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Atlanta Restaurants Post Positive Sales in Q3 2017

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

By Robert Wagner, CPA

Atlanta Q3 2017 restaurant sales volume increased 1.0% vs. Q3 2016. For the quarter ended September 2017 positive sales trends were reported at 57% of the 96 independent Atlanta restaurants surveyed.

National Trends

In its survey of national restaurant sales TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence, a restaurant sales and traffic-tracking company, reported national restaurant Q3 2017 revenues declined by 1.9%. This was the seventh consecutive quarter of negative sales results nationally. Restaurant traffic declined 4% nationally in Q3.


Robert Wagner, NetFinancials president states that, “Q3 2017 was the best comp sales quarter for established Atlanta restaurants in the last twelve months. Both comp sales and the percentage of restaurants reporting positive sales results improved in Q3. It is extremely encouraging that 57% of the stores in our survey reported positive sales in Q3. That number has not exceeded 50% of surveyed restaurants since September 2016. It is noteworthy that Q3 sales were positive even though torrential rains from Hurricane Irma dampened sales on September 11 and 12.

Atlanta restaurant operators have been waiting over a year for economic expansion to absorb new restaurant capacity and for established stores toreturn to positive sales momentum. It is too early to declare victory but the clear change in sales momentum is reassuring. The hope is that Q3 2017 is a harbinger of positive sales results to follow.

The positive Q3 comp sales means that year-to-date 2017 sales are no longer negative; but not positive either. Year-to-date 2017 sales through September are identical to sales through September 2016.

The Atlanta economy continues its expansion. Metro Atlanta unemployment dipped in September 2017 to 4.1% from 5.0% in September 2016. In addition the number of new restaurants has moderated only slightly. Carl Muth of FoodService Resource Associates LLC who tracks restaurant activity in Georgia estimates that 590 new restaurants opened in Atlanta between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017.”

The Sample: The 96 non-franchise restaurants were drawn from the metro Atlanta market. Total survey sales volume was $223 million for YTD 2017. The survey includes restaurants in Atlanta’s fast-casual, casual and fine-dining segments opened at least 21 months.


Taste of Atlanta 2017 Festival Taste Winners

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Taste of Atlanta brought in tens of thousands of food lovers to Historic Fourth Ward Park on Oct. 20-22 and the bevs and bites featured brought their A-game in honor of the festival’s 16th anniversary. Though all tastes were jam-packed with flavor, judges of the festival chose their favorites to take top prize.

Here are the festival winners:

Saturday, Oct. 21

Best Taste: Hawkers Asian Street Fare

Best Dessert: Revolution Gelato

Best Tent Décor: Jim N Nicks

Most Unique Taste: Poke Burri

Best Selling Taste: Gus’ Fried Chicken

Sunday, Oct. 22

Best Taste: 1Kept

Best Dessert: Who’s Got Soul Southern Cafe

Best Tent Décor: Puerto Rico Relief

Most Unique Taste: Tea House Formosa

Best Selling Taste: Ponko Chicken


Beni’s Cubano Opens Peachtree Center Location

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Beginning late-November, Downtown Atlanta business folks, residents and conventioneers alike can take a quick lunchtime jaunt to Cuba, thanks to the addition of Beni’s Cubano inside The Hub at Peachtree Center. This fast-casual restaurant from Southern Proper Hospitality, the team behind The Big Ketch Saltwater Grill, The Blind Pig Parlour Bar, Gypsy Kitchen, Tin Lizzy’s Cantina, Smokebelly BBQ, The Southern Gentleman, and Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails, promises a taste of Cuba.

Beni’s Cubano executive chef Cesar Velazquez’s menu features innovative takes on classic Cuban dishes, offering unique food court dining with a chef’s touch.

Menu highlights include the following:

• A classic Cuban sandwich with mojo-roasted pork, ham and Swiss cheese with pickles, mustard and garlic aioli

Vaca Frita Melt with grilled short rib, melted provolone, grilled onions and peppers and garlic aioli

Mojo Grilled Chicken served with choice of yellow or white rice, black beans and sweet plantains

House Salads with an option to add grilled chicken or top the fresh greens, shredded carrots and chopped tomatoes with a choice ofPuerco Asado or Vaca Frita

Yucca fries or mariquitas (crispy spiced plantain chips) with a choice of two dipping sauces such as garlic aioli, mojo or house-made hot sauce

The new Beni’s location follows this summer’s inaugural launch of the Cuban restaurant at The Avenue East Cobb in Marietta. “When wewere looking for a second location, we found ourselves drawn to downtown’s energy and diverse mix of people,” says Southern Proper Hospitality CEO Tory Bartlett. “With Tin Lizzy’s Cantina just upstairs at Peachtree Center, we’re already familiar with diners here and wanted to bring them a fresh Cuban option, one that will take them back to the tastes of Havana in its heyday.”



Arby’s Plans 25 New Restaurants in Chicago Metropolitan Area

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Arby’s Restaurant Group, Inc. announced it signed development agreements to build 25 new restaurants in the Chicago metropolitan area over the next five years. The restaurants are expected to create nearly 700 new jobs.

Chicago is a priority growth market for Arby’s where the brand has 64 restaurants and the potential to triple its current footprint.

Development agreements were signed with Pete Lyders-Petersen to open aninitial 20 restaurants in the North and Northwest Chicago suburbs as well as Faisal Merchant to open an initial five restaurants in downtown Chicago and the Southwest Chicago suburbs. Lyders- Petersen and Merchant are new franchisees to the Arby’s system.

“We know how to develop strong-performing restaurants in large urban markets,” said Greg Vojnovic, Chief Development Officer of ARG. “In Chicago, we’re proud to welcome Pete and Faisal – two proven multi-unit operators and developers who are adding Arby’s to their restaurant portfolios for the first time.”

“I’ve been very impressed with the culture at Arby’s and their leadership team,” said Petersen, who currently operates nearly 200 Taco Bell restaurants and 12 KFC restaurants throughout the Midwest. “The more I gotto know the brand, the more it became clear that adding Arby’s to my restaurant portfolio was the right move to make.”

“Arby’s has experienced strong growth in recent years,” said Merchant, who currently operates 19 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants and three Wingstop restaurants in Chicago. “Every Arby’s franchisee I’ve spoken with loves the brand’s culture, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Restaurant development is a top priority for Arby’s. The brand has been working with franchisees to aggressively expand in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, and Seattle. “There’s been a tremendous level of excitement and interest from franchisees regarding access to these large urban markets,” added Vojnovic.

Through the end of 2016, Arby’s global system achieved six consecutive years of same-store sales growth. Today, the brand’s average unit volume is $1.12 million, up 27% from 2013.

Arby’s is the second-largest sandwich restaurant brand in the world with more than 3,300 restaurants in seven countries. The brand is headquartered inAtlanta.


Winners for 11th Annual GRACE Awards Gala Announced

Monday, October 30th, 2017

The winners of the 2017 Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Awards were announced Sunday, October 29 at The Stave Room in Atlanta. The GRACE Awards Gala is the Georgia Restaurant Association’s (GRA) annual black-tie gala event honoring Georgia’s restaurant industry. Jim Stacy, host of the Cooking Channel’s “Offbeat Eats,” served as the Master of Ceremonies and Little Country Giants provided live musical entertainment.

The GRACE Awards are peer-nominated and winners are selected by the GRACE Academy, made up of past honorees. GRACE winners are presented with crystal works of art created by renowned local artist Hans Godo Frabel. A portion of the proceeds from this event goes to the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

2017 GRACE Awards Winners:

Lifetime Achievement Award – John Ferrell, Mary Mac’s Tea Room
At a young age, John Ferrell realized he wanted to be the same type of host as his Aunt Frankie, providing people with a taste of the South and a warm welcome. After going to Florida State University and the Dedman School of Hospitality, John moved to Atlanta and worked at several restaurants in management. In 1994, John’s dream of becoming the ultimate Southern host came true, when Margaret Lupo hand-picked him to take over Atlanta’s beloved Mary Mac’s Tea Room.

Over the last 23 years at Mary Mac’s, John has seen its popularity rise to all-time highs, averaging 2,000 diners a day. John attributes this success to his love of people and his commitment to providing them with outstanding customer service and time-tested traditional Southern recipes.

Industry Partner of the Year – Sysco

As the largest North American distributor of food products, Sysco was one of the first members of the GRA. The company continuously collaborates with the restaurant industry in order to contribute to Georgia’s prosperity. Sysco also provides financial, strategic and leadership support by sponsoring events such as the GRACE Awards Gala, the GRA Golf Tournament and the GRA Chairman’s Reception.

As an active member in the community, Sysco partners with industry groups that focus their efforts on promoting the hospitality industry, such as the Atlanta Community Food Bank, The Giving Kitchen and the GRA. Their dedication to the industry ensures that people will continue to come together to dine out and take pride in the culinary expertise found in this state.

Distinguished Service Award – Tom Murphy, Murphy’s 

A native of Atlanta, Tom Murphy got his start in hospitality at 12 years old as a hot dog vendor and eventually opened his own cheese shop at 18. He graduated from Georgia State University, where one of his class projects was to develop a business plan. That plan grew to be one of Atlanta’s most treasured restaurants, Murphy’s, which Tom opened at the age of 21 in 1980. Since then, Tom has opened two more restaurants in the Atlanta area – Paces & Vine and Morningside Kitchen.

In 2005, Tom founded Good Measure Meals, a meal delivery service that benefits Atlanta’s less fortunate. The program now functions as a social enterprise for the non-profit group Open Hand Atlanta.

Restaurateur of the Year Award: Small/Independent – Steven Satterfield and Neal McCarthy, Miller Union
Steven Satterfield, executive chef and co-owner of Miller Union, was a James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef: Southeast in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and won the coveted award in 2017. He has also been featured in numerous publications, is a cookbook author and serves as a leader of several local culinary organizations. He is dedicated to cooking seasonally and supporting local farmers.

General manager and co-owner Neal McCarthy leads the dining room at Miller Union with a commitment to excellent service. A certified sommelier, Neal selects wines from small producers who focus on biodynamic and organic practices. Miller Union was named a semifinalist in 2015 and 2016, and finalist in 2017 for “Outstanding Wine Program” by the James Beard Foundation.

Restaurateur of the Year Award: Franchisee – Jonathan Ewing and Jon Joiner, Amici Jonathan “Bob” Ewing and Jon Joiner started their restaurant careers as dishwashers and ascended through the ranks to cook, server, bartender, and manager. In 2009, they bought into a concept they believed in – the Amici franchise. They beat the odds of a recessive economy and have taken Amici to the next level, now owning and operating three successful locations in Milledgeville, Lake Oconee, and Macon.

Jonathan and Jon are committed to developing lasting community relationships, not only with Amici patrons but also their employees. They try their best to create a memorable work environment that makes a positive impact on people, no matter where they end up.

Restaurateur of the Year Award: Large/Corporate – Ted’s Montana Grill

Founded by media entrepreneur, environmentalist and philanthropist Ted Turner and celebrated restaurateur George McKerrow, Ted’s Montana Grill is celebrating 15 years of serving time-honored American cuisine, upholding a commitment to sustainability and turning guests into friends. In addition to creating memorable dining experiences through genuine hospitality, Ted’s offers its customers the largest bison menu in the world, locally sourced natural foods and made-from-scratch desserts. Ted’s serves thousands of people each day in 17 states, including 13 locations across Georgia.

ProStart Student of the Year – Brandi Johnson, Southeast Bullock High School

After Brandi Johnson’s first solo culinary competition, she took home the third place title and a newly discovered passion for culinary arts. She then joined her school’s culinary team, who placed first at region and went on to place second at the state level. She was also part of her high school’s Georgia ProStart competition team, who received first place at their state competition and continued to nationals. Brandi is doing work-based learning at her high school with her culinary teacher and has dreams of a career in the industry.

Restaurant Employee of the Year – Ronald Foster, Concessions International (Fresh To Order)
Having worked in restaurants for 30 years, Ronald Foster is a hospitality veteran. He started out at Denny’s, then worked at Holiday Inn, and now has been with Concessions International for 22 years. He is successful in his role as customer service ambassador for Fresh To Order at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, making people smile all day long. Ronald understands that having a positive attitude and being grateful for your job goes a long way with guests.

Manager of the Year – Andy Palermo, El Felix and Superica

Andy Palermo’s journey in the industry began when he was 16. As a bus boy at a small Italian spot near his home, he learned the value of hard work and the true meaning of hospitality. He has carried these values into his career in management at El Felix and Superica, where he finds joy in fostering an environment of growth and providing opportunity for other people. Andy knows that no matter how small a gesture of hospitality might be, it makes a positive impact on the world.


About the GRACE Awards

The GRACE Awards is the Georgia Restaurant Association’s annual black-tie gala event honoring Georgia’s restaurant industry. The GRACE Awards finalists are peer-nominated and honor the top performers in the following categories: Lifetime Achievement Award, Industry Partner of the Year, Distinguished Service Award, Restaurateur of the Year, ProStart Student of the Year, Restaurant Employee of the Year, and Manager of the Year. The winners are announced at the event and are presented with crystal works of art created by renowned local artist Hans Godo Frabel. A portion of the proceeds from this event benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank, whose mission is to fight hunger by engaging, educating and empowering the community.

For media inquiries, please contact Melissa Ledford, marketing coordinator, at (404) 467- 9000 or


Rachael Ray Show Launches “Cook Your Way to Culinary School” Contest

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Rachael Ray announces her contest, “Cook Your Way to Culinary School,” to give scholarships to high school juniors and seniors.

Calling all Georgia ProStart Students: Rachael Ray and her Yum-o! organization, longtime supporters of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), through her show are offering scholarships to 4 high school juniors and seniors who are passionate about pursuing their dreams in culinary arts and restaurant management with her new contest, “Cook Your Way to Culinary School.”

The grand prize winner will receive up to $25,000 for tuition and other qualified expenses, as well as an assortment of Rachael Ray cookware. Three runners-up will receive a $5,000 scholarship and Rachael Ray merchandise.

“Yum-o! ® has three parts to its organization: Cook, feed and fund,” Ray explained while announcing the contest. “We fund education with the help of our wonderful partners of over a decade, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. They help us give scholarships to deserving kids.”

The distribution and administration of the scholarship prizes provided by Rachael’s Yum-o! ® Organization will be coordinated with assistance from the NRAEF. The Foundation is dedicated to training and advancing the next generation of culinary leaders. One of the NRAEF’s largest programs is ProStart ®, a nationwide high school career and technical education program uniting the classroom and restaurant industry. 140,000 students are currently enrolled in the program, which is offered in more than 1,800 high schools in all 50 states. The Georgia ProStart program is currently in 23 schools with more than 2500 students.

“HEFG is proud to administer the Georgia ProStart Program in partnership with the Georgia Restaurant Association,” says Nesha Mason, HEFG Executive Director. “The Cook Your Way to Culinary School contest is a perfect example of the resources and opportunities we support to encourage the next generation of industry leaders.”

To enter, students must submit a video of themselves preparing an original recipe and an explanation of why they think they should win. The contest closes on Monday, December 4, 2017.

For a chance to win and an overview of the contest rules, visit To learn more about Georgia ProStart visit

ABOUT HEFG: To ensure the future is in good hands, students need access to a full range of opportunities and experiences. The Hospitality Education Foundation of Georgia connects passion with obtainable careers and the inspiring professionals who motivate students to perform at their best. That connection happens every February at The HEFG Hospitality Expo, our signature event that brings 2000+ Georgia culinary arts students and educators to Atlanta. Industry leaders exhibit to educate and encourage attendees to pursue a career in Food Service and Hospitality. For more information about the 2018 HEFG Hospitality Expo visit As part of our mission to inspire the next generation, HEFG partners with the Georgia Restaurant Association to administer the ProStart program for the State of Georgia. ProStart is the premier culinary program for high school students. From culinary techniques to management skills, ProStart’s industry-driven curriculum provides real-life experience opportunities and builds a foundation of practical skills that will last a lifetime.

About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation: As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s mission of service to the public is dedicated to enhancing the industry’s training and education, career development and community engagement efforts. The NRAEF and its programs work to Attract, Empower and Advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice workforce. NRAEF programs include: ProStart® – a high-school career and technical education program; Restaurant Ready – partnering with community based organizations to provide “opportunity youth” with skills training and job opportunities; Military – helping military servicemen and women transition their skills to restaurant and foodservice careers; Scholarships – financial assistance for students pursuing restaurant, foodservice and hospitality degrees; and, the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship project – a partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association providing a hospitality apprenticeship program for the industry. For more information on the NRAEF, visit


Taste of Atlanta – Sweet Sixteen

Friday, October 20th, 2017

This is a special year as Taste of Atlanta celebrates 16 sweet years of turning ‘tasters into diners’ this October 20th, 21st and 22nd. Taste of Atlanta’s three-day event will take place for its first time in a new location, Historic Fourth Ward Park in Old Fourth Ward. Each day of the event is an opportunity for tasters and chefs to come together and bond over the unique flavors of each Atlanta neighborhood.

Taste of Atlanta 2017

Over 100 Atlanta restaurants participate in Taste of Atlanta and represent the growing culinary landscape of the city. Newcomer restaurants participating this year include Hattie B’s, Le Bilboquet, Hampton + Hudson, The Halal Guys, Bezoria, 4Rivers Atlanta, and Better Half.

Like many restaurants, Taste of Atlanta continues to support Atlanta’s non-profit community. Taste has joined together to support The Giving Kitchen, Second Helpings Atlanta, Cooking Matters, American Culinary Federation (Greater Atlanta Chapter), Hospitality Education Foundation of Georgia and Georgia Organics.

Taste of Atlanta is kicking off this year with a Sweet 16 party theme to commemorate its anniversary of bringing the community together over its love for food. This will include a variety of Atlantan dessert favorites such as High Road Craft Ice Cream & Sorbet and Sprinkles Cupcakes. This all-inclusive party offers an over-the-top theme and an unlimited variety of desserts will help set the scene for the main event.

The past few years, Taste of Atlanta restaurants have achieved efficient visits and purchases using the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology making the festival completely cashless. This technology is an advantage to Taste of Atlanta participating restaurants since it allows for communication after the festival. This year, restaurants can get into the transition of turning ‘tasters into diners’ by sending out specials and promotions to participating guests.

For more information and a full list of participating restaurants, visit or email


Himitsu alumnus Ben Yabrow takes head bartender job at The Regent Cocktail Club

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Ben Yabrow, who recently led the beverage program at Buckhead speakeasy Himitsu under mixology master Shingo Gokan, is now bringing his expertise to The Regent.

“Our focus is what’s in the glass,” says Yabrow. “For our guests, The Regent is a place where they are introduced to something new in a relaxed environment with a knowledgeable staff.”

Guest favorites on the anniversary cocktail menu include the Black Dahlia, made with Tito’s Homemade Vodka, elderflower, blackberry and lemon; a Sazerac blending rye whiskey, cognac, demerara, absinthe and bitters; the Junglebird shaken with rum, Campari, pineapple and lime; and the Pineapple concocted with elyx, pineapple Montenegro, allspice and orgeat.

Yabrow and his staff like to ask first-time guests about their spirits and taste preferences to serve each guest the perfect cocktail. “It’s important to tailor drinks to each guest’s liking,” says Yabrow. “Once we have an idea of what they’re looking for, we focus on creating the right balance of flavors with an array of spirits and fresh ingredients.”

The Regent’s guests enjoy a bar menu created by executive chef John Adamson. Bar bites include tuna poke with avocado, radishes and pine nuts; honey Sriracha wings; and Wagyu beef sliders with beer cheese.

In 2012, LDV Hospitality launched the first Regent Cocktail Club in Miami Beach at the boutique Gale Hotel. In 2013, The Regent was recognized as one of the Top Ten Hotel Bars in the World at the ‘Tales of the Cocktail’ Awards in New Orleans. In the summer of 2015, LDV opened its second outpost in the Hamptons at the Gurney’s Resort and Spa in Montauk. The Regent Cocktail Club joined Atlanta’s cocktail scene on the third level of American Cut in 2016.


Atlanta Les Dames d’Escoffier International Celebrates 17th Annual Afternoon in the Country on November 5th

Friday, October 20th, 2017

On November 5, Atlanta Les Dames d’Escoffier International will host a food and wine tasting event – Afternoon in the Country at Fox Hall Resort & Sporting in Douglasville, Georgia.

Attendees will enjoy more than 115 tasting stations from Atlanta’s finest chefs, paired with the area’s best farms, along with fine wines and premium micro-brews. These stations will be set up under tents, surrounded by the Chattahoochee River, beautiful lakes and long-range countryside vistas at the Foxhall Resort & Sporting Club. Additional entertainment includes live music by Theresa Hightower andher jazz band, a cake raffle andan extensive silent auction.

Proceeds from Afternoon in the Country benefit LDEI|ATL’s scholarship and grant programs which support Georgia women in the culinary, beverage and hospitality arts. The event also supports local non-profit organizations.

For more information on Atlanta Les Dames d’Escoffier International or the chapter’s signature event, Afternoon in the Country, visit


Solís Two Porsche Drive gears up to open Apron and Overdrive

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Solís Two Porsche Drive is excited to announce two food and beverage destinations to debut upon the hotel’s opening in November 2017. In addition to 24-hour-in-room dining service, the hotel offers Apron, a full-service restaurant and bar, and Overdrive Lounge, a rooftop bar with hand-crafted cocktails.

Executive chef Derrick Green will run the kitchen at Apron. With 15 years of experience at luxury hotels across the southeastern United States, Green plans to feature a blend of Greek, North African, French, Portuguese and Spanish influences on the restaurant’s dinner menu.

The restaurant, located on the lobby level of the new hotel, will present an inspired take on regional Mediterranean cuisine, including locally sourced produce, aged meats and house made pastas, partnered with wine and beer pairings sourced from across the globe. Chef Green’s signature dishes will include favorites like piri-piri prawns with house made potato gnocchi, grilled okra and Pomodoro; octopus terrinewith Marcona almonds, boquerones, pickled Fresnos, marinated olives, Meyer lemon, Espelette and Romesco; grilled branzino with charred lemon, Piquillo and red onion pepperonata, crispy capers and patatas bravas; and harissa-rubbed striped bass with smoked eggplant mousse, fennel pickle, marinated baby heirloom tomatoes and Chermoula sauce.

Centered around a spacious bar area, Apron will serve a variety of cocktails, wines and local craft beers. Guests in search of an outdoor dining experience will have a front row seat to the action of the Porsche Experience Center and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Smaller groups will be also able to book reservations in Apron’s semi-private dining space enclosed by suspended wine racks.

Also coming soon to Solís Two Porsche Drive, Overdrive Lounge will offer a rooftop experience. In the lounge, experienced mixologists will prepare signature cocktails. Guests of the eighth-floor lounge will also be privy to tableside service and chef Green’s constructed tapas, shared plates and flights of sliders and beverages.

Following in the footsteps of existing Solís Hotels and Resorts destinations in China and Ireland, the forthcoming hotel will showcase 28 suites and 185 guest rooms fitted with contemporary, sports car-inspired décor.

Solis Two Porsche Drive is owned by ACRON AG, a Swiss-based company, vis a vis its United States affiliate, ACRON (USA) LP, in conjunction with development partner Castleton Holdings LLC. Bruce Bradley, owner of Washington, D.C.-based Castleton Holdings, and Atlanta-based developer Scott Condra have overseen the development of the hotel project under their Castleton-Condra LLC

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