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Archive for December, 2013

Hank Clark Tells What Makes Marlow’s an American Tavern Success Story

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Marlow’s Tavern, the brainchild of John Metz Jr. and Thomas DiGiorgio, is an American tavern success story. With 10 locations in the Atlanta market and two more in the Orlando, Fla., area, Marlow’s is poised to expand even further in the southeast region. Restaurant INFORMER recently talked with with Market Partner Hank Clark, who shared the following insights.

RI: What are some specific reasons for the success of Marlow’s Tavern?

HC: The main concept behind Marlow’s is to create a great neighborhood-gathering place. With that concept as a foundation, there are a few additional keys:

• Personalizing our guest experience. We want our customers to feel at home in our restaurant, almost like it’s an extension of their own living room.

• Encouraging tenure. By keeping our management teams in place, our business has blossomed and grown. Our hourly teams tend to stay and work together, with managers who stay in the same location, and it gives our guests the opportunity to get to know them. Name recognition between guests and staff really matters.

• Hiring process. We work with Corvirtus, a firm that helps us assess potential employees for a good match. We’re looking for the “hospitality gene” in our employees – through a multi- step hiring process, Corvirtus helps us identify applicants who have the values and attributes we’re seeking. This system has helped us greatly reduce the likelihood of employee turnover in the first 90 days; our turnover rate is far less than the national average. This is one of our biggest successes.

• Cutting-edge training. We’ve paid attention to the way the current generation of employees likes to receive information, so we’ve implemented an online learning platform called Shift Meeting. Shift Meeting allows our employees to log in from their technology devices to participate in an interactive learning environment – they can watch videos on how to prepare various menu items, receive training and continuing education, etc. It’s a unique process and has been effective for us; we’re the first user of this company.

Our people are our most valuable asset, so we provide them with the tools they need to feel confident in front of our guests and be happy in their jobs. Using companies like Corvirtus to find the right people and Shift Meeting for training helps us be more effective in building successful teams.

I’d have to say our biggest key to success is our people. We have great folks who stay with us a long time. We love it when an hourly employee gets promoted into management. We promise our teams an opportunity to grow and advance in our company.

• Keeping our menu fresh. One thing we discovered early on is that if your guests are coming frequently, you can tend to get menu fatigue. So, we change the menu seasonally, with two core changes in winter and summer and other smaller changes in between. By using items that work well for the season, like fresh local produce, and by having special promotions (like “Bayou and Bourbon” right around the Mardi Gras timeframe), we can keep our menu fresh and interesting for our guests.

RI: Do customer and employee input play a role in Marlow’s menu and environment?

HC: Yes. We conduct a large guest survey yearly, and then we also do multiple employee surveys during the year. We listen to our regular guests – our “insiders” – and our employee teams and act on their suggestions. We use their input in our quarterly and yearly planning, to guide our menu planning and all parts of our industry.

RI: Would you share some of your insights about trends in the restaurant industry and specifically in the South?

HC: I think the days of the really large footprint – the large square footage restaurant – is, for the most part, a thing of the past. When we founded Marlow’s in 2004, we felt the size of the restaurant mattered, so we focused on the roughly 3,000-square- foot prototype that allows us to keep each location personal and full. We maximize the space for what we get out of it. We can see what’s really going on in the restaurant with our guests and employees and are able to focus on execution, quality and the number of people required to run it efficiently. I think you will see that as a trend – brands are going to a smaller space.

Personalizing the guest experience is important. The neighborhood feel is important, too. There are a lot of things we do at Marlow’s in order to get to know our guests and to have them share feedback with us. As a result, we have seen that the frequency of our regular guests is sometimes double that of the big chains.

RI: You are a self-titled “Hospitality Evangelist.” What does that term mean to you, and how did it come about?

HC: We really weren’t big on titles from the beginning; our partners are all in this together. We’re in the hospitality business, but it’s so much more than that to us.We set out to create a sense of belonging for our guests, making it generational with their families so that their kids grow up with us and keep returning as well. Also, one of our core values that we teach our employees is that we take care of others without an expectation of something in return.

So, the title “Hospitality Evangelist” is kind of a fun thing, but it really does speak to our mission to provide a great place for our guests to relax with people they love and food they love.


Bartlett Joins Atlanta-Based Neighborhood Taqueria and Bar

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Atlanta-based neighborhood taqueria and bar Tin Lizzy’s Cantina has hired Tory Bartlett as chief operating officer (COO). With more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Bartlett has extensive knowledge overseeing human resources, real estate and facilities, marketing and training.

In his new role, Bartlett is responsible for all activities related to day-to-day operations, finance, technology, marketing and human resources for Tin Lizzy’s Cantina.

Bartlett started out as a dishwasher and cook at Hooters of America, Inc. in St. Louis. Twenty years and several promotions later, he eventually led company and franchise operations as vice president of franchise operations and vice president and director of operations before accepting his position with Tin Lizzy’s Cantina. During his tenure with Hooters, he was involved with more than 120 successful unit openings, including the hiring and training of more than 300 managers.

Bartlett holds both an Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Science in business degrees from the University of Phoenix and is currently pursuing his Master of Business from Kennesaw University. He is an active board member of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

Tin Lizzy’s Cantina recently opened a sixth location at the Mall of Georgia, with other restaurants in Buckhead, Grant Park, Midtown, Perimeter and Emory Point. The restaurant specializes in FlexMex cuisine.


Chefs Shaun Doty and Lance Gummere Open Second Location on January 5

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Atlanta chefs Shaun Doty and Lance Gummere will open a second Bantam + Biddy on Crescent Ave. in Midtown Atlanta on January 5 . This makes the third restaurant from the duo, whose list includes Bantam + Biddy in Ansley Mall and Chick-a-Biddy in Atlantic Station.

While the Crescent location has the same regional and pastured poultry and organic, seasonal vegetables as its predecessor, the new restaurant has an added feature: an espresso bar serving Batdorf & Bronson coffee.

The restaurant’s lunch and dinner menu includes a “meat-and-three” option, as well as entrées, daily Blue Plates, salads, sandwiches and desserts. The breakfast menu includes dishes made with local farm eggs and poultry. There is a children’s menu for ages 10 and under

The restaurant’s 2,000-square-foot space seats 75 guests in the dining room and will include a casual, awning-covered patio. Designed by architect Tim Nichols, Bantam + Biddy’s interior features classic wood beadboard, bright ceramic tile and rich oak woods.


Nikolai’s Roof Embarks on Modernization

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

High above the downtown skyline on the 30th floor of Hilton Atlanta is the famed Nikolai’s Roof. The award-winning and iconic restaurant is undergoing a modernization, investing close to $1 million to refresh and update the over 7,500-square-foot restaurant and bar space to a more contemporary design that will accentuate the cuisine and elevated view.

Nikolai’s Roof will reopen with a brand new look in January 2014.

Chef Stephanie Alderete is renovating the menu as well, showcasing fresh, vibrant ingredients in her modern American fare. Russian influences will remain in signature dishes such as piroshkies and borscht, while Alderete looks forward to introducing guests to creative, seasonal favorites.

Since opening in 1976, the landmarkrestaurant has served cuisine with Russian influences seen throughout both the décor and the menu. Nikolai’s Roof was the first restaurant in the Southeast to receive the coveted Four Star Award from Mobil and consecutively hold that honor for 24 years through 2013. Additional awards include Wine Spectator’s 2012 Best of Award Excellence; DiRoNA – 2012 Distinguished Restaurants of North America and Open Table’s 2012 Most Romantic and Best View.


Arianne Fielder to Join Chef Zeb Stevenson at Parish

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Parish has announced that Arianne Fielder has been named its new Mixologist. She joins Chef Zeb Stevenson in creating a new beverage program for the restaurant.

Fielder previously worked at Ormsbys, Southern Art, Seven Lamps, and Article 14.

Food and beverage changes at Parish will be official in early 2014.


Food Safety Education is Vital in Our Industry

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

A restaurant closing article caught my attention recently. It happened in a neighboring state and involved a well-known eatery in a major city. The article described the results of an inspection after several probable and three confirmed Salmonella cases were associated with consumption of food from that restaurant in June. One of the Salmonella outbreak victims was reportedly hospitalized.

A health department spokeswoman stated that the restaurant was closed and cited for four high-priority violations, including holding food at improper temperatures, roaches and rodent activity. The ill customers are recovering. No mention has been made of insurance payments, legal proceedings or lawsuits, or other negative press. However, when the restaurant reopened in late August, it was again re-inspected by the Board of Health who found no high-priority violations; however, the inspection report indicated that a follow-up inspection was required within 30 days after four intermediate and five basic food violations were cited.

So what went wrong for this restaurant owner? The facility is in a state that requires a certified food safety manager be in the kitchen whenever the restaurant is operating. What was that certified food safety manager doing? Was food safety education not being used correctly?

Well, we can all agree that there was probably much more involved in the unfortunate restaurant than was reported. There always is. Still the bottom line is that customers got sick and went to the hospital. The restaurant got bad press in the paper and on TV. When customers hear about a restaurant causing a foodborne illness, it is hard to keep the doors open. No one wants to eat in that restaurant.

What we know: The restaurant was closed. There was a Board of Health investigation. The restaurant had to be totally cleaned and all food items tossed – total loss to the owner. All employees had to be retrained so the Board of Health would re-inspect. Probably some employees were fired and new ones hired and trained. The newspaper also reported the results of the re-inspection and 30-day next inspection; all not good for trying to rebuild customer trust.

What we expect: Insurance premiums will increase. There will be lawsuits. The restaurant will struggle to regain customers and sales and will eventually close.

Did this have to happen? No, it did not.

The cost of recovery is overwhelming after a foodborne illness outbreak. This is the result of taking shortcuts, doing incomplete follow-up, not paying for a professional pest control service, thinking the other employees will take care of cleaning and a million other excuses. Managers and owners must take responsibility for the cleanliness and food safety in their foodservice establishments. It is everyone’s job to ensure the restaurant is clean and food is safe. We should never have our restaurant’s name in the newspaper with a bad review or a foodborne illness report.

But it happens. So what is a restaurant to do? If your restaurant receives a call from a customer that she or he is ill after eating in your location, take the call seriously. Take the caller’s in- formation, ask what day she/he ate at the restaurant, the time and the menu items ordered and eaten. Then ask her/him to visit their physician. If possible, have samples of the exact menu items, from the day the customer was eating at the restaurant, pulled and put into containers for testing. If there is a foodborne illness, the physician will contact the restaurant and then your insurance company can get involved.

This is one way to handle these calls. Follow the procedures that your insurance company requires and use the forms that they give you to use. It’s also important to go back over all kitchen preparation steps with the food in question – to be sure all times, temperatures, handling, cooking and storage processes were correctly followed.

Be sure to document if any were incorrect – do not try to cover up any errors. It’s too late if a foodborne illness has been reported and confirmed. Now you have to overcome and correct.

The cost of prevention is always more affordable. If we learn about food safety and make sure we are doing the right things with correct handling, cooking, serving and storing of food products in our operations, we can control the outcome. ServSafe® is the food safety certification program for managers developed by the NRA and offered through the Georgia Restaurant Association. The program combines the latest FDA Food Code, food safety research and years of sanitation training experience into either a classroom or online format.

Managers learn to implement essential food safety practices and create a culture of food safety in their own operations. All class content and materials are based on actual job tasks identified by foodservice industry experts from across the hospitality industry.

ServSafe® was the first certification program for the industry and continues to be the leader. This affordable certification program is your first step to prevention. You still must implement what you learn in the program in your operation with your employees.

Regular self-inspections and audits of your operations by consultants are also ways to ensure you are taking preventive steps to help minimize future costs and maximize returns on your investments in your customers. Use checklists, logs and other tools to train employees and systemize operations. These are important for consistency and follow-up on standards of operations and performance.

And speaking about standards of performance, do you have them for your restaurant? If not, how do we know what excellence and quality is in the operation? Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) also detail cleanliness and sanitation levels, as well as food temperatures, cooking temperatures and even dish machine temperatures.

As the old adage says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Recovery is expensive; prevention is much more affordable and should be based on solid ServSafe® education content. Use tools and consultants smartly, and you will set up your restaurant for success.

Nancy Caldarola, Ph.D., RD, is a consultant to the hospitality industry and an active GRA member. Her group, Concept Associates Inc., offers ServSafe® and ManageFirst® classes as well as operations improvement projects, training programs, food safety audits, HACCP, menu engineering and nutritional analysis, and profitability improvement consulting. Visit www. for more information and to register for ServSafe classes.


Sysco and US Foods Agree To Merge

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Sysco Corporation and US Foods announced an agreement to merge. The total enterprise value of the transaction is approximately $8.2 billion.

Bill DeLaney, Sysco president and chief executive officer, will lead the combined company, which will continue to be named Sysco and headquartered in Houston, Texas. At closing, Sysco will have estimated annual sales of approximately $65 billion.

Sysco will pay approximately $3.5 billion for the equity of US Foods, comprising $3 billion of Sysco common stock and $500 million of cash. As part of the transaction, Sysco will also assume or refinance US Foods’ net debt, which is currently approximately $4.7 billion, bringing the total enterprise value to $8.2 billion.

Bill DeLaney, Sysco president and chief executive officer, said, “Sysco and US Foods have highly complementary core strengths including a broad product portfolio and passionate food people deeply committed to customer service, quality-assured products and safety. In particular we look forward to welcoming US Foods’ talented employees and continuing to invest in the development of all of our people. Together we will strive to enhance shareholder value by providing our customers with highly differentiated products and services.”

John Lederer, president and chief executive officer of US Foods, said, “Combining and maximizing the significant strengths of two outstanding companies is certain to be of tremendous advantage in supporting our customers as they tackle the challenges of today’s demanding environment.”

At closing, the combined companies are expected to have annualized sales of approximately $65 billion and generate operating cash flows of approximately $2 billion. The transaction is expected to generate significant strategic benefits and cost synergies, achieving annual synergies of at least $600 million after three to four years, primarily stemming from supply chain efficiencies, merchandising activities, and overlapping general and administrative functions.

The transaction, which is expected to close in the third quarter of calendar year 2014, is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals, including antitrust approval.


New Two Day Format for Atlanta Foodservice Expo

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Atlanta Foodservice Expo announced a format change for the show moving forward which will take the show from a three day event to a two day event with longer hours to better accommodate the needs of the local industry.

The change will have the second edition of the event running on a Monday and Tuesday with the show hours being 10:00am to 6:00pm ending with a happy hour reception each day on the exhibit floor. This move will ultimately help exhibitors save costs with staff and travel expenses, while allowing Show Management the opportunity to pack more content, excitement, competitions, and education into a longer show day providing a bigger draw for attendees.

“While foodservice events have historically run over a weekend or opened on a Sunday, a shift has surfaced with the majority of the feedback we have received after the 2013 launch event stating that Sunday is now a family or rest day for most attendees who would prefer to enjoy a little down time after a busy weekend. Our attendee survey results reported that Monday and Tuesday were the top two days preferred to hold the event. Eliminating the Sunday show day also ensures that there will be no future conflict with football game day,” commented David Audrain, president & CEO.

“The Georgia Restaurant Association is proud to support the new format of the 2014 Atlanta Foodservice Expo to better accommodate the foodservice industry in Georgia,” said Karen Bremer, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association. “The new dates and times of the expo will allow our industry to showcase their newest trends more effectively and efficiently and will provide a promising show for all attendees.”

“Concentrating the experience into a more effective time line will enhance the event for both exhibitors and attendees while providing easier access to the event,” observed Jim Sprouse, executive director of the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association. “We look forward to the second annual Atlanta Foodservice Expo.”

“After discussing how to make the Atlanta Foodservice Expo a great event for chefs and restaurateurs, next year’s October Expo will now include happy hours, music, and a mixologist competition. The Atlanta Chefs Association is extremely pleased with these new additions to go along with our very successful competition and demo areas,” added Chef Michael Deihl, president of the ACF Atlanta Chefs Association and executive chef of East Lake Golf Club.

The 2014 Atlanta Foodservice Expo will be held October 13 – 14 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia. For additional information please visit


Annual UCCA Holiday Party

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

December 7, 2013, Atlanta. For more information, visit United Culinary Chef Association Holiday Party


GRA Coastal Chapter Meeting

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

December 4, 2013, The Pirates’ House, Savannah. For more information, visit GRA Coastal Chapter Meeting

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