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Archive for January, 2012

GRA Mountain Chapter Meeting

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

January 31, 2012 at The Smith House, Dahlonega.  For more information, visit Georgia Restaurant Association.


C & M Gastronomy Group to Open Fig Jam Kitchen & Bar

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

C & M Gastronomy Group’s latest creative concept, Fig Jam Kitchen & Bar, is slated to open in mid-February, the restaurant, which occupies the former Baroni Italian space, is the work of restaurateurs Costanzo Astarita and Mario Maccarrone. Fig Jam Kitchen & Bar is their third venture.

“Over the years, we’ve really had a chance to see the Atlanta culinary scene evolve,” said Astarita. “Today, Atlantans are looking for innovative options and are increasingly curious about new foods and fusion recipes. We’re always excited to bring new ideas to the market, filling a void and enhancing dining experiences.”

Astarita and Maccarrone may best be known for successful Buckhead restaurant Ciao Bella and Midtown restaurants Baraonda, Publik Draft House and Bazzaar Lounge.

Fig Jam Kitchen & Bar’s open kitchen juxtaposes intimate and industrial atmospheres. The restaurant includes an 80-seat main dining area and a .40-seat private dining room.  In the center of the restaurant, guests will find a salami cellar, a glass enclosure that features cured meats and cheeses displayed butcher-shop style.

The cuisine features charred octopus,  salmon bresaola, short rib sliders, mussels in a coconut lemon grass curry broth, duck confit and Mediterranean seafood stew.


GRA Catering Boot Camp-Session One

Monday, January 30th, 2012

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


Is Your Restaurant in Trouble?

Monday, January 30th, 2012

By Nancy Caldarola

Reality TV has been bringing the stories of troubled restaurants into our living rooms for several years.  As professionals in this industry, have we learned anything from watching the misfortunes of our brethren? Have we seen ourselves in these shows? And is your operation a candidate for rescue?

We all have to admit, restaurants have good days and not-so-good days. We thrive on the good days when business is constant, when the kitchen hums like a well-oiled machine, when the staff is efficient and effective, and every guest leaves both sated and glowing with praise for their experience. Still, there are those days when things are not as smooth and effective as we would like. Hopefully, you have many more good days for your team and your location than those ‘can we just forget this all happened’ days.

The restaurants we see on television reality shows have hit bottom and need to be rescued to stay viable. However, your restaurant doesn’t have to be in trouble. You can be your own rescue team by stepping outside your management role and adopting a different viewpoint — examine your operations continuously to see how you can improve.

The reasons that often cause restaurant problems can be divided into four main groups: People, Product, Facilities, and Controls. It’s important to understand how each of these groups impacts the restaurant. But first, let’s start with one problem that’s not in any of the four groups.

Mixed Message to Customers. We are all products of our experiences and backgrounds. When most guests think of a BBQ-themed restaurant, they do not envision an upscale location with subdued lighting and classical music, nor would they expect haute cuisine in a western-style chuckwagon setting. We must be sure that when a guest enters the restaurant, the first sights, smells and sounds are a match to our name and offerings. The mixed message confuses, while tired and dated restaurants drag down sales opportunities.

Revisit your business plan and original theme for your operation. Does it match where you are today? Have changes in look and menu moved you from a focused approach to a muddled management headache? The messages we send to guests must connect the look and feel of the physical facility to the menu offerings and the service received to generate guest satisfaction and loyalty.

Now, on to the other reasons that can cause problems for restaurants.

Disconnected Servers, Bartenders and Kitchen Crew. Hiring the right people is key to the success of a restaurant. The owners cannot do it alone, and putting the right people into various positions must be a top priority. Cardinal rule #1: All employees must want to be in the hospitality business. Management should have frequent discussions with employees about what hospitality means in your restaurant — your style of hospitality and how the front of house team should display it.

Watch and evaluate employees on the job. Do performance appraisals at 30 and 90 days for new hires, then at 6- to 12-month intervals. People like to know how they are doing on the job, so use a formal process to let them know.

If there are disconnected employees in any role in your operation, they are dragging down the rest of the team’s morale, efficiency and productivity. You need to remove the cause of discontent. Good hiring practices are essential to the development of a winning team. Interview carefully and select the best candidates to enhance your service and kitchen crew.

Menus for the Masses. If guests are presented with a menu as thick as a textbook, you are trying to please everyone and it may not be working. Large and varied menus require too many inventory items in stock, too much money tied up in inventory, too many items for the kitchen to consistently and correctly prepare and serve, and a muddled theme for the operation. Large menus tend to happen over the years when new offerings are added but nothing gets taken off the existing menu.The result is like a Russian novel with many possible endings and none in sight.

It is important to analyze sales and determine the biggest-selling menu items currently offered. A sales analysis provides information about how many of each menu offering were sold and what day and time they were sold. This list is often printed from the POS system and should be a standard management tool. Drop all slow and low selling items. If it isn’t 4-6 percent of sales, dump it. It costs more to prepare and serve than you are making in profit.

Try to offer items that allow maximum usage of a key ingredient, like the same 3.5-ounce chicken breast made several ways to have both a standard menu item and daily specials. Then, only one size breast is purchased and inventoried.

Unattractive or Dated Dining Rooms. Don’t be fooled, guests see all the flaws and dirt when they visit your restaurant.

Look critically at your dining room from the guests’ viewpoint — are there simple fixes that can be done to refocus the theme and feel of the location? Can a simple fix, such as a good house cleaning and a coat of paint, brighten the look of the restaurant? Will removing dated décor and window treatments simplify the look and add needed light? How about the floors — when was the last time the rugs were steam-cleaned, repaired or replaced?

Don’t forget chairs and tables; they also need regular cleaning and a coat of paint or varnish. No one likes to sit on a torn banquette seat cover or at a table with chipped Formica edges. Get the restaurant in shape with ongoing maintenance and repairs (M&R), and be sure there is a line item and accruals on the income statement (P&L) to cover these expenses. All restaurants must plan on M&R for the entire restaurant facility – exterior, dining room, kitchen and restrooms.

Restrooms that Scare Guests Away. We can all think of a time when we entered the restroom of a facility, saw the condition of the room, and had to decide to stay or to leave. Do guests do that when they enter your restrooms? Will they let their children use the restroom? There is a direct connection between what a guest thinks about the restrooms and what they then assume about the kitchen and the rest of the facility. So if restrooms are an afterthought, your facility is in trouble with your guests.

Is the room well-lit and safe? Are stalls in good repair and do door slide locks actually work? Is there hot and cold running water? Is the trash container covered and large enough to hold used towels or other trash? Is there graffiti or other marks on the walls and stall sections?

Kitchens That are Just Scary! Cleanliness is essential in the food business. All kitchens and the people who work in them must be clean and work with this mentality. Employees must understand the food code rules and use these as their work practices not as exceptions. Management must measure what is expected and should audit operations manuals and observe kitchen behaviors to ensure that there is compliance.

Are employees wearing clean uniforms and practicing good personal hygiene? Do employees prevent cross-contamination when handling raw and cooked foods? Are cooks properly cooking, cooling, serving and storing foods? Does the kitchen staff understand the Temperature Danger Zone and their role in preventing foodborne illnesses?

When is equipment turned on in the morning — are you wasting energy? Does the dish machine reach the correct temperature? Are the hand-washing sinks stocked and functional? Do employees wash hands frequently? Are all clean pots and utensils stored correctly? Are foods on the correct shelves in the walk-in cooler so there is no contamination?

What We Fail to Measure Will Hurt Us. Many restaurant owners depend on their bookkeepers or accountants to tell them if they are making money. This is bad practice and can result in disaster. All business owners must know how to create, read and apply an income statement or Profit and Loss statement for the operation. If you depend upon being told where you stand fiscally by another person, you are at risk. You need to have a clear financial picture of your operation and how it is performing in relation to your business plan. Is food cost within targets? Is hourly labor in line? Are all taxes, marketing, maintenance and other fees and expenses within budget? What are sales per hour? Bar sales per bartender? What are sales per square foot or any other measures you have established?

Restaurant owners and managers find many excuses to explain away not taking inventory on a regular basis. Inventory is the basis of food cost control management, and not completing at least a monthly inventory can adversely affect food costs.

Food cost is the first area that is investigated when there are financial problems with a restaurant; we should not be immediately trying to cut labor costs. Inventory controls will help cut waste, thefts and spoilage. Inventory is tied to the menu, so good menu management should affect and help ensure good inventory management.

Another area where there is a lack of measurement is in recording employee meals. Are these meals accounted for in food cost? They should be. If you give discounted meals to employees, then these are recorded in sales with the discount part applied to the food cost. This process is the only way to ensure correct accounting for all food-related activities in the restaurant.

The List Goes On…

Although our list or reasons for restaurant problems can continue, the items mentioned above can get management started in self-rescue efforts. We are all continually challenged to operate excellent eateries, and the good days should outnumber the not-so-good ones. By classifying issues in the four categories, you start to systemize your efforts to regain control and solve problems. And remember to use your resources in the NRA and GRA to assist you.

It’s been said that guest complaints are gifts to management, and that problems are merely opportunities for improving the way things are being done. By realistically and systematically approaching your restaurant problems, you can turn your current realty into a smoothly operating dining experience.

Nancy Caldarola, PhD, RD, is a  consultant to the hospitality industry. Her group, Concept Associates  Inc., offers operations improvement projects, training programs, food safety training and audits, menu engineering and  nutritional analysis, and profitability improvement consulting.


Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Supply Show of the Southeast

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

January 29-31, 2013, Myrtle Beach, SC. For more information, visit Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Supply Show



A Toast to Allen Jones

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

January 29, 2012 at 4th & Swift restaurant, Atlanta.  For more information,  call (678) 904-0160.


Riccardo Ullio: From Engineer to Chef

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Milan native Riccardo Ullio has made a name for himself in Atlanta’s restaurant scene, but he didn’t start out intending to be a chef. He had his eye set on engineering, with an undergrad degree from Georgia Tech in Civil Engineering and a master’s in Environmental Engineering.

To support himself in school, he worked in restaurants — and the bug bit him. He opened his first restaurant in 1994, then traveled throughout his homeland to study regional Italian cuisine. He opened Sotto Sotto in 1999, followed by Fritti in 2000. The two restaurants have garnered numerous awards, including Restaurant of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Fritti is also one of only 35 restaurants in the country to be certified by the Verace Pizza Napolentana Association for serving authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas.

Ullio’s since become interested in regional Mexican cuisine and opened Escorpion, a tequila bar and cantina, in Midtown Atlanta this past May.

“I like the creative aspect of being a restaurateur: starting from a concept to finding a location, then working through the process of the architecture, build out and décor; creating a memorable menu; hiring the right people to enhance your vision and finally seeing all this realized on opening night,” Ullio says. “It’s very rewarding to see your vision come to life and to provide people with a new way to enjoy their life.”

Ullio was recently recognized by the Georgia Restaurant Association as a GRACE Awards Restaurateur of the Year finalist.

(Photo courtesy of Lou Freeman)


Davio’s Honored by Buckhead Business Association

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

The Buckhead Business Association (BBA) has named Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, located in Phipps Plaza, as Buckhead Business of the Year. The award was presented at the Buckhead Business Association’s recent Annual Luncheon.

Davio’s was among five finalists chosen by the BBA, each of which were honored for filling a niche in the market, showcasing excellent customer service and demonstrating a commitment to the community.

“We are truly honored to be awarded the Buckhead Business of the Year by the Buckhead Business Association,” said Claude Guillaume, General Manager of Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse. “Davio’s is still new in the neighborhood, but we are committed to continuing our efforts to give back to the community and provide excellent service to all of our loyal customers and patrons.”

Davio’s has contributed to the Buckhead community in various ways since opening 18 months ago, including involvement in various non-profit functions and contributions to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Share Our Strength, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Atlanta Fire Foundation.

In addition to Atlanta, Davio’s has locations in Boston, Philadelphia andFoxborough. The menu includes a selection of fine meats, pasta, classic specialties, fresh seafood and fresh seasonal salads, as well as an extensive wine list.



Buffalo’s Café Acquired by Franchise Development Subsidiary

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Fog Cutter Capital Group Inc’s franchise development subsidiary has acquired Buffalo’s Café. The 26-unit casual dining chain has locations in Georgia, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Indiana, as well as five restaurants in Kuwait and one in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Buffalo’s Café is a 100% franchise organization similar to Fog Cutter’s other restaurant subsidiary, Fatburger North America Inc.

“We are delighted to add Buffalo’s Café to the Fog Cutter franchise business,” said Fog Cutter’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wiederhorn. “We plan to market Buffalo’s franchises to our existing franchisee base both domestically and internationally.”

Fog Cutter Capital Group Inc. has invested in a diverse range of equity, corporate debt and real estate since its founding in 1997. Prior to focusing on the restaurant industry in 2003, the Company operated businesses in manufacturing, retail, real estate development, technology and mortgage banking.

Buffalo’s Franchise Concepts, Inc., based in Atlanta, was formed in 1985 and is the franchisor for both casual dining restaurants (Buffalo’s Cafe) and quick service outlets (Buffalo’s Express Cafe). The restaurants specialize in fresh Buffalo-style chicken wings and tenders, in addition to a full menu offering including salads, wraps, burgers, ribs and other classic American specialty food items.


Little Alley Steak Opens Late February 2012

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Roswell restaurateurs Hicham Azhari and Fikret Kovac plan to open Little Alley Steak, their newest dining destination in historic Roswell, in late February. Little Alley Steak will be an all-American butcher-inspired neighborhood steakhouse. Executive Chef Bob McDonough will oversee the kitchen.

Azhari and Kovac also own two other Roswell eateries, INC. Street Food and Salt Factory Pub, which have been featured on the Food Network show, “Meat and Potatoes,” and in Southern Living magazine.

The menu includes housemade pots, meats and cheeses, a selection of fine and butcher’s cut meats and boutique oysters and shellfish cocktails, as well as regional favorites. All of the restaurant’s steaks will be hand-selected and cut by Chicago butcher Meats by Linz.

Inspired by American butcher shops and charcuteries, Little Alley Steak’s design utilizes natural colors to evoke a classic feel. Rustic wooden tables and the bar top made from the building’s original wood floors provide an intimate seating for guests, while additional seating is available at the bar and on the outdoor patio alongside bustling Canton Street in Historic Roswell’s shopping district.


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