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Archive for June, 2015

Sysco Terminates Merger with US Foods

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Sysco Corporation announced that it has terminated its merger agreement with US Foods, days after the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., granted the Federal Trade Commission’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the proposed Sysco-US Foods merger. This action also terminates an agreement with Performance Food Group (PFG) to purchase US Foods facilities in 11 markets.

Under terms of the merger agreement, the termination of the transaction requires Sysco to pay break-up fees of $300 million to US Foods and $12.5 million to PFG.

“After reviewing our options, including whether to appeal the Court’s decision, we have concluded that it’s in the best interests of all our stakeholders to move on,” said Bill DeLaney, Sysco president and chief executive officer. “We believed the merger was the right strategic decision for us, and we are disappointed that it did not come to fruition.”


Bringing Tourists to Your Table

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Georgia’s restaurants are inviting everyone from tourists and convention-goers to film crews and locals to have a seat and enjoy a meal.

By Helen K. Kelley

From Volume 4, Issue 8

From the north Georgia mountains to the Golden Isles, tourists flock to taste local flavors all around the state. But when it comes to attracting those visitors as well as cultivating a local clientele, it takes some planning and promotion and, of course, some really good food and drink.

Authentic Local Experience Draws Tourists

It’s no secret that tourism is big business in the state of Georgia, but the statistics may surprise you. According to Georgia State University, 48 million people visit Georgia annually, spending $25 billion while they’re here. In fact, the state is considered the 8th largest tourism economy in the country.

As a restaurant in Georgia, you can capture some of this clientele no matter where you are located. For restaurants in larger cities like Savannah and Atlanta, tapping into the conventions that constantly flow through town, forming partnerships with the local Convention & Visitors Bureau along with creating relationships with neighboring hotels can go a long way toward putting your restaurant at the forefront of visitors’ minds when they are looking for a place to dine.

LeBlanc - White Oak KitchenCindy and Alan LeBlanc have been successfully bringing locals and out-of-towners alike to their downtown Atlanta restaurants for nearly 20 years, so they know a thing or two about creating a following.

Under parent company Brewed to Serve Restaurant Group Inc., the LeBlancs own and operate Max Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery, which they opened in 1998 and is the oldest independent brewpub in the state, and White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails, which opened a block south on Peachtree Street in 2012.

Visitors to downtown Atlanta make up a substantial clientele for both restaurants, in addition to a local, even regional, following. In fact, many visitors to the city often return multiple times to their restaurants while in town.

So what is the LeBlancs’ recipe for success in attracting tourists and convention-goers as well as local patrons in downtown Atlanta?

“Everything [we do] is local,” Alan says. “We designed and developed Max Lager’s and White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails on the foundation of the local community, since many of the current tourist attractions did not exist at the time. As a result, tourists appreciate an authentic local experience. Over our 18 years of investment in the downtown market, we feel we have contributed to the development of the tourism market as much as we now receive.”

That commitment to local can be seen at White Oak Kitchen, which uses salvaged timber from some of Georgia’s former textile mills on the wall. Local art dots the restaurant space, and along the outside balconies, raised beds are home to fresh herbs, lettuces and fruits like strawberries that the kitchen and bar use on the menu and in freshly made drinks.

Cindy LeBlanc says that old-fashioned Southern hospitality is also part of that local appeal, particularly at White Oak Kitchen.

“People tell us they like to come here because we are locally owned and not part of a larger group. And when they come inside, they see that we have quite a lot to choose from on our menu,” she says. “But while everyone enjoys our Southern regional food and cocktails, what we hear from our guests, more than anything else, is how wonderful our employees are. Our team is hospitable, and they all keep service in mind. I can’t tell you how proud I am of that.”

From the printed menus and hospitable employees to the little extras like valet parking, the commitment to service is ingrained in Brewed to Serve Restaurant Group’s culture.

“We want everyone who comes into our organization and our restaurants to see the teamwork we have established,” Cindy says. “Whether you’re serving the customer, a fellow employee or your manager, service is the most important thing to us. And that makes everyone enjoy working together.”

That commitment to service is especially important when many of their customers may not be regulars, but rather people who visit the city only once for a convention or conference. That one experience in your restaurant will determine what they think about your restaurant – and their experience in the city as a whole. That can often translate into positive – or negative – reviews and comments online and in the social media world.

The LeBlancs’ love for and commitment to the downtown area have fostered relationships with other local businesses that, in turn, have contributed to their success. Attractions like the Georgia Aquarium, National Center for Civil & Human Rights and the College Football Hall of Fame signal continued interest and growth in downtown Atlanta and have served to increase a tourist and convention base that’s active year-round.

“When we decided that downtown was our area years ago, we became very involved with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. Through that relationship, we’ve always done a lot to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come through Atlanta each year,” Cindy says. “When we opened White Oak Kitchen in 2012, we didn’t design it with one big dining room; we built a restaurant with rooms of different sizes that could serve a variety of groups. So, for example, when a company like Microsoft brings its convention to town and wants to have a private event or meeting, we have a place for them in addition to our regular diners.”

The restaurant can accommodate multiple groups at once while also serving regular diners stopping in for a drink or dinner. Many of the rooms can be combined to seat more or less as needed, whether the event is for 15 guests or 500.

The couple are staunch supporters of downtown Atlanta and its continued potential for growth. And while those skyscrapers may make the area seem like a huge, faceless city, Cindy says that downtown Atlanta is really like a small neighborhood.

“We know everybody downtown, which is a nice thing when you’re in a huge city with millions of people,” she says. “Between the Ambassador Force, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, all of the hotels and guests, and local businesses and workers, we occupy an area with a small-town feel. Downtown Atlanta is a hidden gem.”

Showcasing Georgia’s Unique Flavors

Even if your restaurant is not in one of Georgia’s bigger cities, you can still capture some of the tourism market. After all, everyone has to eat, and dining out is a huge part of exploring a new city.

“Our research shows that food is the No. 1 segment that domestic travelers spend money on. In fact, they spend $6.8 billion on foodservice annually,” says Beda Johnson, director of tourism for the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). “We initially thought hotels and motels were the biggest cash cow for Georgia as far as tourism, but it turns out, the cash cow is actually food.”

Based on those findings, GDEcD has created several culinary initiatives this year, all focusing on Georgia’s tasty foods.

“We have designated 2015 as the year of celebrating the flavors of Georgia,” Johnson says. “Knowing that food is first and foremost in direct visitor spending is the primary reason for creating these initiatives to feature all of the wonderful food our state has to offer.”

As part of that celebration, GDEcD has created a group of culinary “journeys” focusing on food and places that have made Georgia famous. Georgia’s Flavor Tours will highlight 10 different food and location themes, including BBQ, Fin to Fork, Meat and Three, Craft Brews and Distilleries, Georgia Wine, Dining With a View, Places Movies Made Famous, Places Music Made Famous, Georgia Grown and Pretty Sweet.

Restaurants featured on the tours are locally owned and have met the requirements of being “uniquely Georgia,” serving good food and treating guests with true Southern hospitality. They were selected based on recommendations from Georgia Department of Economic Development partners throughout the state, including destination marketing organizations and regional managers, as well as customer reviews posted on social media sites.

Another initiative, 100 Plates Locals Love, is a curated list of iconic foods found in different regions of Georgia. The list, compiled from recommendations by destination marketing organizations throughout the state, is broken down into nine segments, each featuring 10 dishes that locals say are the best of what their region has to offer. These are the definitive dishes for which local restaurants are known and loved.

Additionally, a guidebook in both print and digital formats is being developed as a companion piece to the Flavor Tours. It will feature an explanation of the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown program, a history of culinary arts in Georgia, delicious recipes from local chefs and more.

The guidebook and information about GDED’s culinary initiatives will be available later this summer on Georgia’s official tourism and travel website,, and on 14 different social media platforms, searchable by #georgiaeats.

If your restaurant would like to be included on one of the Flavor Tours or 100 Plates Locals Love, contact the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tourism Office at 404-962-4000.


Sell More Wine

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Learning more about the wines on your menu will help you sell more without being pushy

By Jennifer Moleski

From Volume 4, Issue 6

“Sell more wine” doesn’t sit well with some people. For them, “selling” can feel unnatural or pushy.

The good news is there is a way to significantly increase your sales by simply offering your guests the best experience possible – nothing unnatural or pushy about that. When the right products are offered to the right guests at the right times, sales naturally happen. Sales are simply the result of providing a great option to your guests and your guests taking that option.

Here are three things you can do to gain wine knowledge and use it to enhance your guest’s experience.

Step 1: Pick one wine to sell
The ultimate goal will be to obtain an overall level of knowledge you can use to sell every wine on your menu, but for now choose one and give it all you’ve got. Choose one wine from your wines by the glass (WBTG) menu. Go with your favorite wine, your restaurant’s most popular wine, or maybe a selection that goes great with your restaurant’s cuisine. If it’s on your WBTG menu, it’s fair game.

Step 2: Learn about your wine
And I mean learn. It won’t take long if you simply find the answers to these four questions:

What kind of wine is it? Know the varietal (what grape the wine came from) and the location the grapes were grown in.

What does it taste like? Do an Internet search and find some tasting notes on your chosen wine. For a more hands-on approach, pour a sample and attempt to find those flavors in your chosen wine. This will help you understand the wine more naturally, and you’ll retain the information easier.

What food does your wine pair best with? Every wine has a unique flavor profile that lends itself to enhancing the flavors of certain foods,
and vice versa. Learn what your wine’s compatible foods are.

What kind of wine is it (almost)? What wine (or wines) are similar to your chosen wine, and in what way?

Step 3: Know When to Segue.
If you want your guest’s experience to be as excellent as possible, simply recommend your wine when it makes the most sense do so: when it will improve their experience. You’ve just learned enough about your wine to know whose experience will be enhanced by drinking it. You’ve created four segue moments in which it is most appropriate to mention your wine:

When your guest is considering, asking questions about or orders your chosen wine varietal. (Tell them about your wine.)

When your guest tells you what they like in a wine, and the characteristics they explain are similar to your chosen wine.(Your wine is the perfect fit.)

When your guest is considering, asking questions about or orders your wine’s ideal food pairing. (Enhance the flavors of each by suggesting your wine.)

When your guest is considering, asking questions about or orders your wine’s “almost wine.” (They are a prime candidate for your wine.)

Step 4: Repeat the process
Once you feel comfortable with your chosen wine and mentioning it to your guests, repeat the process. Learning will get easier and faster every time. Pretty soon there won’t be a wine on your menu that you are unfamiliar with, and there won’t be a guest whose experience you
can’t enhance.

Bonus Hint: When you ask your guest, “May I bring you another glass of wine?” and they answer with an unsure “no thank you,” simply recommend a half pour to them. It’s often exactly what they’re looking for.

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.


Chef Matthew Ridgway Makes Atlanta Return to Helm Gypsy Kitchen and The Southern Gentleman Kitchens

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Southern Proper Hospitality recently selected Chef Matthew Ridgway for the dual role of executive chef for Gypsy Kitchen and The Southern Gentleman. Ridgeway previously worked as chef de partie under chef Joel Antunes at JOËL and served as sous chef of Pricci and Veni Vidi Vici, will take over the kitchens in June.

Ridgway left Atlanta to help re-open New York’s famous Oak Room as chef de cuisine with Antunes and went on to create his own establishments in the food world. Most recently owner and chef of acclaimed restaurant The Pass, Ridgway is also the charcuterie mastermind behind Porcsalt, a small but thriving venture he created to produce local, artisanal products from pasture-raised duck and pork. He counts several noteworthy New York City restaurants among his clients, providing red wine-cured bacon to Café Boulud and duck prosciutto to Le Bernardin, for example.

“Matthew eats, sleeps and breathes food,” says Southern Proper Hospitality chief operating officer Guido Piccinni. “With his clean, simple style of cooking and vast understanding of different techniques and cultures, he was a natural choice for us. Not only has he been trained by some of the best in the business, he understands our passion for teamwork and creating memorable guest experiences that transform first-timers into returning patrons.”

After training at Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island, Ridgway went on to be mentored by chef Jean-Marie Lacroix at The Fountain Room in Philadelphia’s Four Seasons Hotel. Lacroix then offered him the posts of chef de cuisine and chef de restaurant at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse in Philadelphia, and later sent Ridgway to hone his skills at George V, a Michelin three-star restaurant in Paris, and Le Relais Sainte Victoire in Aix-en Provence, France.

“It’s exciting to come back to this city that has become such a great destination for food,” Ridgway says. “I love the people and the ingredients in the South, as well as the longer growing season. I’m also looking forward to getting back to a very congenial community of chefs who are so supportive of each other.”

Ridgway has two priorities in his new role – putting his touch on the menus and helping his kitchen team rise to their highest potential. “What’s most gratifying to me is to be able to give back what I’ve learned,” he says. “Oftentimes, the culinary world values stardom more than teamwork, but for me, teaching and raising the level of each member of the kitchen team is vitally important. Food is food at the end of the day. If you have a great story and you have heart, it’s hard to go wrong.”


Inaugural Georgia Restaurant Week Kicks-Off in July

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

The Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) and the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) have partnered together to create the first ever Georgia Restaurant Week.This inaugural seven day culinary event is aimed at increasing awareness about Georgia’s culinary scene and highlighting the state’s unique and varied dining options.

Georgia Restaurant Week will take place July 13-19, 2015 at participating restaurants throughout Georgia. During this week-long event, patrons, both local and from out of state, will be able to explore the numerous dining options throughout Georgia for a set price and experience the local Georgia products that are available in Georgia’s restaurants.

“Restaurants play a key role for driving tourism and Georgia’s restaurants exhibit some of the best dining establishments that you can find in the country,” said GRA Executive Director Karen Bremer. “Through the GRA’s partnership with GDEcD, Georgia Restaurant Week will inspire diners to experience the exceptional dining that is available throughout Georgia and will showcase Georgia’s thriving culinary scene to visitors near and far.”

Leading up to the event, patrons will be able to view menu options, price details and make reservations online. Additionally, guests and participating restaurants can stay engaged and share their experiences via social media using hashtag #GARestaurantWeek on Explore Georgia’s various social media outlets.

All restaurants throughout Georgia are encouraged to participate in this highly anticipated event. For more information on Georgia Restaurant Week and to sign up your restaurant to participate, please visit


Boti to Open at Ponce City Market in Fall 2015

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Husband-wife duo Meherwan and Molly Irani and team will open a new Indian street food concept in Ponce City Market in fall 2015. Two-time James Beard Award-nominated chef Meherwan Irani announces that Boti will spotlight marinated meats on skewers, cooked on open flame, then served with fresh-made flat bread, fresh herbs and spices.

“I had actually already been planning a spin-off of Chai Pani for a little over a year; something even more casual, even more of an eatery – almost completely a counter-service model,” says Chai Pani executive chef Meherwan. “So when Ponce City Market approached me to consider something for a modern day food hall, I knew it would be a perfect fit.”

Developed by Meherwan and Chai Pani Decatur chef de cuisine Daniel Peach, the Boti menu will feature tandoori and kababs, such as skirt steak marinated in vinegar, garlic, ginger and chilies; chicken tikka with classic tandoori spices; lamb seekh kabab with cream, mint and pistachio, and more. Offering a variety of tastes, freshly grilled meats will be served on hand-made naan, parathas (flaky flat bread), pav (a soft roll), or organic mixed greens. Specials might include: marinated beef heart, charred octopus, sweetbreads, grilled fruits and Middle Eastern cheeses.

Drawing inspiration from the open-air Indian street cafes, Meherwan, Molly and Chai Pani brand director Michael Files will team up with DeCarlo Architecture to transform the Boti space into a vibrant mishmash of design cues stemming from modern India. With richly-colored, hand-painted signs and posters fusing with authentic Indian relics. An open kitchen with a large charbroil grill and tandoori oven will serve as the centerpiece of the restaurant.


Gillespie Pulls Teams Together for Revival and Gunshow

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Kevin Gillespie has promoted Geoff Morrill to General Manager at Gunshow restaurant. Morrill joined Gunshow when it first opened in 2013. He began as a server and worked his way up to front of house and beverage manager in October 2014 before becoming general manager.

Morrill’s promotion comes on the heels of several moves that started with fellow opening day Gunshow family member, Joey Ward, and “kitchen dude” Rémi Granger. Ward was promoted from chef de cuisine to executive chef in late-2014, while Granger advanced to sous chef in early-2015.

As a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, executive chef Joey Ward began his career as the sous chef of the St. Regis Atlanta and eventually left to work as a sous chef for Gillespie at Woodfire Grill. Ward moved on to become the executive chef at H. Harper Station. Then,returned to work with Gillespie at Gunshow.

Working by Ward’s side is sous chef Rémi Granger, who grew up in Loire Valley, France. Granger received his formal training at Lycée Hôtelier et de Tourisme de Blois, and later worked at luxury Five Star hotels in France, Florida, and Georgia.

Gillespie is bringing Revival to Decatur in July with the help of executive chef Andreas Müller and general manager Christy Lee Faircloth.

“Andreas and I have been working together for a long time, and our mutual enthusiasm for preparing traditional family-style meals with farm-fresh ingredients makes him perfect for leading the kitchen at Revival,” says Gillespie. “And we all feel really lucky to have Christy Lee as the matriarch for our front-of-house team; she’s incredibly family-minded and has developed a lot of close relationships within the Decatur community.”

Faircloth, who is a mother to four children and two stepchildren, grew up with seven siblings and is often dubbed the “mother hen.” Prior to joining Revival, she spent three years on the service and management teams at Atlanta’s Rocket Farm Restaurants, including No. 246, St. Cecilia and The El Felix.


8th Annual FARE Conference – The Business of Food

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

June 22-24, 2015, Gaylord Opryland and Resort Convention Center, Nashville, TN. For more information, visit Georgia Restaurant Association. Presented by Sysco


Atlanta Men Cook

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

June 21, 2015, Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta. For more information, visit Georgia Restaurant Association


Jim Monast Joins Bellina Alimentari as General Manager

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

Monast Brings 30 Years of Restaurant Leadership Experience to Italian Eatery Opening Late Summer at Ponce City Market

Bellina Alimentari owner Tal Postelnik Baum has hired Jim Monast to be the general manager for her Italian-inspired market and eatery opening this summer in the Central Food Hall at Ponce City Market. Bellina Alimentari will feature a gourmet market, eatery, wine bar and culinary club. Monast will be working with executive chef David Berry.

Monast embarked on his culinary journey at the age of 14 in an Italian bakery. During college, he became the general manager of the student-run, full-service restaurant at the University of Rhode Island while earning his degree in business management. Monast honed his skills in general manager and managing partner roles at several national casual dining concepts, including Brio Tuscan Grille, McCormick & Schmick’s, LongHorn Steakhouse and Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar.

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