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Archive for September, 2012

Gillespie Departs Woodfire Grill, Hodgkinson Promoted

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Bernard Moussa and Nicolas Quinones, co-owners of Woodfire Grill, have announced the promotion of Chef de Cuisine E.J. Hodgkinson to executive chef of the restaurant. Hodgkinson, who has been with the company since August 2008, was promoted to sous chef in March 2009 and then promoted to chef de cuisine in November 2011. He will assume sole executive chef responsibilities on January 1, 2013, when long-time Executive Chef Kevin Gillespie will be departing Woodfire Grill to open a new restaurant.

“I am very proud of the  restaurant that Nicolas, Bernard and I were able to create,” said Gillespie. “It’s now time to usher in a new era for Woodfire by passing the torch off to the person who has been there from the beginning. E.J. will continue to make wonderful food and lead the restaurant into a bright future.”

Gillespie and Hodgkinson will work together over the next few months to ensure a seamless transition.


National Restaurant Association-PAC Fundraiser

Monday, September 24th, 2012

September 24, 2012 at Canoe Restaurant, Atlanta. For more information, visit Georgia Restaurant Association.


Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

September 22-24, 2012, Orlando, FL. For more information, visit Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show


Saint Simons Food and Spirits Festival

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

September 20-23, 2012 on Saint Simons Island, GA. For more information, visit Saint Simons Food and Spirits Festival.


How Well Do You Really Know Your Employees?

Monday, September 17th, 2012

By Matthew W. Clarke and Joseph “Joey” Costyn, Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP

Let’s face it – nobody’s perfect. Tom Brady occasionally throws an interception, and even the best managers and supervisors sometimes drop the ball on an employment law issue. Whether it is a tricky termination or a problem employee who just happens to have engaged in protected conduct, there is no “magic bullet” when it comes to minimizing the chances for making a mistake in compliance with workplace employment laws. Some common problems tend to arise on a fairly frequent basis, however. By being aware of those issues, an employer can at least minimize the chances of a “fumbled” human resource (HR) issue.

The hiring process is often much like the dating scene. Both parties are initially acquainted, whether by mutual acquaintance (hiring recommendation = blind date), single-party initial interest(resumé submission = pick-up line), or even the Internet ( = Each party may enter the process with great optimism and hope, which are generally good things, but which also have a tendency to cloud objectivity, preventing a clear-sighted vision of what may be ahead.

Rare is the match made in heaven. As the relationship grows and both individuals start to notice each other’s flaws, it either works out as you adapt to one another, or it ends with both sides feeling disappointed. Here are some common tools that the HR professional can use to increase the odds of a successful, long-term relationship.

Ensure Adequate Background Checks

A recent analysis from a national screening provider revealed that the number of discrepancies uncovered in employee resumés during 2010 more than doubled over 2009. The study found that 42 percent of screened employment histories contained an inconsistency between the information provided by candidates and the results of the verification check, compared with just 19 percent for the same period in 2009.

Background screening should be conducted to verify the application information and as a basic safeguard to ensure that someone with a violent criminal history, for example, isn’t being hired as a security guard. It is also essential to adopt a practice of consistency in performing background checks. Do not conduct checks only for“shady” candidates or those who seem like they might be hiding something. Such a practice could lead to costly liability from a disparate impact or even direct discrimination standpoint.

Employers will have less need to worry about disparate treatment claims if they treat everyone the same way. Conduct the same type of background screening on all applicants for the same job classification, and maintain the same response standard for background checks that come back with negative history. For example, if an employment offer is withdrawn due to the applicant’s falsification of his criminal history, it is important that other applicants who commit falsification are not treated dissimilarly.

Background checks are particularly important for individuals applying for positions that involve unsupervised customer interaction, access to sensitive information and other positions of trust. Claims for “negligent hiring” can arise when someone is injured or damaged by an employee in such a position, where the employer knew or “should have known” not to hire the individual for such a position.

Employees who are to be placed in a position of trust with access to customers, their property, company funds, secure areas, confidential information, etc., should be screened to determine whether a prior conviction indicates a propensity to violate such trust. Employers should be careful, however, to ensure that they are in compliance with local, state and federal laws, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, when conducting background checks.

In addition to third-party background screening services, employers can take the following practical and inexpensive steps to weed out less-than-forthcoming candidates:

• Review resumé and application for inconsistencies.

• Look for gaps in time in employment history.

• Perform Google search and/or LinkedIn search to see if credentials match the resumé/application.

Conduct Thorough Interviews

The purpose of an interview is not to see whether the applicant would make a good buddy with whom to catch a game after work. An interview is the chance to go beyond the resumé and make objective observations about a candidate’s qualifications, demeanor, professionalism and actual interest in the available position. Interviewers should not gloss over important questions about work history, experience and desire to become a part of the company just because, for example, the interviewer and interviewee were both members of the same fraternity or sorority.

People are different. Studies have demonstrated that, even for an individual who has no overt prejudices based on race, nationality, sex, disability, etc., it nevertheless remains true that people are less likely to understand others who are different from them.

Different people do not always understand each other or communicate effortlessly upon initial introduction. For this reason also, an interview should be conducted professionally and in a fairly scripted manner. It is not a casual conversation. candidate about any apparent or possible inconsistencies. Find out why he left his previous employment, and do not be afraid to follow up his answer with more detailed questions. Remember, every applicant who is not hired has a potential “failure-to-hire” claim against the company. Even though such claims are not common, you should adopt a process that will allow you to maintain documentation that will help explain why you did not hire an individual — just in case.

The Importance of Documentation

Human resources professionals make thousands of employment-related decisions every year. While most of these decisions may sporadically need to be justified to a supervisor or union, there may come a time when one of the thousands of decisions made has to be explained or justified to a third party – like a judge or a jury. For a decision made months or even years ago, how are you going to prove that your actions were proper? The answer, many times, is through proper documentation.

During the interview process, it is important to take notes or otherwise document the reason that an individual is either accepted or rejected. This does not need to consist of a lengthy or even separately prepared narrative, but could be as simple as making handwritten notes on the application or resumé during or after the interview.

Imagine two candidates with identical resumés. One candidate interviews exceptionally, while the other admits that the experience claimed on his resumé is a little exaggerated and that he is only interested in the position because he “just needs a job.” If the rejected candidate brings a failure-to-hire claim six months later, the person conducting the interview may not even remember meeting either candidate. A couple of handwritten notes on the candidate’s resumé or application explaining the unfavorable admissions during the interview, however, could provide all the evidence needed to secure a dismissal of the claim.

This advice applies equally to the employment decisions that are made after someone is already hired. It is not uncommon for jurors, and even some judges, to take the attitude that “if it is not in writing, it did not happen.”

Put differently, people often adopt the assumption that if something is important, it will be written up or somehow documented. Employee discipline and terminations are often based not on a failure to meet performance benchmarks or easy-to-demonstrate error, but on conduct, which is not so self evident.

Documentation of the conduct upon its occurrence gives great credibility to the validity of an employment decision made on that conduct. Even occurrences that “everyone knew” or were “common knowledge” in the workplace around the time they happened might be distant memories by the time the company needs witnesses to testify. A four-sentence handwritten memo to the personnel file can be the evidence that literally wins the case for the employer.

No matter how clear and effective your employment documentation may be, it is not going to help you if you cannot find it. Remember to develop and follow appropriate document retention/ destruction policy, as well as an organized system or keeping track of employee discipline and performance.

Supervisors need to be reminded to turn wrap-ups and evaluations into the appropriate department for filing in the employee’s personnel file. Department heads or other managers who maintain their own files on individual employees should be dissuaded from doing so, or at least be required to communicate with human resources to ensure proper process and content of their files.

Employers face difficult hiring and firing scenarios on a daily basis. By integrating some basic safeguards into your HR routine, you can minimize the botched plays, and keep your organization a winner.


Which Issues Will Affect the Restaurant Industry?

Monday, September 17th, 2012

by Helen K. Kelley

While there were not nearly as many bills up for discussion in 2012 as in the previous year, there were still several important issues on the table in this year’s legislative session that will have an impact on the restaurant industry. So, how did it all shake out?

One of your most important benefits as a member of the Georgia Restaurant Association is GRA’s advocacy efforts on your behalf. GRA’s Government Affairs team helps to protect your interests as a business owner by working directly with legislators to support member initiatives and by providing representation in state government to defeat anti-restaurant measures and promote bills that enhance the industry.

In 2011, legislators were occupied with considering a long list of issues that affected the hospitality industry, from education and public health to Sunday alcohol sales and electronic gambling, topped off by a controversial bill requiring many Georgia businesses to ensure that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S. This year’s legislative session was quite different, with a considerably smaller list of bills that would affect the restaurant industry. However, the passage of two bills in particular — one regarding the administration of wage garnishments and the other allowing brewpubs to expand their production — will have a significant positive impact on Georgia’s restaurants.

Wage Garnishment

One of the most critical pieces of legislation to pass this session was House Bill 683, which allows employers to address wage garnishments rather than being forced to use legal counsel to do so.

“Last year a Georgia Supreme Court ruling had changed everything around so that an employer would have to go through an attorney to address a wage garnishment,” explains Katie Jones, GRA Public Affairs Coordinator. “It was bad news for everyone.”

However, with Governor Nathan Deal’s support this year, HB 683 successfully passed both House and Senate in February.

Many GRA members are relieved by the passage of this bill. Mark Oswald, Managing Partner of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, says that had it not passed, the financial and administrative ramifications would have had a very negative impact on restaurant owners.

“At the time the Wage Garnishment legislation was being considered, we had five open cases in which our attorney was actively involved,” he says. “An average legal fee on each garnishment filing is approximately $500 – so costs can mount up quickly. Additionally, conferring with our legal counsel took more of our Director of Human Resources’ time than being able to handle garnishments directly.”

HB 683’s passage means direct savings for employers in both money and time.

“Not only does the ability to handle garnishment notices internally eliminate an unnecessary lawyer, it also saves us real dollars in legal bills. We are now able to process notices far more cost efficiently,” states Oswald.

Brewpub Expansion

House Bill 472 will increase the number of barrels a brewpub can produce from 5,000 to 10,000. It will also increase from 500 to 5,000 the number they can sell to wholesale distributors.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Richard Smith, said that the proposal was designed with small business owners in mind, as a way to boost their sales and create jobs.

“It’s an economic development issue,” he said in a statement during a Senate committee hearing after the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the House.

The bill also addresses the growing popularity of craft beers. Increased sales could create the opportunity for small craft beer brewers to buy the equipment they need to brew by the barrel and then distribute their product more widely.

“Our brewpub members are really excited about the passage of this bill,” said Jones. “It’s a victory for them, their customers and local communities.”

Additional Issues

Other bills on the 2012 legislative docket addressed the issues of taxes, unemployment, alcohol licenses and fees, and sick leave.

Bills that passed and are waiting on the Governor’s signature include House Bill 100, which creates a tax court and a more efficient system that will increase the uniformity and predictability of decisions in tax cases; House Bill 1066, which establishes a staggered alcohol license renewal system much like Georgia’s car tag renewal process and also changes the provisions on distance requirements and license fees for special event applicants; and House Bill 347, which cuts the length of state unemployment benefits and, although it also increases unemployment insurance rates, will help stabilize the state’s unemployment benefits fund.

Successfully defeated was House Bill 432, which would have assigned mandatory restrictions to employers offering paid sick leave.


The overall results of 2012 Legislative Session will have a positive impact Georgia’s small business owners, including restaurateurs.

“…when the dust settled, we were left with some quality legislation that will make life easier for our small businesses,” states Kelly Hornbuckle, GRA Director of Marketing & Communications. “And for that, we would like to thank our elected officials. We met with many this session, and they were very receptive on a range of issues.”

Following a contentious 2011 session preoccupied with the glare of a hot spotlight on immigration, legislators and advocacy groups alike were pleased to focus on other issues this year.

“It was a relief to turn to other matters this year and have a very successful legislative session,” says Jones. “All in all, we are very pleased with the outcomes of these bills on behalf of our members.”


Chef Tom Leroy to Oversee Kitchen at West & Mill Bistro Bar

Monday, September 17th, 2012

West & Mill, a bistro and bar serving lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, will open on September 15 at 1000 Marietta Street on Atlanta’s westside. The owners are Diana Stawnyczy and Alexandra Prockow.

Chef Tom Leroy’s dinner menu will include small plates, along with classic French and Belgian entrees. The lunch menu offers a variety of sandwiches made with high quality meats and house-made sauces, French onion soup and quiche Lorraine. Weekend brunch items served in addition to the lunch menu will include honey nut crepes and vol au benedict served in a pastry bouchée. The  bar offers  cocktails, a mix of local brews and European stouts, lagers and ales and a selective wine list paired to the traditional comfort dishes.

West & Mill’s interior is modern and rustic, featuring couches, a fireplace and plenty of seating for bar guests. The dining room has full-length windows that offer a view of Midtown, and a wrap-around patio overlooking Marietta Street offers al fresco dining.

The dining room is framed by vintage cream-colored French doors that open up to a bright and airy space enhanced with light tones, white marble, canvas market lamps and industrial metal accents. Full-length windows bring natural light and a view of the bustling Midtown artery into the space, while a wrap-around patio overlooking Marietta Street offers al fresco dining amid plush planters filled with herbs and flowers.


Atlanta Team Wins Inaugural Cochon Heritage BBQ Festival

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Chef Jay Swift of 4th & Swift, Todd Mussman of Muss & Turners/Local Three, Nick Melvin, and Tommy Searcy of Gum Creek Farms brought home the winning title at the inaugural Cochon Heritage BBQ festival, a three-day celebration of Heritage Breed pork, fine dining, national bourbon month and some of the country’s best BBQ. The festival took place over Labor Day weekend in Memphis, Tenn.

The four team members are well acquainted through the Atlanta restaurant/food scene. Jay Swift and Todd Mussman worked together at South City Kitchen, where Mussman served as sous chef while Swift was executive chef there. Both Swift and Mussman buy pork from Tommy Searcy. Nick Melvin — who has worked at Rosebud and Empire State South and now plans to open his new restaurant The Garden District soon— was introduced to the rest of the group by his friend Todd Mussman.

The team met several times in advance of the event to write their menu and prep for the competition. Some of their winning dishes included the “Memphis State Fair Sandwich,” a Hawaiian-roll grilled pork loin slider with lard aioli and broccoli chow-chow, and the Pig Head Gumbo served with Cajun deep-fried rice balls.


Del Frisco’s Grille to Open Atlanta Location in October

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Del Frisco’s Grille will open on October 13 on Peachtree Road in the heart of Buckhead.

Executive Chef Mike Fuller, who has worked in Southern restaurants for nearly 30 years, has created a menu featuring local favorites such as Brunswick shrimp and grits, Savannah blue crab toast, Anson Mills grit cakes and Dillwood Farms collard greens, alongside new classics like wood oven-baked flatbreads, cheesesteak egg rolls and pimento cheese fritters. Del Frisco’s director of wine David O’Day has selected wines from established and up-and-coming regions in the world, creating an extensive list of choices.

Designed by Atlanta architectural firm The Johnson Studio, the restaurant’s environment has a blend of industrial and warm elements. A double-decker cooled and heated patio provides for year-round al fresco dining.

The Grille will be open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

Del Frisco’s Grille is owned by Dallas-based Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, which has a collection of more than 30 restaurants located across the country, including Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Del Frisco’s Grille and Sullivan’s Steakhouse.



GHLA and GRA Lend Support to Atlanta Foodservice Expo

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

The Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association has joined the Georgia Restaurant Association in supporting the new Atlanta Foodservice Expo, a trade show serving the Restaurant, Foodservice and Hospitality industry in Georgia and the Southeast.  The show will be held annually at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, with the inaugural show scheduled for October 20-22, 2013.

“Foodservice is an important facet of the hotel industry. Hotels across the state offer an array of food and beverage services to guests ranging from personalized in-room service to elaborate dinner banquets that serve thousands of guests,” said Jim Sprouse, Executive Director of the Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association. “Hoteliers will benefit from the opportunity to visit top industry vendors and learn about the latest trends and innovations in foodservice at the Atlanta Foodservice Expo.”

The new trade show is an opportunity for different facets of the industry to come together, according to Georgia Restaurant Association Executive Director Karen Bremer.

“Through education, commerce and fellowship we strengthen not just individual businesses, but Georgia’s foodservice industry as a whole,” she stated.

For more information on the inaugural event, log on to Atlanta Foodservice Expo.

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