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Archive for February, 2017

National Restaurant Association – New England Food Show

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

February 26-28, 2017, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Boston, MA.  For more information, visit National Restaurant Association


ChefConnect: New York

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

February 26-28, 2017, New York Hilton Midtown, New York City, NY. For more information, visit American Culinary Federation


17th Annual Lesson in Leadership

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

February 23, 2017, Cobb Energy Centre, Atlanta. For more information, visit Lessons in Leadership Conference


9th Annual Taste of Georgia

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

February 22, 2017, Georgia Railroad Freight Depot, Atlanta. For more information, visit Georgia Restaurant Association


Q4 Atlanta Restaurant Sales Survey

Monday, February 20th, 2017

By Robert Wagner, CPA

Atlanta Q4 2016 restaurant sales volume grew just .7% over Q4 2015. For the quarter ended December 2016 positive sales gains were reported at 49% of the 108 independent Atlanta restaurants surveyed. Full year 2016 comp sales were up 1.7% over 2015 sales.

National Trends

In its survey of national restaurant sales TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence, a restaurant sales and traffic- tracking company, reported national restaurant Q4 revenues declined by 2.4%. This was the fourth consecutive quarter of negative sales growth nationally. Restaurant traffic declined 4.6% nationally in Q4; the worst quarter for traffic since 2009. TDn2K called 2016 the poorest industry performance since the recession.


Robert Wagner, NetFinancials president states that, “Atlanta restaurants did better than the national average in Q4 but that’s cold comfort to Atlanta’s restaurant operators. For operators accustomed to healthy annual sales increases, barely positive sales growth is a new experience. In many instances loans were taken, facilities built and teams hired in the anticipation of robust sales growth which has not materialized. In six of the last seven quarters, Atlanta restaurant comp sales growth has been below 2%. Atlanta’s 2016 comp sales growth of 1.7% is the lowest annual sales growth since our survey started in 2010. For the first time, in Q4 more than half (51%) of surveyed restaurants reported negative sales for the quarter. Quarter 4 was the most challenging quarter of the most challenging year that we have seen.

Asked about the unrelenting anemic sales growth, operators cite the hundreds of new restaurants and thousands of new seats that have come on-line recently in Atlanta. Customer growth has just not kept pace with the growth in new restaurant seats. Some thoughtful operators expect an Atlanta restaurant shake out unless sales pick up.

There were some 2016 bright spots in Atlanta. Generally restaurants with lower check averages including pizza, barbeque and Mexican-themed concepts reported better-than-average comp sales in 2016. Also, operators that focus on Atlanta visitors reported better than average results. Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau said demand for hotel rooms in Atlanta increased 2.3% in 2016 over 2015 with downtown demand showing a 4.6% increase.”

The Sample: The 108 non-franchise restaurants were drawn from the metro Atlanta market. Total survey sales volume was $303 million for 2016. The survey includes restaurants in Atlanta’s fast-casual, casual and fine-dining segments opened at least 24 months.


Peter Kaiser to be Chef-Owner at Namesake Restaurant Opening in Spring 2017

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Kaiser’s Chop House is a collaboration from chefs Peter Kaiser and Kevin Rathbun. Located in Sandy Springs, the restaurant was designed by The Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry.

The interior is modern, chic. A custom-built walnut bookshelf divides the bar from the dining room. The floor to ceiling wine cellar is made entirely of glass, making it a functional, sleek and distinguished addition to the restaurant. Spherical chandeliers dimly light the dining room with a classic ambiance, and wooden tables and booths fill the space.

Chef Peter Kaiser has been part of the Atlanta dining scene for over 30 years, working at some of the top rated restaurant groups and with the best chefs in the city. His impressive history of success and outstanding reviews has made Peter Kaiser one of the most respected chefs in Atlanta.

Kaiser grew up in Liechtenstein with his family who owned a cafe and grocery. He apprenticed for a pastry chef for three years before landing another apprenticeship at one of Liechtenstein’s top French restaurants, Real. After realizing he prefered cooking to baking, Kaiser embarked on his culinary journey. Kaiser’s first real job in the kitchen was at the elite resort restaurant Alpine Rose in Gstaad Switzerland where he was a line cook. He took this experience to his next opportunity, the Guide Michelin restaurant Chez Max in Zurich. Kaiser spent two years at Chez Max, including traveling around the world with owner Max Kell, before settling in the United States.

Kaiser officially called Atlanta home in 1986 where he was introduced to chefs Paul Albrecht and Pano Karatassos of Buckhead Life Group. Soon after, he was hired by the group as a sous chef at Capriccio (now Pricci). Albrecht and Karatassos quickly noticed Kaiser’s abilities in the kitchen and offered him the opportunity of executive sous chef at the prestigious Pano’s and Paul’s. In 1995, Kaiser took over as executive chef at the Buckhead Diner. He returned to Pano’s and Paul’s, after Albrecht’s retirement, as executive chef in 1998. Kaiser’s next venture was with Here to Serve Restaurant Group and owner Tom Catharall in 2001 as executive chef of Goldfish. Once Goldfish took off, Catharall chose Kaiser to establish and open a new restaurant, Twist, and eventually take the helm as executive corporate chef.

In 2017, Kaiser is fulfilling the lifelong dream of opening a restaurant with his own namesake, Kaiser’s Chophouse, in collaboration with friend of over 20 years, Kevin Rathbun.


Georgia Organics Conference

Friday, February 17th, 2017

February 17-18, 2017, Georgia International Convention Center, Atlanta.  For more information, visit Georgia Organics Conference


Shawn Hooks of Firehouse Subs wins GRACE 2016 Restaurateur of the Year: Franchisee

Monday, February 13th, 2017
Shawn Hooks of Firehouse Subs

Shawn Hooks

For Shawn Hooks, it never gets old. It makes her day to look out into a Firehouse Subs dining room and see a family, a group of coworkers, a soccer team or a couple on their first date enjoying their meals.

“It is always special,” she says.

Hooks, a Firehouse Subs area representative since 2003, says she was inspired to approach Firehouse about a career after reading a newspaper article about the restaurant concept’s success.

The chain was small, but growing; she liked what she heard and left her corporate job to become a single-unit franchisee. Now, she’s a partner in Marietta’s Southern Interstate Group, the largest area representative development group in the Firehouse Subs system.

Southern Interstate has developed more than 175 Firehouse Subs restaurants in Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

“Most everyone I knew thought I was crazy … but not a day goes by that I don’t love it,” she says. “What I received in return has been so much more than I could have imagined.”

Hooks’ duties include selling Firehouse franchises, primarily in the Atlanta area, and providing marketing and operational support to franchisees. She’s also on the Firehouse Subs’ CEO Advisory Board.

She had a key role in developing Firehouse’s Atlanta market and the company’s charitable arm. Under her leadership, the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has awarded $677,000 in grants to first responders and public safety organizations.

Shawn Hooks

Hooks at one of the Firehouse Subs locations

She’s also passionate about the restaurant industry, itself.

“There are many different job opportunities in this business and exciting upward mobility for those who are passionate about the business,” she says. “I am proud of the fact that we offer jobs that teach important skill sets that can be used forever.”

As such, she fiercely advocates for restaurants, particularly in the area of government regulation in what she describes as a difficult labor market.

“We are not necessarily opposed to the concept of some of these laws but feel much of this should be left to the discretion of the businesses based on the financial and operational model of the restaurant,” she says.

Hooks, who considers her greatest accomplishment to be her own personal development, says she benefits from mentoring and support from her franchisor and business partners.

“I started out knowing very little about restaurants or owning a business,” she says. “I am so proud to work with such a supportive, inspiring group – both Firehouse of America and our franchise community. And of course, my wonderful children and husband, who support me every single day no matter how crazy life gets.”

The recipe for restaurants’ success, she says, is a positive attitude, putting customers first, serving fantastic food in a clean space with a great location and strong employee development.

Hooks says restaurants have a significant role in societies.

“Our CEO always says that we could be the best thing that happens to a person on any given day,” she says. “You never know what their circumstances are, or what they are going through personally.” – KH


Get Ready for “The Big One”

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Wine enthusiasts from around the world are invited to celebrate “The Big One,” the 25th year of the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction (March 22–25, 2017). The Auction is the largest charity wine auction in the United States benefiting the arts, the 10th largest overall in 2015 according to Wine Spectator magazine, and the largest fundraising event for the High Museum of Art.

Proceeds from the Auction have amounted to more than $26 million over the last 24 years and provide significant funding for the High’s exhibitions and educational programming. The Paddle Raise, which began in 2006, has contributed more than $1.3 million to the High’s Art Access program, subsidizing visits to the Museum for more than 110,000 students across all grade levels and providing teachers with classroom resources.

Since launching in 1993, the Wine Auction has welcomed more than 12,000 guests to its signature events, where they have uncorked more than 60,000 bottles of the finest wines from more than 400 of the world’s top wineries. In addition, more than 100 chefs have offered their culinary creations to Auction attendees, including those from Atlanta’s most renowned restaurants.

“The High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction has put Atlanta on the map for winemakers and food and wine lovers alike,” said Steven Satterfield, chef and owner of Atlanta restaurant Miller Union and a longstanding supporter of the Auction. “In its 25th year, the Auction continues to grow and thrive, uniting restaurants and chefs with winemakers and producers to generate exciting, engaging events filled with great food, amazing wine and good vibes. As the dining scene in Atlanta has grown, we’ve seen the Auction flourish as well, contributing to the recognition of our regional strengths on the national level.”

Jasmine Hirsch of California’s Hirsch Vineyards said, “Participating in the Wine Auction has enabled us to support an incredible institution doing great work in the city of Atlanta, and it has also introduced our wines to the city’s fantastic community of wine collectors and members of the wine trade.”

Each year the Wine Auction selects a special guest of honor and special guest chef. For the 25th anniversary year, the Wine Auction has selected two Special Guests of Honor, Jim Clendenen and Michael Browne. Clendenen, who has been a supporter of the Auction since the inaugural event in 1993, is the owner and winemaker of Au Bon Climat, which he founded in 1982. Dedicated to Burgundian varietals, Au Bon Climat has cultivated an international reputation for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. In addition to his Burgundian-focused Au Bon Climat winery, Clendenen established Clendenen Family Vineyards, which allows him to make artisan, small lots of distinctive wines from a wider spectrum of varietals. A supporter of the Auction since 2008, Browne is co-founder and winemaker for Kosta Browne Winery, which he launched in 1997 with his partner Dan Kosta. Browne’s passion for wine started in the restaurant business, where he worked for 15 years before following his dream of becoming a winemaker.

“We’ve been coming to the High’s Wine Auction for almost 10 years now. Over that time we’ve made many new friends and are delighted to have seen the event grow into one of the premier wine auctions in the country. It is an honor and a privilege to continue to be a part of this great community, and we are thrilled to be a major part of the 2017 celebrations!” said Browne.

The Special Guest Chef for the 2017 Auction is to be announced.

Vicki Palefsky, a supporter of the Wine Auction since 2006, and Alessandra Potts, owner of the wine storage business Vine Vault and a supporter of the Auction since 2010, are the co-chairs for the 2017 Auction.

“We are so grateful to Mrs. Palefsky and Mrs. Potts for their support of this year’s events, which mark a major milestone for the Auction,” said Steven Hargrove, Wine Auction manager. “We are honored to welcome our esteemed special guests, who are longtime friends, and we are thankful for the support of our amazing volunteer committee, benefactors and generous corporate sponsors. We hope this will be our most successful year yet.”

“Since its inception 25 years ago, the High’s Wine Auction has been instrumental in supporting the Museum’s growth and impact,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director. “Funds raised through this signature event continue to fuel mission-driven objectives including exhibitions, reduced admission fees and a wide range of educational programs. We’re honestly humbled and grateful for such ongoing investment in our efforts.”

Wine Auction Week officially begins March 22 and continues through March 25. The 2017 weekend events will take place in tents in the Green Lot at Turner Field. The week’s festivities include:

  • Ladies Luncheon – March 22: This ladies-only event features a luxurious meal at the award-winning restaurant Bacchanalia, followed by the opportunity to shop the boutiques of the Westside Provisions district.
  • Gents Lunch – March 22: The gents have a party of their own featuring a delicious lunch and flowing wine at the automotive boutique Motor Car Collection.
  • Dine Around Dinners – Week of March 22: Some of the world’s best winemakers partner with Atlanta’s top chefs in their restaurants to develop one-of-a-kind, way-off-the-menu, multi-course meals with wine pairings.
  • Tasting Seminars – Week of March 22: Hosted at local venues, seminars cover topics handpicked by winemakers and sommeliers and feature some of the world’s highest-rated and most distinctive wines.
  • Winemaker Dinners – March 23: Some of Atlanta’s most renowned chefs pair up with guest chefs from around the country as well as visiting winemakers. These incredible dinners take place in some of the most beautiful homes in Atlanta.
  • Friday Fête and After Party – March 24: Inside the tents at Turner Field, guests will mix and mingle with winemakers, place bids on the impressive Silent Auction lots and enjoy a meal prepared by the Special Guest Chef. After dinner, the band kicks in, and the shoes come off. Attire is cocktail casual—a jacket is requested, but no tie is required.
  • Vintners’ Reception and Live Auction – March 25: The weekend concludes with the main event in the tents at Turner Field, featuring wine tastings from many of the world’s top wineries, samples from dozens of Atlanta’s best restaurants and the opportunity to bid on the best in wine, travel and food experiences.Prior to the week of March 22, the Auction will bring back a popular event from years past: the Secret Cellars Tours (Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017). These exclusive events welcome only 100 guests for the opportunity to explore some of Atlanta’s most prestigious wine cellars in private homes.

HoneyBaked Ham Names Linda Heasley New CEO

Monday, February 13th, 2017

The Honey Baked Ham Company, LLC announced Linda Heasley as its new chief executive officer. Heasley, former president and CEO of Ascena Retail Group’s plus size fashion segment, succeeds HoneyBaked Ham Chairman and interim CEO Paul Roth.

“We have been pursuing Linda for months,” said Roth. “She is a well-respected and visionary CEO with a proven track record of developing strong teams and delivering results. We are proud that she will be a part of the HoneyBaked Ham family to continue our 60-year success story.”

Heasley oversaw 800 Lane Bryant, Catherine’s and Cacique stores nationwide and is widely credited with revitalizing the Lane Bryant brand. Prior to Ascena, Heasley was chairman, president and CEO of The Limited, Inc. She has also held executive positions with Timberland and CVS Caremark™.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to join one of the most venerable retail food brands in America,” said Heasley. “As a family-owned business, HoneyBaked Ham has a stellar reputation, not just for its outstanding products, but also for its culture and dedication to its employees. I look forward to working with the team to support their incredible growth and finding new ways to enhance the customer experience.”

A native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, Heasley graduated from Harvard University and received a master’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

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