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Archive for June, 2014

Edible Agriculture Tour Georgia – Decatur

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

June 26, 2014, Parker’s On Ponce, Decatur, Ga. For more information, visit Parker’s On Ponce


8th Annual GRACE Awards Gala Finalists Announced

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

GRA GRACE TrophyThe Georgia Restaurant Association has announced the finalists for the 8th Annual Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Awards. These finalists are peer-nominated and the winners will be announced November 2nd at the GRACE Awards Gala to be held at The Foundry at Puritan Mill in Atlanta.

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

George Frangos, Farm Burger

Neal McCarthy and Steven Satterfield, Miller Union

Jennifer and Ben Johnson, Shelley Sweet, West Egg Cafe, The General Muir, Fred’s Meat & Bread, Yalla and Todd Ginsberg, The General Muir, Fred’s Meat & Bread, Yalla

Industry Partner of the Year


Georgia Power


Distinguished Service Award

Atlanta Community Food Bank


Waffle House

The Innovator Award

Kevin Gillespie, Gunshow

Nick Melvin, Doux South and Venkman’s

Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor, Sobban



Finding a Groove: The Challenges and Rewards of Running a Restaurant

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Ford Fry and Drew BellineNo. 246 is a successful collaboration between Drew Belline and Ford Fry. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Drew, who related his experiences as a good-cook-turned-successful-chef-and-entrepreneur:

RI: When did you becoming interested in cooking and what was the path that brought you to your entrepreneurial role today?

DB: I was always cooking when I was a kid. My mom was a great cook. She had a lot of influence on me. I grew up on a small family farm north of Atlanta. After high school I went to college, but found out fairly quickly it wasn’t for me. So I started cooking in restaurants and moved back home. That was when I fell in love with the structure of the kitchen and enrolled in culinary school at Johnston & Wales in Charleston, S.C.

After that, I worked in a few restaurants and did some traveling through Brazil. Then I went to New York, where I worked for Charlie Palmer and Tom Colicchio. Later I moved out west, did some more traveling and some snowboarding. Eventually, I moved back to Atlanta to be close to my family. I worked for Ann [Quatrano] at Bacchanalia for eight years and became the chef at Floataway Café for five years.

Well, JCT. Kitchen is next door to Bacchanalia, and Ford [Fry] and I started talking restaurant stuff. I’ve lived in Decatur for several years; it’s my neighborhood. Ford knew that. He came across this space in Decatur and thought of me; he knew I was trying to start my own thing. We got together on this idea about four years ago and started working on a concept, which became No. 246.

RI: What are some of the challenges you encountered, both as a chef-turned-owner and in opening a new restaurant?

DB: When I was working at Bacchanalia and Floataway, it was easier to be just a chef and focus on food. Now, as a partner in No. 246, staffing is probably one of my biggest challenges. We’re open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, as opposed to five days a week at Floataway. Finding the right people to help me run the kitchen is so important. And I’m having to learn to let go of the reigns a little bit. When we first opened, I was here seven days a week for a while. I’ve had to be more organized and pull back from having my hand on everything. Now, I’m focused a whole lot more on things like training, doing the books and invoicing.

Also, the whole construction process was a challenge … dealing with contractors, coming up with the kitchen design and laying it out, the front of the house design. Everything was new to me. But it was also one of the cool things about working with Ford – he knew the construction process and was helping me through it. It would have been a much different process and outcome if I’d tried to do it myself. The amount of detail involved is incredible.

RI: How did you meet those challenges?

DB: We actually made a lot of decisions on the fly. The process evolved from our original plans to how the restaurant turned out. A lot or our decisions and changes were influenced by the construction and by budget limitations. It was definitely interesting. But I would do it again. I want to do it again. It definitely will take a few years off your life, though.

RI: Do you find yourself facing any new challenges at No. 246?

DB: There are always new challenges, but that makes it interesting. Right now, we’re thinking about how to maximize seating and how to get more people to eat lunch here. We brainstorm on how to drive more revenue.

RI: What would you say are some of the biggest successes youve experienced in launching your own restaurant?

DB: Truthfully, I put in a lot of hours. But you eventually find your groove. And I have a great staff. I’ve especially enjoyed watching my sous chefs grow, as well as seeing customers come in and enjoy everything. That’s so rewarding for all the hard work you’ve put into it.

I’d say one of my biggest successes is seeing No. 246 continue to grow. We get stronger every year, our sales are improving and we’re evolving. So now, I’m thinking about the possibility of creating another location related to 246 – featuring something we do well, like our pasta program. Perhaps a sister restaurant that’s a little smaller, a little simpler.

After what we went through getting No. 246 up and running, I have the confidence to do it again. I think, “What will we do next?” I remember the mistakes we made and how we would handle those instances differently the next time.

I’m so grateful to Ford for his help and the opportunity to do this.




True Food Kitchen Opens at Lenox Square Mall

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Fox Restaurant Concepts recently opened its first southeastern outpost of True Food Kitchen in Atlanta at Lenox Square Mall.

Chef Stephan ManningTrue Food Kitchen offers globally-inspired cuisine including starters, salads, sandwiches, entrees and fresh-squeezed juices, based on Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet that aims to counteract chronic inflammation and help people achieve and maintain optimum health. Tailoring the menu to specific dietary restrictions and allergies, True Food Kitchen offers a wide selection of vegan, vegetarian, organic and gluten-free options, along with dishes for those following a paleo or Mediterranean diet.

Chef Stephan Manning leads the kitchen in Atlanta, joining the team from True Food Kitchen’s Phoenix, Ariz. location. The menu draws inspiration from Mediterranean, Asian and traditional American flavors and features a selection of dishes from pizza to tacos. The menu rotates seasonally with dishes that don’t require added butter, salts or fats for flavor. In Atlanta, Chef Manning sources produce from local farms including blueberries from Flat Creek Farms in Sewanee, Ga., baby bok choy from R&G Farms in Dublin, Ga. and radishes from Mack Farms in Lake Wales, Fla.

The restaurant’s full bar serves sustainable, organic wines and cocktails made with fresh fruit, honey and other natural flavorings. True Food Kitchen also offers non-alcoholic “natural refreshments” including juice, herb and vegetable blends like “kale-aid” made with kale, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger and “hangover RX” with coconut water, pineapple, vanilla and orange juice. On the wine menu, guests can order a bottle of Fox Block, a private wine label series developed by True Food Kitchen sommelier Regan Jasper in partnership with small vineyards. This year’s Fox Block Nine is from Melville Winery.

True Food KitchenIn addition to its healthy dining efforts, True Food Kitchen also strives to be an eco-friendly restaurant. Each location uses compostable take-out packaging and menus printed on paper from renewable resources. The dining room also features chairs made from recycled plastic soda bottles and reclaimed wood floors.



Edible Agriculture Tour Georgia – Atlanta

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

June 25, 2014, PARISH Restaurant, Atlanta. For more information, visit EAT GA


Hitting a Home Run: Celebrity Franchisees and Your Brand

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

By Ellen Weaver Hartman 

It was 1986 and Frank Belatti, then VP of Marketing for Arby’s, had signed on to become one of the first companies to sponsor Major League Baseball. As part of the deal, Belatti created the Arby’s RBI Award and asked all-time RBI leader Hank Aaron to be his spokesperson.

Mike Stone

Mike Stone (PAFI)

Hank Aaron remembers the meeting with Frank Belatti well. He told him all about his plans to give $1,000 for every RBI – by every top hitter in the National and American Leagues – to Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Arby’s national charity, a donation worth about $240,000 per year.

But then Belatti asked Aaron a very rare question, and one Hammerin’ Hank rarely heard: “What do you want?”

I had the opportunity to work with Aaron at the time and remember him commenting that “no one had ever asked me what I wanted before.”

It turned out that Hank Aaron, such a success in his chosen field of baseball, wanted to hit a home run in business, too. Thanks to Belatti’s unique question, Aaron bought an Arby’s franchise in Milwaukee, formerly his home, and eventually six more throughout Wisconsin.

That question also sparked a 30-year friendship and business relationship between Belatti and Aaron. When the former went on to become chairman of AFC Enterprises, Aaron followed along and opened several Church’s Chicken and Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits franchises.

Aaron remains a success, expanding his enterprise with car dealerships and additional restaurants, but deals with professional athletes or celebrities don’’ always work out as well.

Was it Arby’s secret sauce that made it happen? Aaron and Belatti see it otherwise. The friends and business partners agree that the franchisee’s success was a combination of Aaron’s name recognition and Belatti’s advice to hire an experienced operator who could manage his restaurants well.

“Having the Hank Aaron name was a big advantage, of course,” said Belatti. “But I advised Hank just like I would any other franchisee – if you don’t know the business, hire someone that does. It’s to Hank’s credit that he really took that advice to heart.”

By the time Aaron opened his Church’s and Popeye’s restaurants in Atlanta, he had already selected his restaurant management – his then son-in-law Victor Heydell. This time it was the two chicken brands that helped train Heydell to run great restaurants – now some of the highest-volume restaurants in the system.

QSR Magazine’s Associate Editor Tamara Omazic featured the subject recently and spoke with Lynette McKee, a franchise industry veteran who runs her own strategic advisory firm, McKeeCo Services LLC. She wasn’t in the room with the two men back when Aaron was retiring from baseball, but she agrees with the pair’s approach.

“Endorsements and marketing deals with celebrities of all different professions can build buzz for a quick serve for a brief period of time, but a franchise agreement is a sustained partnership, and one that must be tended to carefully,” McKee told QSR Magazine.

Mike Stone, founder and executive director of the Professional Athletes Franchise Initiative (PAFI), agrees with McKee. “There is definitely a loud echo for a brand to partner with a celebrity. But it can have a positive or negative impact, so it is important to do your due diligence well.”

Stone sites another positive example in Junior Bridgeman, a former NBA player who became a franchisee of both the Wendy’s® and Chili’s brands. “The brands and Junior made sure that he had the right infrastructure in place and an experienced team to manage his franchise well. Now, Junior is one of the top franchise businesses in the country,” Stone says.

Stone has helped hundreds of professional athletes move forward as franchise business owners and offers a few tips for developing a successful celebrity franchise:

1. Show me “more than” the money. To be successful, the celebrity or athlete must invest more than money. He or she needs commitment and the passion to spend the time necessary to really learn the brand and the business. He or she has an incredible opportunity to drive business to his or her franchisee, but they can also serve as a true ambassador for the brand – if they know and believe in the business.

2. Don’t be a ball hog. Good athletes are team players. So are good franchisees. Franchisees – whether celebrities or otherwise – need to take the time to put a strong team of experienced professionals in place to run the business.

3. Franchising is not a sprint. Celebrity franchisees, especially athletes, are not only starting a business, they are changing careers. It can be tempting for both the brand and the franchisee to get too excited about the partnership and miss the details necessary to create a sound foundation. Managing expectations and getting everything in writing from the start is critical to long-term success.

4. A long-standing brand is bigger than one celebrity. Brands can be tempted when signing a celebrity as a franchisee to treat them differently. Brands might roll out the new franchisee as a celebrity endorsement, for example, taking away time that should be spent on operations or confusing their brand message. But Stone counsels his clients away from any special treatment. QSR Magazine cited what Stone would agree is a best practice. When rapper Rick Ross (William Leonard Roberts II) approached Wingstop, he was asked to participate in a franchising Discovery Day to ensure the brand was a fit for him. “Discovery Day is what we do for all prospective franchisees,” says Dave Vernon, chief of development for the wings brand. “We appreciate that Rick took the time out to do that like we require everyone to, though most franchisees don’t come with a bodyguard.”

5. But a long-standing brand can benefit from a celebrity. High-profile franchisees should focus on the business, but they do have a built-in marketing platform that should be leveraged to grow the business. The celebrity status of a franchisee can assuredly drive media attention, leading to first-time guests. Similarly, social media provides a strong platform to leverage the status of a celebrity owner. If the owner has focused on operations, his or her name recognition will drive first-time trial, while strong operations and service will keep the customers and fans coming back.


Taste America: “Local Flavor from Coast to Coast” Visits Atlanta this Fall

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

The James Beard Foundation (JBF) will be bringing back Taste America: “Local Flavor from Coast to Coast,” a national tour celebrating America’s culinary diversity. From September 12 through October 25, 2014, the program will stop in ten cities over five weekends, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Each city will enjoy a special evening that starts off with a walk-around tasting reception from a line-up of local chefs, followed by a one-night-only, collaborative four-course dinner crafted by a Taste America All-Star and a local celebrity chef.

A weekend-long tour, Atlanta’s Taste America itinerary will kick off on September 12 at the King Plow Event Gallery with A Night of Culinary Stars, an exclusive dining event benefiting the James Beard Foundation. The evening will begin with a reception filled with bites and libations from local chefs, including chefs Billy Allin (Cakes & Ale; Decatur), Ford Fry (St. Cecilia; Atlanta), Asha Gomez (Cardamom Hill; Atlanta), Linton Hopkins*  (Restaurant Eugene; Atlanta), and Kevin Rathbun (Rathbun’s; Atlanta). Afterwards, guests will be seated for a dinner prepared by Taste America All-Star Barbara Lynch* (Barbara Lynch Gruppo; Boston), winner of the 2014 James Beard Foundation Outstanding Restaurateur award, and Local Star Anne Quatrano* (Bacchanalia; Atlanta, GA), who have been paired together to create a one-of-a-kind menu diners won’t forget.

The full Taste America program calendar is as follows:

  • Sept. 12-13        Atlanta: All-Star Barbara Lynch*/Phoenix: All-Star Sherry Yard*
  • Sept. 26-27        Dallas: All-Star Patrick O’Connell*/Seattle: All-Star Marc Murphy*
  • Oct. 10-11         Los Angeles: All-Star Aarón Sánchez*/New York City: All-Star Daniel Boulud*
  • Oct. 17-18         Chicago: All-Star Grant Achatz*/Washington, D.C.: All-Star Charles Phan*
  • Oct. 24-25         Boston: All-Star Ludo Lefebvre /San Francisco: All-Star Paul Qui*

*Notes James Beard Award Winner

The James Beard Foundation will donate a portion of the evening’s proceeds to the Taste America Scholarship Fund.

For more information about Taste America events in Atlanta, visit or contact Julia Baker at or 404.888.9348




Atlas Restaurant to Open in Buckhead

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Tavistock Group and consulting chef/restaurateur Gerry Klaskala have announced the creation of Atlas, a new dinner-only restaurant located at The St. Regis Atlanta in Buckhead. Featuring American cuisine with local ingredients, Atlas Restaurant will open in late fall 2014.

Tavistock Group, the international private investment organization backed by billionaire Joe Lewis, is funding the new $5 million restaurant with the help of local talent. Chef Gerry Klaskala is consulting on every aspect of the new venue: planning the menu and hiring the staff, for what will be a restaurant designed by Bill Johnson of  The Johnson Studio.

The menu is classic American with European influences, Klaskala noted. “Seasonality holds sway over the menu, sourcing the freshest local produce, with sustainable and organic as our preferred choice,” he said. The menu will include a broad array of selections with fish, light salads, steak, seasonally inspired creations and desserts.

The restaurant will include an exhibition kitchen, outdoor terraced garden, elegant private dining space and fireplaces. The décor of Atlas reflects a sophisticated charm amplified by a comfortable setting created with overstuffed upholstered furniture, lacquered walls and cozy banquettes.


Atlanta Chefs To Participate in Third Annual Pastured Poultry Week

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Over 40 Georgia-based chefs and restaurants are coming together to show their support for Pastured Poultry Week by featuring pastured poultry on their menu from several of the state’s poultry farms.  Organized by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), a global organization working to end factory farming, and Georgians for Pastured Poultry (GPP), the event aims to help promote and celebrate humane and sustainable pasture-raised poultry.

Participating restaurants in Atlanta include Bantam + BiddyNo. 246GunshowEmpire State SouthHoleman and FinchChick-a-BiddyThe OptimistAria and many more. Georgia poultry farms providing the chicken include Darby Farms in Good Hope; Grassroots Farm in Tattnall County; and White Oak Pastures in Bluffton. A complete list of restaurants is available at

“The goal is to help bring a focus to the many benefits of choosing pastured poultry, such as the high welfare of the chickens and the positive impact on both human health and the environment, not to mention its superior taste,” says Shaun Doty of Bantam + Biddy.  Doty has helped organize the event since its inception and was an early pioneer of pastured poultry efforts in Georgia.



Atlanta Les Dames d’ Escoffier International Announces 14th Annual “Afternoon in the Country”

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

The Atlanta Chapter of Les Dames d’ Escoffier International (LDEI), a worldwide society of women in the culinary, beverage and hospitality industries, will host their annual event, Afternoon in the Country, at Serenbe on November 9. Proceeds for Afternoon in the Country, which totaled more than $115,000 in 2013, provide support for women pursuing culinary or pastry arts, beverage management, hospitality or agriculture careers.

Afternoon in the CountryEarlier this spring, LDEI Atlanta received an Allie Award for its annual fundraiser event, recognized as Atlanta’s “Best Public Festival” at the Allie’s 24th annual awards ceremony. The Allie Awards recognize outstanding examples of quality and creativity from the members of the Atlanta event industry, and they feature the highest degree of excellence in event planning, design, cuisine, entertainment, weddings, technical production and enhancements.

Showcasing the region’s chefs, Afternoon in the Country features more than 80 restaurants, caterers and retailers to offer seasonal tastings of Georgia’s organic harvest alongside an array of wines, beers and spirits. The event is held under the tents on the grounds of the Inn at Serenbe.

In addition to mingling with chefs, restaurant owners, wine and beer experts and Georgia farmers, guests will be treated to live bluegrass music, a special children’s activities tent and hayrides. Event highlights will also include a cake raffle featuring the talents of Atlanta pastry chefs, as well as a silent auction.

Participating restaurants, farms, retailers and beverages will be announced closer to the event date.



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