, 2009 at the Gwinnett Center, Duluth, GA, www.gwinnettcenter.com / 770-963-9205 ext. 1208.
Fast-growing frozen yogurt retailer launches expansion campaign to add 20 locations in the region.
Red Mango, a fast-growing retailer of all-natural nonfat frozen yogurt, announced that it will begin awarding franchise agreements in Atlanta as part of a national expansion campaign. Â Recently honored with Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2009 “Hot Concepts!” award, the company plans to open some 20 stores in the area over the next five years.
“We’re experiencing the strongest franchise growth in our company’s history, and Atlanta is the perfect market to add to our network,” said James Franks, vice president of franchising for Red Mango. “Despite the economy, the interest in our business and delivering on our brand promise for health, taste and style only gets bigger.”
Red Mango launched a national franchise program in 2009 that has resulted in some 40 franchise signings with a commitment of 209 new locations to-date. Â The franchise is on track to reach as many as 550 locations across the country in five years. Red Mango opened its first store in Los Angeles in July 2007 and has grown to almost 60 locations across 14 states.
MonkeyMedia Software, a provider of web-based operations solutions for QSR and fast casual restaurants, food manufacturers and caterers, announced that POSTEC, Inc. has joined its Reseller Partner Program to represent MonkeyMedia Software in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. POSTEC is a leading Value-Added Reseller in its market, focusing exclusively on the hospitality industry since 1987.
â€œMonkeyMedia Software..offers unique and highly effective solutions for three distinct segments: MonkeyCatering for QSR and fast casual catering & delivery, MonkeyFoodFactory for food manufacturing and commissaries, and MonkeyMailOrder for e-commerce,â€ says David Shaw, President of POSTEC, Inc. â€œThese web-based solutions integrate easily with other operational components such as POS and accounting, and are attractive due to lower IT costs and more flexible deployment. Our customers are hungry for help in these areas, so weâ€™re excited about becoming a MonkeyMedia Software partner.â€
By Michael Wall
Dairy farming has been a part of Georgia’s history since its very founding, literally. It was James Oglethorpe, the founder of the colony, who brought the first dairy cows with him when he arrived here in the early 1700s.
Technologies such as pipeline milking equipment, cooling and transportation improvements and hormones for milk cows have ensured a slow and steady rise in milk production, as well as the growth of the dairy industry as a whole.
In 2005, the dairy industry was valued at $258 million to the state of Georgia. When you take into account other dairy-related sales and industries, dairy has a total economic impact of more than $500 million.
A large part of the financial success of Georgia’s dairy industry has been its mindset of squeezing as many drops of milk as possible out of each milk cow.
For some in the restaurant industry, this means cheaper prices. But it’s also been frustrating for restaurant owners and chefs who are looking for a higher quality of milk.
Customer demand for local and/or organic food is at an all-time high. But regulatory and industry practices create substantial hurdles for local, small-scale milk producers, often to the detriment of local economies.
Dairyman Russell Johnston encountered this firsthand. In fact, he’s still dealing with it.
Russell’s father started milking cows for a living in 1956. The Johnston Dairy Farm, located in Newborn about 50 miles east of Atlanta, was passed down to Russell, under whom it survived but not necessarily thrived as a small operation that sold commodity milk to wholesalers.
There are about 100 cows roaming Johnston’s hilly green fields, which are splattered with wooded areas that serve as ideal shade cover for the cows on brutal summer days.
About five years ago, Johnston realized that his farm’s survival was at risk because of federal production controls that keep profit margins razor thin for any farmer selling any product on the commodity market.
“I started to look into bottling our milk and eliminating the processor, and trying to capture a little more of the retail sales here on the farm,” he says. “I’ve got two little boys, and if they choose to, I want to give them something they could make a living at instead of having to get big or get out.”
After three years of research and visiting other smaller farms, Russell broke ground on his own processing and bottling plant.
He began bottling his own milk in November 2008, and the bureaucratic obstacles that Johnston overcame – and still struggles with – demonstrate why buying local, fresh milk is a difficulty for most restaurateurs and consumers alike.
Johnston said some state regulators bentover backwards to help him, but of other, more higher-up officials, “I wouldn’t say they tried to stop me, but they were a little unwelcoming. On the county level, I had to fight tooth and nail.”
He says county officials first tried to tell him that his farm wasn’t zoned correctly for bottling. Then they told him that if the plant was built to a certain size, he would need to install a $25,000 fire suppression system – for a building made out of concrete, housing all stainless steel equipment.
Johnston sidestepped that issue by keeping his plant small. It wasn’t until he’d built his plant and was preparing to start bottling his own milk that he encountered the single greatest obstacle and threat.
The Federal Milk Market Administrator, a cooperative to which Johnston belongs, requires Johnston to sell his milk to the co-op, then buy it back before he can bottle it.
“Even though it never leaves the farm, it costs us about 30 cents a gallon to buy and then bottle our own milk,” says Johnston. “And that’s what’s keeping us from getting into the black financially.
“What needs to change is that there needs to be more support from local and state government. Other states have homestead farm liaisons who would have sent someone out to hold my hand through this process. That would not only have made it easier for me, but it also has a ripple effect that supports local economies,” Johnston says. “That’s why those other states do it. It’s basic economic development support, and there’s zero of that in the state of Georgia. Zero.”
On a recent summer morning, just an hour before temperatures led man and beast to seek shade, Gabriel and Julie Simpson bought several gallons of Johnston’s bottled buttermilk and whole milk to take to the chefs at their restaurant, The Glenwood, in the East Atlanta Village.
They’ve only recently discovered Johnston’s milk, and since they live in nearby Madison, it’s convenient to buy from Johnston a couple times a week.
“It’ll be used in all the cream sauces, like for the macaroni and cheese and sweet potato soufflÃ©, and the desserts. We make our ice cream from scratch,” Gabriel says. “We’re committed to using local and organic products as much as possible. We found out about Mr. Johnston, tried his products and decided they’d be a good fit for us because it’s fresher and such high quality.”
Restaurants were some of the first customers who sought out Johnston Dairy milk. So did mom-and-pop grocery stores, and a passionate type of consumer that Johnson had never encountered before.
“We’ve got people that come get our milk because it’s local and our cows are grass-fed and pastured, and they want to support their local farmer. They care about where the product comes from, and the quality of the background of the product correlates to the end product,” Johnston says.
“The other kind of person that buys my milk – I’ll just say they are real enthusiastic about it – is the kind of person that absolutely buys it for taste only. They wouldn’t care where it came from. They say our 2% tastes like grocery store whole milk.”
Johnston’s milk does taste different, which is just one reason top restaurants seek out his product. The richer taste is due to the minimal amount of processing the milk goes through.
“The large plants, they heat it to 171Â° for 15 seconds, which destroys all the beneficial amino acids and enzymes that are in the milk,” he says. “All we do to our whole milk is low-temperature pasteurize and cool it off and put it in a bottle. It’s time consuming and inefficient, but the quality of the product – there’s no comparison.”
By Charles Y. Hoff, Law Offices of Charles Y Hoff,
PC; and Joe White, Fried & Bonder, LLC
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has become a popular tool for the plaintiff’s bar. The FLSA is extremely technical and, consequently, it’s very easy for even the most conscientious employers to violate it. The penalties for doing so can be severe, particularly because the FLSA permits employees to band together and sue their employers in what is referred to as a “collective action.” The stakes in FLSA collective action litigation are usually quite high.
The distinction between tipped and nontipped work has recently become the subject of considerable litigation such as the Ervin case against Outback Steakhouse. A group of Outback’s servers sued their employer, alleging that the employer failed to pay tipped workers the full minimum wage for nontip-producing work. Like a number of restaurants, Outback would use tip credit employees to perform nontipped work.
The FLSA sets the federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, although where an employee is covered by both state and federal minimum wage laws, the employee is entitled to the higher of the two minimum wages. The FLSA contains a “tip credit” that allows an employer to subtract an employee’s tips from the minimum wage calculation. An employer is only required to pay a fraction of the minimum wage ($2.13 an hour) to a tipped employee, so long as the employee’s wages and tips equal at least the minimum wage.
The FLSA defines a “tipped employee” as someone who “engages in an occupation in which he/she customarily and regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips.” Implicit within this definition are two requirements. First, the employee must work in an occupation that customarily and regularly receives tips. In determining whether an occupation fits this definition, courts often analyze the amount of contact an employee in that occupation has with tipping customers. Thus, it has been held that hosts and bus persons can be classified as tipped employees whereas kitchen workers, for example, cannot. The second requirement for a tipped employee is more straightforward: The employee must regularly receive more than $30 dollars a month for tips.
Even if an employee’s job clearly falls into a “tipped” category – take your average server, for example – an employer must nevertheless be mindful of the type of work the employee is assigned to perform. Under the FLSA, an employer may assign a tipped employee “nontipproducing work” that is incidental to the employee’s position so long as that work does not occupy more than 20% of the employee’s time. Additionally, an employer must pay full minimum wage for nontipproducing work if it is not incidental to the employee’s tip-producing duties.
Tips for avoiding FLSA liability.
- Identify and clearly distinguish between tipped and nontipped employees.
- Limit tipped employees to tip-producing work and tasks incidental to that tipperforming work. To the extent possible, eliminate from their job descriptions and responsibilities tasks that are not incidental to their tip-producing work. For example, it’s fine to require a server to roll silverware, set tables or make coffee because it is incidental to his or her tip-producing work, but it’s questionable – and inviting trouble – to ask the same server to clean bathrooms or prep in the kitchen.
- Do not overload tip-producing employees with nontip-producing work. The 20% threshold is murky. A modest amount of side work is fine, but saddling tipped employees with loads of nontipproducing work (even during slow times) is inviting trouble.
By David V. Pavesic, Ph.D., FMP
The dictionary definition of a menu is “a bill of fare” or “a list of food items a restaurant prepares and serves.” If this were the case, menus would all be simple printed lists of food and beverage items.
Instead, you must view you menu’s purpose in a broad and comprehensive role.
The goals of an effective menu can be summarized in five statements. A well designed menu should:
- be an effective communication, marketing and cost control tool;
- emphasize what the customer wants and what the restaurant prepares and serves best;
- obtain the necessary check average needed to realize sales goals and bottom line return;
- utilize staff and equipment in an efficient manner; and
- lead to more accurate forecasting of the menu sales mix.
More Than Just A List Of Items Your Kitchen Prepares
The goals of a well-designed menu demonstrate the importance of the planning and research that needs to be done before a menu is finalized. Too much depends on the menu not to give it the kind of attention and budget that is often only given to significant capital investments.
Too much depends on the menu to leave it up to a printer or menu designer alone. Menu planning and design is a team decision and should include representatives from the owner, management, chef or kitchen manager, dining room manager and customer focus groups.
The importance of the menu content and design cannot be overstated. Much of the restaurant’s success will be determined by its menu. That is why the process of menu planning and design must be approached with the seriousness and diligence usually reserved for major financial business decisions.
The menu needs to be designed from the perspective of the clientele that the restaurant hopes to attract. Traditional favorites and creative selections need to be included. However, the menu design must also address the operational aspects of food cost, gross profit, average check, purchasing, preparation and kitchen efficiency.
With these aspects clearly defined, the actual design of the menu will help management achieve their menu goals. Whether you choose to print your own menus in-house (there are several very good menu software programs you can use), contract the services of a menu design consultant or simply work with your local printer, the profit, cost and sales goals must be reflected in your menu design.
No one can design a menu to accomplish these goals unless they are part of the menu planning and design process. This means talking to the graphic designers, printers, copywriters and menu consultants who can offer suggestions on selecting type fonts, ink color, paper texture, graphic designs and all the visual techniques they can apply to the menu.
Your Most ImportantÂ Internal Marketing Tool
The menu may be the most important internal advertising device used to sell the customer once they are inside your restaurant. It is the only piece of printed advertising that you are practically 100% sure will be read by the guest.
Once placed in the guest’s hand, it can directly influence not only what they will order, but ultimately how much they will spend. Using forecasted cover counts and average check targets, the menu design directly influences sales revenue. Management is constantly forecasting business volume and relating this knowledge to decisions on how much to buy, keep in inventory and prepare. The menu will have an impact on every one of these decisions.
More and more restaurant companies have come to realize and understand the importance of proper menu design on check averages. Several years ago, Houlihan’s revamped their menu with the specific goal of increasing check averages. The menu was designed to lead the customer from the specialty drinks on the cover to appetizers on the first page to the complete dinners inside.
Their old menu, by contrast, grouped all types of items next to one another on the same large fold-out page. This, it was felt, might have somewhat deflected dinner sales by making it easy for the customer to select only an appetizer.
Menus are being designed borrowing techniques from the retailing industry that make items stand out as if to say, “Buy me.” An article in The Wall Street Journal told of new menu designs highlighting the most profitable offerings that were also touted by waiters when asked to recommend a dish by the diner. Gallup conducted a survey that proved menu design had a “subtle effect” on what customers ordered. Using this knowledge, operators can boost sales of certain menu items.
Gallup also reported that a customer will spend an average of 109 seconds reading the menu. You have that long to get your message to them. The time limit needs to be addressed in your menu design and presentation. Some popular restaurant chains, TGI Friday’s for one, had a menu with more than 12 pages at one time. It has since been reduced to six pages.
A properly designed menu can direct the attention of the diner to specific items and increase the likelihood that those items will be ordered. These items should be the ones with the highest gross profit and lowest food costs that help achieve the average check needed to return the desired sales. The customers’ decision cannot be completely controlled; however, it can be directed and not left entirely to random chance selections.
David V. Pavesic, Ph.D., FMP, is Senior Professor in the School of Hospitality Administration in the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University. He is an author and consultant to the industry in the area of operations, cost controls, menu design and menu analysis. He has been at Georgia State since 1986. Specific questions about menu design can be directed to Pavesic via e-mail at email@example.com.
U.S. Fooodservice’sÂ Atlanta Division recently received their first load of bio-diesel fuel for use in their fleet of 185 trucks and 210 trailers. According to the company, U.S. Foodservice is the first major broadline foodservice distributor in Georgia to go green with bio-diesel.Â Additionally, the bio-diesel they are using is sourced and refined locally which further reduces their carbon footprint.
By Robert Wagner, CPA
Remember the “tax gap”? In Spring 2007, the IRS told Congress that taxpayers were cheating on taxes by $290 billion a year. Congress and the Bush administration got worked up about the tax cheats among us. To address this horrible situation, the IRS recommended – surprise! -increasing its own budget. Today, we are stuck with a wave of tax audits stemming from an increase in the IRS budget.
Here are five steps to remember when you get the IRS audit notice:
- Don’t panic. Don’t pull an ostrich. If you get an audit letter from the IRS, respond as soon as possible. Ignoring the IRS is not a prescription for success. The IRS will not go away if you pretend that they are not there! In fact, the auditor may just get hurt feelings – not a positive development. One taxpayer ignored all those pesky IRS notices; it cost him about $10,000.
- Be professional. Hire a professional. It’s OK to think that the IRS agent is a bloodsucker after your money. It’s not OK to tell that to the IRS agent. It will not help your cause even if you feel better. The IRS agent has a number of tools to deal with cranky taxpayers, including the tax fraud statutes. You don’t want to go there! Treat each IRS agent as a professional, affording him or her the courtesy of a prompt and civil reply to each request. Use an experienced tax professional to represent your interests. If you are tempted to represent yourself, just remember the adage: “He who represents himself in court has a fool for a client”.
- Control the audit. Document everything. Even when dealing with the IRS agent, you have rights. An agent may be unfamiliar with the IRS’s own rules of process and procedures. Just because the agent asks for something does not mean you have to provide it. An experienced professional can analyze each IRS request and suggest an appropriate response. Every significant communication with the IRS agent should be in writing. If issues with the agent come up later, your documentation will be a lifesaver.
- Don’t expect the audit to end soon. The IRS is now trying to wrap up tax audits in 120 days from start to finish. But don’t be fooled. We know of one IRS audit that’s been going for 10 months with no end in sight. An IRS agent works five or six hours a day, so it takes a while to open, work and close an audit.
- You have a right to appeal. Don’t antagonize the IRS agent. But if an agent is wrong or oversteps bounds, don’t hesitate to ask for a joint conference with the agent and supervisor. If you have a strong case and you don’t get satisfaction from the supervisor, consider appealing the decision. But do so only with the help of an experience tax professional. We are seeing more IRS audits onÂ restaurants than ever. Following a few simple steps will get you through this unpleasant process with the least amount of damage.
Robert Wagner, CPA, is President of NetFinancials, Inc., which provides a full range of tax and accounting outsourced services for restaurant companies. For more information e-mail Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org.