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Archive for September, 2010

Shades of Green: Innovations in Foodservice Sustainability

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

By Debby Cannon, Ph.D., CHE

The business environment of operating a restaurant has always been challenging and is only complicated by today’s economic climate. Our industry is one of small profit margins and cutting pennies to positively impact the bottom line. With that said, how is the restaurant industry doing with efforts to “go green” in becoming more environmentally proactive and sustainable? One would perhaps guess that the movement towards sustainable foodservice has slowed. Just the contrary—it seems to be stronger than ever.

Earlier this year, the National Restaurant Association published its “What’s Hot: Top 20 Trends” for 2010. Of the 20 predictions, two-thirds were tied to sustainability, locally grown and produced products, sustainable seafood, organic produce, fresh ingredients and nutrition and health. The NRA named “gardens” as the hottest trend in restaurant concepts for 2010. Gardens—whether rooftop, backyard, community or other types—will lead the pack of new restaurant innovations according to the NRA.

According to Holly Elmore, CEO of Elemental Impact and Director of the Zero Waste Zone, sustainable involvement is thriving. The commitment to environmentally proactive business practices in the restaurant industry is growing as it is in other industry sectors.

Elmore presented a 90-minute seminar at the National Restaurant Association’s Show in May of this year. The topic was composting, and this presentation resulted in numerous engagements for Elmore nationwide with restaurant and foodservice companies seeking her expertise in the areas of food residuals and composting.  According to Elmore, the validation from the National Restaurant Association in offering this type of seminar was a first. Secondly, the interest the seminar drew in attendance and follow-up requests is a definite indicator that our industry is putting a priority on sustainability.

Elmore’s organization, Elemental Impact, does not focus solely on the foodservice industry. The foodservice industry, however, is an “engine” to the organization because of the far-reaching impact it has on the environment. One of the priority areas for   Elemental Impact is soil sustainability. According to Elmore, our soil over the years has been depleted of essential minerals and vitamins. Through university partnerships with experts in the fields of food science, agriculture and nutrition, Elemental Impact is serving as a catalyst to enhance soil quality, which will result in healthier foods.

New technologies in agriculture will increasingly impact the foodservice industry. Already there are significant advances in alternatives to soil-based production of food such as hydroponics and aquaponics.

Hydroponics, the forerunner to aquaponics, is the production of plants in a soilless medium. All of the nutrients supplied to the crop are dissolved in water. Aquaponics involves the integration of hydroponics with aquaculture—raising fish. Recent work by researchers and growers has resulted in aquaponics being a working model of sustainable food production. The waste products of one biological system (ammonia from the fish) serve as nutrients for a second biological system (the vegetables or herbs produced.) This is made possible by microbes in the system that convert the ammonia to nitrogen, in a process called nitrification.

The benefits for foodservice operators are numerous. Multiple products can be produced—both fish and vegetables/herbs—from one production area. That production area can be relatively small, such as part of a rooftop garden.

The trend is starting to gain momentum in California, with top chefs such as Adam Navidi, owner of Signature Catering in Orange County, Calif. Chef Navidi has recently started exploring aquaponics in his commitment to offer the freshest and healthiest food products.

“I’ve been growing with hydroponics for the past six years,” he says. “With our new restaurant Oceans and Earth, we expect to have an aquaponics operation in back by this coming spring.” Navidi says that for a chef to have control over at least part of his food supply is an amazing new opportunity made possible with aquaponics.

That trend is expected to move eastward among restaurant and foodservice operators. The Charleston, S.C., restaurant scene has already begun to rely on an aquaponics farmer north of the city. The owner, Travis Hughey, is known in aquaponics circles around the world as the inventor of Barrel-Ponics, a brand Hughey has trademarked. He is a partner in a new aquaponics partnership called AquaPlanet, focused on teaching and services related to aquaponics and local food. The firm’s founding partner, Bevan Suits of Decatur, Ga., is working with Hughey to produce training videos that can be accessed online by subscription.

“Travis is pretty much in demand in foreign countries because the food and water situation is more severe there than it is in the U.S.,” Suits says. “We’re glad to work with him because he gives a good presentation.”

As we look at the future of food production and sustainable foodservice and restaurant operations, definitely stay tuned for exciting options and innovations.

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 certificate 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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10 Tips to Better Pricing

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Start Generating New Profits and Growth
Tomorrow Morning

Pricing is one of the most powerful – yet underutilized – strategies available to businesses. A McKinsey & Company study of the Global 1200 found that if companies increased prices by just 1%, and demand remained constant, on average operating profits would increase by 11%. Just as important, price is a key attribute that consumers consider before making a purchase.

The following 10 pricing tips can reap higher profits, generate growth, and better serve customers by providing options.

Stop marking up costs. The most common mistake in pricing involves setting prices by marking up costs (“I need a 30% margin”). While easy to implement, these “cost-plus” prices bear absolutely no relation to the amount that consumers are willing to pay. As a result, profits are left on the table daily.

Set prices that capture value. Manhattan street vendors understand the principle of value-based pricing. The moment that it looks like it will rain, they raise their umbrella prices. This hike has nothing to do with costs; instead it’s all about capturing the increased value that customers place on a safe haven from rain. The right way to set prices involves capturing the value that customers place on a product by “thinking like a customer.” Customers evaluate a product and its next best alternative(s) and then ask themselves, “Are the extra bells and whistles worth the price premium (organic vs. regular) or does the discount stripped down model make sense (private label vs. brand name). They choose the product that provides the best deal (price vs. attributes).

Create a value statement. Every company should have a value statement that clearly articulates why customers should purchase their product over competitors’ offerings. Be specific in listing reasons…this is not a time to be modest. This statement will boost the confidence of your frontline so they can look customers squarely in the eye and say, “I know that you have options, but here are the reasons why you should buy our product.”

Reinforce to employees that it is okay to earn high profits. I’ve found that many employees are uncomfortable setting prices above what they consider to be “fair” and are quick to offer unnecessary discounts. It is fair to charge “what the market will bear” prices to compensate for the hard work and financial risk necessary to bring products to market. It is also important to reinforce the truism that most customers are not loyal – if a new product offers a better value (more attributes and/or cheaper price), many will defect.

Realize that a discount today doesn’t guarantee a premium tomorrow. Many people believe that offering a discount as an incentive to trial a product will lead to future full price purchases. In my experience, this rarely works out. Offering periodic discounts serves price sensitive customers (which is a great strategy) but often devalues a product in customers’ minds. This devaluation can impede future full price purchases.

Understand that customers have different pricing needs. In virtually every facet of business (product development, marketing, distribution), companies develop strategies based on the truism that customers differ from each other. However, when it comes to pricing, many companies behave as though their customers are identical by setting just one price for each product. The key to developing a comprehensive pricing strategy involves embracing (and profiting from) the fact that customers’ pricing needs differ in three primary ways: pricing plans, product preferences, and product valuations. Pick-a-plan, versioning, and differential pricing tactics serve these diverse needs.

Provide pick-a-plan options. Customers are often interested in a product but refrain from purchasing simply because the pricing plan does not work for them. While some want to purchase outright, others may prefer a selling strategy such as rent, lease, prepay, or all-you-can-eat. A pick-a-plan strategy activates these dormant customers. New pricing plans attract customers by providing ownership options, mitigating uncertain value, offering price assurance, and overcoming financial constraints.

Offer product versions. One of the easiest ways to enhance profits and better serve customers is to offer good, better, and best versions. These options allow customers to choose how much to pay for a product. Many gourmet restaurants offer early-bird, regular, and chef’s-table options. Price sensitive gourmands come for the early-bird specials while well-heeled diners willingly pay an extra $50 to sit at the chef’s table.

Implement differential pricing. For any product, some customers are willing to pay more than others. Differential pricing involves offering tactics that identify and offer discounts to price sensitive customers by using hurdles, customer characteristics, selling characteristics, and selling strategy tactics. For example, customers who look out for, cut out, organize, carry, and then redeem coupons are demonstrating (jumping a hurdle) that low prices are important to them.

Use pricing tactics to complete your customer puzzle. Companies should think of their potential customer base as a giant jigsaw puzzle. Each new pricing tactic adds another customer segment piece to the puzzle. Normal Norman’s buy at full price (value-based price), Noncommittal Nancys come for leases (pricing plans), High-end Harrys buy the top-of-the-line (versions), and Discount Davids are added by offering 10% off on Tuesday promotions (differential pricing). Starting with a value-based price, employing pick-a-plan, versioning, and differential pricing tactics adds the pricing related segments necessary to complete a company’s potential customer puzzle. Offering consumers pricing choices generates growth and increases profits.

Since pricing is an underutilized strategy, it is fertile ground for new profits. The beauty of focusing on pricing is that many concepts are straightforward to implement and can start producing profits almost immediately.

What better pricing windfall can your company start reaping tomorrow morning?

Rafi Mohammed, Ph.D is the author of The 1% Windfall: How Successful Companies Use Price to Profit and Grow (HarperBusiness).  He has been working on pricing issues for the last 20 years.  Rafi Mohammed is the founder of Culture of Profit LLC, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company that consults with businesses to help develop and improve their pricing strategy. He also holds the title of Batten Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business (in residence, Spring 2001). A frequent commentator on pricing issues to the print media, Rafi has also made prime time appearances on CNBC as an expert pricing commentator.  He is an economics graduate of Boston University, the London School of Economics & Political Science, and Cornell University (Ph.D.).

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Alex Friedman, P’cheen International Bistro & Pub

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

This profile article excerpted from: From Classic to Casual
Restaurant Forum, September 2010
By Jaymi Curley

GOING GASTRO WITH GUSTO
Gastropubs have lit up the scene in the past few years, offering diners upscale fare in a casual atmosphere without breaking the bank. But in 2005, the concept of fancier food in a bar setting was virtually unheard of in Georgia. P’cheen International Bistro & Pub in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood of Atlanta was one of the first of its kind in the city, and it’s still going strong five years later.

Chef Alex Friedman, co-owner and chef at P’cheen, does not see a fine dining background and a casual restaurant as mutually exclusive. “To use the term ‘upscale’ versus ‘casual’ is to miscommunicate what we are doing here. Because the main difference between [fine dining] cuisine and mine is that their portions are smaller. Their plates may be more expensive, their wine glasses may be made of fine crystal, or they may have an army of servers circling around you at all times, but the quality of food at P’cheen is just as good and maybe even better than some fine-dining restaurants in Atlanta. Because I doubt most of them are making as much of their food from scratch as we are here.”

Friedman, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, began his path in the industry at just 14 years old, starting as a busboy and running the gamut of the kitchen hierarchy, until at 19, he was taken aside by the chef at the Petroleum Club, a CCA-networked private club in Evanston, Illinois. “I had worked my way all the way up to sous chef,” says Friedman, “and Chef said I had natural gift for it, but basically had two choices: I could stay there and work for him as a sous chef or I could go to culinary school. So I started applying.”

Upon graduating and working three years as a sous chef at the Biltmore Estates, Friedman moved to Atlanta, where he worked under Arnaud Michel and Jean-Frederic Perfettini at Pastis. He later transferred to the pair’s Anis Bistro in Buckhead, where he became executive chef. It was there that he met his business partner Kieran Neely, who is now co-owner of P’cheen.

In the creation of P’cheen, Friedman says he was not turning his back on his fine-dining roots, but rather creating a fusion of the quality diners expect to see in fine dining with an atmosphere that’s a more relaxing experience.

“We were trying to accomplish something at P’cheen that no one else had done,” Friedman recalls. “Although we did not realize it at the time, we were creating Atlanta’s first gastropub. We wanted to try to create an environment where there is high-quality food, but you are also breaking bread with spirits and enjoying yourself, because great food and spirits always go together.”

The move to casual dining really only came about over the past decade, following a period when the high-end, 12-course chef tastings had exploded.

“But the average person—who can’t afford to spend $300 or $400 dollars on a meal that, frankly, you walk away and you are still hungry—wanted to be able to eat high-quality food in an environment they can enjoy and relate to,” Friedman says. “Kieran and I wanted to create a place where we’d be comfortable. Where anyone—white, black, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight—could sit down, look at the menu, and find something on the menu that they can understand and enjoy.”

STAYING LOCAL AND AFFORDABLE

As a recent study reports, 70 percent of consumers say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that sources local and/or organic food for its menus. Therefore, it makes sense that the principles of local and sustainable ingredients would filter from the fine-dining arena into the casual concept restaurant. And although the trend toward local and organic food has upped the price per person for many restaurants, Friedman makes it a point to use local ingredients while also keeping the menu affordable.

“As much as we are all in this to make a living, I am also here to provide service. And where some chefs are going to say, ‘Well I can charge more for local and organic,’ I work along the lines that because we make just about everything here from scratch, I can charge the customer a little less than if I were buying things already made. I pass it on to my customers,” Friedman says, adding that keeping prices reasonable is the best way to protect the overall bottom line at P’cheen over the long term. Most items on the menu hover around the $10 mark, and nothing is over $18.

“I have had to raise my prices a little bit just like everyone else in this economy, but I want to make sure that my clientele can still afford to come in here to eat. And you are seeing a lot places shut down left and right, all over Atlanta and all over the country, because people can’t afford the prices.”

Chef Friedman uses local ingredients primarily sourced from Lazy S Ranch outside Athens, and he also has an herb garden beside the restaurant that he uses frequently as well. Everything on the menu is made from scratch, including the Potato Gnocchi Primavera, Bistro Steak a la Plancha con Chimichurri, and its Jar of Pickled Farm Fresh Veg – a mix of pickled green beans, garlic, red peppers, celery, carrots and jalapeno along with fried house pickles.

A CLASSIC EDUCATION IS STILL KEY
For whatever kind of restaurant is the ultimate goal, Chef Friedman maintains that a classic education is invaluable. “The beauty of culinary school is that it refines the skills that you learn from working in kitchens. Unless you are working under the highest caliber of fine dining chefs, you are never going to learn the real traditional way to make a stock, or what a proper brunoise or bouquet garni is,” he says. “There are the properties of a sauce, or all these great, old-school classical dishes that you may not see on menus anymore, but that are the cornerstone for the techniques you need in order to be able to cook in today’s restaurants. And you can learn the majority of it in restaurants, but you don’t learn the refined techniques like you do in culinary school.”

“Culinary school is one of those things where you get out of it what you put into it. You go through the program and really learn the techniques, get A’s across the board, graduate magna cum laude, and you’ll find yourself being chased after by the big fine dining establishments and top organizations,” Friedman says. “And I think that is the proper way to go for someone who is interested in being a chef-owner someday.”

STAFFING MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Even in a casual environment, both Friedman feels that the team members can make all the difference to both the customer and the chef-owner. Friedman’s approach to staffing is to look for people who are “committed” and willing to contribute to the success of the restaurant. “I don’t have some college kid who is thinking, I’m just here to earn a few bucks between classes and I’ll be out of here in six months when I graduate.”

Friedman helps foster a sense of unity among his employees with staff meetings where they contribute ideas to help the growth of P’Cheen. In addition, Friedman is adamant about modeling the kind of hard work and dedication he expects from his employees. “I would never presume to ask anyone who works for me to do something I am not willing to do myself. This place takes everyone to run it. If the grease trap is backed up and it needs to be emptied before a plumber can get out here, I am the first one to pull on a pair of gloves and get disgusting.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Haigwood Studios

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GRACE Award Finalists Announced

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

The Georgia Restaurant Association recently revealed the finalists for the 2010 GRACE Awards (see list below). The finalists are peer-nominated and the winners  will be announced November 14 at the GRACE Awards event to be held at the Loews Hotel Midtown.

Keynote Speaker Chef Kevin Gillespie, Executive Chef and Partner at Woodfire Grill, will highlight his connection with the local food movement. Suchita Vadlamani, co-host of Good Day Atlanta on FOX5, will serve as the Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening. Mark & Nancy Oswald, of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

This year, the GRACE Awards will feature a commitment to being Local, Sustainable & Green. Using environmentally sensitive printing, green event planning, sustainable decor, and locally sourced food & beverage, the event is a collaboration between the GRA and Green Foodservice Alliance. This will be the first black tie gala to serve as a benchmark case study for the Sustainability Division of the Department of Natural Resources.

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to long-term partner, the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

To learn more about the event, visit GRACE Awards.

2010 GRACE AWARD FINALISTS

Restaurateur of the Year
Bob Campbell – Tappan Street Restaurant Group, Taco Mac
Cathy Colasanto – Turner Food & Spirits
Niko Karatassos – Buckhead Life Restaurant Group

Industry Partner of the Year

Kathleen Ciaramello – The Coca-Cola Company
Chris Coan – Gas South
Martin Tanenbaum – Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, LLP

Distinguished Service Award
Kat Cole – Hooters and Cinnabon, Inc.
Alan LeBlanc – Max Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery
Carl Muth – Foodservice Resource Associates

The Innovator Award
Chef Ron Eyester – Rosebud
Sean Yeremyan – Gilberts Café & Bar, HOBNOB Neighborhood Tavern

Lifetime Achievement Award
Mark & Nancy Oswald, Ruth’s Chris Steak House

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Schwab Named Buckhead Diner’s Executive Chef

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Buckhead Life Restaurant Group announced that Charles Schwab is the new Executive Chef at Buckhead Diner. Schwab spent many years working in the Atlanta culinary community. He worked at Bacchanalia for over 8 years under chef/owner Anne Quatrano, whom he credits as one of the biggest influences in his career. He was also the Corporate Chef at Liberty House and Executive Chef of Blue Ridge Grill before joining the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group.

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Former GRA CEO, Ron Wolf, Joins Six Senses

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Ron Wolf, formerly CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association, recently joined Six Senses Hospitality Management Group, LLC (6SHMG), an Atlanta based foodservice consulting and development company. Wolf also works for ROSE, LLC (Restaurant Operations Service Experts), a hospitality business management and consulting company.

Wolf and fellow 6SHMG partners Michael Gainsley, and Seth Salzman  announced a development deal with Gandolfo’s and Petro’s CEO, Dan Pool.  Together, the partners will be bringing Gandolfo’s New York Delicatessen and Petro’s Chili & Chips to Metro-Atlanta.

Leading the effort will be Salzman, a founding partner of Moe’s Southwest Grill and Raving Brands.  “We plan to open multiple locations of Gandolfo’s and Petro’s in the Metro-Atlanta area as well as sub-franchised locations throughout the state” said Salzman.

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Special Treatment for Chefs and Restaurant Staff at Taste of Atlanta

Monday, September 27th, 2010

When the hard working chefs and staff need to take a break and relax, Taste of Atlanta will have a special Chef Hospitality tent sponsored by Performance Food Group and RestaurantINFORMER.com. Under the tent, Performance Food Group’s Chef Daryl Shular will provide breakfast and snacks throughout the day, while Taste of Atlanta will keep the beverages flowing.Taste of Atlanta

With more than 70 participating restaurants, Taste of Atlanta is a great opportunity for patrons to experience Atlanta’s vibrant international food scene.  For restaurateurs, it’s a great opportunity to promote to new customers and remind existing customers why they continue coming back. Taste of Atlanta continues to help restaurants “Turn Tasters to Diners” while advertising their brands in a million dollar PR and media campaign. New this year, attendees who provide cell phone numbers will receive special text promotions and offers from participating restaurants and sponsors.

This year’s festival takes place the weekend of October 23 and 24th in Midtown at Spring Street and Fifth Street.

Want VIP treatment and really see what it’s all about? VIP ticket holders will enjoy a special tasting of wines, craft beers and cocktails.  Additionally, VIPs can join a diverse selection of educational food and beverage seminars led by Gil Kulers, Bob Townsend and other top industry professionals.

For more information, visit TasteofAtlanta.com

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Barberitos Reports Growth in Sales

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Barberitos Franchising, Inc., is reporting sales growth in both the first and second quarters of 2010 and in comparison to 2009 sales figures. The quick service restaurant franchise has 22 locations in four states.

The positive earnings are demonstrated by a 5.61% increase in same-store sales from first quarter to second quarter in 2010. In addition, same-store increases from second quarter of 2009 to second quarter of 2010 are up 3.09%.

While not included in the figures, Barberitos has added two locations in the last ten months. The franchise company’s first metro Atlanta location opened in Roswell, Georgia, in December of 2009 and a location in Savannah, Georgia opened in May, 2010.

System wide sales have increased by 9.53% from the same period a year ago with 80% of locations seeing increases.

“We’re glad to see positive numbers but we know we still have potential to grow as a company,”  says Founder and CEO Downing Barber. “There are markets we are looking to enter as well as expand.”

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The Great Chili Cook-Off

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

September 25, 2010 at Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta. For more information, visit www.stonemountainpark.com

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Share Our Strength’s Great American Dine Out

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

September 21–28, 2010 various locations throughout Atlanta. For more information, visit  www.strength.org

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