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Archive for December, 2014

Tom Catheral Retires, Leigh Catherall to Take Over

Friday, December 19th, 2014


LeighCatherallLeigh Catherall, co-founder of Here To Serve Restaurants, is now full owner and CEO of the Atlanta-based restaurant group as Master Chef Tom Catherall retires. Founded in 1996 by Leigh Catherall and Tom Catherall, the company has grown over the years to 10 concepts and 13 locations across the Atlanta area.

“As co-founder of Here To Serve Restaurants, I’m excited to take the helm of a company I helped build from its inception,” said Leigh Catherall. “Our restaurants will continue to serve Atlanta’s dining needs and be a growing part of the ever-changing restaurant landscape in Atlanta. The Here To Serve Family wishes Tom the best in his retirement.”

Ms. Catherall became full owner of H2SR on December 5, 2014, and will helm a company with over 1,000 employees that has helped define the dining scene in Atlanta for over 15 years.

Among the 10 concepts within the H2SR family are Prime, which opened in 1996, and is the group’s flagship restaurant at Lenox Square. Noche, the company’s venture into Spanish tapas, was introduced to Atlanta in 1998; it now retains four locations across the Atlanta area. Goldfish was the first suburban location for the group located at Perimeter Mall, features casual Tom Catherallseafood, sushi and steaks. Twist, at Phipps Plaza, premiered to Atlanta diners in 2003, serving International fare, sushi and tapas. Strip was introduced in early 2006 in Atlantic Station, and in 2008 H2SR opened Aja, a modern Asian kitchen in Buckhead. Coast Seafood and Raw Bar followed in 2009, and features fresh fish. In 2013, H2SR opened Shucks, a raw bar concept with grilled cheese sandwiches and craft beer. Smash, the company’s foray into the modern, casual American kitchen, also opened in 2013, and offers American chophouse favorites.


Restaurateur of the Year Award: The General Muir and West Egg Cafe

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

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

Restaurateur of the Year Winners

From left to right: Ben Johnson, Jennifer Johnson, Shelley Sweet and Todd Ginsberg

For Jennifer, Ben, Shelley and Todd, a similar dream has led to a fruitful partnership.

The four came together when Ben and Shelley Johnson, who also operate West Egg Cafe in the West Midtown area of Atlanta, started thinking about opening a second restaurant on the other side of town, this time a New York-style deli.

Soon after, they just happened to read an article mentioning local chef Todd Ginsberg’s dream of one day opening … a New York-style deli. Enter Shelley Sweet, who at the time worked at West Egg but had previously worked at TAP with Ginsberg. Put two and two together, and after many long talks about restaurants and delis, The General Muir was born.

Open since 2013, The General Muir has been a huge success, garnering national accolades! Including Atlanta Magazine Restaurant of the Year, Eater Atlanta Restaurant of the Year, Creative Loafing’s Best New Restaurant, one of Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants, and one of GQ Magazine’s 25 Best New Restaurants.

Ben, a native Atlantan, and Jennifer, originally from the Washington D.C. area, met in Ann Arbor, Mich., while attending law school. After practicing law in Atlanta for a number of years, they opened West Egg in March 2004, hoping to create a comfortable restaurant environment that might help anchor a growing community in West Midtown. Ten years later, West Egg continues to serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner in the heart of a now-thriving restaurant scene.

Shelley Sweet began her restaurant career at West Egg in 2004, but took a circuitous route to becoming a business partner. She left West Egg in 2006 to join the Concentrics Restaurants group, serving as a manager at several of its concepts, including Two Urban Licks, Murphy’s and TAP. She then left Concentrics to serve as the opening General Manager at Hugh Acheson’s Empire State South before rejoining West Egg in 2011 as General Manager, becoming a partner in 2014. Sweet considers coming full circle with West Egg one of her greatest accomplishments.

“It is such a special place to so many people and is why I am in this business,” she says. “It is how our partnership came together for The General Muir. It is where I lived and worked after college, in the old UHaul lofts before the site was redeveloped. It is where I made my closest friends and where I met my husband.”

Todd Ginsberg is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y. He started his career at The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta under Joel Antunes and Bruno Menard, led the kitchens at Asher in Roswell and Madison’s in Highlands, N.C., and spent time at Lucas Carton in Paris and at Alain Ducasse in New York. Upon his return to Atlanta, he worked for the Concentrics Restaurants group, serving as chef at both Trois and TAP, where he and Shelley worked together, and was the chef at Bocado from its opening in 2009.

The four recently opened Fred’s Meat & Bread, a restaurant stall serving classic sandwiches, within the new Krog Street Market. A second stall, Yalla, which offers Middle Eastern cuisine with a contemporary twist, will open soon.


The Forgotten Art of Serving

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

By Jennifer Moleski

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

Jennifer Moleski

Jennifer Moleski

I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the way servers have lost their professional identity and purpose. Most have taken to the position that their job is simply being the repository and regurgitaters of chefs, bartenders and sommelier’s passion.

How did this happen? The answer is easy. Those branches of the restaurant industry got serious. They got passionate about what they were doing, and the nation positively responded. The chefs, bartenders and sommeliers demanded that we servers become knowledgeable about their product so we could be informative to our guests, and that’s where we are now.

This isn’t such a bad thing in and of itself. After all, part of a server’s job is to have excellent knowledge of everything available to the guests. But while it is great to learn from and become impassioned about all aspects of service, servers have their own set of achievements to strive for. But what are they?

As strong servers, we are:

  • Communicating with our guests and our team. We share with our team what we see, what we are doing and what we need. By doing this, we can use each other’s perceptions. (“Table 12 looks put off, what’s the deal?”) Or an announcement like “I am watering the room” can be processed by the team and taken off everyone’s to-do list, for the time being.
  • Intuitive of our guest’s needs, fears, desires and mood. We should be constantly building our knowledge database about the steps of service we perform and the guests we perform them for.
  • Scanning. Next time you watch your service team, check their scanning level. Do they rush through the dining room, head down or straight forward with one meager task in mind? Or are they scanning every table as they pass by searching for clues as to what each guest is in need of or where they are in their dining experience?
  • Working as a team. Members of a team work together seamlessly for the common goal of serving all guests. Watching a service team that works together is like a dance. So many things get accomplished, and they appear to get accomplished effortlessly.
  • Giving above and beyond what may be expected by guests and the team. We are thinking in our heads or in our service group of ways to awe our guests. We look for opportunities to make another person’s day.
  • Articulate and fun dining tour guides. We know what we offer and can explain and recommend things fluently and honestly.
  • Friendly. Other people – both our guests and our teammates – should want to come back because of our hospitality.
  • Scholars on spirit, wine, food and allergies. We study and learn, and our studies never end.
  • Part of a team whose micro and macro successes – and failures – are a reflection of everyone’s ability and willingness, to one degree or another.
  • All-seeing. Every opportunity to take in information is fully utilized. We seek information by looking at a guest’s demeanor, the silverware on the table, the line at the door, the server that just walked in, the mood of the chef, etc.
  • Striving for excellence and sharing our thoughts, ideas and concerns with our team.

To elevate how others perceive what we do, we must begin holding each of our actions up to scrutiny and share our findings with our fellow teammates. We need to consciously begin seeking the best practices and most efficient and balletic ways of doing things.

Until we can stand up for our career or scold any fellow server that degrades or underperforms in our craft, our craft will suffer and stagnate. We should be aggressively progressive about serving and bring our profession into a respectable light.

Jennifer Moleski is the founder of, a restaurant service focused website. Her passion is teaching the importance of team service. She has traveled throughout the U.S. observing and interviewing the top-rated restaurant service teams and managers to discover the commonality between them. She consults, writes and also offers an online spirits and wine course for service professionals.



Verde Taqueria Announces the Arrival of Executive Chef Joe Macy

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Atlanta’s Verde Taqueria has announced the arrival of executive chef Joe Macy, who will bring his personal touch to the Mexican-inspired menu. In addition to chef Macy joining the team, Verde Taqueria has expanded its catering menu to include several new items.

Chef Macy’s vast experience in the restaurant industry includes tenure at Magnolias in Charleston, S.C., and Atlanta’s Local Three and BLT Steak. His culinary philosophy relies on cooking for the seasons, shopping as locally as possible and having a great time in the kitchen.

“I love the connection formed when someone is passionate about the food they produce, not just a chef but a farmer as well,” says executive chef Macy. “I try to keep my food fairly simple, showcasing products I source from local farms in the best light possible.”

The updated catering menu features appetizer bars including a salsa bar with salsa verde, house salsa and pico de gallo, a trio bar with guacamole, jalapeno queso and house salsa, and the quadzilla bar with guacamole, jalapeno queso, house salsa and bean dip. The nacho bar has officially landed on the menu with the option of either ground beef or grilled chicken with extras such as queso, chopped lettuce, pico de gallo, pickled jalapenos, sour cream, black beans and guacamole. For those looking for lighter options the soup and salad bars provide delicious alternatives.


Ford Fry’s Team Launches Employee-Development Culinary, Management and Beverage Classes

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Ford FryFord Fry’s team at Rocket Farm Restaurants has launched a “university” in order to better develop their employees, from dishwashers to servers to vice presidents. There are classes in three categories – culinary, management and beverage.

The beverage program has been named the “Blind Pig Brigade,” as blind pig is another word for speakeasy. The curriculum covers beverage/cocktail history, preparation procedure, syrup and cordial production, and more.

Every class is given once a month at the spot of the instructors’ choice, at one of their venues or headquarters on Atlanta’s west side.

This program is free for every employee and so far has garnered positive feedback. It teaches employees about the workings of the venues and industry, which enables them to make career decisions for themselves so they can decide if they would like to move up further in the ranks and become management at a venue or at headquarters.


FDA Finalizes Rules Requiring Calorie Information to be Listed

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

FDAThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finalized two rules requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments and vending machines to help consumers make informed decisions about meals and snacks.

“The National Restaurant Association strongly believes in the importance of providing nutrition information to consumers to empower them to make the best choices for their dietary needs,” says Dawn Sweeney, the National Restaurant Association’s President and CEO.

“We joined forces with more than 70 public health and stakeholder groups to advocate for a federal nutrition standard so that anyone dining out can have clear, easy-to-use nutrition information at the point of ordering – information that is presented in the same way, no matter what part of the country. From Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, diners in restaurants will have a new tool to help them make choices that are right for them.

The menu labeling final rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. A restaurant or similar retail food establishment is generally defined as a retail establishment that offers for sale restaurant-type food, which is generally defined as food that is usually eaten on the premises of the establishment, while walking away, or soon after arriving at another location. Examples of restaurants and similar retail food establishments include sit-down and fast-food restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and grocery and convenience stores. The menu labeling final rule also requires calorie labeling for certain alcoholic beverages and certain foods sold at entertainment venues such as movie theaters and amusement parks. The FDA also clarifies in the menu labeling final rule that certain foods purchased in grocery stores or other retail food establishments that are typically intended for more than one person to eat and require additional preparation before consuming, such as pounds of deli meats and cheeses and large-size deli salads, are not covered.

To help consumers understand the significance of the calorie information in the context of a total daily diet, the FDA is requiring a succinct statement that says, “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary” to be included on menus and menu boards. The menu labeling final rule also requires covered establishments to provide, upon consumer request, written nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein.

Restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are covered, including those that voluntarily register with FDA to comply with the menu labeling requirements, will have one year from the date of publication of the menu labeling final rule to comply with the requirements.

The vending machine final rule requires operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie information for food sold from vending machines, subject to certain exceptions. Vending machine operators that are covered, including those that voluntarily register with FDA to comply with the vending machine labeling requirements, will have two years from the date of publication of the vending machine labeling final rule to comply with the requirements


The Georgia Restaurant Association Announces Ryan Turner the 2015 Chairman of the Board

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

ryan turnerThe Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) has announced the 2015 Chairman of the Board for the association, Ryan Turner, current  vice-chair for the GRA and co-founder and CEO of Unsukay Community of Businesses, the parent company for Muss & Turner’s, Eleanor’s, Local Three and Common Quarter in Metro-Atlanta.

Since college, Turner has worked in every role in a restaurant from dishwasher to bartender. Turner served as the food and beverage manager at East Lake Golf Club prior to opening Muss & Turner’s in February of 2005. He and his partners opened Local Three in late 2010, Eleanor’s in 2012 and Common Quarter in 2013.

In 2011, Turner and his partners received the GRA’s Restaurateur of the Year award at the 5th annual GRACE Awards. In 2013, they received the GRA’s Restaurant Neighbor Award for their involvement in founding and launching The Giving Kitchen. Turner currently serves as Board Chairman of The Giving Kitchen, a 501(c)(3) serving those in the restaurant community facing hardship and crisis. Additionally, Turner was named the 2014 Business Person of the Year by the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Atlanta Business Chronicle in the Experienced Entrepreneur category.

As Chairman of the Board, Turner will serve as the Chief Spokesperson for the industry as well as for the association and will lead the GRA Board of Directors. The Chairman of the Board also partakes in several GRA functions throughout the year including the Taste of Georgia Legislative Reception in February, the GRA Golf Tournament in June, the Chairman’s Reception and the GRACE Awards gala in November.




Tin Drum Asiacafe to Open New Location at Akers Mill Shopping Center

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Steven Chan, founder and CEO of Tin Drum Asiacafe, an Asian street food restaurant, recently announced another location to open at Akers Mill Shopping Center before the new year. The new location will cater to the busy traffic at Cumberland Mall, and will be located just minutes away from the new Braves stadium.

Under the ownership of Yogi Patel, this location will feature Tin Drum’s new modern design and styling based on Asian street-side cafes and will include seating capacity for 60 guests.

While an opening date has not yet been set, guests can look forward to a full week of special offers and free entertainment early in the new year.


Villains to Undergo a Conversion into a New Concept Called Hi-Five Diner

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Midtown Atlanta sandwich shop and bar Villains will close its doors at the end of service on December 20 and undergo a conversion into a new concept called Hi-Five Diner. Hi-Five Diner will serve all day breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches, blue plates and brunch specials on the weekends. It will continue to operate with a full bar, featuring craft beer and classic cocktails, and will also add a take-out coffee and espresso bar with grab and go sandwiches and salads. Hi-Five Diner’s anticipated opening is mid-January 2015. Hi-Five Diner will also continue to serve some of Villains’ most popular items, including the “Odd Job” Korean fried chicken sandwich and the “Hail Nero” Asian kale Caesar salad.

Villains opened in 2013 by Alex Brounstein, owner of Grindhouse Killer Burgers, and the kitchen team of Jason McClure and Jared Lee Pyles, both formerly of Flip Burger Boutique. Hi-Five Diner is a new concept developed by Brounstein, who will remain the sole operator. McClure has left to pursue various restaurant ventures closer to his home in Smyrna, Ga, and Pyles is managing the kitchen operations for King of Pops.

“We are tremendously appreciative of all the support and patronage from our Villains fans and family and are proud of the product and experience we provided to our customers,” said Brounstein. “Unfortunately, not enough of our loyal fans live or work in Midtown, and this proved to be too much of a challenge for us. We plan to take Villains to a new location in a neighborhood closer to our core audience in the near future.”

Brounstein intends to shutter the business for the remainder of 2014, during which time he and his team will re-design the space into Hi-Five Diner.





New Fresh To Order Location Marks the First for Knoxville and the Third for the State of Tennessee

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Atlanta-based Fresh To Order (f2o), which began franchising in 2010, will open its first location in Knoxville, Tennessee. The fast-casual restaurant serves entrees, Panini sandwiches, soups and salads made-to-order in less than 10 minutes for around $10. The new restaurant will be located in the newly-developed University Commons retail development near the University of Tennessee campus.

Fresh To Order’s menu features chef-inspired appetizers, entrees and desserts at affordable prices. The menu includes healthier options and a broad selection of combinations including a crushed almond crusted tuna steak, brown sugar roasted pork loin with caramelized onion apricot chutney and ‘better for you’ black bean, bison and tuna burgers made in-house. Upon ordering, guests can watch as the kitchen crew fire up the grill and cook proteins like chicken, steak and fish. Salad dressings and soups are prepared from scratch twice-daily in-store.

The Knoxville restaurant is owned and operated by Fresh Concepts LLC, multi-unit foodservice operators with various real estate holdings in Knoxville.

Fresh To Order is a member of the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program, designed to help parents make the healthful choice the easy choice for their children when dining out.

Fresh To Order’s recent openings include Decatur, Ga., Greenville, S.C. and units in non-traditional venues such as the CNN Center in Atlanta and in Concourse B at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. This is the third Tennessee location for Fresh To Order. The restaurant franchise already has one location in Chattanooga and plans to open 4-6 more restaurants in Nashville and Knoxville.


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