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Archive for August, 2014

Georgia Food Code Briefing

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

August 27, 2014, Webinar. For more information, visit Georgia Restaurant Association


GRA Board of Directors’ Planning Retreat

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

August 27-29, 2014, Chateau Elan, Winder, Ga. For more information, visit Georgia Restaurant Association


Exploring True Terroir

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Excerpted from Restaurant INFORMER, 2014, Vol. 4, Issue 1

By Lara Creasy

Lara CreasyAnyone fortunate enough to travel to wine country will tell you that wine never tastes as good as it does in the place where it is made. This is true for so many reasons. The weather is just right. The food of the area pairs perfectly. The sun feels different there. You can smell the wild herbs on the breeze. You can almost taste the dust that’s on your boots as you sip from your glass.

This experience, once you’ve had it, will forever help you understand the meaning of terroir. Terroir is a French word that, loosely translated, means “a sense of place.” The root is the word terre, which means “land.” But the full meaning involves much more. It’s the full expression of a place through its agricultural products. The geology, the geography, the weather, the climate – the sum total of the effects the local environment has on a product and how those effects are expressed in smells and tastes. These are the factors that bring France and Italy and Spain right into our restaurants through the product in the bottle.

I was extremely fortunate recently to be invited by Olé Imports to experience Spain through the lens of its wine producers. I got a firsthand glimpse into how varied the Spanish landscape is, how the same grape can perform so differently in different regions, and how the gracious farmers and winemakers who produce these wines are making magic in the bottle.

The following are three standout experiences from that trip. The producers of these wines are providing buyers with a unique opportunity to experience their terroir in wines of extraordinary value.


The Cava Denominacion de Origen (DO) in Spain is not centered around a place, like nearly all other DOs are. Rather, Cava is a style of sparkling winemaking that can be produced in many regions around Spain. However, Penedès, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea just south of Barcelona, produces 95 percent of all Cava.

Despite the fact that Cava is Spain’s highest volume wine export to the U.S., each bottle is still made using the Champagne method. Secondary fermentation, the step that makes Cava sparkling, happens individually in each and every bottle, and every bottle of Cava must by law rest for at least nine months.

To keep up with demand, most large Cava houses buy grapes in bulk from growers around the area. But the Cava producer we visited, Navarran, grows all of its own grapes on a 272-acre estate near the town of Torrelavit. The estate, which has been producing Cava since 1901, has separate vineyards for each of the traditional Cava grapes: Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Parellada, as well as Chardonnay and red grapes used to blend their rosés. Many of the vines are over 30 years old, which results in lower yields, more concentration and better grape quality.

Our host, Michel Parellada, has such a family history in the area that one of the traditional grapes used to make Cava, Parellada, was named for his great-grandfather.

Michel vintage dates every Cava he makes, which is extremely unusual. The quality and attention to every detail shows. The top market for Navarran’s Cavas is France. The home country of Champagne buys 85 percent of what Michel produces.

The best value to be had in the Navarran portfolio is the Vintage Brut. At under $12 per bottle wholesale, it makes an elegant and impressive by-the-glass pour for restaurants at an extremely affordable price point.


Rioja may the most readily recognizable Spanish wine region for many people. It was the first region awarded the top honor of DOCa by the Spanish government and still only one of two regions to hold that designation.

Rioja is divided into three zones: Rioja Alta (higher elevation), Rioja Baja (warmer and drier), and Rioja Alavesa (low vine density). We visited a subzone of one of these, the Sierra de la Demanda area of Rioja Alta.

Vineyards here are said to have the poorest soils in all of Rioja. Because of the altitude and the north-facing slopes, the grapes in Sierra de la Demanda don’t fully ripen until November. In fact, this is the very last region to harvest on the entire Iberian Peninsula.

We visited with a farmer named Monchi who owns 40 plots that total seven hectares in Sierra de la Demanda. We could only access his plots by taking four-wheel-drive vehicles up steep and rocky dirt roads, a testament to the difficulty of farming the area. Monchi showed us numerous vineyards that had been abandoned because farming them became too expensive.

Many vines in this area are 80 to 100 years old, some of the oldest in all of Rioja. To conceptualize what that means, picture it in human terms. Grapevines generally start producing usable fruit around age 8. How must that vine struggle to produce fruit after 70 or more years of bearing fruit? How much vitality would we, as humans, have left after working full time for 70 years? Every cluster of grapes is truly like a gift at that point.

Add to this the demanding elevation, the slow ripening and late harvest, as well as the wild boar and deer that roam the vineyards, and it all adds up to extremely low yields for the farmers. To put it in perspective, the average yield per vine in all of Rioja is 2 kilos per vine (about 4.4 pounds). Here in Sierra de la Demanda, the yield is about 700 grams (1.5 pounds). At some point, farming like this must become a labor of love.

The primary grape grown here is Tempranillo de Cardenas, a high acid mutation of tempranillo. It thrives in the poor soils and slow ripening conditions of Sierra de la Demanda. The late harvest gives these hearty grapes an even longer time to develop thick skins, which adds additional richness and tannin to the wines. Graciano and Garnacha are also grown.

Many farmers in the area sell their grapes to large producers, but Monchi partners with CVA, a project of Olé Imports, so that the grape growing and winemaking become one seamless process. The result is two exquisite wines bottled under the label La Antigua, a Crianza and a Reserva. These are true farm-to-table wines if I’ve ever seen them.

Ribera del Duero

In Ribera del Duero, a small town called Quintanamanvirgo has 94 residents and only two businesses: a bar and a winery. That winery is Torremóron. They produce only one wine. Annual production of that wine is only 66,500 cases. And the final cost to us as restaurateurs is only $8 per bottle wholesale. Like me, you probably wonder, “How is that even possible??” If you had seen their 85- to 100-plus-year-old vines, or their gorgeous historic property, with stone wine caves where the wine was produced in the 1800s, you would really scratch your head. Tasting this little wonder of a wine, which has garnered scores of 90-92 from Robert Parker on more than one occasion, may leave you wondering why you ever paid a higher price for other inferior wines.

The climate in this north, central part of Ribera del Duero is continental. It’s cooler here than in the regions to the west, with less annual rainfall, so the grapes ripen longer and develop more concentration. Wines from this area of Ribera del Duero tend to be darker and more aromatic than the wines from the western part of the DO.

Though this wine is definitely ready to drink now, its ripe tannins and good acidity virtually guarantee that it will be even better in about six months. And it will likely even be drinking well in four to six years.

All of these wines are part of the Olé Imports portfolio, founded by Patrick Mata in 1999. He and his partner, winemaker Alberto Orte, scour the Iberian Peninsula for wines that truly express the unique terroirs of Spain. They also search for quality production and exceptional value. Their portfolio has grown to include well over 100 wines. They are all available in Georgia through Prime Wine & Spirits.

Lara Creasy is a consultant with more than 14 years experience in beverage management. She has developed wine and cocktail programs for such restaurants as St. Cecilia and King + Duke through her consulting business Four 28, LLC. Her work has been featured in such publications as Bon Appetit, Imbibe, and Wine Enthusiast.



Mark Alba and Geno Dew Join STK Atlanta

Monday, August 25th, 2014
Geno Dew

Geno Dew

The ONE Group recently welcomed two additions to its Atlanta team – Geno Dew, who will serve as general manager of STK, and newly appointed executive chef Mark Alba who will oversee STK’s kitchen. Both Alba and Dew have a history working within Atlanta’s restaurant community.

Most recently acting as the restaurant operations manager at Area 31 in Miami, Dew is thrilled to be back in Atlanta. Taking his first restaurant job in college and never looking back, Dew has been on a culinary journey that took him from Maitre d’ at the Chaya Brasserie in San Francisco, to a server at Bella Luna in New Orleans, the Wine Manager for Mediterraneo Concepts in Atlanta, and a member of the management team at Kimpton’s Pacci restaurant among others.

“The Atlanta restaurant scene is one of the country’s most dynamic. It is constantly evolving, and sets the trend for the region,” says Dew. “It is also an all-around great American city and is an especially gratifying place for a restaurant operator to call home.”

A 25-year industry veteran with numerous awards and accolades under his belt, Chef Alba continues to earn praise for his attention to detail, passion, and commitment to cultivating an exceptional dining experience. In conjunction with his arrival, Chef Alba has unveiled a new summer menu at STK Atlanta featuring seasonal and locally sourced ingredients.

Chef Mark Alba

Chef Mark Alba

Diners have several options, such as steaks and side dishes along with Chef Alba’s new specialty appetizers, salads and entrees. Popular starters like the lump crab salad, beef tartare, and lil’ BRGs remain as staples on the menu while foie gras French toast, Moroccan spiced lamb shoulder, yellowfin tuna crudo, and steamed Sapelo Island clams round out the new appetizer offerings. Redefining the art of the salad, Chef Alba has added two new offerings – roasted young beets with robiola cheese, pistachios, honeycomb and beet reductions; and heirloom tomatoes paired with local peaches, basil, pecorino and tomato foam. His new seasonally influenced entrees include roasted pasture chicken with confit terrine, sunchoke, and preserved lemon and olive jus; rosemary and garlic rack of lamp; beef short rib; gulf red snapper served over Sapelo Island clams, summer squash and pancetta; local rainbow trout with an heirloom tomato succotash; and Maine sea scallops served over fava beans, white asparagus, and blood orange sabayon.

Roasted Pasture ChickenSTK also offers an extensive wine and spirit list along with signature cocktails: the Cucumber Stiletto made with Grey Goose Citron, St. Germaine, fresh lime juice, cucumber, and mint; the Green Intensity – Grey Goose Vodka, lime juice, Serrano chili slices, and basil leaves; and the Strawberry Cobbler made from Belvedere Vodka, muddled fresh strawberries with a graham cracker crusted rim.


In the Driver’s Seat

Monday, August 25th, 2014

From Restaurant INFORMER, 2014, Vol. 4, Issue 1

By Helen K. Kelley

Anthony Joseph

Anthony Joseph, president, Concessions International

With an increasingly mobile population, smaller and more portable technology and the proliferation of social media, restaurants today are focusing on new ways to provide convenience and create interaction with their customers.

Convenience and Comfort

Concessions International, LLC recently installed iPad digital menus at two of its locations within Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The eTouchMenu interactive technology is available at Dos Equis Explorers Lounge and Samuel Adams Atlanta Brew House, the first restaurants at the airport to offer tabletop tablet ordering. At Dos Equis, there is a secured iPad available at every seat in the bar, and Samuel Adams offers the iPad at every bar seat and at seating along the bar area.

The menus, which are interactive and intuitive, were custom-designed by Menu Masters. Guests browse through the selections and enter their orders right at their own seat or table. The waitstaff is alerted to ordering activity and requests for service through a wireless paging service.

Anthony Joseph, president of Concessions International, says the technology offers many benefits, including the ability to show the restaurant’s entire menu.

“On a print menu, you can’t possibly display everything you offer,” he says. “But on a digital menu, we’re able to show the customer every item, accompanied by a great photo. It also gives us the capability to show brand and nutritional information.”

When time is of the essence, the digital menu offers customers a faster, more efficient way to order their beverages and food. They simply enter their selections by touching the screen.

Dos Equis Explorers Lounge allows customers to not only order, but also pay for their food and drink through the iPad menu – a big plus for air travelers who are often in a hurry.

“On average, the bill-paying process involves about three visits by the server to the table – delivering the bill, collecting the customer’s payment and then providing change or receipt. In an environment that is high volume and very busy, paying the bill can take up precious minutes for people who are rushed and anxious to move on,” says Joseph. “The option to pay through the tabletop menu gives customers the convenience of immediate payment, along with the security of having control of their credit card at all times.”

Basil Banko, vice president of information technology for Concessions International, says that the interactive menus have been successful so far, but adds that there have been a few challenges.

“Most business travelers really like the convenience of the digital menu – they can place their orders without waiting, enjoy their food and beverages, and get on their way promptly,” he explains. “But we’ve found that some older travelers haven’t embraced it, probably because it’s new. So we offer a print menu to those who don’t want to use the iPad. And it’s the same with servers – some love the iPad and some would prefer to give customers a regular menu. That’s just human nature. But the majority of customers and employees seem pleased with the technology.”

The digital menu has increased some efficiencies for both the Dos Equis and Samuel Adams locations, especially in getting orders to the kitchen. Banko adds that Dos Equis is experiencing the benefit of customers having the option to pay by credit card through the tabletop tablet.

“Travelers want to get in and out quickly, and the tablet gives them the ability to do just that by paying immediately,” he explains. “After observing the customers’ reactions at Dos Equis, we’ve decided to implement the payment option at Samuel Adams, too.”

David Shaw, CEO of Postec, Inc., a company that provides customized point of sale (POS) technology, says that an integrated system works best in locations that have high volume and need to provide fast service – such as airports and fast casual dining establishments.

“With the tablet, the consumer is actually serving as the order entry person – self-service. This process speeds up service delivery time and allows the POS system to do the ‘heavy lifting’ of kitchen output as well as report sales activity,” he says, adding that this type of technology is steadily growing in popularity. “The adoption rate is increasing as the number of tablet users grows along with their knowledge of how to use a touchpad. It’s much like the implementation of automatic teller machines at banks or the pay-at-the-pump option at gas stations.”

Interactive Purchasing Trends

Charles Marvil, corporate operations manager for Bhojanic Restaurant Group, is conducting research on information technology (IT) purchasing decisions made by restaurants as part of his requirements for a Master’s degree in HRMT (Hotel, Restaurant Management and Tourism) from Auburn University. The study focuses on the decisions to purchase or delay purchase of technologies by small-to-medium sized restaurant companies in Georgia.

“Based on an analysis of current trends, including a yearly survey conducted by Hospitality Technology magazine, my hypothesis is that the economy kept IT purchases down in the past couple of years. Restaurants were a little skittish about investing capital in a new system or upgrades when their current system wasn’t broken or they didn’t truly need it,” Marvil explains. “Now that the economy is on the upswing, restaurateurs are starting to reconsider those purchases and moving forward with them. And most people feel safe looking at hardware and software that will upgrade their POS systems and/or allow them to interact with their customers.”

Marvil’s survey asks participants to name the pieces of technology they feel are most critical to purchase for their operations, and he will collect data about secondary and tertiary purchases as well. So far, the emphasis seems to be on purchasing interactive software that allows the restaurant to push out information – such as special deals or new menu items – to the customer via email, text or social media or allows the customer to directly place an order.

“Being able to send out information to the customer’s smartphone is an immediate marketing tool,” states Marvil. “It’s a faster, more personal interface between restaurant and customer.”


Atlanta Restaurant Market Sales Increased Again in Q2

Monday, August 25th, 2014

By Robert Wagner, CPA

Second quarter 2014 Atlanta restaurant market sales again outpaced national sales trends. During that time national restaurant sales remained weak with little revenue growth and declining customer traffic. In contrast, Atlanta Q2 2014 restaurant sales volume increased 5.8%. For the quarter ended June 2014 positive sales gains were reported at 73% of the 90 independent Atlanta restaurants surveyed. Year-to-date through June 2014 Atlanta restaurants sales are up 5.9% over 2013 sales.

National Trends

In its survey of national restaurant sales Black Box Intelligence, a restaurant sales and traffic-tracking company, reported national restaurant Q2 revenues increased an anemic 0.3% while same-store customer traffic declined -1.4%. Another restaurant traffic-tracking firm, MillerPulse, reported Q2 2014 sales increased 1.4% on negative customer traffic.


Robert Wagner, NetFinancials president states that, “Q2 Atlanta restaurant sales growth was powered by improved customer counts and, to a lesser extent, higher check averages. Atlanta restaurant sales growth was 5.9% and 5.8% in Q1 and Q2 2014, respectively. That is the most consistent comp sales percentages in the last three years. The Q2 2014 sales growth and the percentage of stores reporting positive sales results shows Atlanta is still a fine town to be a restaurant operator.”

Q2 2014 Comp Sales:

Metro Atlanta                           Black Box Intel.                           MillerPulse

5.8%                                              0.3%                                                 1.4%

Atlanta’s improved restaurant sales were due to favorable weather patterns, strong Atlanta visitor traffic and positive consumer sentiment. While the metro Atlanta unemployment rate increased to 7.4% in June 2014 from 7.2% in May; the unemployment rate is down from 8.4% in June 2013.

The Sample: The 90 independently-operated, non-franchise restaurants were drawn from the metro Atlanta market. Total Q2 2014 survey sales volume was $64 million. Our sample included restaurants in Atlanta’s fast-casual, casual and fine-dining segments opened at least 18 months.

Robert Wagner, CPA is president of NetFinancials, Inc. which provides a full range of tax and accounting services for restaurant companies. 





Gypsy Kitchen Brings Spanish Flair to Buckhead

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Atlantans will take a culinary journey through the different cultures and flavors of Spain at Gypsy Kitchen, opening in October in the Buckhead Atlanta development. The Gypsy Kitchen is the latest concept from Southern Proper Hospitality (which also owns and operates Smokebelly BBQ, The Big Ketch Saltwater Grill, Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails and Osteria Cibo Rustico).

A culinary tribute to the diverse regions and cuisine of Spain, the Gypsy Kitchen menu features a variety of shareable snacks (picas), small plates (platos pequeños) and larger entrees (raciones) for communal-style meals. The menu from executive chef Randy Lewis takes influences from the many different regions of the country.

“The menu is very eclectic,” explains Lewis. “We’ll be using both classic and modern techniques in the kitchen, and there will be the traditional, shareable Spanish dishes like cheeses, Marcona almonds, charcuterie and grilled breads with smashed tomatoes. We’ll also have many larger dishes—whole fish and pork shoulder. There are so many different types of cuisine to play with in that area, from the southwest coast of Andalusia with its Moorish influences, to the Basque and Galician regions of the north to Catalonia in the east.  While the menu draws inspiration from the culinary riches of Spain, it is also infused with some Moroccan and Indian flavors as well.”

The restaurant will occupy an expansive indoor and outdoor space on the second story of the Buckhead Atlanta development. Designed by New York-based architecture firm Lacina Heitler, the design takes inspiration from a rich, colorful Baroque style with hints of copper and a large, custom bull sculpture as a focal point in the restaurant. The patio overlooks Peachtree Road and is enclosed by large trees lit from the limbs. The patio will play host to live Spanish guitar and Flamenco music several nights a week.

General manager Garron Gore assures patrons plenty of cocktails that play off indigenous Spanish ingredients, including spices like smoked paprika, cloves and saffron-infused gin made in-house.

The wine list will focus completely on Old World wines, and the beers will feature mostly foreign labels along with domestic craft beers that have herbal qualities to them.



Restaurant Community Comes Together to Raise Funds for Tin Lizzy’s Cantina Server’s Recovery

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Typical insurance in the restaurant industry often cannot cover the majority of large hospitable bills when employees face unexpected injury or illness. The inability to participate in their regular work puts even more financial strain on those who are suffering.

These circumstances recently affected Krista Poynter, a server at Tin Lizzy’s Cantina, who was sitting in her front yard late on the night of June 28, when a car accidentally drove into her yard, hit her and dragged her body across a driveway, critically burning her and causing massive injuries. However, she survived, spending the next month of her life in ICU racking up substantial medical bills for her multiple surgeries, third degree burns and numerous staples and skin grafts. Additionally, Krista’s new insurance policy claimed that her coverage had yet to go into effect prior to the accident, leaving her with more than $100,000 to pay. While she has some savings of her own to cover a portion of the costs, she had been working two restaurant server jobs to help pay her way through college as she finishes her degree in biochemistry. Even that amount of savings, meant for her education, could not cover all of the costs.

To help her through this hardship, her friends have started a fundraiser to help alleviate some of Krista’s medical costs on GoFundMe. Tin Lizzy’s Cantina and The Giving Kitchen came forward to help, as well. The goal is to raise $70,000 from friends, family and supporters, while The Giving Kitchen, a nonprofit that provides crisis grants to Atlanta’s restaurant community facing unexpected hardship, is donating $2,500 to the cause as well as helping with monthly living expenses. Krista’s former and current co-workers at Tin Lizzy’s plus the Tin Lizzy’s corporate office are contributing $3,000 to her funds.

“Instead of worrying about the permanent alterations to her body, Krista’s greatest fear seems to be the notion that she may not be able to finish school because of the debt she will face with her bills,” says Naomi Green, director of partnerships at The Giving Kitchen. “We are glad that we can be there to financially help Krista and her family during this difficult and traumatic time.”

To help alleviate the stress of some of Krista’s medical bills, please visit Krista’s fundraising page:


Pastry Live

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

August 24-26, 2014, the Grand Atrium, Atlanta. For more information, visit Pastry Live 


The Georgia Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Announces New Fundraising Event, Harvest for a Cure

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

The Georgia Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society recently announced its newest fundraising event, Harvest for a Cure. The chapter’s experience is bringing together Atlanta wine collectors and chefs for a night of wine, food, and art. All funds raised will help improve the lives of people living with Multiple Sclerosis by sponsoring local programs and services and accelerating worldwide research projects to help put an end to the debilitating disease.

The event, which will take place October 23 at the Westside Cultural Arts Center in West Midtown, Atlanta, will feature signature creations from Atlanta chefs. Surrounded by the art works of the Fay Gold Gallery, these chefs will not only prepare, but also provide samples of some of their favorite recipes.

Chefs from Atlanta restaurants include:

  • Gerry Klaskala of Aria
  • Kevin Rathbun of Rathbun’s
  • Pano Karatassos of Kyma
  • Chris Hall of Local Three
  • Peter Kaiser of Twist
  • Ian Winslade of Murphy’s
  • Todd Richards of The Pig & The Pearl
  • Angus Brown of Lusca
  • Matt Swickerath of Valenza
  • Stephen Sharp of Ink & Elm
  • Derek Dollar of Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails
  • Jonathon Beatty of Ecco
  • Randy Lewis of Gypsy Kitchen

Guests will complete their evening of food, wine and art with a performance by 2006 Blues Music Award, Francine Reed.

For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, visit National Multiple Sclerosis Society 


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