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Archive for April, 2011

Vidalia Onion Festival

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

April 30–May 1 in Vidalia, Georgia.  For more information, visit Vidalia Onion Festival.


Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

April 30 – May 1, 2011 at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta.  For more information, visit Metropolitan Cooking.


Restaurant Energy and Waste Conservation Ideas

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Below is a  shortened version “Cook Up Some Savings,” an article written by Christy Simo, managing editor of Restaurant Forum.

Simple Maintenance Leads to Big Savings – consider the tips below for reducing your carbon footprint while also reducing your costs.

Test and repair leaks. According to the EPA, a faucet leaking just a tenth of a gallon of water a minute can waste 50,000 gallons or more of water a year. That’s some serious money down the drain. And don’t forget the toilets, which can waste roughly 200 gallons a day.
An easy way to check for leaks is to add a teaspoon or two of food coloring into the toilet tank. Wait 30 minutes, then check to see what color the water in the toilet bowl is. If it looks like regular water, you’re in the clear. If the water is the same color as what you added to the bowl, you have a leak.

Tad Mitchell, owner of two Six Feet Under locations in Atlanta, does a monthly check to make sure everything is working properly.
“We have someone come through once a month and do the overall maintenance on all of our plumbing,” he says. “That in itself has saved us some money.”

Implement a startup/shutdown schedule. Leaving equipment on standby costs you money. By implementing a startup/shutdown plan, you can make sure you only use the equipment you need when you need it. The savings can be substantial.

Develop a plan and educate your staff on when to start up and shutdown items in the restaurant. The list should include things like lights, holding cabinets, dipper well faucets, the broiler, fryer and range. Turn off the lights in closets, storerooms, restrooms, offices and even dining areas when they are not in use. Be sure to power down non-essential equipment outside your kitchen, too, such as copiers, front-of-house computer systems and other office equipment.

Check your thermostats. It’s not uncommon for thermostats to lose accuracy over time. Check them periodically and recalibrate as necessary to reduce the amount of unnecessary energy you are using.

Take care of your oven. Tighten the hinges and check the seals on your oven door to make sure everything is working properly. Replace the seals if they are torn. Also, if you can’t turn your oven off during the day, reduce the temperature during slow periods, then raise it again during peak hours.

Take a look at your pilot light.
Pilot lights require a constant stream of gas to stay lit, but you can adjust how much gas you are using. An over-fired pilot light has a tall, yellow flame. Adjusting the flame so that it is bullet-shaped and mostly blue will help reduce the amount of gas that you use.

Be dishwasher smart. Check your temperature pressure in your dishwasher. If it’s above 25 psi, you could be using more water than you need. Also be sure to fully load your dishwasher racks before turning it on.

Educate your staff. Let everyone know some of the things they can do to help reduce your waste and energy use, and get them involved in the bigger effort.

“Look inside your business and find the person who’s really motivated to make these changes,” says Patrick Cuccaro, general manager of Atlanta-based catering company Affairs to Remember. “If you have someone in your organization who feels strongly about these principles and who has a strong ethic regarding environmental stewardship, then let them lead the way.”

Small Changes Can Make An Impact
There are some easy things that you may be doing already to reduce energy consumption, such as replacing dirty air filters and using a programmable thermostat. A few other ideas:

Get an energy audit. This is a low-cost way to learn about your energy use and to identify efficiency options that may be right for you.
“For us, it was about the Zero Waste Zone program,” says Cuccaro, who notes Affairs to Remember is the first Zero Waste Zone caterer in Atlanta. (See page xx for more on this program). “But for somebody else, it might be about just getting rid of the Styrofoam.”

Change your light bulbs. There have been a lot of advances in Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) light bulbs over the past few years—the days of harsh bright light is gone. Not only that, but an average incandescent bulb lasts approximately 2,000 hours. A CFL? On average, 10,000 hours. Over time, that money adds up. Don’t forget your walk in, too. Incandescent lights give off more heat than low-temperature CFLs, forcing your refrigerator to work harder and use more energy, upping your monthly bill. Swap them out for low-temperature CFLs.

Install low-flow spray valves. According to the Food Service Technology Center, a low-flow spray valve can save a restaurant up to $1,000 a year. It’s one of the easiest and most cost-effective energy-saving devises out there for commercial kitchens. On average, they last about five years and pay for themselves within one year—and only cost about $5 to $25 more than a standard model. Also check with your local utility or water district for rebates or repayment programs that reward installation of this product.

Add aerators. According to the National Restaurant Association, running a water faucet for five minutes uses nearly as much energy as running a 60-watt light bulb for 14 hours. You can’t control how long customers run your faucets, but you can install water-efficient aerators to help reduce the amount of water running down your drains. If you install them in both the kitchen and restroom sinks, you can save as much as a gallon of water per minute, and they cost under $5 per faucet.

Install timers and sensors
. To help regulate energy usage, consider installing occupancy sensors for your wall light switches or timers on kitchen equipment. If your hot water system includes a recirculation pump, for instance, you could be throwing money away if it’s still on when your kitchen is closed. Install a timer that turns off the pump when the kitchen ramps down, however, and you stand to save hundreds of dollars on energy costs.

Apply window glaze.
This clear, heat-rejecting window film can reduce your cooling costs while also making your dining room more comfortable. Consider placing them on windows facing south and west, which get the most direct sunlight. The film will help reduce your need for mechanical cooling, which in turn will help pay for the window film. These films also block ultraviolet light, which can fade your carpet, chairs and other fixtures in your dining room.

Long-Term Investments
There are things you can do that pay off immediately, but also think long-term. Life cycle costs such as purchase price, annual energy costs and estimated maintenance costs can help you assess if you should incorporate a particular “green” product or change into your restaurant.

A few long-term investments that will have you seeing green:

Add more corn to your diet.
Consider switching out your to-go cartons, straws and plastic bags with corn-based products, which are better for the environment.

Install new toilets. According to the National Restaurant Association, a standard toilet uses as much as 4.5 gallons per flush. A low-flush toilet uses just 1.6 gallons per flush. That’s why nearly three in 10 quick service restaurants and four in 10 full-service restaurants have installed water-saving toilet fixtures in the last two years alone.

Use energy that already exists in your kitchen. Kitchens are energy hogs, and there are products out there that reuse the energy it typically wastes. For example, a refrigerant heat-recovery system uses heat wasted from walk-in refrigerators and freezers to reheat water used in the kitchen.

Affairs to Remember installed two products to help reduce their energy use, including a Kvar. This energy controller reduces the amount of non-productive current running through a building’s electrical system that is normally wasted, significantly reducing electrical costs and carbon emissions.

“All of our motors have Kvars now, and our refrigerators have an I-Cube, which measures the temperature of the food instead of the temperature of the air,” Cuccaro says. “When you open a walk-in, there’s a rush of inside air in, and a typical thermostat will register that outside air as being hotter on the foodstuff inside then the food really is. So this measures the temperature of the foodstuff, and it causes the compressor to go on and off less frequently. It’s actually safer for the food.”

Upgrade your appliances.
Look for the Energy Star label when considering changing out your kitchen equipment. The designation means you’ll save energy and dollars in the long run.

Haul away your spent grease. That mucky used grease is actually an asset that others see value in. Several biofuel companies will now come to your restaurant and dispose of your spent grease, often for free.

Grow your own. Some restaurants, such as Ecco, a Fifth Group Restaurant, have built whole kitchen gardens on their roofs to help supplement their produce deliveries. The restaurant’s executive chef, Micah Willix, built six garden boxes on the roof and sealed them with used cooking oil. Because Ecco’s air conditioning units produce 30 gallons a day of condensate water, he also added rain barrels to harness the condensation and pump it to the roof for a drip irrigation system.

You don’t have to be as ambitious as growing all your fruits and vegetables on your roof. Many restaurants simply have an herb garden tucked away on the side of their building.

“We have a chef’s herb garden that we grow using organic principles,” Cuccaro says, adding that it’s only about 25 feet by a few feet deep. “We use those herbs year round. We dry them when they’re not in season.”

Consider composting. You can compost almost any food product in a commercial kitchen environment, and may restaurants that compost keep a separate container near the prep area so cooks can easily dump their food waste as they go. A company then will come on a regular schedule to pick up the compost, often reselling the finished dirt either back to the restaurant or to others.

“We compost a ton. I think it’s about 23,000 pounds a month,” says Mitchell, who uses Greenco to haul away their compost. “They’re super nice. They take it and compost it, then resell the compost.”

Recycle. Yes, this is the granddaddy of them all, but once you get your employees in the habit—many of them already recycle at home already anyway—it becomes second nature. Check to see if your municipality offers recycling, or contact one of the many companies in Georgia who specialize in recycling.

Donate unused food. A single restaurant disposes an average of more than 50 tons of organic waste every year, with food scraps comprising 66% of that waste. Contact local shelters, soup kitchens or food banks such as the Atlanta Food Bank to find out the need in your community. You’ll not only divert waste from landfills, but also help others in need.

Implementing just a few of these ideas, whether big initiatives or small maintenance tasks, does add up.


How to Use Online Coupon Marketing Successfully

Friday, April 29th, 2011

How to Use Online Coupon Marketing Successfully

Remember when your mom told you to never just dive into a pool of water without knowing if it’s deep enough to dive in headfirst? Well, the same is true about the online couponing marketing phenomenon. Look before you jump into the deep end.

One of the fastest growing promotion and marketing channels are social promotion sites that offer consumers daily significant discounts on local goods, services and events. Customers download the coupon or voucher to their mobile devices or print the coupon. Among the most popular of these promotion sites are DealSwarm, Scoutmob and Groupon.

And while there is a considerable upside—namely customers—a restaurant can also be potentially damaged if they aren’t fully aware of not only how the promotion works but how to handle it successfully.

“It is the best marketing opportunity for the money,” says Tom Murphy, owner of Atlanta’s Murphy’s Restaurant and Scoutmob’s first customer.

But Murphy’s experience shows the good—and the potential harm—such promotion sites offer restaurants. Murphy used Scoutmob twice. The first time brought 1,200 customers into the restaurant, but the second time saw more than 13,000 Atlantans sign up.

“We have used it twice with phenomenal results,” he says. “If you are staffed up and make it a great experience, it is a marketing tool that delivers.”

Ah, yes. The Big If—as in “if you are staffed up and make it a great experience.” These sites promise to deliver hundreds (maybe thousands) of new customers. And if the merchant is strategic about how he or she uses the promotion, it may deliver repeat, loyal guests, higher check averages, and a wait staff that reaps the benefit of several turns of the tables each night.

So exactly what must a restaurateur do to make it a great experience and turn all these new customers into regulars? And, do you make money?

Here are some suggestions on how to make it work for your restaurant:

1. Do the Math. According to Michael Tavani, 31-year-old co-founder of Atlanta-based Scoutmob, it is easy for an operator to review similar deals to compare how many customers and to compute the food and service costs and fees. There are archived deals on most of the sites.

Prior to using Groupon, Robby Kukler, partner of Fifth Group Restaurants in Atlanta, was meticulous about running the numbers to ensure it would be a good marketing tool for his restaurants.

“The second time we offered Fifth Group Restaurant Groupons we were more specific in our offer and offered purchases not only by restaurant but by meal period,” he says. “This allowed us to sell less expensive Groupons for lunch than dinner, and resulted in our net discount staying as close to 25% as possible. Negotiating as short-term expiration of the Groupon as possible also drives sales in a shorter period of time, which helps drive increased efficiencies and therefore better profitability per shift.”

Make sure you consider the online venture as a marketing expense, and don’t be surprised by hidden costs. Remember, the goal is to drive in enough new customers to offset the discount, not cannibalize existing customers. Know what you are paying for.

Jessica Kalish, marketing manager for DealSwarm, thinks of it as complimenting other marketing tools. “We promote our deals though other media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. We encourage our retailers to do the same by using their existing advertising initiatives to promote their deal as well.”

2. Be Prepared. A restaurateur’s worst nightmare is being unprepared for success. What you don’t want to happen is that a restaurant is so overwhelmed by the influx of customers that it runs out of food (which has happened) or the service is so bad that you drive away any repeat customers.

“Restaurateurs can require reservations, which can help control the number of guests and provides operators with a more accurate number to measure food and staffing needs,” says DealSwarm’s Kalish.

For Agave, a well-known Mexican restaurant in Atlanta, DealSwarm was the perfect tool. “I have noticed fresh faces and a few customers that we haven’t seen in a while,” says Tim Pinkham, managing partner. “We redeem about 15 coupons a week, and since it runs over a seven month period, the flow is more spread out. We also have seen some large parties driven by the buyer of the DealSwarm coupon.”

3. Reserve a spot early. Melissa Libby, president of Melissa Libby & Associates, a public relations firm that specializes in the hospitality industry, advises her clients to sign up for summer 2011 now.

“There are a finite amount of deals each week on each service, so you want to think ahead to get the timeframe you want,” she says. “Think about times when you are traditionally slow—summer, maybe?—and book your promotion now for that time period.”

4. Build a Loyal Following. Work it! Turn first-time customers into regulars by going to every table using the coupon offer as an icebreaker. Thank them for coming and tell them a little about the restaurant. Ask if you could get the guests’ business cards or email address so that you can communicate with them about other deals and events.

5. Take Care of Your Staff. Staff training should be a part of your “deal.” Wait staff should show the full price of the meal along with the discounted one so that guests will be more inclined to tip on the regular price. Merchants can also ask the promotional companies to add this recommendation to its email and website.

Bottom line is that operators and marketers have a lot of variables to take into consideration before they decide whether “deal marketing” is right for them. But for many it will be just the sweet spot for growing their businesses. And you just may find that the water is fine—so dive right in.

Ellen Weaver Hartman is president and CEO of Hartman Public Relations, based in Atlanta. Hartman has more than 30 years of experience in building strategic communications campaigns for some of the world’s most well-known brands including The Coca-Cola Co., Kraft, Popeyes, Avon Products, Arby’s, Seattle’s Best Coffee, and Chili’s. In addition to consumer and business to business communications, she has expertise in corporate communications, social responsibility, media relations and crisis management. To contact Ellen Hartman, email


Tabasco Recipe Competition Worth $10,000 Prize

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Chefs across the United States are challenged to rise to a new recipe competition showcasing the popular street food trend sweeping the foodservice industry.  For a chance to win a cash prize, contestants must submit their entries by July 18, 2011 online at or by mail.

The “street foods” themed contest invites professional chefs, sous chefs and lead line cooks at restaurants and non-commercial foodservice establishments, as well as chefs-in-training, to create an original entrée recipe inspired by some of the world’s most popular ethnic cuisines found in street foods today — like Latin American, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean.  Qualifying entries must be easy to prepare in a foodservice kitchen, incorporate easily sourced ingredients, and include one or more of the following three flavors from the TABASCO Family of Flavors®:  Original TABASCO® brand Pepper Sauce, TABASCO® brand Green Jalapeño Pepper Sauce, and TABASCO® brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce.

The contest awards a $10,000 grand prize to the professional chef with the winning recipe; one culinary student will be awarded $2,500 for the winning recipe in the contest’s student category. In addition to winning cash and merchandise prizes, the professional and student category winners will be featured along with their winning recipes on  Paul McIlhenny, President and CEO of McIlhenny Company, maker of TABASCO® brand Pepper Sauce, and top New Orleans chefs will comprise the judging panel and select the professional and student winners on September 14, 2011.

For more information, contest rules and the contest entry form are available at or by calling 1-888-HOT-DASH.


Nyhof and Zavolta Join Ted’s Montana Grill Leadership Team

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Kristi Nyhof  joined Ted’s Montana Grill as President and Chief Operating Officer to provide strategic and day-to-day leadership for the company and its 46 locations.  Prior to joining Ted’s, Nyhof was with Darden Restaurants as Senior Vice President of Operations at LongHorn Steakhouse.  She has served as President and CEO of Bugaboo Creek Steak House and held a variety of positions at RARE Hospitality International. She began her career with Fresh Choice Restaurant Group, a chain of self-service restaurants in California.

Michelle Zavolta was named Vice President of Human Resources and Training where she leads talent management and retention, employee relations, training, as well as benefits and compensation.  Formerly Vice President of Human Resources for the 86-unit, multi-concept restaurant group CB Holding Corp., Zavolta also has held positions in human resources at RARE Hospitality and Hooters of America Inc., both in Atlanta.  She earned her bachelor’s at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.


Huddle House Promotes Levitas to Chief Administrative Officer

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Huddle House has announced the promotion of its longtime general counsel, Claudia Levitas, to the role of chief administrative officer. Levitas will retain oversight of the 46-year-old family diner chain’s legal affairs and human resources department while taking on new responsibilities such as supervision of all corporate administration, employee benefits programs, the company’s real estate portfolio and risk management evaluation.

“While balancing those responsibilities is a challenge in and of itself, I’m looking forward to doing all I can to help the company continue to grow and move forward,” said Levitas. “That begins with making sure we have all the right programs in place for our franchisees and employees as well as ensuring all organizational and administrative matters are handled efficiently.”

Prior to joining Huddle House in 1995, Levitas practiced law for five years in Washington, D.C., where she specialized in commercial litigation. She joined the chain to oversee franchise-related issues and legislative matters and saw her responsibilities gradually extend to human resources and the development of training materials for Huddle House’s 19 corporate and 381 franchised restaurants.

“Claudia has a much broader and more impactful role than just being our senior counsel,” said Ken Keymer, Huddle House’s CEO. “She’s a senior manager I rely on heavily, someone who’s incredibly bright and works hard for this brand. She’s a very important component to this company’s success.”

Levitas said an initiative she’ll address in her new role is the formation of a recognition program for Huddle House team members making noteworthy contributions to their communities.

“We already have programs that recognize outstanding restaurant performance, but we want to go further and recognize those individuals who are touching lives of people in communities where they work,” she said. “There are so many everyday heroes in our system who are changing people’s lives, and they should be acknowledged.”


Collazo Beats 8 Atlanta Mixologists with Velvet Crema-Latte Recipe

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Whynatte Latte hosted the Inaugural Whynatte Mixology Competition on April 26th at Sutra Lounge. Eight Atlanta mixologists competed with their best Whynatte libation for a chance to win an iPad 2.

The mixologists competing for the prizer were: Adrian Collazo, W Atlanta Downtown; Evan Hawkins, Opera Nightclub; Ted Santiesteban, The Vortex Bar and Grill; Bache Holand, Here to Serve/Goldfish; Jorie Habian, ONE. midtown kitchen; Ben Earley, Sutra Lounge; Rob Petersen, Bella Restaurant & Lounge; and Mitchell McCormick, The Cheetah.

Adrian Collazo of W Atlanta Downtown was declared the winner with his “Velvet Crema-Latte” Recipe

1 ½ oz Kracken Rum
½ oz Velvet Falernum
½ oz Monin Almond Syrup
½ oz Kahlua
2 oz Whynatte Latte
1 Dash of Old Fashioned Bitters
1 Mint Leaf for garnish
Cocoa for Rim
Pinch of Nutmeg for

Rim coupe glass with cocoa.  Put all liquid ingredients inside a shaker with the exception of Kahlua.  Shake and pour into coupe glass.  Slowly pour the Kahlua against the inside of the glass, so it sinks to the bottom.  Garnish with mint sprig and sprinkle a pinch of nutmeg on top.

“I had a blast playing with Whynatte for this competition. The almond and mint really brought out the latte flavor of the Whynatte. I look forward to using it for more drinks in the future.” said Colazo.


Atlanta Dogwood Festival’s Friends of Dogwood Pavilion

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

April 16-17, 2011 at Piedmont Park, Atlanta.  For more information, visit Dogwood Festival.


Tybee Wine Festival

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

April 16, 2011 on Tybee Island, Georgia.  For more information, visit Tybee Wine Festival.

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