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Archive for November, 2010

Cabbagetown Chomp and Stomp

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

November (exact date TBD). For more information, visit www.chompandstomp.com

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Catering Boot Camp 2010

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

November 16, 2010 at the ACT Learning Center in Lawrenceville.  For more information, visit ACF Atlanta.

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4th Annual GRACE Awards Gala

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

November 14, 2010 at the Loews Atlanta Hotel.  For more information, visit Georgia Restaurant Association.

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Caketails for a Cause

Thursday, November 11th, 2010
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November 11, 2010 at Bloomingdale’s at Lenox Square in Atlanta. For more information, visit Share Our Strength.

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Les Dames d’Escoffier International’s Afternoon in the Country

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

November 7, 2010 at Serenbe in Palmetto, GA. For more information, visit www.ldeiatlanta.org

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A Changing Real Estate Landscape

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

By Christy Simo

The economy may have taken a hit over the past three years, but that doesn’t mean restaurants aren’t opening, closing and moving around as usual. Whether you are interested in opening a new concept or are a seasoned pro, the current real estate downturn may have changed the way you want to approach choosing a site for your next restaurant.

There are lots of things to consider, from what you can afford to where you want to be located, to even if you can get a loan. Still, experts note that restaurants are opening and concepts are expanding, just at a slower pace.

“There’s still lots of growth, but it’s a different kind of growth,” says Steve Josovitz, vice president and associate real estate broker for The Shumacher Group, an Atlanta-based company that specializes in site selection for regional and national restaurant and retail chains and the sale of existing restaurants and businesses. “The money is slower to come by, so that’s slowing up growth, because the borrowed money is not there.“

However, The Shumacher Group has noticed an uptick in the number of restaurants they’ve sold this year over last.

“The reason for that is that the fully equipped turnkey restaurant, for example, could be had right now for under $100,000,” he says. “It’s a great time to open a restaurant, because there’s great deals to be had. There’s a lot of empty restaurant space all throughout Georgia, and you can get it for a fraction of the price of what it would cost to build out a restaurant.”

Josovitz points to two recent purchases, both great deals in a down market.

“A Doc Greens [location] was sold to Chow Baby, and they bought a restaurant that has hoods, it has grease traps, it has the infrastructure of a restaurant, and all they have to do is come in and do cosmetic changes,” he says. “We sold a Mama Fu’s recently to Saigon Café. Saigon Café, for a fraction of the price to build out a space, can go in and technically all they have to do is different paint and cosmetics. They can be up and running in no time.”

BANKS TIGHTENING BELTS
While there are deals to be had, one of the issues slowing restaurant growth is the same as in the residential real estate market: banks are not lending as easily as in years past.

“It’s harder,” says Greg Vojnovic, vice president of development for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. “Restaurants are always one of the higher-risk opportunities, particularly independent restaurants.”

The economy has made it “easier for restaurants, although it’s harder for them to get the deals done,” he adds.

That’s especially true for small or independent restaurateurs who are not affiliated with a large franchisor.

“If they go into a local bank, they’re going to have to explain their business to a local banker,” Vojnovic says. “That banker may not understand the restaurant business, so it’s going to be hard for him to get his arms around the cash flow, whereas it’s much easier for a bank to finance an apartment complex.”

To make sure you have the best shot that you can of obtaining a lease, have all the paperwork and information prepared that a lender could potentially need to approve a loan before you set foot in the door.

“You need to prove to your lender that you’re a winner, and you have to show why you’re a winner—show them your cash flow statements,” Vojnovic says. “You have to show them, walk them through step by step, because you may know the restaurant industry intimately, but bankers look at hundreds of loan applications in different industries.”

A CHANGING GAME
The lending issue is affecting various aspects of the industry, from the decision of whether to buy or lease a space to selecting a site.

“The economy has hit [the restaurant real estate industry] pretty hard because it’s made lending very hard,” Josovitz says. “In terms of major growth, it’s been hampered because of lending. The lending has not stopped; it’s just getting harder. It’s taking much longer, and the requirements are much more stringent.”

Despite the banks tightening up loan availability, interest has picked up in available restaurant sites across the state.

“There is a definite increase in interest in new locations,” says Harold Shumacher, president and managing broker of The Shumacher Group. “The good news is we’re probably seeing more activity from bigger restaurants.”

The other piece of good news is that there is less uncertainty today than there was even a year ago.

“Nobody knew where this was going to go. Nobody knew where the bottom was,” Shumacher recalls. “Now everybody acts and feels like they’re more busy, and there seems to be more deals in the offering. And they’re bigger deals for the most part, but I think … we’re six to nine months away from seeing a solid recovery.”

However, even though the real estate industry is going through a rough patch, it does not mean restaurants can name their price.

“There’s a perception that because of the economy that every landlord and every seller is bending over backwards to give away the store,” Josovitz says. “That’s not happening.”

“What you’ll find is landlords are not willing to reduce their rates below market. What they’re willing to do is give you a rent abatement, or free rent,” says Vojnovic. “We’re telling our franchisees don’t concentrate so much on the dollar per square foot, but concentrate on the total value of the lease for the lease term. Find out what you’re getting. In other words, don’t try to knock the rent down, but try to get more abatements on the front end.”

While landlords may be looking for creative ways to entice restaurant operators into vacant properties, the other benefit of the current economy is that premium locations that may have never been available in the past may suddenly be up for lease or purchase.

“As an owner/operator, the really good deal that you’re getting is that you have the availability of getting that good piece of dirt. In this marketplace, there’s corners where out of nowhere, a business you thought would never go out becomes available,” Vojnovic says. “So while the real estate might not be at a discount, your true discount is that you’re able to get an extraordinarily strong site.”

“Because of the economy faltering, we just have more leasing opportunities and more leasing of closed restaurants for sale,” agrees Josovitz. “In terms of restaurants for sale that are really cheap, there’s some really great deals out there.”

Another event having an impact on the real estate market is the flood of people who either retired or were laid off who are interested in entering the restaurant industry.

“We’re getting more calls now than we’ve ever had in 25 years, and one of the factors for that is that there’s a lot of people out of work that have a chunk of money in the bank,” Josovitz says. “They may never get another job at the level they were at, and they realize if they don’t get a job real quickly or do something with their money, it’s going to be gone.“

BUY OR LEASE?
So should a restaurant buy or lease the space? That depends, although experts say if you have the means, purchasing the land or a building makes more financial sense.

“Owning the real estate gives you more flexibility in how you can take money in and out of the business, but it requires a greater amount of money in the business,” Shumacher says. “Most start-up restaurants generally only have enough capital to get open.”

Regardless of whether you purchase or rent the space, finding a high-quality spot is imperative. “You want to find the best piece of possible real estate because you’re committing all of your investment into that piece of dirt,” Vojnovic says. “You can’t take it with you.”

And if for some reason, you need to or must close or move your business, you have a piece of real estate that will be in demand. “If you have a really bad site, it’s hard to find somebody else to take it,” Vojnovic says. “But if you have a really good site, there’s going to be interest and value. People are going to want to take over that site.”

Another reason to consider purchasing the space is that what’s low rent today could become the hot area of town tomorrow.

“We always encourage people to buy the real estate if possible, because in 15 years you’re going to own a physical asset, whereas if you’re paying a lease, you don’t own anything,” Vojnovic says. “Really the only difference is you have to come up with a down payment. In 15 years, you’re negotiating a renewal on your lease, and they’re going to [raise] your rent because real estate is going to be worth a lot more in 15 years.”

Even if you do not have the capital to purchase real estate or the property is for lease and not for sale, still look for the best piece of property you can find.

“You really raise your money through the restaurant; you’re not a real estate developer,” says Vojnovic. “So it’s a preference, but don’t just pass on a deal because you can’t own real estate.”

CHOOSING YOUR SITE
So what makes a site the best place to locate your restaurant?

“That’s like saying what makes a girl pretty,” Shumacher says. Still, he notes that there are a few basics no matter where you are located within the state. “The simple ones are visibility, access and presence. You know where it is—can you get in and out, and can you see it? Those are the basics.”

“The fundamentals for all real estate are linked to two primary components,” agrees Vojnovic. “No. 1 is the quality of the trade area, and the second is the quality of the physical piece of real estate.”

Vojnovic notes that you don’t always find places that have both components, but you need to have at least one.

“You can have a weak trade area if you have a very strong piece of real estate, or you can have a weak piece of realty but a great trade area,” he says. “But what you absolutely cannot do is have a weak trade area and a weak piece of real estate. That’s the challenge in this marketplace most people are encountering.”

The other main factor in determining if a space is ideal for your concept is the rental rate and other extra charges a shopping center or landlord will charge you.

“There’s a certain percentage of what your sales have to be to cover rent. Normally around 10% of your sales should be rent and no more,” Josovitz says.

Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges can also sneak up on you and make your monthly payment cost prohibitive.

“The problem is that you might have CAM charges anywhere from $3.50 a square foot to up to $10 a square foot,” Josovitz says. “They may give an attractive rental rate, but your CAM charges are so high that it will take your rental factor up really, really high. You also have to factor in the taxes and the real estate insurance. Some places have association fees, then you have to factor in your fixed costs—utilities, workers compensation and licenses.

“The successful person really has to budget and know what they can afford in rent,” he adds. “When you know that, that’s when it makes you much more educated when you’re looking for a space. It really takes the guesswork out of what you can afford, and that will also ensure your success a lot more.”

Lastly, consider the time and cost it will take to build out a raw space vs. converting an existing restaurant space.

“In this marketplace, there’s a lot of opportunities to take over failed locations and do conversions,” Vojnovic says. “What you have to do is look at that—why did it fail? Did it fail because the operator was poor, or did it fail because it was in a poor trade area or poor real estate?“

“There’s a great appeal right now in the marketplace for buying an existing restaurant business or leasing a fully equipped space, or one that was a restaurant—we call that second-generation restaurant space,” Josovitz agrees. “At a minimum, a second-generation restaurant space would probably have the structure of a restaurant, which would include the exhaust hoods, the kitchen, grease traps. It would have HVAC systems. It would be set up so all you have to do is do some cosmetic work, add your furniture fixtures and equipment, and you could be open in a fraction of the time it would take to build out a space from scratch.”

No matter how the market plays out over the next few years, don’t wait too long to sign that lease or purchase that space.

“It’s like having kids. There’s no good time to have kids, but people have kids,” Shumacher says. “There’s no perfect time to open a restaurant. But there is a time when you say, you know, it’s time to jump in.”

“Good real estate is still good real estate,” agrees Vojnovic. “In this economy, the smarter survive. The goal is to leave as strong as possible with the best possible real estate.”

For more information on restaurant real estate in Georgia, click to read Tip Jar: Expert Tips for Navigating the Real Estate World.

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Tasting Oktoberfest

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

By Harry Haff, CEC, CCA, AC(C)

Bavarian traditions have been warmly embraced by Americans looking for an excuse for a good food and drink festival, and with craft brewers and brewpubs looking to create their own updated individualized versions of a classic beer style, Oktoberfest holds a special place in the hearts and stomachs of American beer and food lovers.

The beer that we know as Oktoberfestbier changed along with the festival itself. In Bavaria, which has warm, humid summers, beer brewed in the summer would often sour. This was because wild yeasts were used for fermentation, and during fermentation there would often be unwelcome visitors in the form of bacteria and some not so friendly yeast strains. In an effort to control this situation, brewers would cease brewing around the end of March or April when the weather started to warm up. Massive amounts of beer would be brewed that could be stored in cellars that were insulated and packed with ice, or would be trucked up into the ice caves in the Bavarian Alps to be drawn down as needed.

So pronounced was this issue of beer spoilage that in the Reinheitsgebot, or beer purity law of 1516, beer could be brewed only between St. Michael’s Day, September 29, and St. George’s Day, April 23.

In an effort to protect the beer, brewers could make high-gravity beers, which produces a higher alcohol content than normal. This creates a more sterile environment that prevents the harmful bacteria from ruining the beer. (High-gravity beers are those that incorporate large amounts of malt and actually make the beer heavier than a regular beer. High-gravity beers can actually have alcohol contents higher than some traditional German wines.)

This traditional beer is known as Märzen, i.e. brewed in the month of March. The traditional Märzen was made with dark roasted malt and lots of it, which resulted in a full-bodied beer with an almost mahogany color. Because of the dark malting, it has a somewhat sweet taste profile without a heavy dose of hops. With notes of spice and caramel, with just a touch of bitterness perceived rather than tasted, this is a complex, rewarding beer, not to be swilled but to be enjoyed and savored by itself or with a wide variety of good food. Despite the dark malting and richness of the texture, the lingering effect of most Märzen beers is one, after all is said and done, of dryness on the palette.

For most breweries what is now called Märzen is more akin to a style of beer known as Vienna Lager, or Vienna Export. In most English speaking countries, Oktoberfest and Märzen are synonymous.

Here are some reviews of readily available Oktoberfest-Märzen beers:

Ayinger Oktoberfest-Märzen: From one of the last remaining family breweries in Bavaria comes this authentic amber-colored brew. Pronounced flavors of grain, caramel, yeast, earth and a carbonation that is plentiful yet refined. Lots of subtle complexities here, from the almost beige-colored foam at the top to the lingering finish that may remind one of autumn leaves on the ground in its earthiness. Sweet, dry, earthy, a hint of fruit and a little pinch of hops. This beer is medium bodied; its spice and caramel notes makes it a great partner for fresh and smoked sausages, braised cabbage with apples and allspice and almost any type of braised, cool weather foods such as sauerbraten, Yankee Pot Roast, Texas BBQ Brisket and Osso Bucco.

Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest-Märzen: From this brewery, one of the largest, comes a beer that is marked by an amber or burnt orange hue with a pale foam that goes the distance and does not disappear. The body leaves great-looking rings on the glass as the beer goes down with tastes of bread, malt, brown sugar and yeast. One of the lightest of the brews, it’s a good choice for some grilled foods, such as tuna, swordfish and all kinds of poultry.

Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen: A color of deep burnt copper with carbonation reminiscent of bubbles in fine champagne. The foam is light beige/cream color that lasts the length of the glass full. Caramel, grainy, malty, a touch of hoppiness leads to a smooth, well-balanced feel on the palate with a sweet yet dry finish. Easy and smooth drinking for afternoon sipping or with lighter charcuterie and smoked seafood or pan-seared trout with brown butter.

Spaten Oktoberfestbier-Ur Märzen: The word Ur in German means original or primal. From the brewery that makes one of the most flavorful full-bodied Bavarian lagers come a Festbier that is easy to drink and not overly filling. Not as complex on the nose or palette as some others but a good example of a Vienna lager-style Oktoberfestbier.

Sam Adams Octoberfest: Striking amber color with a light-colored head that stays the course. The flavor is like ordering up a taste of fall with sweet spices, baked apples, caramel, autumn leaves, yeast and malted grain. Medium carbonation and well balanced with a dry finish in contrast to the sweet notes on the nose and palate. Tough finding food this good.

Brooklyn Oktoberfest Beer: One of the lager-style brews with a nice amber color and light to medium body. Subdued aromas of malt and grain with a palette of caramel and a touch of smokiness that comes and goes and makes you want another taste. Goes great with any grilled meats so long as there is not a heavy, sticky sauce.

This is the time of year for these vibrant autumn colors and flavor. Try a sampling to find your favorite. The beers above are readily available in bottles and some are available on draft.

Have fun and enjoy. Prossit! Cheers!

The History of Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest is not old in terms of European history. It is generally accepted that the first true Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. For the wedding, which was celebrated Oct. 18, 1810, in Munich, the Prince pulled out all the stops. In a large meadow now called Theresienwiese (Therese’s meadow) in honor of the new bride, there was a festive horse race and a general celebration. The “tradition” only lasted one year, however, as it was inconveniently interrupted by the war Napoleon started.

The event resumed in 1816 as an arts fair where skilled craftsmen could show and sell their wares. But in 1819, the civic leaders of Munich decided to make it an annual event. In the course of doing this, the fest expanded to around eight days and the actual date for the Oktoberfest was moved to September, which is one of the warmest and sunniest months in Bavaria.

In 1835 as part of the fest, there was a parade to commemorate the Crown Prince’s 1810 wedding. The parade, which today reportedly has an impressive 8,000 people dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing, became an integral part of the event and continues today.

Since 1835 the event has been held on a yearly basis with interruptions for the occasional epidemic, the Franco-Prussian War, the Austro-Prussian War, and World Wars I and II.

Since 1950, there has been a grand opening ceremony where a wooden keg is tapped and the festivities begin. By the 1960s, the fest had become an international event. As might be expected, with such a large event things can get a little rowdy. Some attendees who have a few too many and end up blindingly drunk are affectionately known as Bierleichen, which is translated as beer corpses.

For more moderation-minded people, the event is a treasured family gathering. The music during the day is more traditional oom-pah-pah, with the louder contemporary music beginning after dark. There is plenty of traditional food, amusement rides and lots of great beer.

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Tip Jar: Expert Tips for Navigating the Real Estate World

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

This article is excerpted from: A Changing Real Estate Landscape
Restaurant Forum, October 2010
By Christy Simo

Make a good impression. “When you approach the landlord, you only have one shot to make an impression,” says Greg Vojnovic, vice president of development for Popeyes. “So your first approach needs to be a professional approach. Gather the paperwork that the landlord is going to be looking for, things like 2 years of PNLs on your business, your personal financial statements, a business plan. So when you go in, you have your act together. Be professional and be prepared.”

Hire a professional
. “We strongly encourage all of our franchisees to have a very good, professional tenant rep broker,” Vojnovic says. “Use somebody that specializes in the restaurant business, who knows what’s going on. Because in the negotiation, the landlord has all the power and all the knowledge. They have leverage, because in their trade area they know exactly how much every other shopping center is charging for rent, and you don’t. Your real estate professional will know, and he’ll know the deal terms of the marketplace. You need to have somebody on your side.”

Crunch the numbers. “Analyze your budget and your needs, and see where your rent needs to be,” says Steve Josovitz, vice president and associate real estate broker for The Shumacher Group. “So that when you negotiate for the space, your negotiating from the start what that rents going to be. That’s the most important thing that small business owners have to really understand. You have to crunch numbers, and if you don’t know how to do that, then you really need to hire a professional CPA that specializes in restaurants or work with a restaurant consultant professional to really understand the rent factor in expenses and what it takes.”

Know your market. “Do the research. Study the demographics, the car counts, really intimately know the market that you want to be in,” Josovitz says. “That’s really important.”

Find sites with visibility and access
. “Always choose visibility over access, but ideally you want both of them,” Vojnovic says. “For access – how hard is it to turn into the parking lot? Can you drive straight into the shopping center, or do you have to make a u-turn or drive down a frontage road? If they can’t see you, how are they going to figure out that you are there? Visibility is critical. You want to make sure you’re not below grade, because if you’re below grade it’s hard for them to see your business. You want to be two or three feet above grade because that increases visibility to people in cars.

Ignore the deal. “Look at the real estate itself, don’t look at the deal,” Vojnovic says. “If you’re looking at a conversion, ignore the conversion first. Look at the real estate on its own.”

Be prepared to grow slowly. “You have to be prepared to pay their rental rate,” Josovitz says. “You could out of the box hit it big, have lines out the door and be very successful. But you might have a period of growth over the first year. So you have to be prepared. What happens for a lot of people is that honeymoon period in the beginning is sometimes not a honeymoon when no one’s walking through the door and you’re paying above market rent and you’re paying out of pocket every month from your personal savings account to pay rent. And that hurts.”

Factor the cost of opening your doors
. “There’s a lot of factors within the restaurant that have to be determined prior to signing a lease. There’s no guarantee that your current grease trap is marginal or that your kitchen floor is acceptable to the health department,” Josovitz says. “You have to take into account a dollar amount of money that you’re going to have to spend to open the doors.”

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Antico Pizza Napoltana Wins Italian Authority’s “Top in Class” Award

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Festa Della Pizza in Salerno, Italy, a worldwide, two-day festival, chose Antico Pizza to receive its Top in Class award for the United States.  The organization’s Top in Class honor is bestowed among certified entities the world over that best represent the Italian region’s flavors, colors and traditions.

Furthermore, Antico has obtained the European Commission’s Traditional Specialties Guaranteed certification for Neopolitan pizza, given by the Instituto Mediterraneo di Certificazione. IMCERT is the institution for the certification of agricultural and food quality, and it awards the STG certification to restaurants committed to preparing only the best and most quintessential Italian Neopolitan pizza.  As a certified pizzeria, Antico uses authentic ingredients, including Molino San Felice, one of the designated Italian flours for STG certification.

“To even be considered to receive this award – the highest international pizza certification for the United States – from Italy is a tremendous honor for me and my family. This recognition for pizza in Naples is like winning an Oscar in Hollywood.” said owner Giovanni Di Palma.

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Roast: Klaskala, Quatrone, Rathbun

Monday, November 1st, 2010

November 1, 2010 at the Atlanta Community Food Bank.  For more information, visit www.ACFB.org/ROAST

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