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Archive for September, 2015

Macaron Queen Announces New Concept Expansion

Monday, September 28th, 2015

French pastry conMacaron Queennoisseur, Macaron Queen is set to expand from its carts to Macaron boutique bars throughout 2016. The mother-daughter duo, Finia Jahangard and Nina Chteoui, initially debuted with their flagship cart in Lenox Square Mall. Macaron Queen will transform its look, shifting into a full service dessert boutique bar. The first of these new locations will debut this fall in Northpoint Shopping Center, the second will be located in Phipps Plaza. The Macaron Queen’s menu offers individual desserts with specialty flavors.

“I pride myself in watching guests as they enjoy our macarons. I love when I can say, it’s ok, have another one!” said chef-owner Jahangard.

The free-standing macaron boutique bars are designed to offer guests a true amuse-bouche. Featuring exclusive products and services, Macaron Queen creates a luxurious yet fast-casual, French pastry experience.


Party at Ponce Announced

Monday, September 28th, 2015

As Ponce Ponce City MarketCity Market continues welcoming the community to experience its dynamic culinary and retail offerings, the property is also integrating itself into Atlanta’s entertainment and music scene. Spearheaded by Party at Ponce on Saturday, October 10, Ponce City Market celebrates the city’s musical talent through a variety of programming and partnerships.

Party at Ponce marks the first official event to be held on property since the rehabilitation process began in July 2011. A tribute to the October 2011 event of the same name, live concerts by artists with Atlanta roots will perform the evening’s entertainment. Folk-rock duo Indigo Girls will return as the headlining band along with singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins, and singer-songwriter David Ryan Harris. A second stage will showcase other local musical acts. Party at Ponce will also feature tastings from the acclaimed lineup of Central Food Hall chefs and neighboring restaurants.

“Ponce City Market represents visionary greatness for Atlanta and now it’s a reality,” says Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls. “I am thrilled that we will be playing for the official opening, and as a resident of Atlanta, I can’t wait to hang out there.”

Guests of Party at Ponce will also be treated to a first sip from City Winery, the entertainment venue, winery and restaurant debuting on property in early 2016. Upon opening, New York-based City Winery will join Atlanta’s music and entertainment venues including Eddie’s Attic, The Tabernacle and Laughing Skull Lounge. The concept will offer private and group cooking classes and wine tastings as well as a weekly lineup of  musicians, artists and comedians performing live.

“I can tell you from personal experience that the kind of artists that play the City Winery venues across the country will absolutely love to add Atlanta to their itinerary, and music fans in town will be thrilled,” says Russell Carter Artist Management Ltd. president Russell Carter. “Midtown convenience, fine wine and food, the best touring artists in a downright classy joint – what more could you ask for? City Winery is going to elevate Atlanta’s already vibrant live music scene to a new level.”

Further supporting the city’s musical talent, Ponce City Market also recently launched a Thursday concert series dubbed “Ponce City Nights.” Hosted by Brooklyn-based record label Paper Gardens and inspired by “Chelsea Nights” held at New York City’s Chelsea Market, “Ponce City Nights” celebrates emerging local artists across all genres with concerts in the property’s main courtyard. The event is held every other Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and is free to the public.

Tickets for Party at Ponce are $95 per person through Thursday, October 1 and $105 per person beginning Tuesday, October 2. Tickets include chef tastings from more than 25 chefs, entry to concerts and private access to Ponce City Market. Available to guests 21 years of age and up. This year’s Party at Ponce will raise funds to benefit the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, Georgia Organics, The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, Museum of Design Atlanta and other initiatives of the Jamestown Charitable Foundation.


Willy’s Mexicana Grill Continues to Grow in Atlanta

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Willy's Mexicana GrillWilly’s Mexicana Grill continues to grow in Metro Atlanta. The fast-casual restaurant announced new locations in Kennesaw and Roswell opening this fall.

The new Kennesaw restaurant seats 78 patrons inside and 48 on the sunny outdoor patio. The 2,986-square-foot space, located at 600 Chastain Road in the Village at Townpark shopping center, is opening late October.

“While we still have our restaurant on Barrett Parkway, this location brings us closer to Kennesaw State University,” says Willy’s founder and CEO Willy Bitter. “We’re looking forward to adding more of our fresh flavors and ingredients to the neighborhood and creating opportunities to get involved in the community.”

In Roswell, the 2,493-square-foot space will seat 84 patrons indoors and 20 on the outdoor patio. The restaurant, located at 660 West Crossville Road in the Stonebridge Station shopping center, is set to open in mid-November and will be the first Willy’s in the North Fulton city. “Roswell is a vibrant community with great schools and parks,” Bitter says, “and we are excited to finally open a Willy’s here!”

Customers at both locations can take advantage of online ordering and catering services. Willy’s catering is available for self-serve and full-service events. All hardware and paper products are included, and everything is disposable for easy cleanup. Set-up is included with delivery, or catering orders can be picked up at the store.

All menu items are made from scratch, on-site, using only the freshest, highest-quality ingredients. Signature stuffed burritos, fully loaded nachos, tasty tacos and crisp salads are prepared in front of the customer and can be customized to any taste with more than 20 fresh, flavorful toppings. Guests at both the new Kennesaw and Roswell locations can wash down their meal with homemade lemonades, including raspberry, mango and prickly pear flavors.



Taste of Atlanta

Friday, September 25th, 2015

September 25-27, Midtown at Tech Square, Atlanta. For more information, visit Taste of Atlanta.


Atlanta Greek Festival

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

September 24-27, 2015, Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Atlanta. For more information, visit Atlanta Greek Festival.


Ready To Grow

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

How to know if you should expand your concept and what to consider when you do

By Hope S. Philbricsedgwicksk

The desire to grow your business may be rooted in something as simple as wanting to tuck some money away for retirement in addition to earning enough to pay bills on time. Restaurateurs who’ve succeeded in opening a second or third location or expanding into multiple states make it clear that growth is both a science and an art: You’ll need to evaluate analytics and weigh gut feelings.

What makes a restaurant right for expansion? “First profitability,” says Chris Sedgwick, president of PURE Taqueria Franchising USA, LLC. “Profitability is important because you need to know the business model works.”

Sedgwick, who has been working in the restaurant industry since he was 15 years old, has owned and operated restaurants in the Atlanta metro area since 1989. He co-founded PURE Taqueria in 2005. He is also president of Sedgwick Management Inc., which owns and manages Bistro VG, Vinny’s on Windward, Theo’s Brother’s Bakery, The Union Restaurant, Made Kitchen & Cocktails, and two locations of Aspens Signature Steaks.

Picking a Concept

Opening multiple independent restaurants is one sort of growth. But to expand one concept into multiple locations, Sedgwick says that “you need something that appeals to a broader audience.”

PURE Taqueria describes itself as “hip, loud, sophisticated and fun.” Sedgwick notes that it’s also “fresh, adult-driven, open – we have a lot of roll-up garage doors – and it’s fast-paced.” The menu is “authentic Mexican,” he says. “There’s not a lot of cheese, so it’s not the typical Mexican you see in a lot of chains. We deal with freshness. As with our other restaurants, there’s Escoffier-based prep; we don’t take shortcuts. We make our own stocks, braise our own meat. Our bakeries make our own bread. We don’t skip anything. We do everything from scratch.”

Though his background is primarily white tablecloth, chef-driven concepts, it’s Sedgwick’s casual PURE Taqueria that he says is ripe for franchising. “Our other restaurants are more chef-driven, and it’s harder to recreate that. It’s more individualized based on a chef’s experience as opposed to this concept, which is approachable with a few moving parts.”

Simplicity facilitates replication, and it also helps potential franchisees envision themselves as owners. “When people see all the beer and soda iced down in old vintage coolers, they can place themselves in that and think, ‘I can do that! I can sell beer out of a cooler!’” he says, admitting that the idea was born of necessity: the first location had no refrigeration behind the bar, and ice was the simple solution.

The original PURE Taqueria opened August 15, 2005, in Alpharetta, in an abandoned 1920s Pure Fuel Oil station. Currently, there are six locations in the Atlanta area.

Franchising was not on the drawing board in the beginning, but the idea took root “probably a couple years into it,” Sedgwick says. “We had a lot of interest in this particular concept. People would approach us. I hadn’t done franchising before, but I had talked to a number of people about it. We signed our first franchising agreement in 2008.”

Launching a NeRock'sw Brand

Buying a franchise is “180-degrees different” from launching a concept, says Steve Snyder Jr., co-owner of Rock’s Chicken & Fries. He knows both sides of this equation: Snyder and five partners have been franchisees since the early 1990s, owning and operating two Johnny Rockets locations and one Moe’s Southwest Grill before launching Rock’s Chicken & Fries in Phipps Plaza.

“As a franchisee, everything is spelled out,” he says. “When you’re a mom-and-pop, it’s an enormous amount of work because you are creating everything from scratch. It’s 10 times the amount of work involved.”

A food court vacancy in Phipps Plaza near their Moe’s Southwest Grill location inspired the partners to venture in a new direction. “Rock’s Chicken & Fries is our baby,” says Snyder. “Not that we don’t like Johnny Rocket’s or Moe’s – we’re happy with those – but this is an opportunity to create a growth vehicle that can be Rock'sreplicated.”

The Rock’s Chicken & Fries concept is built around fresh, all-natural, antibiotic-free chicken. “No one is getting chicken of the quality we get,” says Snyder. “Our menu is very focused on sandwiches, salads and tenders, which are available buttermilk fried or grilled. We do just about everything from scratch,” including the eight dressings at the sauce bar where customers can help themselves to as much (or as little) as they like. “We’re not handing out packets of shelf-stable dressing, we allow people to have as much as they want and [we] don’t nickel and dime them.”

Franchising is a consideration for the Rock’s partners. “We haven’t gotten to the point of making that decision, but people ask us all the time,” says Snyder. “We’d like to build a couple more units on our own and establish the concept to see if it has legs. Franchising is not something we’ve done before, but the door is open for down the road a bit.”

At Rock’s, which has been open since March of this year, “we’re spending most of our time trying to build the brand and getting brand name recognition,” says Snyder. “We’re perfecting our operating procedures.” But he’s already eyeing a second or third location. “My to-do list has lots of people who do real estate,” he admits. “It’s definitely on my radar. Five years from now, we’d like to have maybe five to 10 units.”

Challenges and Opportunities

Even with an appealing, popular concept, the path to franchising is not without bumps. PURE’s Sedgwick says there have been challenges, including “underestimating the level of experience that an operator needs to have and also not initially engaging with franchisees from the standpoint of helping them with the operating agreement.

“A successful operating agreement is a good thing,” he says. “We really focus a lot on that at the beginning of relationships and write them in a way to allow franchisees to be successful with all the challenges that can come up.”

Situations can come up that make that agreement important.

“We’ve seen situations arise where a partnership dissolved due to lack of clarity,” he says. “Somebody went in with the intent to be an investor versus an operator and then end up being operator because they put in more capital. It’s important to us to have an operator running the restaurant, so we’re creating a system to protect both the investor and the operator.”

“I would say one of the hardest things we’ve dealt with is vendors,” says Snyder. “As the new kid and one unit, there’s not a lot of influence. Sometimes we may not get the level of service we’d get with Johnny Rockets or Moe’s – those brands have influence on vendors. Now when things go wrong, the road is a little rockier. It all comes down to relationships and trying to not get emotional. Focus on the task at hand and work through problems as a professional.”

Snyder asserts that simplicity is key. “From the consumer standpoint, they’re able to ‘get it.’ From the operator standpoint, it’s easier to execute. At Rock’s we’re very focused: we want to be the master of a few things rather than okay at many things. We feel it lends itself to replication.”

Multiple locations create more opportunities to nurture talent and more paths for advancement. “We really think it’s like having a baseball team and building a bench,” says Sedgwick. “Put time into your team and the more successful you’ll be. There’s not an ‘easy’ button. It’s a lot of hard work and effort.

“We’re building a minor league team and doing a lot of promotion from within. It’s a simple concept, but it takes awhile to get it. We like to hire people and move them up, so [they] start as a dishwasher and work up to general manager and then become an operator,. That’s our ideal model. Outside of that, we’re looking for people who have experience, preferably a number of years in a full-service restaurant.”

To ensure consistency from location to location, “we have area managers of the franchise company, and corporate chefs ensure compliance with recipes and other system-related things,” says Sedgwick. Quarterly (at a minimum) site visits and monthly meetings for franchisee training are also key.

When evaluating locations, Sedgwick prefers to own the real estate if possible.

“Our cost goes down over time compared to leases, which always become more expensive. We also like locations close to the street with high visibility. We don’t want to be on an interstate with high speeds. We like speed limits of 35 mph or less: We have big roll-up glass doors, and ultimately this gives people the chance to drive by and see the ambiance. We like a certain economic indicator that can support a restaurant and for franchisees. We try for a generous general trade area, the lesser of a five-mile radius or 100,000 people.”

“We’re only interested in A+ locations at the right price,” says Snyder, who counts the Johnny Rockets location near the Georgia Aquarium among his holdings. “At the end of the day, it’s about dollars and cents. You get what you pay for.”




Marlow’s Tavern 17th Annual Golf Classic

Monday, September 21st, 2015

September 21, 2015, Country Club of Roswell, Roswell, Ga.


North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Expo

Monday, September 21st, 2015

September 21-22, 2015, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, N.C. For more information, visit North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Expo


Inman Park Restaurant Week

Monday, September 21st, 2015

September 21-27, 2015. For more information, visit Inman Park Restaurant Week


Open Hand Atlanta’s Party in the Kitchen

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

September 17, 2015. Location to be announced. For more information, visit Project Open Hand.

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