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Archive for June, 2012

New Foodservice Trade Exposition to Serve Georgia and the Southeast

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Atlanta Foodservice Expo, a trade show serving the Restaurant, Foodservice and Hospitality Industry in Georgia and the Southeast. will premiere in fall 2013. The show, which will be held annually at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, is supported by the Georgia Restaurant Association. The inaugural Expo is scheduled for October 20-22, 2013.

As part of the event, a comprehensive educational program will be available to attendees at no extra cost. Additionally some high-level conference programming will be offered at reduced costs to members of supporting organizations. Live demonstrations from renowned Chefs and Restaurateurs will add value each day of the three-day event.

“Our members have been asking for a trade show like this for years,” said Georgia Restaurant Association Executive Director Karen Bremer. “That’s why we are so pleased to support the Foodservice Expo in Atlanta.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, there are more than 90,000 foodservice establishments in Georgia and the surrounding states, producing more than $80 billion in sales and 2.2 million jobs, with more than 35,000 of those establishments within just 200 miles of Atlanta.

“This trade show is an opportunity for our industry to come together,” said Bremer. “Through education, commerce and fellowship we strengthen not just individual businesses, but Georgia’s foodservice industry as a whole.”

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Inaugural GRA Golf Invitational

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

June 26th, 2012 at Ansley Golf Club, Settindown Creek. For more information, visit the Georgia Restaurant Association.

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GRA Annual Meeting

Monday, June 25th, 2012

June 25, 2012. For more information, visit Georgia Restaurant Association.

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Marlow’s Tavern Makes Its Dunwoody Debut on July 31

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Sterling Hospitality is set to open the company’s ninth location of Marlow’s Tavern on Tuesday, July 31, in Dunwoody.

The Marlow’s Tavern menu was created by Executive Chef and Co-founder John C. Metz Jr. The new Marlow’s Tavern seats up to 130 and its interior features exposed brick walls, dark wood accents, large leather booths, communal tables and a fully covered patio.

The team behind the Marlow’s Tavern concept includes Metz, who earned his degree at the Culinary Institute of America and began his career at restaurants in New York such as The 21 Club, Tribeca Grill and Montrachet; Partner and Co-Founder Richard E. Rivera, who is president of Rubicon Enterprises LLC, a Florida-based restaurant development company, and has more than 30 years of experience in the industry; Market Partner Hank Clark, who is responsible for supervising the day-to-day operations of Marlow’s Tavern and has partnered with Metz since 2001 after working for Darden Restaurants and Brinker International; and Alan Palmieri, the newest market partner, who brings more than 37 years of restaurant industry experience to the company and was previously the executive vice president of operations in the Specialty Restaurant Group of Darden Restaurants, Inc.

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Burger 21 Kicks Off Atlanta Expansion Effort

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Burger 21, a new fast casual concept founded by the owners of The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc., recently announced  that it has signed a two-unit franchise deal in Atlanta, as it targets Atlanta as a growth market and opens additional territories for development in the area.

Corley and Meg Steward have signed an agreement to open two Burger 21 locations in the North Alpharetta and Buford/Mall of Georgia areas. This deal comes on the heels of two signed deals for a total of three franchised units in Orlando, Fla., inked earlier this year.

Last fall, the company launched an aggressive growth strategy to bring its crafted burger creations and hand-dipped signature shakes to more cities across the U.S.

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Ted’s Promotes Marketing and HR Leaders

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Ted’s Montana Grill has announced the promotions of Jessica Smith to senior director of marketing and Laura Grunwald to director of HR (human resources).

As senior director of marketing, Smith, who joined the company in 2008 as director of marketing, now oversees and directs all marketing initiatives. Her 12 years of marketing and advertising experience have involved extensive work with the restaurant industry, including clients such as Atlanta Bread Company, Canoe Restaurant and Church’s Chicken during her time as senior account executive at Scharbo & Company/Match, Inc. and account executive at Carat USA.

Grunwald has worked in the HR department at Ted’s Montana Grill for 10 years since the company’s founding in 2002. She previously served as HR manager and HR assistant. In her new position as director of HR, Grunwald is instrumental in the restaurant company’s continued focus and success in employee relations, compensation and benefits, and HR processes and procedures.

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South Georgia Farm to be Honored for Setting National Farming Standards

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

In July, White Oak Pastures is slated to receive a 2012 American Treasures Award from MADE: In America for setting farming standards nationally. The award will be bestowed on White Oak Pastures President and Fourth-Generation Cattleman Will Harris in honor of his leadership and dedication to sustainability and stewardship of the land, which fosters a unique all-American craft and tradition.

American Treasures Award winners are  selected and vetted by a national advisory committee consisting of individuals with relevant subject matter expertise. A special congressional honorary steering committee supports the initiative. The awards help foster a business climate conducive to the free exchange of ideas and information for the purpose of revitalizing and sustaining the competitiveness of American commerce and industry in a global economy.

White Oak Pastures is the largest certified organic farm in Georgia and one of only two on-farm, USDA-inspected, grass-fed beef plants in the country. The farm is also home to the largest solar barn in the Southeast, and the system provides for large amounts of hot water for sanitation and equipment cleansing. White Oak Pastures also just introduced a new USDA-inspected poultry plant to process free-range chickens and turkeys. This facility is the only on-farm poultry processing facility in the states of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi. White Oak Pastures’ poultry receives a Step 5 rating from the Global Animal Partnership, and the processing plant is Animal Welfare Approved. Both the grass-fed beef and poultry plants are zero waste operations.

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Moving from Quick Serve to Self Serve

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

By Ellen Hartman

It all started in 1958 in Omaha, Neb. — with the first gas station to offer self-service at the gas pump. Today, the self-service trend has fundamentally changed behavior in nearly every aspect of our lives. We go to the ATM instead of a bank teller. William Shatner buys our airline tickets via priceline.com. We print our own movie tickets for the next blockbuster hit, find our own book titles, never have to ask for directions.

Self-service at restaurants, however, seems counterintuitive. We don’t want to cook – that’s why we’re at the restaurant. However, the demand for self-service ordering is growing as customers adopt the technology that allows the service to work. Smart restaurateurs are meeting the demand. Approximately 25 percent of restaurants that offer delivery and takeout are using some form of self-service ordering, according to a recent study by Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, “The Current State of Online Food Ordering in the U.S. Restaurant Industry.”

What is Self-service Ordering?

Also called online ordering, self-service ordering allows customers to view a restaurant’s menu, select a convenient location, custom-build their order, prepay with a credit card or gift card, and schedule their own pickup time – all from their smartphone or computer.
Restaurants can offer online ordering through their own website, through a multi-restaurant site such as  GrubHub, through a mobile app, via text or through Facebook. According to the Cornell study, the most commonly used platform for ordering is online at the restaurant’s website, which makes sense since the Internet has become the No. 1 decision tool for deciding where to eat. However, as phones become smarter, developers expect ordering via mobile phones to outpace online orders.

Noah Glass, founder of  Online Ordering (www.olo.com), which provides online ordering platforms for more than 150 top restaurant operators, has seen significant growth in the number of brand-specific mobile applications offered and used. For example, his company saw approximately two app orders Today, OLO’s brands average five app orders for every one mobile web order.

Benefits

The Cornell study reported that restaurants that adopted online ordering saw a substantial increase in order frequency and volume, increased customer satisfaction and more targeted marketing. Let’s examine each.

1. Increase order frequency. With 17 locations in Georgia,  Cold Stone Creamery was the first national ice cream concept to launch online ordering for its ice cream cakes. Jana Schneider, director of marketing, reported a big jump in frequency of cake orders since they launched online ordering in early 2011, and the site already has more than 55,000 customers. Schneider is hopeful that the chain’s mobile ordering service, which launched in October 2011, will grow by an even greater multiple.

“Our mobile site has been a successful addition to our online ordering program,” Schneider says.  “It was created so that Cold Stone customers – like busy moms and dads – can order a cake anytime, from anywhere and never miss celebrating an occasion with a Cold Stone Cake.”

2. Increase order volume.  According to the Cornell study, the real boost in online selling comes from volume. On average, about a third (29.1 percent) of operators reported an increase in order volume, and another 32.3 percent indicated that they had experienced both increased sales volume and increased service.

Study respondents reported a bump in catering of about 14 percent, and self-service ordering makes group orders a snap. For example, Bullritos, a burrito chain that recently opened its first Georgia location in Covington, uses a platform that allows customers to order with a group using Facebook. Customers invite friends or co-workers to order as a group through a status update. The invitees click on the link posted in the status update and check off their favorite lunch items from the restaurant’s menu. The invitees items are then added to a group order, the order is submitted online and – voila! – lunch for the office.

3. Increase average check size. Noah Glass of OLO also reports an increase in average check size among his client list, which includes such large chains as Sonic and Subway as well as smaller, regional chains. Glass estimates that most of his clients see a 25 percent jump in average check size. He attributes the increase to the ease of ordering and suggestive selling logic built into OLO’s software.

“When customers order from their smartphone or computer, they can go at their own pace,” Glass says.‘If dining in, they are not pressured by a long line or impatient cashier. If calling in an order, they are not left waiting on hold or struggling to communicate order details to a busy employee. So they order everything they really want.”

4. Increase marketing RI. A recent study by BIA/Kelsey found that 97 percent of customers use the Internet when researching local buying decisions. However, with nearly infinite ways to find a restaurant – Google, Facebook, Citysearch, Yelp, Foursquare, Twitter, etc. – it can be tough for an operator to stand out.

Online ordering cuts through the noise. When a customer clicks on a restaurant’s branded ordering site, he or she is transported from on-the-couch-searching-the-web to first-in-line-at-the-register, ready to order up their lunch, dinner or late-night snack. Furthermore, when a customer places an order through the self-service ordering platform, they are offered a chance to opt in for the restaurant’s email database program, so savvy marketers can target customers with just-right promotions.

How To Get Started

First, consider your total number of units. Ten or less? Market-leader GrubHub allows operators to post menus and locations on its platform, easily searchable by its customers in 75 major cities and 300 college campuses across the U.S.  Customers use the GrubHub platform, but the orders (and revenue) come to you. For operators with 10 or more locations, providers like OLO can build a customized online ordering website for your brand.

Second, consider your point of sale. Tad Phelps, vice president of sales for Atlanta-based NCR Hospitality, recommends choosing a self-service ordering system that integrates seamlessly with your POS system.

“Pick a solution that integrates tightly with your POS system,” says Phelps, whose company develops software applications for both quick-service and table-service format. “It’s also important to look for a solution that also offers more than just ordering. A good system will offer integration to customer loyalty programs and gift card redemptions and provide for the ability to gauge customer feedback.”

If you are a small operator without a sophisticated POS system, you can still get into the self-service action. Companies like OLO offer online ordering software that can run on any Windows-based machine, including a personal computer.

Last but not least, start making a return on your investment. In the Cornell study, half of respondents said that the ROI of online ordering was exceeding their expectations, and another 45.5 percent said that it had met their expectations for ROI. Add it up? Nearly 100 percent of restaurants polled believed online ordering was worth it.

 

Ellen Hartman is president and CEO of Hartman Public Relations, LLC, a full- service public relations agency specializing in the foodservice industry. Hartman and her team have experience working for full service brands such as Chili’s, Huddle House and Olive Garden, fast casual brands such as Cosi, and many QSR brands including Popeyes, Church’s, and Arby’s. An industry leader for more than 20 years, Hartman is a frequent speaker at industry events, is active in the Women’s Foodservice Forum and Les Dames d’Escoffier International and has served on the board of the Multi- Cultural Foodservice Hospitality Alliance.

 

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Owner’s Roundtable: A Taste of Changing Trends at 5 Seasons

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

By Christy Simo

The past few years have been challenging for restaurants, and 2012 is shaping up to be no different. From the ripple effects of the recent immigration law to the skyrocketing food costs this past spring, the restaurant industry continues to adjust to new challenges.

Restaurant Informer recently sat down at 5 Seasons Brewing Company in Sandy Springs with several industry veterans to talk about these hot topics and more.

Participants were: David Larkworthy, owner of 5 Seasons Brewing Company, which has three locations throughout metro Atlanta; George Frangos, co-owner of Decatur-based Farm Burger, which recently celebrated its second anniversary and opened a second location in Buckhead; Archna Becker, co-owner of Bhojanic in Decatur that is also opening a second location later this year in Buckhead; and Ron Eyester, owner and chef at Rosebud and The Family Dog in Atlanta.

Following are edited highlights of the conversation.

What are some issues you’ve encountered over the past year?

George: [The immigration law] has created so much needless paperwork. I don’t know about you guys, but every license I do, a citizen before I get my tax license and my business license and my alcohol license.

Archna: And a lot of the licenses have gone up a lot. I looked at my numbers, and I spent $100,000 for one location for just permits. This isn’t payroll taxes. The City of Atlanta, DeKalb County, federal. It’s just so much stuff.

David: It’s the same way for us. If we have a party out here (on the patio), we have to have a separate license for here, because it’s a separate facility, and we have to have a separate license for the second bar because it’s a separate bar.

Archna: When I look at it monthly or quarterly, and even annually, it’s so much money. Every year it’s increasing. I got a permit expediter this time. We will never deal [directly] with the government again because of these problems. There’s no system.

Ron: You would think some of these government agencies would embrace the fact that people are trying to start new businesses that are going to generate more tax revenue and jobs.

How do you find an expediter?

George: Some are law firms, some are people who used to work in the government and know how it works, so they can help you move everything through better.

Archna: It helps because you don’t have to wait in line. You could open up today, get the paperwork signed, and it’s done. Wher as if you went yourself, it would take 3 months. It’s way better to do that, if you can afford it. You can’t afford them in the beginning though.

How has the immigration issue affected your restaurant?

David: There aren’t enough employees available for the positions. We have positions open at all the restaurants, we’ve taken out ads, and we’ve had very little response. There are fewer applicants.

George: I’ve seen a little bit of what they call reverse immigration. We’ve had some people who have gone back, or they go to Florida, Alabama or Tennessee or someplace else. Sometimes it’s their spouse or uncle that causes them to leave, rather than themselves.

Are you doing anything as far as employee retention with your staff?

David: We offer shift beers. There are some people who have been here for 12 years.

Archna: I feel like the level of people who come to work with little experience and no education, they just expect so much from a job. They expect it should be given to them.

David: You can blame the Food Network for some of that.

Ron: That’s one of the challenges of being an owner, is that you have to step back and realize that not every one of your employees is going to reflect the level of ownership that you do. When I worked for Food 101 and I was just a sous chef, and I would occasionally touch tables in the dining room. Some people would be like, “Are you the owner?”

Archna: No, its because I care about my work, and I care about my place.

Ron: Exactly. I used that as a building block. I had a level of ambition where I knew where I wanted to go. And yet, every day we have to motivate people who don’t see it as a big deal.

George: The best thing that we can do is to just get rid of [bad employees]. We don’t have patience for them in the long run, because they can infect like a cancer your whole staff. Everybody gets unmotivated. “Why should I try if he’s not?”

Archna: That is so true. It pulls everybody down.

George: As an owner and a manager, it’s up to us to do our best to keep that apathy from being there.

Food costs keep going up. How are you adapting to that?

Ron: Nothing ever goes down. Thankfully, I’m the owner. If I was just the chef, I would be fired, because my food costs are brutal.

Archna: How do you deal with that and the end user? Do you just raise prices every so often? That’s something that I’m dealing with now.

Ron: I’m trying to learn better how to utilize every part. Trying to utilize byproducts. Food costs just aren’t a pretty situation.

David: And we use local, sustainable products.

George: We do, too. It’s our choice to, but it’s expensive.

Archna: We use a lot of lentils and things like that, but since 2008 when the crash happened, we haven’t been able to raise our prices. Things have doubled and tripled, things like chapati flour, things we don’t charge for.

So do you pass that on to the customer in the menu price?

Archna: When 2008 happened, we were about to get a new menu with new pricing. And we were like, we can’t do this now. Then we remodeled in 2010, and we said, if we do it now, they’re going to say, oh you remodeled, now you’re charging us more. So we didn’t do it then. So this week we’re getting a new menu out. It’s not a lot. Lunches are still $7.50 to $12.50. It’s not crazy, but we just added 50 cents or 75 cents to different things. But the disposables are out of control. Our to-go plate that is a meat and two vegetables, you don’t want it all over the plate. You want it in a nice container, and we don’t use styrofoam. It’s like $120 a case.

Ron: Yeah, that’s why I don’t do to-go food at The Family Dog.

Archna: But we do so much to-go food, we lose out if we don’t offer it. So if you want a to-go platter, we charge 75 cents a plate. It still costs me a dollar, but we charge you 75 cents.

David: If it’s $1, you need to charge them $2.25.

Archna: But I can’t. People will start complaining.

George: For us, everybody wants gluten-free buns. We sell gluten-free buns, and we make a nickel. It costs us like, $1.30 for each bun, and we do an upcharge of like, $1.35. Because people aren’t going to pay an extra $3.60 for a gluten-free bun.

David: On Mondays, we do all gluten-free specials. We also do a lot of organic stuff. So a lot of people with special dietary needs come here. They say I can’t have this or I can’t have that, and it’s good. It’s good for the kitchen to challenge them. It’s good for everybody to stay on top of their game and provide people with a wholesome meal. But at the same time, it’s a really small percentage.

Archna: It’s also hard for the kitchen to execute when it’s slammed. And then the servers have to be educated. They can’t just say “Oh this is gluten-free.” It could kill someone. Then a blogger comes in and writes about how you gave the wrong information. That’s not good.

How do you guys handle that now? It’s not just food critics, it’s bloggers and people on Yelp and Twitter.

Ron: I started the Angry Chef (@theangrychef). Honestly, for some people, it’s like they came to this realization that they have the ability to get in the car and go eat a meal, and they have a computer, so now they’re a food writer. But I think people think twice now before they post, because I will respond to a guest.

Archna: Do you respond to everyone?

Ron: Oh, absolutely. I will respond in a very professional and sincere manner. I respond to all reviews, whether they’re good or bad. Obviously it’s a lot easier to respond to good reviews. We have to manage our staff and all those different personalities, and then you have to deal with your guests, and now you have this other different demographic, like these cyber guests. At least twice a week I go on Yelp and OpenTable and read the reviews on there.

Archna: Some of them are good. I learn a lot from them.

Ron: Yeah, it’s useful because there definitely are a lot of valid comments.

George: I don’t choose to respond in a public forum. I don’t want that public back and forth. If there’s a way that I can get that person’s email, I’ll respond to them. What I think it’s done is it’s taken away the person’s common sense just to talk to the manager.

What about Living Social, Groupon and Scout Mob — do you participate in these?

Ron: I was the first person to do ScoutMob. I didn’t hate it. One thing I like about ScoutMob is I think they have very good branding. The way they engage with their clients, they take the time to invest in their clientele the way I do mine. So I can appreciate the symmetry there. The newest thing that they’re going after, it’s called the hand-pick. It’s not a discount necessarily. It’s like an offer that’s exclusive. And here’s the good thing. You get to cultivate and create what you really want to do.

Archna: What do you think about Groupon? I did it, and we had a lot of positive answers.

George: We never did it because there was never any restrictions in terms of days and times. I don’t need 500 people coming in on a Saturday night giving me nothing. What I don’t like is sales people who say, look how much money you’re going to make off of this deal. I’m like, well you didn’t factor in food costs, labor costs, china costs, linen costs. That’s not my profit. That doesn’t factor in any of those things.

Archna: We’ve only done these things in the summer since we’re near a college. Our catering is really strong, and we do a lot of weddings to help compensate. Since it’s near Emory, for that one month, it’s dead. We were comparing our numbers from last year to this year. We used the HalfOffDepot people last April. Our gross was way higher, our net was way higher and our net profit was way higher.
We don’t do a lot of advertising. It gets a lot of new people in the door for a niche restaurant. People who had never heard of us came and liked it and came back. We saw a lot of increased sales. I did it to pay for my remodeled floors. It gave me $18,000. I sold something like 2,400 of them, and maybe 1,400 of them came in. It was over the course of six months. I was pretty impressed with the fact that a lot of new people heard about us that didn’t even buy the coupon.

Ron: Sometimes you have to be careful, too, because the first question I would ask is who else is doing it? Not that you want to jump on the bandwagon, but I think you want to be cautious about what other brands you associate yourself with. I’m sorry, I will never do something that says 50 percent off. You know why? Because it devalues my brand. It makes people question your integrity.

Archna: I didn’t do a big 50 percent discount. If you do a 50 percent off and you only make $5 off it, then it’s foolish. But all of them spent more, because at lunch, they’d bring another person.

George: That’s the point. It’s up to the owner to make the time to look at the deal and make sure it will work for them.

David: We’ve done a bunch of them, but we’ve never done one off the shelf. Every time it’s been a custom deal. We did a brewery tour and then a tasting of three beers and three appetizers. We did that with Groupon. We sold 4,000 of them in one day. We only scheduled it for two times a week, 6-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So we took 30, 50, 100 people — as they got closer to the expiration date, the groups got huge. They’re huge at the beginning, huge at the end, and it dips in the middle.
There are a lot of people who aren’t going to do anything other than shop and buy with the coupons, and you do get a percentage of them. Another percentage of the people, they found the place. People came in on the tour and tasting, and it resulted in a $20,000 wedding. Then they brought 200 people with them for the wedding. So you do get new customers.

Ron: You want to be careful not to alienate your regulars. I’m a neighborhood restaurant. I’m very grateful for the fact that I see the same people – they keep us alive. I tell you what, when they come in and the place is packed with people seeking a discount, they get upset. “What do you mean there’s no tables? There’s a 20 minute wait on Monday night?” So you’ve got to be able to manage that. My philosophy is when you take care of the people, they take care of us. I’d rather go up to a table that I’ve seen in the restaurant three times over the past four weeks, and say, “You know what? Tonight, dinner’s on me.” That’s got a lot more impact.

David: One of the biggest problems with all those [online services] is that it develops a relationship between your customer and a third entity. Where you want the relationship is with you and your customers. So almost all of those, the way they’re designed is that they’re the ones who get the credit for giving the deal. People think they’re getting the discount from the other company, but it’s you who’s doing it.

Archna: That’s why we do a lot on our Facebook page, which is directly with our people. We cater for a lot of bands, so we get a lot of tickets. So we’re giving away Phish tickets, Dave Matthews tickets. We have music on Wednesday nights, and we tie it all in together so we can get more people to like us on Facebook. We do competitions – what’s the spice in the Bhojanic shrimp? The first person who responds gets free Bhojanic shrimp for the next two weeks. That kind of stuff is really great for the people who are your clientele. They’re into it.

Most of you here use local and seasonal products. How does that play into your
business plan?

Ron: That is my business plan. I think for us it’s not a trend. I hate the fact that sometimes I have to embrace the trend, because to me, it’s second nature. But I’m always glad to see more ordinary people get excited about it.

Archna: I’m sorry to say, but again it goes back to the economy. Nobody wants to pay $18 for a veggie plate. Only 20 percent of people can afford that. The other 80 percent cannot pay that much for a meal. Or they can maybe do it, but much less often, like for a special occasion. They won’t go to your establishment as often if they have to pay $18 a plate.
There’s a whole Georgia initiative with the agricultural department about Georgia Grown products, and that would really help if they could drive the price down and do local stuff for everyone, not just the 20 restaurants that can afford to do it.

David: There’s more now than they had a year ago or five years ago, or 10 years ago, but it’s still a very small percentage of the total.

Is participating in special food events helpful for your business?

Ron: They can be good, but it can also be debilitating. When we sign up for an event, 99 percent of the time I like to be there, because I want to represent my concepts. But it takes you out of the restaurant.

George: They may charge you $2,000 for the table, and you gotta supply this, or maybe you gotta supply that. At the end of it, you might break even, and you might gain a customer out of it, you might not.

Ron: I try to do a bounceback when I go to them, so I can monitor who came. We did a $5 off card.

Archna: I think my feedback on doing those events, and we do a ton of them, is you’ve got to have a product that’s low in food cost that has a lot of bold flavor. Because it’s a very quick shot. It doesn’t matter what’s in it, it needs to be good. It can’t be expensive, and it can’t be too elaborate to cook. I’ve got it down to a science we’ve done so many of them. We do stuff that can be prepped the night before and tastes really amazing, but it doesn’t cost a ton. We don’t cook anything there. We show up 10 minutes before; it’s ready to go. It’s in the hotbox or the coldbox. We have little ramekins, and two people can do it. If you need six people to execute, it’s going to be too expensive.
It’s always been good for us to participate in these events because we have a niche. We’re one of the only Indian restaurants that does it. We get a lot of press, and people end up coming.

What are some other trends?

David: Surviving. Take food costs — we’ve never seen rising food costs this great. At the same time, everybody’s got less disposable income.
You’ve also got an increase in awareness and hopefully an appreciation for locally grown food, but the appreciation isn’t there yet for the base majority. We’ve got an organic pork sandwich on the menu that we’ve had since we were open. And people are like, “Oh, that’s funny, organic pork. You can’t have organic pork.” They don’t understand the idea of a vegetable versus a meat that isn’t all jacked up on chemicals.

George: I get called into schools, and they’re doing all this gardening. Schools come to our restaurant and they’re like, we want to know about your cows that don’t do drugs. Now the parents want to know, because the parents don’t know and they’re trying to learn. If there’s a trend, it’s that there’s a lot of your kids and my kids, we’re feeding it back to them where they’ve missed it a little bit.

Ron: We’re seeing more concepts that are committed to staying true to their identity. Sometimes you get trapped where you want to make everybody happy, but you gotta realize, you can’t be everything to everybody. Some people are going to come into your restaurant, and they’re never going to come back. You gotta accept that.
Not that the recession is a good thing, but I think it wakes people up, and it also kind of filters out. Just because you can open a restaurant doesn’t mean you should. It’s like survival of the fittest. A thinning of the herd. It’s like, OK, now we’ve kinda cleaned the landscape. The smoke is clearing away a little bit, and I think now we’re hopefully gearing up for the next phase of what restaurant growth in Atlanta is going to be.

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Annual UCCA Chefs & Families Fishing Trip

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

June 19-21, 2012, Panama City Beach, FL. For more information, “like” UCCA on Facebook

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