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Archive for July, 2010

“Local” and “Organic” Definitions

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Debby Cannon, Ph.D., CHE

July/August 2010

There are different parameters for the terms “locally grown” and “locally produced.” Many consider “local” to indicate products that are grown/produced within a radius of 150 miles of the point of consumption. In some situations, the distance is extended. For example, some types of seafood, to be considered “local,” would have to extend either to the Atlantic coast or Gulf of Mexico — extending beyond 250 miles.

The term “organic” is defined and regulated by the u.S. Department of Agriculture (uSDA). Organic foods are products grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation. The uSDA also requires organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products to be produced from animals free of antibiotics or growth hormones. “Natural” attached to a product, on the other hand, indicates that there were no artificial flavorings, coloring or chemical preservatives and minimal processing.

The uSDA also regulates label standards for organic products. The label “100% organic,” indicates just that: 100% of the ingredients are organic. The sole word, “organic,” indicates that 95% of the ingredients are organic. Organic ingredients listed on the side label of a product indicate that less than 70% of the ingredients are organic. Companies that handle or process organic foods for public consumption are required to be certified by the uSDA through their Organic Seal designation.

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Millennials: Harnessing the Buying Power of the Next Generation

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Debby Cannon, Ph.D., CHE

July/August 2010

The National Restaurant Association designated in their “What’s Hot: Top 20 Trends in2010” that locally grown produce was the “No. 1 Trend” for foodservice opera- tions, followed by locally sourced meats and seafood (#2), locally produced wine and beer (#5), farm/estate-branded ingredi- ents (#8), sustainable seafood (#10) and organic produce (#12).

There’s no doubt that local, organic and sustainable dining is hot, but understanding what is considered “healthy cuisine” is not a simple matter. Comprehending consumer preferences for healthy food is even more puzzling. With 65% of American adults overweight, one might assume the market for healthy food is limited. However, we know from the trends charted that the de- mand is actually increasing. Evidence of this can be seen in all segments of foodservice from quick service to fine dining.

Research has shown that the primary consumers of organic food are women ages 30 to 45 who have children in the household and who are environmentally conscious. Interest in organic foods also seems to be growing among younger individuals — particularly college students.

As part of the millennial generation (those in the 16-29 age range), college students and others in the “younger than 30 set” are of great interest to most industries. With more than 70 million in this gen- eration, they already compose 50% of the workforce and, in time, will grow in pres- ence with the eventual retirement of baby boomers. These millennials, with their strong buying power, are already making an impact on the hospitality industry. This can be seen in the “lifestyle hotels” of Hotel INDIGO, aloft and N YLO, all the way to McDonald’s decision to incorporate an am- biance of Starbucks into their restaurants.

But what are the food preferences of millennials? While locally produced preferences have not received research attention yet, consumer preferences for organically grown items have been the focus of several academic studies that have centered primarily on college students.

One study (Dahm, Samonte and Shows, 2009) of 443 students in a midsized south- ern university found that positive attitudes toward environmentally friendly practices were linked to positive attitudes toward organic foods. Students who were more oriented to sustainable practices overall were more likely to purchase and consume organic products. Other research, however (such as the study by Magnusson et al., 2001), found taste to be a top factor in the purchase of organic food regardless of philosophical ties to sustainability.

Colleges have recognized students’ increasing interest in healthier foods. According to Dahm and her team of re- searchers, the University of Wisconsin at Madison was the first major American public university to consistently put foods grown on local farms on the regular menu. Over the last 10 years, the introduction of organic food options on college campuses has grown exponentially. According to the national farm-to-college program manager of the Community Food Security Coalition, based in Los Angeles, about 200 campuses around the country buy at least some food from local farmers.

What does this mean for the restaurant industry as it addresses the buying power of more than 76 million millennials? Eating habits cultivated during college, particularly supported by campus dining operations offering organic, local and other healthy food options, can and probably will transcend beyond college.

Another research finding relevant to the restaurant industry is the perception of where to find healthy food items. In one college-based study, a strong majority of students (79%) indicated organic and locally grown foods were available in grocery stores and health food stores. Slightly less than 10% (9.7%) indicated organic products were available in restaurants. These findings indicate an opportunity for restaurants, through targeted external marketing and internal selling (servers aware of items that are locally grown and produced, increased visibility on menus) to reach this sizable market segment.

Georgia State’s School of Hospitality also conducted research on students this past spring with findings relevant to the restaurant industry. A survey of 364 students targeted their eating habits and price points for the three day parts: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The study separated students who were commuters (did not live on campus) and those who lived in campus dorms, but the overall results were consistent for both groups. Of the commuter students, 45% indicated they would be willing to spend up to 50 cents more per meal for organic food with 30% indicating they would spend up to $1.00 more per meal. Ten percent of the commuter students indicated a threshold of $2.00 in their willingness to extend their consumer dollars for organic items. Students living on campus were more supportive of spending up to $.50 more per meal (71%) with lower percentages going up by $1.00 (20%) and $1.50 (9%) per meal.

The basic conclusion of this study was that a significant proportion of students will support their preference for organic items and even spend more — up to a point.

Millennial buying patterns, particularly focused on food and beverage preferences, will be an area for rich and relevant exploration for now and the future.
Debby Cannon, Ph.D., CHE, is Director of the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality, located in the highly ranked Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.

The school offers three different programs: A B.B.A. degree with a major in hospitality; a cer- tificate program (a post-baccalaureate program) in hospitality operations, event planning and meeting planning; and an M.B.A. degree with a concentration on hotel real estate. Visit the School of Hospitality’s website at www.robinson.gsu.edu/ hospitality, or call (404) 413-7615

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Inspire Guests with Your Wine and Beer List

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

July/August 2010

By Ryan Turner

At Muss & Turner’s, we’ve created a beverage program that promotes the excitement of exploration and delight of discovery. After all, if we can keep it interesting for ourselves, our guests will never be bored with it. Although we do not have a full bar, our focus on beer and wine has proven an extremely valuable portion of our business, and can be for your restaurant, too.

The successful management of our beer and wine lists and service boils down to one word: TRUST. If your guests trust your intentions then you can meet them where they are and bring them where you want them to go. That is the essence of sales at its very core.

Your beverage program has the potential to become a deeper component than just tertiary profits around food and be a primary reason why people talk about you or continue to come back. Here are some key points on what, how and why you should develop a strong, successful beverage program.

Wine
This statement is on the top of our wine list: Our Take on Wine – We love wine, but hate the pretense that often surrounds it! Really … it’s fermented grape juice that is intended to make you feel warm and fuzzy. What really matters most to us is matching the style of wine you’re looking for and whether or not you like it. We put ratings, tradition and brand recognition aside. We trust our own palate and select wines based on merit. Our selection process is simple. 1. Is it delicious? 2. Is it unique? 3. Is it a good value? The list is categorized in style and it changes often.

Selection. My hope is that 95% of our guests do not recognize any wine on our list. The more esoteric, the better. On any given day, we have about 25 to 30 wines by the glass to choose from categorized by style vs. varietal. I am a big proponent of helping people understand the style of wine they enjoy or not, and we intend to have something for everyone. Make your customers feel comfortable that wine is not always about points and pretense. Delicious matters. Recognition does not. Remember that reference to discovery.

Distributors. There are a lot of wine distributors these days, which can be a challenge in managing the sales calls. At any given time, there are more than 15,000 skus of wine in inventory in Metro Atlanta. We look at distributors as partners who are bird-dogging for us and sifting through to get to the gems. I ask them to bring me what they like and feel is a good value. What is the bottle of wine they are hoping they have some left to bring home after riding around town all day? That is the bottle I want. We don’t seek deals and demand tons of free samples. I tell people jokingly all the time, if we ever go out of business, I’ll be damned if I am going to have an inventory full of wine I don’t like.

Inventory & Menu. One of our biggest advantages is also our greatest challenge day to day. We change and print a new menu everyday. We run a very lean inventory for a couple of reasons. 1) we have limited space to store wine, 2) to preserve cash. We don’t buy anything to store and age. We buy it to sell. We buy based on a budget that is based on the sales of the previous week. We order what we think we need to get through the week and will move wines around all the time and if we run out. This dictates having someone to maintain the list and inventory very carefully every day. Our menu will also have descriptions that will hopefully help our guests make a decision (or at the very least make them chuckle). These descriptions also help our servers in guiding guests through their experience with us. So when we have five new wines come in, it is quite the endeavor to manage writing a description, updating POS system and educating staff. I am crystal clear on why many operations buy wide, go deep and do not change the list often. The path we’ve chosen can be a royal pain, but if you believe your efforts are a major part of who you are, it pays huge dividends long term.

Price & Value. Does it taste better than what you perceive it costs? That is value, and that is what matters to us. When we try wine, we never look at the price first. Does it taste good on merit alone? If so, then give me the cost and story of the winery. I would rather sell two glasses of wine for $7 that will rock your world than a one-time hit of $12.
One of the biggest complaints about the restaurant industry is the mark up in wine. Our guests understand that it takes serious expense to procure, prep and produce the food, but they have trouble with the fermented grape juice. I am very aggressive with educating them about this. We explain that when a bottle of wine is opened, it becomes perishable. If we don’t sell three more glasses after the first, we risk losing money or just breaking even. So it’s important that we recoup as much of the bottle cost as possible in the first glass. Most folks understand and respect this. Where they still have a disconnect is we can’t make the same argument when selling an unopened bottle, but they do understand that we can’t sell it as cheaply as a retailer because of higher overhead costs and labor our gross profits needs to absorb.

Beer
If you are not aware of how popular craft beer has become in Atlanta, consider this your wake-up call. Many of the cerebral components that make wine so alluring are found in beer as well. I can sell a 750ml bottle of what many consider to be one of the best beers in the world for $24 and it might give more real satisfaction than the most expensive bottle of wine on our list.

Sophisticated consumption has nothing to do with a guest’s wallet size, but more to do with the appreciation of what variables are involved with making great wine or beer. The varietal of hops and where they came from is now being listed on some beers.

If you want to provide your guests with delicious elixirs of uniqueness and authenticity, then beer can be a very powerful component of your business. I love to see the proverbial light bulb go off over the head of a fellow wine geek when they try a tripel or intensely hopped beer.

There are far fewer distributors who are really embracing the beer phenomenon, but it is happening and we are now seeing the wine vendors bringing on beers into their portfolio. They don’t do that unless they think there is money to be made, and the momentum is self-evident.

We make it a point to not sell the standard selection of domestic or imported beers. The beer revolution in Atlanta blossomed in 2004 when the law changed to allow higher alcohol levels for beer. The tide is turning and the minds are opening, but people’s attachment to brand name beers is still a very personal thing. When we don’t have their brand, we need to be very careful that they don’t view it as judgment on them. We explain that we simply want to be a place of exploration with food, wine and beer. We don’t want to sell you something that you can get everywhere. We’d rather force you into trying something new and gamble on the enjoyment that could bring.

The path we have chosen with wine and beer is a more challenging one, but our guests seem to love it and come back often to experience it. It works for us, but may not for you. Start asking your guests what they are interested in. As long as they sense your intent is pure and not purely profits, they’ll give you all the answers you need to determine your own path. That’s what I do. Cheers!

Ryan Turner is the co-owner of Muss & Turner’s restaurant in Smyrna. Now into its 6th successful year of business, Muss & Turner’s is a casual neighborhood spot that has been characterized as “foie gras in your flip flops.” They specialize in a seasonal farm-to-fork menu alongside an ever-changing boutique wine and beer list. M&Ts is currently ranked No. 2 in Atlanta on the Open Table Diner’s Choice survey for Notable Wine List. Visit mussandturners.com for more information.

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Metrotainment Cafes: Intown Success

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

July/August 2010

By Jaymi Curley

With a host of popular metro-area restaurants under its belt, local restaurant corporation Metrotainment Cafes is poised for growth in an economic environment when many are just trying to hold their ground.
Jeffrey Landau, Metrotainment Restaurants
Metrotainment Cafes was founded in 1991 by CEO Jeffrey Landau as a natural expansion of his career in the hospitality business. “I had worked in restaurants prior to that, learning just about every aspect of the business,” says Landau, “and I wanted to open up my own restaurant.” That first restaurant was to become Einstein’s, a restaurant in Midtown that has since become a fixture in the Midtown dining scene. “I didn’t have very much money at all. It was definitely a low budget endeavor. We found an old restaurant in the heart of Midtown that had recently closed down, and I thought it was a great opportunity.” At first occupying a single 1920’s bungalow, the Einstein’s concept, which Landau describes as a “casual neighborhood favorite with an innovative menu,” has grown to encompass three houses on prime corner real estate in the heart of Midtown.

Though his early focus was on growing Einstein’s, Landau still kept an eye out for chances to take his company forward.  “Midtown was starting to take off in the early- to mid-90s, so we saw a lot of opportunity there,” says Landau. “I don’t think in 1991 we had a vision as to where we were going to go with the company. But we saw potential for growth. Einstein’s was doing really well, and Midtown was really becoming a vibrant community.”

Another opportunity for Metrotainment opened up in 1993, as they added a “casual steakhouse in a honky-tonk atmosphere” called Cowtippers. Its location on Piedmont road in Atlanta made it highly accessible to several popular neighborhoods in the Midtown area. “It was a recently closed-down restaurant as Einstein’s was, so we saw a lot of opportunity there.”

As Metrotainment Cafes has added concepts in its expansion, including sports bars Hudson Grille and Joe’s and a wholesale bakery operation, all of its themes have been connected by the company’s central philosophy that puts the guests squarely in the center of its focus. Landau says that the key is “to offer guests great value in an entertaining environment. We are always focused on offering guests true value in fun, entertaining and interesting environments.”

Landau believes that added value is the difference between success and failure, particularly in an economy that has not been kind to the restaurant business as a whole. “We believe that in difficult economic times—and I don’t think a return to a robust economy is going to be happening anytime soon—focusing on value, rewarding our loyal guests, and providing an entertainment component is really important.”

“Our guests are looking for more than a good meal when they dine out,” says Landau. “We are providing extra value in entertainment, such as sports in our sports bars. Hudson Grille and Joe’s on Juniper all have dozens of plasma TVs, and we purchase all the sports packages from the networks. It is expensive, but we certainly offer more than just a great dining experience.”

Metrotainment Cafes manages the main portfolio of its business with a laser focus on strategy, but still maintains touch with the human factor that helps it to succeed. With a soon-to-expire lease under consideration, the group sold off its popular Buckhead sports bar Cheyenne Grille in favor of opening a Hudson Grille location in Midtown Atlanta. “Hudson Grille is the concept we are attempting to expand really, and Cheyenne Grille was a one-off. We hadn’t had any plans to open any more branches of that one anyway.”

But rather than import a whole new staff as some restaurants might, Metrotainment kept the staff intact, essentially just moving the well-oiled machine that had been providing great service for years. “We relocated the entire team from the Cheyenne Grille after the sale to the new Hudson Grille in Midtown, and it was an existing, built-out restaurant that did not require a large investment.”

Indeed, keeping an eye out for already finished locations has been a key move for improving Metrotainment Cafes’ bottom line. Landau says, “Typically we have expanded into existing locations, which dramatically cuts the initial investments. I would say this cuts the investment by 50 percent plus.”

In a tight economy, this kind of cost saving measure can be crucial. “We would not have gone out and opened up a raw space, especially since it is difficult right now to achieve much financing. I look at the new Hudson Grille as more of a move, rather than a cold opening.”

Moving in to spaces where other restaurants have already been thwarted might seem a risky undertaking since location is a key factor in success in the restaurant business. But Landau maintains that keeping the focus on the people in the equation—guests and staff alike—gives Metrotainment Cafes a solid basis for overcoming any lingering ghosts of restaurants past. “We commit to employee training, we offer a concept the neighborhood finds more unique and we constantly look for ways to provide the guest with an experience at a reasonable price point,” says Landau. “Hudson Grille has a great feel, but the burgers are still $7.95. We’re not doing a ten-dollar hamburger at the Hudson Grille.

When guests walk out the door, they are going to think ‘Hey, we got our money’s worth and then some.’ We are always trying to exceed their expectations.”

Landau believes strongly in providing the best training for every member of his staff, seeing that as a prime investment in Metrotainment Cafes’ success. “It is paramount to achieving that goal. The dining experience is driven more by service than any other component. If the staff is not well-trained and well prepared, we will not be able to offer our guests an enjoyable dining experience.”

Currently Metrotainment is focusing all of it plans for growth inside the perimeter of metro Atlanta. “There are exceptions of course, but we feel more strongly about the potential for growth inside rather than outside the perimeter right now.” With consumer spending pulling back across the board, the city centers appear to be the areas where money is still comparatively fluid.

“I am not an economist,” says Landau, “but I feel strongly there is far more disposable income ITP than OTP right now. We have experienced both, and I think a lot my peers and our vendors share this opinion. If you are getting a lot of singles and young couples without a lot of dependents, you can still do well and excel in this environment. If your clientele is more family oriented—lot of dependents, big home, big mortgages, college tuition, private school tuition—you are relatively going to get creamed in this economy. Young people are still going to go out to eat, drink, socialize and meet people of the opposite sex. Families don’t have to.”

Landau fully embraces technology and social media as a way of connecting with Metrotainment’s client base.  “We are trying to create online community by communicating with our guests on a weekly, even daily basis.” Harnessing opt-in email blasts, Facebook, Twitter and other avenues keeps his customers informed while building a sense of loyalty to the local restaurants. “We let them know about specials, who’s working tonight, what events are happening. We are even sharing recipes. We’re trying to create what we have done within the restaurant—creating a community—and move it to the online world.”

This connection with customers has resulted in getting the kind of feedback that marketing teams salivate over. And in return, Landau notes that guests of Metrotainment’s establishments feel like they are making an impact. “We pride ourselves on responding in a timely fashion to all our customer feedback. It is invaluable for helping to ensure the best customer service. If we see a trend, we can respond quickly. And you’ll find that a number of changes we’ve made, from menu items to the events we host are based on customer feedback we get on Facebook, Twitter and by searching comments on the web.”

Metrotainment’s new concept, a retail bake and beverage shop called Sugar Shack, which at press time was due to open at the end of June was a direct result of customer feedback. “We have the Metrotainment Bakery, which is primarily wholesale baked goods, though we did sell some limited retail goods there. And we kept getting feedback that what the people wanted was to have those bakery items available in a retail space, someplace where they could actually have a seat, slow down and enjoy their pastry there. And then an opportunity came up where we could get a space in Brookhaven, about 500 feet away from a Hudson Grille location that was already there. We decided it was absolutely the right time for it.”

Sugar Shack will be featuring Metrotainment Cafes baked goods along with a limited assortment of sandwiches and coffee, and the location in Brookhaven Station at a crossroads of several metro neighborhoods combined with a buzz created by social media chatter presages a successful opening.

Restaurant Forum asked Jeffrey Landau, president of Metrotainment Cafes, what three things he’s done in the last three weeks that have improved or impacted his business:

1) We’ve made a concerted effort to hire from within the company. In the last three weeks, we’ve taken three individuals who worked for the company on an hourly basis for a long time and promoted them to manager positions. All three of them are off to a tremendous start, and I have the utmost confidence in them. I think we’ve improved the restaurant by rewarding their loyalty, and in turn we have hired people who understand the culture of the company and I think are going to be even more committed at the outset more than an outside individual.

2) We’ve made some enhancements to our loyalty card program. We’ve been working with our loyalty/gift card provider and been making that program more user-friendly for our guests. It is becoming a little easier to earn those rewards.

3) At Joe’s on Sullivan, our restaurant in College Park, and at Cowtippers, we have made changes to the menus at both those establishments. Both menus have gotten major overhauls, and we are getting a lot of positive feedback on both.

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Concentrics Restaurants Launches iPhone App

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Concentrics Restaurants has made an iPhone app available to the public through the iTunes App Store.

The app provides users the following capabilities:

> One click reservations
> Directions from your current location
> Gift card purchasing
> Event Details
> Live Facebook and Twitter feeds

The app was developed by MobileSect, based out of Atlanta and it took 3 months to develop.  Concentrics is also researching an app for the Android smart phone platform.

The most popular features of the app so far are the reservations and location look-up through the app’s link with Google Maps.

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Taqueria del Sol Announces Plan to Franchise

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Taqueria del Sol has established a wholly-owned subsidiary, Taqueria del Sol Development, LLC (TDSD), to franchise its ten-year old restaurant brand.

The restaurant’s menu is driven by southwestern cuisine, Taqueria del Sol has a full bar in each location and offers an expansive list of tequilas, specialty margaritas and a “build-your-own margarita” option.

Bill Burnett has been named president and chief operating officer of TDSD. Burnett is an industry veteran, having worked for 38 years in executive capacities with a number of companies including Houston’s, Roy’s Restaurants, and The Capital Grille, as well as having five years experience in franchise operations.

Founder and Taqueria del Sol Chief Executive Officer Mike Klank retains control of the four existing company-owned restaurants and the company’s purchasing, manufacturing and distribution operation for future franchise restaurants. Klank came to Atlanta to attend Georgia Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and then later went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from Georgia State University. Klank oversees the day-to-day operations and business development.

Klank remarked, “Over the past several years, we have fielded many calls regarding franchising. We plan to be very selective in the awarding of franchises and will insist franchisees have prior operating experience, combined with the necessary financial resources to support a successful program.”

Franchises will be offered for both new, build-to-suit restaurants and conversion of other restaurants to Taqueria del Sols.  Multi-unit development, with only rare exceptions for single-unit development, will be offered in selected markets, namely metropolitan areas, to qualified franchisees. All existing and future locations within the state of Georgia will be company-owned. Taqueria del Sol will not
provide nor guarantee any financing but will refer qualified franchisees to financial institutions.

Eddie Hernandez, originally from Monterrey, Mexico, is the Corporate Chef. He spends a large part of his time researching new ways to combine ingredients and concepts. Favorite dishes at Taqueria del Sol include the fish taco, the shrimp and corn chowder, and the turnip greens.

Taqueria del Sol has three locations in Atlanta and one in Athens, Georgia.

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US Cafe and Flying Biscuit Open New Locations

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

More casual dining restaurants open in Atlanta as fine dining restaurants continue to struggle.  And, yes, one of them specializes in hamburgers…

US Cafe, a family-owned establishment opened near Lindbergh Center in Atlanta’s Buckhead area in July. The restaurant is 3,400 square feet with 148 seats. It offers a full bar, 8 wide screen televisions, pool tables and arcade.

US Cafe is a fast casual restaurant with three locations around Metro Atlanta.  The Smyrna location has been in business for more than 20 years.

US Cafe specializes in freshly made hamburgers. The hand-formed patties are made with 100 percent pure Creekstone Farms Black Angus Ground Chuck. The restaurant charges $3.49 for a premium burger. Additional menu items include: salads, quesadillas, sandwiches, hot dogs and wings.

The Flying Biscuit Cafe, an eclectic neighborhood restaurant chain announced the opening of its newest location in Roswell.   The new restaurant marks the second location owned by local franchisee Barbara Juhan, who opened a Flying Biscuit in Sandy Springs last year.

“The Sandy Springs location has proved to exceed our expectations and we look forward to bringing the eclectic, charming atmosphere to the tight-knight community of Roswell,” says Juhan. “Community involvement is very important to me,” explains Juhan, who plans to immerse the restaurant into the Roswell community including participation in Roswell’s “Alive After 5” gatherings every Thursday.

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Taco Bueno Plans Franchise Expansion into South

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Taco Bueno Restaurants, the 43-year-old Tex-Mex quick-service chain is expanding its franchise program, opening up specific areas in the Southern, Midwest, and Central Southwest regions. The chain recently unveiled a series of new restaurant designs. The franchise recently implemented a new site selection model developed by Buxton, a Fort Worth-based consumer analytics firm. The model provides franchisees  access to data to help evaluate potential new trade areas.

The two most recent openings of the latest prototype are located in the Tulsa area.

The new look features a fast-casual atmosphere with Southwestern design elements, including stone and wrought-iron accents. Guests can observe Taco Bueno’s scratch preparation through a specially-designed window into the kitchen.

Founded in 1967 in Abilene, Texas, Taco Bueno has nearly 190 locations in Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

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Schafer Takes Over as Parish Executive Chef

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Concentrics Restaurants announced that Joe Schafer will be taking the helm at Inman Park’s Parish as Executive Chef. Schafer’s culinary experience spans fifteen years in southeastern restaurants.

Schafer received his culinary education from the Art Institute of Atlanta in 2001, but his passion for cooking was cultivated much earlier. He began working in the kitchen at a local mom-and-pop restaurant in his hometown of Senoia, Ga., as a dishwasher. “That’s when I got into the kitchen,” he says, “and I never really left.” After graduating with honors from the Art Institute, Schafer went on to attain sous chef stints at Rainwater and The Globe, where he helped the restaurant win Atlanta Magazine’s “Restaurant of the Year” award in its first year of operation. Schafer joined Concentrics in 2008, working as sous chef at Murphy’s, and subsequently at Midtown’s gastropub, TAP.

Schafer describes his cuisine as “rustic Southern, lightened and refined with European techniques.”  He further explains that he “will be lightening up the menu while staying rustic and approachable.” Schafer’s menu will continue to highlight Southern simplicity, with an emphasis on classic dishes like meat-and-three suppers alongside locally-sourced produce. Schafer’s homemade bacon, which is cured for ten days and known around town as “Joe’s bacon,” will, of course, make an appearance on the menu.  In the Parish Market, Shafer plans to expand upon this philosophy with seasonal fruits and vegetables available for retail among other exciting plans. He is anxious to include an esoteric pickle and condiment bar.

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Joel and Repast Close

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Two of Atlanta’s premier restaurants closed in the past two weeks. Joel Brasserie, one of the few French fine dining establishments in Atlanta and former home to noted chef/owner Joel Antunes, reportedly closed on June 25.  And Repast, owned by the husband-wife chef team Joe Truex and Mihoko Obunai  announced its closing on June 19.

Restaurant Forum magazine’s  published Truex move to Watershed in July August issue. At the time of publication, Repast was to stay in operation under the management and culinary direction of Obunai.

The magazine also featured Joel’s former sommelier, Perrine Prieur, on the cover of the March 2010 issue (to view article online, go to Perrine Prieur). Perieur is opening a wine shop in the White Provision, in Atlanta’s Westside community.

The space formerly occupied by Joel Brasserie will be taken over by the owners of Muss and Turner’s, Ryan Turner and Chef Todd Mussman.  Named Local Three, the new restaurant’s kitchen will be headed up by Chef Chris Hall who was previously the Chef de Cuisine at Canoe restaurant.

Turner is a regular contributing writer to Restaurant Forum and RestaurantINFORMER.com.

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