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Archive for July, 2012

GRA Catering Boot Camp – Session Three

Monday, July 30th, 2012

July 30, 2012 at Affairs to Remember, Atlanta.  For more information, visit Georgia Restaurant Association.

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From Staff Turnover to the Obesity Epidemic, Every Restaurant Faces Challenges in Making a Profit

Friday, July 27th, 2012

By Christy Simo

Staffing and turnover, fighting this country’s obesity epidemic and getting good local proteins. These are the challenges your kitchen is facing. As part of the Georgia Restaurant Association’s Annual Meeting in June, five of the state’s top chefs, along with a friendly face from Birmingham, sat down to talk with attendees about the challenges and successes they have faced over the past few years.

No matter the size of your restaurant, a high turnover can affect everything from the quality of the food prepared to how your customers enjoy their dining experience. These chefs are not exempt from this struggle, but they have found several ways
to combat a high turnover rate.

In fact, most of them see turnover because their kitchens are great resume builders.

“Staff comes and they’re eager, and they want to be there, but they want to be there for a year or two. We have incredible talent come through, and sometimes they leave,” says Anne Quatrano, chef/co-owner of Bacchanalia, Floataway Cafe, Star Provisions and Abattoir, all in the Atlanta area. “Times can be tough that way, but in the end someone’s going to rise up, and it will be a good person.”

Linton Hopkins, chef and owner of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch, along with H&F Bottleshop and H&F Bread Co., agrees.

“One of the hardest things is hiring a sous chef who is not from within. In fact, I don’t ever hire a new sous chef [outside the kitchen]. It’s sort of like baseball. We use a farm system to train up through the ranks and offer opportunity. You’re able  to build trust,” he says. “Training from within has been one of the biggest things we’ve done.”

The challenge for everybody, no matter what kind of restaurant you own, is how to profit, especially in these times of rising food costs.

“To me, it’s how you do balance running the business you want to run and, idealistically, what you’ve always dreamed of, with the food you’ve always dreamed of and the people you’ve always dreamed of and giving them the opportunities, with how do I make money doing it?,” says Chris Hall, co-owner and chef at Local Three. “We’ve all made the decision that this is the quality I’m going to serve. We are going to do this by hand, we’re going to do it the right way with hospitality, and love, and service and care. If I’ve made my decision to operate at this kind of level, how do I make money?”

Despite rising food costs, it’s clear that the farm-to-table movement and public demand for local, seasonal food is here to stay.

“There is such a proliferation of farmers markets. A few years ago there were less than 10 in Georgia, and now there’s more than 200. It’s pretty amazing,” Hopkins says. “So no matter where you live and work in Georgia, you have access to quality local produce.”

He notes that last year, Peachtree Farmers Market in Atlanta made $4.5 million through its 60 vendors, generating a $12 million local economic impact. Farmers markets are clearly more than just a passing trend.

“I don’t think we’ve really seen the farm to table movement at its peak yet, far from it, from the public’s perspective,” says Ron Eyester, chef/owner of Rosebud and The Family Dog. “People finally understand cooking and eating within the seasons. They finally realize, ‘I should not eat a tomato in December, and I’m OK with that.’ I think cooking and eating with the seasons is going to continue to build momentum, and obviously that’s going to dictate more buying from local sources and a greater awareness of them.”

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in the state of Georgia is about finding good local proteins.

“I just wish there was a way we could embrace the local proteins and still be able to stay in business,” says Quatrano.“That’s been a struggle for all of us. We’ve got great produce– somebody just brought me 150 pounds of blueberries on Saturday for $3 a pound that I put in our freezer. What we are really struggling with in this state is the local pasture-raised poultry, for lamb, for veal, even rabbits that are humanely raised.”

Todd Mussman of Muss & Turners, Local Three and Eleanor’s, agrees.

“One of my biggest issues is instead of finding local pork or local poultry, it’s finding the processors to do it right, the farmers to get it to us at a reasonable price,” he says. “If we had a centralized place where these farmers could bring their animals and just drop them, have them taken care of, delivered, butchered to the chef’s specs – it sounds like a fantasy, but I think it’s something that can be done.”

“In terms of the big tenets of food movement today, you look at the farm to table, it’s created a very important, probably the most important conversation in our generation about food supply. How do we create food supplies that are healthy and available to all? There’s been a tremendous amount of discussion about that,” says Chris Hastings, executive chef and owner of Hot & Hot Fish Club in Birmingham. “It’s good because we obviously have a lot of health issues in this country around food and our unhealthy relationship with food and processed foods.”

“Obesity is a huge issue in our world today, and it’s easy to turn and say fast food did that, but it’s all about what you put into your body,” Mussman says. “We have a responsibility as chefs to provide healthy food. We have to do the right thing and help people eat healthy.”

“How do we create food supplies that are healthier?” asks Hastings. “It starts one community at a time, one farmers market at a time, one CSA at a time.”

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“FOH” & “BOH”: What you need to know

Friday, July 27th, 2012

By Barry Mills

FOHBOH. Split that in half and you have two equal parts to the inner workings of what makes a restaurant run. The “front of house”(FOH) is all aspects of the restaurant forward of the kitchen wall, and, if there’s one, an expo “window.” The “back of house” (BOH) is simply the kitchen. Considered “industry terms,” the FOH
and BOH are machines that any aspiring restaurateur should be more than familiar
with.

A restaurateur is someone that I’ve always aspired to be. Once a pizza delivery boy, I’ve been working my way up in the industry ever since my delivery days. Soon enough I found myself in the “back of house” making pizzas and calzones, eventually taking over the dough-making responsibilities — made fresh daily! From there, I was prep, line cook and kitchen manager at various kinds of restaurants in Atlanta. During my time working in the back of house, I learned that those jobs made up only half of the restaurant as a whole.

To be an operator, you have to excel in many things. It does you little good if you are great at one thing but can’t do everything else. I knew it was time to explore the other half. I ventured beyond the wall into “the front of house.” Throughout the years, I worked as a server assistant, server, server captain, bartender, dining room manager and lastly, general manager.

The FOH and BOH machines work together to make a restaurant run well. Each is constantly interacting with the other to offer the best experience to our diners possible. There is seniority, multiple persons and personalities and a dynamic that you are only aware of if you have been so lucky as to have worked in both areas of the restaurant. Any server who has been in the industry long enough will tell you, it is in your best advantage to be close friends with the kitchen or at least grab a drink with the expo every once in a while if you want to have any pull when the kitchen is in the weeds and your tables have 30-minute ticket times.

Whether it is fine dining or casual dining, there’s always a BOH and FOH working together to make the restaurant run. While on the surface most people would assume that casual and fine dining are pretty similar, there are large differentiations. Pilots and train engineers are both in the transportation industry, but I wouldn’t be quick to switch those positions out next time I’m on a transatlantic.

Casual and fine dining is selling different experiences for the customer, and each customer has different needs and reasons for choosing one over the other. They are both selling a dining experience of sorts, but the needs are different. Casual is typically about convenience and value, getting a decent meal at a cheap price with as little hassle as possible. Fine dining is typically more aligned to customers seeking a dining or social experience and willing to spend a premium for higher-end environments and food.

Throughout my career I’ve learned that neither front of house or back of house is more important than the other, no matter what the environment. Being a restaurant owner is like majoring in a bunch of minors. If opening a restaurant is your dream, follow it; just be sure to do your homework along the way. It requires tons of generalized knowledge way outside of the back or front of house such as business, finance, management, marketing, culinary arts, beverage management, law and EMP(mechanical electrical & plumbing) to name a few. Having significant experience in both BOH and FOH settings gave me an integral head start in understanding the total requirement it takes to operate a restaurant as a whole.

After spending a decade working through the ranks of Atlanta’s restaurant and hospitality industry, Barry Mills has added a new job title to his resume with the opening of FLIP burger boutique and HD1: restaurateur.

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Atlanta Restaurants Report Positive Sales Gains on Survey

Friday, July 27th, 2012

By Robert Wagner, CPA, Netfinancials

Even though buffeted by strong economic headwinds in Q2, Atlanta restaurants still whipped up positive sales for the quarter. Sales at independently owned restaurants posted an increase of 5% over sales for quarter 2 2011. For the year-to-date through June 30 Atlanta restaurant sales increased 5.8% over sales for 2011.

Quarter 2 2012 vs. 2011

A majority of Atlanta restaurants posted same-store sales increases in the second quarter, 2012 when compared to the same period in 2011. Of the 80 restaurants surveyed, 76% reported positive sales gains in Q2 2012. That contrasts to 24% of restaurants reporting Q2 negative sales trend.

Twenty-one percent of restaurants surveyed reported double-digit sales gains in Q2 2012. While the Q2 numbers are impressive given the difficult economy, they are not as compelling as Q1 2012 when 81% of restaurants showed positive sales and 37% of restaurants showed double-digit sales gains.

Sixth Straight Quarter of Sales Growth

Quarter 2 2012 is at least the sixth straight quarter of comparable sales growth for Atlanta restaurants – the time that NetFinancials has been tracking sales on a quarterly basis.

Conclusion

Robert Wagner, NetFinancials president states that, “Consumers were assaulted with plenty of unsavory economic news in Q2 2012. So it is a little surprising that Atlanta restaurants did so well. A 5% sales increase with 76% of restaurants reporting positive comp sales is a good quarter and showed the remarkable resilience of local Atlanta restaurants. These positive sales comps are an important sign of economic vitality in the Atlanta restaurant industry – a critical source of jobs and commercial activity in the metro area.

“Operators cited the strong growth in visits to Atlanta restaurants from out-of-towners and well as a determination by local consumers to enjoy a meal out even in the face of tough economic news.”

The Sample: The 80 independently-operated, non-franchise restaurants were drawn from the metro Atlanta market. Total Q2 2012 sales volume was $45,480,897. The sample included restaurants in Atlanta’s fast-casual, casual and fine-dining segments opened at least 18 months.

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Noche Alpharetta to Be Tom Catherall’s 12th Location

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Here To Serve Restaurants owner and Certified Master Chef Tom Catherall will open his 12th location, Noche Alpharetta, in early October.

The new restaurant — the fourth Noche on the Here to Serve roster — will feature the traditional Noche menu, including authentic dishes such as empanadas, paella and more. With an interior seating capacity of 80 people, Noche Alpharetta will have additional seating for 48 on the covered patio. The restaurant will be open nightly for dinner and Friday through Sunday for lunch.

Here To Serve Restaurants’ other locations include Prime at Lenox Square, Goldfish at Perimeter Mall, Twist at Phipps Plaza, Noche Virginia Highland, Noche Vinings Jubilee, Noche Brookhaven, Shout at Colony Square, Strip at Atlantic Station, Coast off West Paces Ferry Road, Aja on Lenox Road, and Cantina located in the Terminus Building.

 

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Franchise Veteran Steven Bryan Joins Lovin’ Spoons Frozen Yogurt

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Lovin’ Spoons, a  frozen yogurt company based in Savannah, has announced the appointment of Steven Bryan as vice president of franchise development.

A Certified Franchise Executive, Bryan joins Lovin’ Spoons with more than 30 years of industry experience. He previously served as a regional development manager for Kilwins Franchise, handling franchise recruitment and real estate development for the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Bryan was also vice president of franchise development for Mrs. Fields Famous Brand, where he helped develop new locations for the nationally recognized company. Prior to that, he served as the senior vice president of operations and marketing for Texas-based Deblan Corporation, the largest franchisee of Great American Cookies.

In his new role with Lovin’ Spoons, Bryan will develop growth and recruitment strategies and handle outreach to franchise prospects.

Lovin’ Spoons has four locations in Georgia and South Carolina

 

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White Oak Pastures Adds Pasture to Plate Restaurant

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

White Oak Pastures, a grass-fed beef and lamb and free-range pastured poultry farm in Bluffton, Ga., has added a restaurant, named Pasture to Plate, to its facilities.

The restaurant offers the farm’s 80+ employees a place to eat their breakfast and lunch and also provides an eatery for visitors to the farm and a space to entertain or host after-hours functions. White Oak Pastures is in a rural location that is 15 miles from the nearest restaurant, requiring farm employees to spend most of their lunch break in transit and spend more money on gas.

The farm’s eating pavilion began as a stick building with a roof and picnic tables underneath. Now, it has turned into a 30’ x 90’ open building that will contain a commercial kitchen and seat all employees comfortably. The open floor plan is built in the farm’s organic garden and features industrial ceiling fans every ten feet to keep guests cool.

Pasture to Plate is a farm-to-table establishment, with the meats and most of the vegetables coming directly from the fields and abattoirs at White Oak Pastures each day rather than from a distributor. Next year, White Oak Pastures’ garden will double in size in order to provide all the vegetables for the restaurant.

Pasture to Plate’s chef is Evelyn Taylor. White Oak Pastures will not offer a menu for the farm’s restaurant; instead, Chef Taylor will only serve one option for each meal. The restaurant is currently serving lunch and will be adding breakfast in the future. The pavilion is also in the process of acquiring a beer and liquor license.

In addition to providing a place for employees and guests to dine on a daily basis, the eating pavilion will also host celebrity chef demonstrations and meals. Chef Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill christened the restaurant kitchen on June 30 during a silent auction dinner, and Chef Ron Eyester of Rosebud and The Family Dog will be preparing a meal at the restaurant in the coming months.

 

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Atlanta Food Truck Team to be Featured on The Food Network

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race returns for a third season in August, with host Tyler Florence presiding over the cross-country culinary road trip with a brand-new twist. No longer a competition between current food truck operators as in prior seasons, this high-stakes battle is between eight teams who desperately want to be in the food truck business. Each three-person team is provided a vehicle for the race, but only the grand prize winner gets to keep their food truck and a $50,000 cash prize to start their dream business.

Coast of Atlanta, a team from the metro Atlanta area, will compete against seven other teams from around the country.

Each team’s inspired cuisine and road strategy is put to the test in city-specific challenges that begin at a Long Beach, Calif. lighthouse and continue through the finale at the West Quoddy Lighthouse in Maine, the easternmost point of the United States. The seven-episode series premieres on Sunday, August 19th at 10 pm and afterward, will air in its regular timeslot Sundays at 9 pm.

 

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JCT’s Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

July 22, 2012, JCT Kitchen & Bar, Atlanta. For more information, visit Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival

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Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

July 21-29, 2012. For more information, visit Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week

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