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Archive for September, 2016

Ford Fry, Kevin Gillespie and Linton Hopkins to be Honored at Legends of Atlanta Roast

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Legends of Atlanta Roast will bring together three Atlanta hospitality greats: Chef Ford Fry of Ford Fry Restaurants, Chef Kevin Gillespie of Red Beard Restaurants and Chef Linton Hopkins of Resurgens Hospitality Group. The three will be honored by “a roast of the crispiest kind.” Proceeds from event will benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

Following a cocktail reception, there will be a three-course dinner, prepared by chefs from the honorees’ award winning restaurants. Chefs in the kitchen include : Chris Edwards, Restaurant Eugene; Chrysta Poulous, Ford Fry Restaurants; Andreas Müller, Revival; and Joey Ward, Gunshow. They will be helped  by Mark Alba of Legendary Events, and Gena Berry of Culinary Works.

The event takes place on November 7 at Legendary Events’ new event facility Flourish. For more information, visit  Legends of Atlanta Roast.


Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

September 27-29, 2016, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL. For more information, visit Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show


6 Steps to Increase Your Brand’s Visibility

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

By Ellen Hartman

Today, it’s easy for brands – big and small – to become overwhelmed with technology and social media. There are so many options available it’s hard to know where to begin and how much to spend when it comes to getting the word out about your business.

While having big budgets to hire a Chief Information Officer and a myriad of technology vendors to handle your brand’s social media efforts is nice, the reality is that small and medium-sized companies typically don’t have those kind of resources available.

Tight budgets, however, don’t have to be a roadblock for you to DIY your own multime-dia news release. In today’s connected society, we are all technology experts and can be our own master storytellers. Your brand’s story is right at the tip of your own fingers!

One of the easiest ways to begin sharing your brand’s story is with the multimedia news release. Long gone are text-heavy news releases of the past; they can easily get buried and ignored. But a multimedia news release can help increase your brand’s visibility by merging a traditional news release with today’s technology.

More than 80 percent of journalists say that they depend on news releases to provide information on companies that they cover. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Embed video and photos. Simply put, a news release that uses photos and video is more likely to be clicked on. Don’t miss out on getting more views to your release by excluding them. You don’t even have to have a professional photog-rapher or videographer. The quality of photos and videos taken with your own iPhone will usually suffice. The video should be short, compelling and shareable. If it is, it will be more likely to be shared (and opened) on other platforms like Facebook and Twitter as well.
  2. Hyperlink to relevant content. If you are hosting a charity event, for example, make sure you hyperlink to the charity’s website, and they can do the same for you in their news release. Or if you are referencing the menu of your own restau-rant, link to the menu page on your website. If you’re running a Facebook or In-stagram contest, link to those platforms. These may sound like no-brainers, but you would be surprised how many times news releases omit this information. The more you can drive traffic to your website and social media sites, the better.
  3. Use key words. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is imperative for driving your news to the top of a Google search. Are you a restaurant that’s sharing news about your monthly menu specials? Make sure you include phrases like, “Atlanta’s best onion rings,” or “favorite burger.” When locals search for the best place to go for those items, you are more likely to pop up at the top of their search results.
  4. Call out quotes. Your news release should always include a quote from some-one within your own organization, but if you have a third party that you can quote to back up your story, that’s even better. Did a celebrity or a city VIP name you the best restaurant? Or their favorite place to grab a beer? Be sure to accurately reference their quote to bring validity to what you are sharing in your news re-lease.
  5. Keep it short and sweet. People can now communicate in 140 characters or less. And with our increasingly shorter attention spans, news releases need to be consumed quickly and clearly. A handful of well-written paragraphs will do. Any-thing beyond that and your reader has lost interest and moved on.
  6. Use a newswire distribution service. Public companies are required to send their releases on public wire services that are picked up by search engines and the media. Private companies can do the same to broaden their reach and to make their information searchable for future stories.

Ellen Hartman, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the CEO of Hartman Public Relations, a full-service public relations agency specializing in the foodservice industry including media relations and crisis management. Hartman has experience working for Coca-Cola, Con-cessions International, Chili’s, Huddle House, First Watch, Billy Sims BBQ and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza and many QSR brands including Popeyes, Church’s and Arby’s. An in-dustry leader for more than 25 years, Hartman is active in the Women’s Foodservice Forum, Les Dames d ’Escoffier International and has served on the board of Georgia State University School of Hospitality.


Macon Mojo – Moonhanger Restaurant Group

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

By Kevin Hogencamp

Moonhanger GroupIt’s 11 o’clock on a steamy Sunday morning in Macon, and every seat is filled at H&H Restaurant, the city’s soul food icon.

Sounds of success are reverberating off the brick walls of the unembellished Forsyth Street business The Allman Brothers made famous.

The clanging of dishes. The waitstaff’s cheerful, Southern-twanged can-I-get-you-anything-elses. The buzz of more than a dozen conversations.

It’s music to the ears of Moonhanger Group’s Chad Evans, who with his business partner Wes Griffith resurrected the legendary restaurant in 2014 after it closed its doors the year before. It’s one of four restaurants – plus the historic Cox Theatre – the pair have purchased or opened in the last seven years in downtown Macon.

A young server approaches with an enthusiastic “Have y’all decided on anything?”

Evans chooses the ribeye accompanied by scrambled eggs with cheese, hash browns and biscuit toast.

“Medium, please, on the steak,” he says, leaning back to get a panoramic view of the classic comfort food venue, which first opened in 1959 and was featured this year in a Wall Street Journal meat-and-three profile. Aside from Sunday brunch, it’s open for breakfast and lunch Tuesdays through Saturdays.

“Nice crowd. And we’re a ways from the church crowd getting here,” Evans says.

The only absent sound on this morning, perhaps, is the cash register’s ching-ching from back in the day when “Mama Louise” Hudson handled the money.

“Even coming here as a kid, I knew there was something special – something larger than life – about this place,” says Evans, a native of nearby Fort Valley.

An hour later, three blocks away on Cherry Street, Evans strolls through The Rookery, a tourist attraction in its own right and one of the oldest restaurants in downtown Macon.

The popular beer-joint-turned-foodie sanctuary, which made Garden and Gun magazine’s best burger list in 2014, is rocking. Juicy burgers and milkshakes (including the popular Jimmy Car-ter, made with banana ice cream and peanut butter with a stick of bacon to scoop it up with) are ordered left and right. And it’s barely noon. On Sunday.

“I own the place,” Evans says, “and I usually have trouble eating here.”

A nice problem to have.

Potential Realized

Indeed, these are good days for Moonhanger Group, the ever-expanding hospitality firm Evans and Griffith started after buying The Rookery in 2009.

Griffith says that by naming burgers after local musicians and focusing on quality, The Rookery began “building excitement about what we do and tapping into hometown pride.”

“Another key was letting everyone who was working for us know they were part of something big,” he says. After getting business systems in place at The Rookery, Griffith and Evans opened the chic Dovetail, one of the first farm-to-table style restaurants in Macon, on the second floor above The Rookery in 2012.

The project spun off from The Rookery’s propensity to do business with local dairies and grass-fed beef producers. On a roll, Moonhanger took over the management of the historic Cox Capitol Theatre in 2013. After resuscitating the H&H, the pair opened El Camino taqueria and cantina in 2015.

The Dovetail, too, was jam-packed this Sunday. Featuring a sophisticated take on Southern cuisine with most of its menu committed to locally sourced food, Dovetail helped introduced craft cocktails to Macon.

Around the corner, the Cox Capitol lobby was dead quiet, but only because Macon Film Festival patrons were inside screening the satirical Manifest Destiny: The Lewis & Clark Musical Adventure.

When Moonhanger Group decided to open a restaurant in the space next door to the theater, they simply broke through the wall to the Cox Theatre’s existing kitchen, which now preps the tacos, tortas and burritos for El Camino and also serves hungry concertgoers during events and shows.

Moonhanger’s downtown-centric slant delights Josh Rogers, who leads the effort to bring jobs, residents and a sense of place to downtown.

“Macon has always had all the potential in the world,” says Rogers, NewTown Macon’s president and CEO. “Now, we’re seeing things fall into place.”

That’s in no small part to Evans and Smith’s efforts to bring more restaurant offerings to the city’s downtown area.

“Wes and Chad have been critical components,” Rogers says, “in helping Macon get our mojo back.”

Just a decade or two ago, Macon was a sleepy Southern city that many passed by while traveling elsewhere. Today, however, it’s a thriving community with a vibrant downtown and lots of things to see and do for tourists and residents alike. Its urban core has more than 600 occupied storefronts and counting, including about 40 restaurants.

Rogers isn’t the only one taking notice; for its contributions to downtown’s reemergence, Moonhanger received a Presidents Choice Award in 2015 from the Historic Macon Foundation, which seeks to revitalize the city’s neighborhoods and downtown by preserving its architecture and sharing its history.

Creating Community

Chad and Wes were first introduced by mutual friend Brad Evans (no relation to Chad) – at The Rookery, no less. Brad Evans is a partner with Griffith in the local radio station 100.9 The Creek and publisher of the 11th Hour arts and entertainment newspaper.

Like many in the restaurant industry, for Griffith and Chad Evans, the path to their current success has been circuitous. Griffith originally studied English and has a master’s degree in poetry; Evans studied literature greats like Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf at Oxford University in England.

A Macon native with strong roots in the community, Griffith involved himself in the city’s renaissance efforts upon returning home from college.

“Wes always had this relentless enthusiasm about downtown Macon and about music,” Brad Evans says. “He definitely saw [Macon’s] maximum potential before most people did.”

Exploding with energy and determined to make a difference, he joined the Cox Capitol Theatre and Bragg Jam (the annual local arts and music festival) boards of directors and enlisted in other community-service initiatives.

Evans, who is also a signer-songwriter and frontman of the group Hank Vegas, cut his restaurateur teeth as a 26 year old, when he started the Georgia Bob’s barbecue restaurant with his father. (He sold his share of the business shortly before undertaking The Rookery venture.)

As Griffith and Evans became more acquainted, their cohesions – art, music, food, culture and business – emerged.

“We wanted to make a cultural impact,” Griffith says. “We wanted to be a part of celebrating the history and heritage of a community that we had both grown to love.”

After throwing some ideas around, the two decided to parlay their commonalities into an occupa-tional opportunity: The Rookery.

Owner Jim Kee, as it turns out, was willing to sell the then-33-year-old downtown institution.

When the pair purchased The Rookery in 2009, they made a few small changes, like renaming menu items and adding outdoor seating, but overall they left the vibe of the place intact.

Today, The Rookery continues to welcome locals, college students from nearby Mercer Univer-sity and travelers stopping for a bite to eat while heading down I-75 or I-16. The electricity spills over to the sidewalk patio, which serves as a beacon of sorts that Macon is open for business.

“Inside and out, there’s a real element of lightness, of community, to the place,” Chad Evans says.

He adds that Griffith’s focus, attitude and vision are infectious – “he’s an agent of change and a powder keg of potential,” Chad Evans says. “Wes’s value and core – the cloth he’s cut out of – really struck me from the beginning.”

Moonhanger’s payroll has swollen to more than 150 employees and counting, and the pair is planning to expand The Rookery, adding another dining room, a larger waiting room with some retail components and more kitchen space.

“I can’t think of anybody more important for downtown Macon than the two of them,” Brad Evans says.

Behind the Scenes

While Griffith primarily handles the business’s financial affairs and Evans has the larger grip on operations, their roles overlap.

That’s a good thing, Chad Evans maintains.

“It’s not important who’s contributing what now; it doesn’t matter,” he says. “We’ve gotten through the Vietnam of starting the business – the not knowing,” he says. “We’re on the other side of that marsh – that swamp.”

Over brunch, Evans brandishes his phone, which he’s deliberately avoided for a solid hour. He demonstrates an app called Slack, which aims to bring business systems together in one place.

“This thing allows me to track everything we do,” he says.

Broken ice machines. Labor numbers. Late deliveries. Inventory. Social media postings.

“Quickness of information is essential to what we do,” he says. “We’ve gotten better along the way at preventing problems by being proactive.”

Even the Moonhanger Classic softball game held this August was planned exclusively via Slack.

“We ordered uniforms, got the vendor and umpires – everything without ever getting together and meeting about it,” he says.

Face-to-faces, though, are a Moonhanger staple.

Evans meets with the restaurants’ managers every two weeks, and The Rookery leadership team meets twice a day. Agenda topics include sales analysis, business metrics, personnel issues and project updates.

“All the bones to make sure everything is working fluently,” he says.

Griffith says that from Day 1, a prevailing Moonhanger principle is its unwavering commitment to quality.

“At the end of the day, we’re guided first and foremost by putting a superior product out,” he says. “We don’t dumb down a product just to make it cost less.”

NewTown Macon’s Rogers says that that approach has been a game-changer for the local restau-rant scene.

“They’ve raised the bar,” he says. “The quality of the product you have to put out to be competi-tive in downtown Macon has grown exponentially.”

Reinvesting in What You Love

Jessica Walden, whose Rock Candy Tours promotes the city’s legendary music history, says Moonhanger “is the cornerstone to Macon’s downtown renaissance.”

“It can also be credited for waking us up and reminding our Southern city of what we do best – food and music,” she says.

By luring red-hot musicians Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell and the like, the Cox Theatre venture is a deliberate effort to help bring downtown back to its Southern music roots.

The studio for The Creek, an Americana-themed venture that devotes much of its airtime to spinning locally produced tunes, coexists with the Moonhanger corporate offices downtown.

“At the end of the day,” Chad Evans says, “both of us are just pretty good Southern boys and want to make our parents proud and leave our children something they are proud of.”

Walden says she’s particularly proud of what Moonhanger did with H&H.

“Not only did they rescue the establishment, they retained its dignity and flavor, in everything from the food to the well-worn décor,” she says.

Legend has it that in the early days of the restaurant, “Mama Louise” Hudson ran a tab at H&H for a group of hungry, long-haired musicians just before the youngsters left Macon to go on tour. The Allman Brothers later reimbursed Hudson, patronized the H&H throughout their pilgrimage to Southern rock superstardom, and even took their favorite cook on tour.

In 2006, Hudson was honored by the Georgia Music Hall of Fame for her contributions to the state’s musical legacy. Today, the restaurant’s walls are lined with memorabilia from The All-man Brothers Band, and most days you can find Mama Louise there, too.

Fittingly, H&H is the starting point and the first stop on Walden’s two-and-a-half-hour walking tour. Trolley and motor coach tours also are available.

“As a tour company, we couldn’t tell the Macon music history story without Louise Hudson and the H&H,” Walden says. “And with the Moonhanger Group, we have an exciting new chapter in that story.”


Atlanta Wing Fest

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

1-5 PM, September 25, 2016, Angel Flight Soars and Second Helpings Atlanta, The Foundry at Puritan Mill, Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit Atlanta Wing Fest


Atlanta Greek Festival

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

September 22-25, 2016, Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit Atlanta Greek Festival


Annual GRA Chairman’s Reception

Monday, September 19th, 2016

September 19, 2016, Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit Georgia Restaurant Association


Atlanta Foodservice Expo

Monday, September 19th, 2016
September 19 – 20, 2016, Cobb Galleria Centre, Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit Atlanta Foodservice Expo

Don’t Miss Out on Taste of Atlanta!

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Anticipation is building for the 15th annual Taste of Atlanta, taking place Oct. 21-23 in Midtown at Tech Square. The city’s essential food festival is marking this milestone anniversary in style, with celebrity chef appearances, dynamic demos, a kickoff party on Friday night and a VIP Grand Tasting Experience featuring a top-notch selection of craft beers, cocktails and wines—not to mention craveable creations from more than 90 of Atlanta’s favorite restaurants.

One of the biggest draws over the weekend will be the main food stages, where two of Atlanta’s most popular celebrity chefs are holding court. On Saturday, Tregaye Fraser hits the Kitchen Workshop stage to share her culinary journey as the winner of the most recent season of “Food Network Star” and newest co-host for the upcoming season of Food Network’s talk show “The Kitchen Sink.” On Sunday, Atlanta native G. Garvin will divulge tips, techniques and tastes on the Chef’s Table stage. Garvin is an acclaimed cookbook author and James Beard nominee for Outstanding Personality/Host known for his shows “Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin,” “G. Garvin: The Road Tour” and “Georgia Roadtrip with G. Garvin.”

“We couldn’t be happier to welcome back G. Garvin to Taste of Atlanta,” says founder and CEO Dale DeSena. “His enthusiasm for the Atlanta food scene is infectious, and he goes above and beyond to give festivalgoers a one-of-a-kind experience.”

Fraser and Garvin top a list of essential events that includes:

  • A barcraft competition in which mixologists vie for the title of Best Bartender
  • A celebration of local, seasonal flavors with chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s and Royal Food Service
  • Hands-on cooking tutorials at no extra cost by local chefs at the Kitchen Workshop
  • Grilling demonstrations on the Big Green Egg Grilling Stage, hosted by Francine Bryson and “Fatman” Kevin Jenkins of “Chef and the Fatman”
  • A foodie extravaganza silent auction benefitting Open Hand, which provides comprehensive nutrition care for those dealing with chronic conditions

Taste of Atlanta’s Friday night kickoff party benefits Georgia Organics and features bites from the likes of St. Cecilia, O-Ku, Hampton + Hudson and 20 other top restaurants. The good times roll through the weekend with tasting opportunities from over 90 hometown favorites including Bellwoods Social House, Desta Ethiopian Kitchen, The Pig & The Pearl and more. For the ultimate in ATL bites and bevs, the VIP Grand Tasting Experience grants exclusive access to even more restaurants, including King + Duke and Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, as well as the most extensive selection of more than 180 craft beers and wines from Three Taverns Brewery, Orpheus Brewing, SweetWater Brewing Company, Monday Night Brewing, New Belgium and many more, curated by the local experts at Hop City.


Cheeky To Open Sandy Springs Location

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Cheeky, a taqueria dedicated to Latin-inspired food,  announced the opening of its fifth Atlanta-area location in Sandy Springs.

“Since our first opening in Suwanee almost 10 years ago, Cheeky has been about providing a dining experience big on personality and flair and centered on from-scratch food made with locally sourced ingredients,” says president Jalynn Barr. “We take a lot of pride in our creative menu and are thrilled to bring our fun, playful environment to the Sandy Springs community.”

The new location features a walk-up station, allowing visitors to place their order and take it to go and will be dog-friendly.

Cheeky serves up a chef-driven approach to Latin favorites. All dishes are made from whole, raw ingredients and are fully prepared, cooked and tested in-house. Menu selections range from enticing appetizers like taquitos and Cheeky wings to mouthwatering tacos, sandwiches, plates, salads and Cheeky bowls stuffed with rice, black beans, cheese, lettuce and more.

The Sandy Springs location offers patrons a “pour your own beer” wall of craft beer and the restaurant design includes  an open kitchen; garage doors that can swing open to connect the interior and exterior, and menus that hang from the wall.

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