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Archive for August, 2013

GRACE Award Finalists Announced

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) announced the finalists for the 7th Annual Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Awards. These finalists are peer‐nominated and the winners will be announced November 10th at the GRACE Awards Gala to be held at The Foundry at Puritan Mill. Mara Davis, co‐host of Atlanta Eats, will
serve as Mistress of Ceremonies. The GRA will also honor this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Steve Nygren of Serenbe.

The GRACE Awards recognize and pay tribute to the leaders who have made outstanding contributions to Georgia’s restaurant industry. To learn more about the GRACE Awards, or purchase tickets, visit


Restaurateur of the Year
Archna Becker, Bhojanic
Jamie Durrence, Local 11ten, Perch, The Public Kitchen & Bar
Ford Fry, JCT. Kitchen & Bar, No. 246, The Optimist, King + Duke

Industry Partner of the Year
Jackson Lewis LLP
NetFinancials, Inc.

Distinguished Service Award
Debby Cannon, Georgia State University
Charles H. Kuck, Kuck Immigration Partners LLC
Sam Zamarripa & Dan Moody, The Essential Economy Council

The Innovator Award
Frozen Pints
Kennesaw State University
Pure Knead

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
Steve Nygren, Serenbe

Chairman’s Award Winner
Michele L. Stumpe, Taylor English Duma LLP


Chef Back Joins Table & Main

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Table & Main owner/operator Ryan Pernice and Executive chef/co-owner Ted Lahey announced that the restaurant’s new Chef de Cuisine will be Woolery “Woody” Back starting in October. Lahey will then move to open Italian restaurant, Osteria Mattone, his second venture with partner Pernice and RO Hospitality, slated to open this fall.

With a cooking style influenced by his Kentucky roots, Back began his hospitality industry career in the front of the house at a few small places around New York. Eventually, his place in front of house moved to the kitchen where he honed his interest in cooking. A move to Virginia to attend Johnson & Wales University earned him a degree in culinary arts.

Sous chef positions at spots such as Havana and Mahi Mahs fueled his love for cooking but it wasn’t until he was named chef de cuisine at Southern restaurant, Coastal Grill that he fell in love with Southern cuisine in particular. As such, he moved further south and served as sous chef with the famed Tom Collicco at Craft. Upon Craft’s closing, he joined chef Linton Hopkins team starting at Holeman and Finch, and then his most recent position as executive sous chef at Restaurant Eugene.


Promoting your Brand – One Carrot at a Time

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

By Ellen W. Hartman

Doug TurbushRestaurant operators today are continually seeking balance. As an industry, we want to give our guests a quality, great-tasting product – at a great value. We want to provide an enriching experience – with an eye on the bottom line. We want to create an experience that offers escape – and follows the rules.

Historically, healthy menus were tough to fit into this balance. A chef or operator understood the need for balanced meals, but customers wanted something different. They wanted an indulgence, not something with a “healthy” label, which was associated with “not flavorful” and “not tasting good.”

Times are changing, and they are changing for the better. Today, due to champions in the top levels of government, industry groups such as the NRA and, most importantly, demand from consumers, healthy is hot. Restaurant operators that meet the newly found appetite for nutritious meals will gain loyal customers and establish their brands as industry leaders at the front of change.

But where to begin? Focus on sustainable products? Low calorie? Low fat? Locally sourced? One option is to start with the kids. Childhood obesity has become a rallying cry at the highest levels of government – we’ve all heard of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation.

Big players in the industry are on board, too. In 2011, McDonald’s rolled out a new kid’s meal with apple slices included, and Darden Restaurants now offers fruits and vegetables as the default sides on its kids’ menu, with 1-percent milk as the default beverage.

Most importantly, healthy eating for kids is now becoming a big concern for consumers. In the NRA’s annual survey of members of the American Culinary Federation, “healthful kids’ meals” was among the top five menu trends this year. Also in the top five was “children’s nutrition as a culinary theme.”

Smaller operators may be wondering what they can do to engage. With tight margins and, potentially, low demand for kid’s meals, fruits and veggies are often out of budgetary reach. In response to this concern, NRA rolled out Kids LiveWell in 2011, in partnership with San Diego-based consultant Healthy Dining. The program, part marketing and part nutrition, is an effort to help operators identify and validate kid’s menu choices that meet 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines.

Fresh to Order (f2o) is a perfect example of a smaller operator making large strides towards kids’ health. The Atlanta-based “fine-fast” chain, with nine locations in Georgia and Tennessee, is a featured member of Kids LiveWell, and its many fresh and health options are also featured on Healthy Dining’s restaurant finder for adults. Fresh to Order Chief Operating Officer and Corporate Chef Jesse Gideon designs the chains kid’s menu to be fun, nutritious and affordable – the perfect recipe for both meeting the demands of health-conscious consumers and driving sales consistency.

Gideon’s reward is loyal customers. His concept already had a great appeal among women, but the Kids LiveWell designation has expanded his reach. Now his loyal female customers see f2o both a place to meet friends or business associates AND a great place for their kids. Dads are also a big part of Gideon’s customer base. The chain offers a fresh and healthy, no-cook weekend dinner that Gideon’s dad customers know is good for their kids.

It doesn’t have to be hard. “Healthy Dining was indeed great to work with,” Gideon says. “They took all the hard work out the equation by giving me access to a team of amazing registered dieticians. They helped me to identify items currently on our menu that meet Kids LiveWell criteria; the overall process was a joy to be a part of.”

For operators interested in joining the cause, Kids LiveWell offers a turn-key method for verifying and promoting qualified menu items, including valuable assistance from Healthy Dining’s team of registered dietitians. Once the process is complete, Kids LiveWell is a brand champion, highlighting participants on their website, mobile app, at conferences and to the millions of parents interested in making the best choices for their families.

So Kids LiveWell is easy on operators – and it’s a marketer’s dream. As a public relations professional serving the restaurant industry, I highly recommend the program as a great way to build brand recognition and loyalty.

At a broad level, Kids LiveWell members are included among a growing group of industry leaders working on a solution to an obesity epidemic facing our country – a stance much appreciated by many potential customers and thought leaders throughout the nation. More importantly many restaurants, such as f2o, have found that a healthy kids program increases customer visits and builds loyalty. Kids LiveWell has a broad marketing reach that expands brand awareness of your restaurant to customers looking for healthy options for their kids. Moreover, when your current customers know that you care about their health and the health of their families, they are more likely to become loyal customers that come back time and time again.

For more information on joining the Kids LiveWell program, please contact Joy Dubost at the National Restaurant Association at 202-973-5361 or You can also access information on designing choices on your menu at or

Take the First Bite
Want to make the most of a partnership with Kids LiveWell? Take these easy steps:
1. Form a true partnership. Brand leaders should get to know the NRA/Kids LiveWell team. A personal relationship allows even more opportunities for long-term success of the program and your brand.
2. Announce your partnership. Parents will choose brands that make their child’s health a priority. Spread the word about your brand’s smart choice through a press release or media campaign.
3. Tell local influencers. Local media, food, restaurant and ‘mommy’ bloggers care deeply about what local restaurants are doing to improve health. Let your local media know about what you’re doing.
4. Be a spokesperson. Offer your brand’s chef or food and beverage/research and development leaders to comment on the program or nutritious options for kids.
5. Stay active. You are constantly improving your regular menu – keep your kid’s menu top of mind, too, in order to keep it healthy.

Ellen Hartman is president and CEO of Hartman Public Relations, LLC, a full- service public relations agency specializing in the foodservice industry. Hartman and her team have experience working for full service brands such as Chili’s, Huddle House and Olive Garden, fast casual brands such as Cosi, and many QSR brands including Popeyes, Church’s, and Arby’s. An industry leader for more than 20 years, Hartman is a frequent speaker at industry events, is active in the Women’s Foodservice Forum and Les Dames d’Escoffier International and has served on the board of the Multi-Cultural Foodservice Hospitality Alliance.


GRA Industry Briefing: The Affordable Care Act: Making Lemonade out of Lemons

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

August 27, 2013, Atlanta. For more information, visit GRA Industry Briefing: Affordable Care Act


#FORTHEFARMER to Support Kula Project’s Farmer Sponsorship Programs

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

August 22, 2013, metro Atlanta. For more information, visit Kula Project #forthefarmer campaign


Chef Doug Turbush Shares Insights on Food Culture, Locale, Management and a New Venture, Stem Wine Bar

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

By Christy Simo

Like many chefs, Doug Turbush got his start working in a restaurant as a teenager. But he hated it – at the time. Still, it was all he knew and his parents insisted he go to college, so he got a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from the University of Wisconsin. While there, he took a cooking class as one of the restaurant management courses and discovered that he actually loved cooking, especially the discipline and organization of it.

He graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., did a stint in Minneapolis at Stephen Pyles’ restaurant Goodfellows, and spent a year traveling around Thailand cooking. He joined Buckhead Life Restaurant Group in 1999 as chef de tournant at Nava under Chef Kevin Rathbun, where he was eventually promoted to Executive Chef. In 2005, he became Executive Chef at Bluepointe. He opened Seed Kitchen & Bar in East Cobb County in 2011.

This fall, Turbush and his team are opening up Stem Wine Bar next door to Seed. Currently at 170 seats, Seed is also expanding its private dining room to seat up to 24.

Recently, Restaurant INFORMER had a chance to catch up with Chef Turbush and get his insights on food culture, restaurant locales, management style and more:

As a chef, what inspires you?

Travel, really. I got to live in Thailand for a year. That was a pretty amazing experience, being able to completely embrace an entirely different culture, and a culture that’s really a food culture. So I like to go to countries where food is the culture. I just got back from Spain, and really that’s just so different from what we have here.

How would you describe your cooking style?

Bold flavors. Obviously we’re driven by local ingredients, and I’m pretty diverse. I don’t like to put a lot of boundaries on it. That’s kind of why I ultimately opened my own place.

What would you say is the best advice or tip you’ve received?

Great service begins and ends in the kitchen. You have to bear that responsibility as a chef. You can have the greatest general manager out there and willing customers, but if the timing isn’t right in the kitchen, you’re never going to have great service.

As a chef, what’s your philosophy as far as managing people in the kitchen?

Seed is a lot busier than I thought it would be. We’ve got a lot of young kids in here, which is something I’m not used to and didn’t expect, but we start them in the prep kitchen, and they earn their stripes and move their way through the salad station.

We’re still learning our management style up here –  it’s different than Buckhead. There, you had a whole pool of talented cooks to choose from. If you lost one, you just asked a buddy to bring their buddy, and that was that.

We treat them fairly and we provide a great opportunity to learn here. We’re working closely with culinary schools, and it’s been great. Mostly local schools, but we’ve had one or two from the CIA in New York. But mainly we’re working Le Cordon Bleu, and Chattahoochee Tech is right down the street here.

How is running the restaurant in East Cobb different than running a restaurant in Buckhead?

Well you get to go to bed earlier (laughs). It clears out around 9 p.m., 9:30 every night. We always have a great lunch business – everyone comes at lunch. East Cobb never really had a restaurant that they embraced that did the upscale-casual thing, and they’ve embraced us. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

I’ve lived here 13 or 14 years now. Me and my wife, we’d go out, we’d say, “Where are we going to go out to eat tonight?” And we’d end up staying in and cooking; we never really went anywhere. We didn’t want to drive in town, so what else where we going to do? So I put a lot of thought into what this market might want. So far, so good.

What made you decide to ultimately open a restaurant in that area?

I was tired of the commute to Buckhead. I was tired of the Buckhead scene. I really wanted to open a restaurant of my own. It made sense from a quality-of-life standpoint to do something close to home. But mainly the No. 1 trigger was… I was always looking at the Johnson Ferry corridor. That’s where it is, and that’s where you need to be. And literally, the day I saw the Whole Foods sign go up, I thought, well, they’ve got millions of dollars of market research already done for me, and that’s the client I want – the guy who goes into Whole Foods three times a week. So that’s really what pushed me.

Before opening Seed, you were at Bluepointe. What are some things that are different running a restaurant on your own than when you were working for a restaurant group?

There are a lot of things you don’t see that you quickly discover. You go from being the guy who runs the kitchen to being the guy that these 49 employees are looking to for answers and guidance. Bluepointe had 25 cooks and that was a big responsibility, but it has doubled. So that’s been interesting, but it’s been awesome.

How did you end up financing the restaurant?

That is and was the biggest obstacle. I’ve had years of experience cooking and knew I wanted to do it, but I always figured I had to go find some rich investor to do the thing. But I started digging into SBA [Small Business Administration] stuff. I started going to the SBA downtown. There’s guidance there, and that guidance helps a lot.

The organization that helped me a lot was the Small Business Development Center in Kennesaw. I had already developed a business plan, but they sat down with it and said, “Well, these look OK, but let us give you something that’s going to really help you.” So they gave me P&Ls [Profit and Loss statements] – I had P&Ls already done, but they took it down to the month for three years. And they did it for free – well, I guess I pay tax money, but they provided me with CPA-looking documents that I could take to the bank at no cost.

So that was the biggest catapult that got me some real attention from some banks in what was a pretty terrible economy when I was trying to do this. But they [the banks] really took me seriously once I had a serious set of numbers for them to look at. I ended up getting a half-million dollar loan to do this. So we got some landlords, an influx of money. I gathered up the $100,000 down payment from what I’d saved and from my family.

What were some of the other challenges in opening a new restaurant?

There are daily challenges. A start-up… what I didn’t know is the whole SBA thing. I knew they [the SBA] were there, but I didn’t think it was for the average Joe. But they really are out there just to help the economy. I remember standing in front of the Cobb County board and them asking how many employees we were going to have, and I said,  25. And they said “Oh that’s great!” and now here I am with double that number.

Tell me a little bit about your new wine bar.

It’s called Stem Wine Bar. It’s right next door [to Seed]. It’s actually connected to the space. It’s about 40 seats. It’s European small plates, local charcuterie, artisan cheeses. It’s got about a dozen different small plates on the menu, about 41 wines by the glass, 70 or 80 wines total. We’ve discovered there is a wine-drinker market here in East Cobb, and we wanted to give them a new experience.

What made you want to locate it immediately next door to Seed?

There was an empty piece of real estate right next to me, so that was part of the reason. I didn’t want anyone else to take it. But it made a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. Now we don’t have to build another production kitchen, and you can draw from staff who’s already here. Seed was attracting a lot of people. They’re going to find out about Stem because it’s right next door; if we were down the street, not necessarily. I have a great management team, and we have a great passion for wine and paring food and wine. It was the logical next concept for us.

Stem shares a kitchen with Seed?

Yes. We’ll do some production in this kitchen, but Stem does have its own little kitchen, mainly just for service.

What’s the one item you must have in your kitchen?

I always have six or seven different soy sauces. People are always asking me what the differences are between them and how to use them. So I think that’s what I have to have.

What would you say is your favorite restaurant in Georgia outside of your own?

Probably Rathbun’s. That’s kind of where we frequent. He was a big mentor of mine.

Who is the most inspirational person in the restaurant world?

I like Danny Meyer. He’s obviously a successful restaurateur in New York, and I just love his approach. I read his book [Setting the Table] and love his approach to running a business. He’s very careful, and his expansion (his second concept) took him 17 years to open. It took me only 17 months, so I’m not really following his advice (laughs). But just the focus he puts on the quality of the product and the quality of the service that’s being delivered — it’s an inspiration.

What’s your favorite thing about the restaurant industry?

The hours. No, just joking. Every day is a blank slate, and you really don’t know what you’re getting into. You’re either built for that or you’re not. I kind of enjoy it and thrive off it.

If you could decide your last meal, what would it be?

I’d do something simple like a nice rib-eye and a good Cab.


Third Annual Halperns’ Food, Wine & Spirits Show

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

August 20, 2013, Atlanta. For more information, visit Halperns’ Food, Wine & Spirits Show


Healthcare Implementation Timeline

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Here is a timeline of the healthcare law provisions that have the greatest impact on restaurants.

• Notification to employees. Employers must inform all current employees and any new hires after this date about the existence of the exchange in their state and how employees can access it. The Labor Department has indicated that it will issue guidance and a template about how the information must be provided. This requirement was supposed to take effect in March 2013 but has been delayed until late summer or early fall 2013.

• FICA tax increases. Beginning in 2013, taxpayers with incomes over $200,000 (single) or $250,000 (married filing jointly) will pay increased taxes on the Medicare Contribution Tax (3.8 percent on unearned income) and the Medicare Hospitalization Insurance tax (0.9 percent tax increase for employee). There are discussions about altering or delaying these taxes, but no changes have been made yet.

• Flexible spending accounts limited. Beginning in 2013, employees’ contributions to flexible spending accounts can be no more than $2,500.

• Exchange open enrollment. Beginning October 1, 2013, individuals will be able to enroll in coverage purchased on the exchanges for plans beginning January 1, 2014. Based on Massachusetts’ experience with an exchange, many people are expected to look into coverage through an exchange.

• Employer mandate. Employers with 50 or more full-time equivalents must offer “minimum essential coverage” to all employees who average 30 or more hours a week in a given month, or potentially be liable for penalties. How calculations are made, how often and how penalties will be assessed is the subject of current regulatory action by the Department of Treasury.

• Automatic enrollment. Employers with 200 or more full-time employees must automatically enroll their full-time employees into one of the plans the employer offers after the applicable waiting period. However, the Department of Labor has concluded that its automatic-enrollment guidance will not be ready to take effect by 2014. It remains the Department of Labor’s view that, until final regulations under Fair Labor Standards Act Section 18A are issued and become applicable, employers are not required to comply with FLSA Section 18A.

• Ninety-day waiting period. All group health plans are allowed up to a 90-day waiting period before offering coverage.

• Individual mandate. The law requires most individuals to obtain basic health insurance coverage, through their employers, state exchanges, Medicaid/ Medicare or elsewhere, or face an annual tax penalty. In 2014, the tax penalty will be $95 for not obtaining minimum coverage.

• State health insurance exchanges open. Each state must establish a “Health Insurance Marketplace” by Jan. 1, 2014, to provide affordable healthcare options to individuals and small group employers. If they choose not to, the Department of Health and Human Services will set up and operate one in that state. The exchanges are envisioned as marketplaces that will offer individual and small group plans that are administered by private insurance companies.

It is anticipated that all restaurateurs will have a great deal of interaction with the exchanges in their states, even if they do not purchase coverage through the exchange, because of the reporting requirements in the law. If employees go to the exchange for coverage, they will be asked to provide:
1. Employer contact information and identification number.
2. Whether the applicant is employed on a full-time basis.
3. Whether the employer offers minimum essential coverage (affordable and of minimum value).
4. And if so, the required employee contribution to the employer’s lowest-cost plan.

• Exchange reinsurance fee. From 2014 to 2016, health insurers and self-funded plans will contribute to a fund that will be used to make sure the exchanges function properly. This will be accessed on a per-capita basis of $5.25 a month or $63 in the first year. For smaller employers, this cost may be passed down to you.

• State exchanges grow. From 2014 to 2016, only individuals and small group employers are eligible to participate in the state exchanges; beginning in 2017, states may elect to allow large group plans (100-plus) to be sold on the exchange as well. States may also form regional exchanges.

• “Cadillac” plans. Beginning in 2018, the law imposes a new 40 percent excise tax on the value of coverage that exceeds certain dollar thresholds.

For 2018, the dollar thresholds for the excise tax are $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage.

For more information, visit Healthcare Law: Next Steps for Restaurant Operators


Bon Appetit Names The Optimist One of America’s Best New Restaurants

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Over the past year Bon Appétit Restaurant and Drinks Editor Andrew Knowlton traveled 26,333 miles in 22 states and to compile The Hot 10 2013: The Best New Restaurants in America. Atlanta’s The Optimist is ranked 7th on the list.

Bon Appétit is the largest epicurean magazine in America.

To view a video of Knowlton’s experience at The Optimist, visit The Optimist — One Fish Cooked Three Ways


Di Palma’s Caffe Gio to offer Traditional Neopolitan Fare

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Giovanni Di Palma (of Antico Pizza Napoletana) has opened Caffé Gio, a traditional Neapolitan caffé and gelateria. Located behind Gio’s Chicken Amalfitano and adjacent to Antico, Caffé Gio will offer lunch daily with traditional Neapolitan street food such as fresh-to-order Parmigiano or Meatball Panini’s on crispy Ciabatta with San Marzano marinara sauce and melted mozzarella. With al fresco seating, Caffé Gio will also serve 10 original, handcrafted gelato flavors imported from Bologna, Italy, a variety of sorbets and specialty concoctions.

Caffé Gio’s menu features six paninis on homemade Ciabatta served with soup or salad. The caffé will also serve salads made chicken breast, a thin Italian steak or jumbo grilled prawns topped with homemade dressing. All items will be fresh, handmade and artisan-quality, highlighting flavors typical of the Amalfi Coast area around Naples, Italy. Other offerings include Kimbo coffee and espresso roasted in the traditional Neapolitan way as well as a selection of Neapolitan desserts.

Caffé Gio, Antico and Gio’s Chicken will form a Westside Italian Quartiere. It will be a natural progression extending the Antico experience to all-day dining. Opening in Fall 2013, a limoncello bar and Italian market will be the beginning of Piazza San Gennaro that sits in the heart of the Italian neighborhood being created by Giovanni Di Palma.

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