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Archive for June, 2017

8 Keys to a Successful Beverage Program

Monday, June 19th, 2017

By Lara Creasy

Whether it’s housemade sodas, beer and wine or a full bar, many restaurants dedicate some part of the space, either physically in the restaurant or on the menu, to making and pouring drinks. But having a beverage program means more than just slinging cocktails and pouring local beers. A strong beverage program can also bring you increased revenue, positive word of mouth and good social media exposure if you follow these 8 key tips for success.

1. Make it a priority.

While you would think this goes without saying, I’m always surprised how many restaurant owners put their bars on the back burner. A lot of restaurant owners don’t think it’s financially worthwhile to employ a full-time beverage manager. Instead they rely on a tipped employee to manage bar operations or ask a floor manager to oversee the wine program.

Certainly, this can work in some instances. But more often than not, those people are not fully engaged with the beverage program, being pulled in several other directions when shifts get busy.

For many restaurants, beverage is maybe 25 to 30 percent of overall sales, so you can see why owners would make that call. But for restaurants with a full-time beverage manager, someone who creates magic on the cocktail menu, cultivates a following in the community, builds a wine list that elevates the chef’s menu to new heights, and trains staff constantly on how to sell, beverage can be 40, 45 even 50 percent of overall sales.

When food costs of goods hover around 30 to 35 percent but liquor costs of goods can be below 20 percent, don’t you want to invest as much in growing that very profitable part of your business? Doesn’t a professional beverage manager start to seem as important as a chef?

2. Stay true to your concept.

Successful businesses start with a vision, a business plan or even a mission statement, and restaurants are no exception. It could be as simple as, “We are a family-owned Italian restaurant,” or as complex as, “We are a chef-driven farm-to-table restaurant offering only local produce and grass-fed meats from our own sustainable farm.”

Whatever concept your restaurant has chosen, your food menu reflects that concept. Find ways to make your beverage program a seamless part of that menu. Choose wines that pair with your menu items and hail from similar regions. Don’t operate an oyster bar with a wine list of California cabernets. As wonderful as they are, and as well as they might sell, they don’t add any value to your overall concept. Look for coastal whites, minerally French reds and sparkling wines to complement your wonderful fresh seafood.

Just because Prohibition-era cocktails are trendy, that doesn’t mean you have to offer them at your Tex-Mex restaurant. Work on a really killer mezcal list and a few unusual margaritas. Don’t try to be whatever everyone else is trying to be. Be the very best version of what you are, and people will notice.

3. Know your customers.

Each neighborhood draws slightly different guests, and each establishment in that neighborhood draws slightly different guests. Your location and your chosen concept might have predetermined how adventurous or not adventurous your guests are when it comes to beverage. You might only get traditionalists who order the same martini every time they come in. They might not respond well to a cocktail menu featuring all artisan spirits. Or you might get a foodie crowd that chases the next new thing. They might not be impressed by a limited back bar selection or a cocktail menu that only changes once a year.

To be successful, you have to give your customer base what they want, to some extent. But it’s also your job to push them out of their comfort zone just enough to keep your business current and relevant. Introduce traditionalists to a new gin for their martini. Offer weekly cocktail features for the foodie crowd. People go out to experience new things. Show them the right things, and they’ll trust you.

4. Use your sales reps as a resource.

The representatives assigned to you by your alcohol vendors are more than just order-takers. They are supposed to be in your account, helping you and your staff to understand their products and therefore sell them better. Take advantage of that!

Your reps work with the wines and spirits they sell everyday. They attend sales training meetings, industry tastings and often visit the distilleries and wineries in person. If given the opportunity, they are eager to help with staff line-ups on new placements, come in and talk to guests at special events, even provide recipes for cocktails using their spirits. They are out and about in the industry all week. They see what other restaurants are doing successfully. Use them for ideas, and let them help you solve problems.

5. Listen to your staff.

Employees that feel empowered to bring you good ideas will bring you good ideas. Your bartenders are on the front line, and they are face-to-face with guests every night.

If they tell you something is not working, or could be done better, listen. If they have creative input to offer, such as cocktail menu ideas, listen.

When employees see that you have heard their input and taken it to heart, when they see you use their ideas or implement changes they have suggested, they’ll bring you more. Running a restaurant has to be a team sport.

6. Cost thoroughly and price fairly.

Being a restaurant consultant, I can usually tell when I sit down in a bar whether the owners and managers took the time to actually cost out each menu item they sell. Too often it seems that they take the approach of looking at what others in the neighborhood are charging, and they just charge that.

I wonder, looking at their menus, if they even know what they SHOULD be selling that cocktail or pint of beer for. Do they know there is a deal available from the distributor for using that bourbon in a cocktail? If they are getting that deal, are they passing the value along to their guests?

Decide what you want your average liquor cost to be: 18 percent? 19 percent? 19.5 percent? Then go through each spirit you sell, verify your bottle cost and make sure your menu prices are getting you to that average goal.

Investigate purchase deals offered by your distributors. You might find that you can give your guests a better deal on certain spirits simply because you bought it three bottles at a time instead of one bottle at a time.

Other restaurant guests might not think about it as much as I do, but they know when the things you are selling are worth the money, and when they are not. Cocktails with high-end spirits and housemade ingredients have a high perceived value. Draft beer, not so much.

Know where you can charge more and still seem to be offering a good price. Know where you need to round down. Take the time. Your guests will appreciate it, and you’ll earn their trust.

7. Pay attention to detail.

Every day, you should be looking at your bar with discerning eyes. Does the back bar look tidy? Have bottles been dusted lately? Are the vintages on my wine list accurate? Are all of the wineries and appellations spelled correctly? Has the dishmachine left any off odors in the glassware, spots, fingerprints? Are the bartenders using jiggers to measure cocktail ingredients, for cost control and consistency? Are the limes and mint used in the glass as fresh as Chef would want them to be on a plate?

People eat and drink with their eyes first. Polish glasses, serve fresh garnishes, measure! It will keep your costs in line, earn repeat guests and maybe even get you Instagram exposure.

8. Get involved.

Once you’ve gone to the trouble to craft a beverage program to be proud of, get out there and promote it. Encourage your bar team to enter cocktail competitions and join industry organizations like the USBG (United States Bartenders Guild). Sign up for charity events or public tasting events that feature local chefs but also offer a mixology element. Take advantage of media opportunities such as Eater features or newspaper holiday roundups, maybe even invite a few bloggers to visit your bar. Do a little legwork to get known in the community as a credible beverage program.




2017 Rising Stars: These 5 are the ones to watch in Georgia’s restaurant scene

Monday, June 19th, 2017

By Hope S. Philbrick and Nancy Wood

What does it take to make it in today’s competitive restaurant scene? Talent? Determination? Blood, sweat and tears?

For the five people Restaurant Informer selected, in partnership with the Georgia Restaurant Association, as the state’s Rising Stars, it’s all of the above and more.

While these five chefs come from varied backgrounds and cook different cuisines, they all have two things in common: A determination to succeed, and a love of cooking. They’re also people who are not only leaders, but mentors to others, whether that’s by teaching kitchen staff how to break down primal cuts or nurturing talent in the people around them.

Read on to learn more about these five talented chefs – no doubt you’ll be hearing their names again in the next few years.


Savannah Sasser

Savannah Sasser

Hampton + Hudson


Read about Savannah Sasser


Woolery “Woody Back

Woolery “Woody” Back

Coalition Food & Beverage, Alpharetta

Table & Main, Roswell

Read about “Woody”









Matt Weinstein

Matt Weinstein

Executive Chef

ONE Midtown Kitchen


Read about Matt Weinstein 







John Williams

John Williams         

Freds Meat & Bread and Yalla

Read about John Williams









John Castellucci

John Castellucci

Castellucci Group


Read about John Castellucci 



Family Food Fest Atlanta

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

June 18, 2017, Georgia Railroad Freight Depot, Atlanta. For more information, visit Family Food Fest


Atlanta Summer Beer Fest

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

June 17 2017, Atlanta. For more information, visit Atlanta Summer Beer Fest


Concentrics Restaurants to open Italian concept, ALLORA, in July

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Chef Chris Maher

Blending Italian classics with modern techniques and seasonal ingredients, Executive Chef Chris Maher offers a menu filled with housemade pastas, pizzas made to order, creative insalata’s, small plates and more.

Chef Chris Maher discovered his passion for cooking through family and first-hand experience. After learning to cook by his mother’s side and working in restaurants, which included owning his own pizza shop, Maher embraced that is what he wanted to do with this life. With experience, since moving to Atlanta, Maher has worked at CRAFT, The Ritz Carlton Buckhead, 4Th & Swift, LPC and, most recently, ONE. midtown kitchen.

Located in TWELVE Hotel Midtown, ALLORA’s décor is showcases industrial design, warm leathers and woods, and rustic touches including an expansive central bar, chef’s tables overlooking an open kitchen, and covered outdoor patio.


Win a Trip to Paris — First Annual Waiters’ Race and Street Party

Monday, June 12th, 2017
The Waiters' Race Atlanta

Courtesy of The Waiters’ Race Atlanta

The Industry Fund calls on all Atlanta waiters and waitresses to participate in the first Waiters’ Race Atlanta on July 14, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta.

The event will celebrate the excellence, dedication, hard work and discipline of the more than 230,000 food preparers and servers who work in the metro Atlanta restaurant industry and benefit The Giving Kitchen (TGK).

Historically, the Waiters’ Race takes place on Bastille Day in Paris to honor the profession. Waiters must walk as quickly as possible through the cobblestone streets of Paris holding a loaded tray without spilling the contents. Today, the “Course des Garçons de Café” is organized in more than 50 countries and attracts hundreds of thousands of people annually.

The Waiters’ Race Atlanta puts a Southern spin on the nearly 100-year-old Parisian event. Participants will walk with a server’s tray in one hand, toting a glass of water, a glass of wine and a split of champagne. After finishing the route, the liquid in their glasses will be measured and they will be expected to open and pour the split without spilling. Participants will be judged on speed, service and style. The winner will receive a round-trip ticket to Paris and a traveling trophy housed in their restaurant for the next 12 months. After the race, Le Bilboquet will host an after-party at center plaza, including live entertainment, outdoor bar, food stands, flower cart, Bocce courts and sidewalk retail activations. This event is free to the public.

TGK is an Atlanta-based non-profit. “We are deeply appreciative to the industry fund for naming our organization as the recipient of the proceeds from this exciting, new Atlanta event,” The Giving Kitchen Director of Partnerships Naomi Green said. “This kind of event is such a great way to celebrate one of Atlanta’s core industries-the restaurant industry, which is a vital part of what makes this city such a great place to live.”

Event sponsors include the Georgia Restaurant Association, the French American Chamber of CommerceWhispering AngelMoet Hennessy and Alliance Francaise d’Atlanta.

“We are excited to partner with The Industry Fund to celebrate and support a group of hard working men and women who are the backbone of Atlanta’s restaurant industry,” Georgia Restaurant Association CEO Karen Bremer said.

To learn more about the Waiters’ Race Atlanta and register to participate in the race, visit


Babalu Tapas and Tacos Opening in Atlanta with Seasoned, Local Team of Restaurant Industry Veterans

Monday, June 12th, 2017



Courtesy of Babalu Restaurant Photography

Babalu Tapas & Tacos is opening the doors of its first Atlanta location this June thanks to a local team of individuals working at Jackson, Mississippi-based Eat Here Brands’ offices in Roswell. The team includes: Chief Financial Officer Tim Walker, Chief Operations Officer Stan Stout, Director of Operations Ben Miller and Marketing Director Stacey McMinn.

CFO Walker joined the Eat Here Brands team in 2014 and brings over 20 years of broad based business experience and over a decade of experience working with Atlanta based restaurant groups. Prior to Eat Here Brands, he was the Senior Vice President and CFO of Stevi B’s Pizza, where he led the IT, finance and strategy functions.  Earlier in his career, he assisted Arby’s with its finance and development activities.

As COO, Stout brings over 20 years of Atlanta restaurant industry experience and connections to many Atlanta-based brands. Stout worked as the chief human resources and technology officer at AFC Enterprises. Then during his time as managing partner at In the Black Partners, he worked with national and regional brands such as Arby’s, Newk’s, McAlister’s Deli, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Sticky Fingers, Taco Mac and Tin Lizzy’s.

Miller has been working in Atlanta since 2000 and in the restaurant industry since 1992. His past experience includes time spent at Hardee’s, TGI Fridays and a vice president of operations role at Taco Mac, as well as a multi-unit management position with Hooters in the Georgia market. As director of operations since 2016, Miller takes genuine interest in his team members, developing those who are drawn to the restaurant industry and helping them to push their own limits to achieve goals.

As marketing director, McMinn is responsible for all marketing programs, brand management and restaurant grand openings. Prior to joining Eat Here Brands, McMinn was with FOCUS Brands, where she managed grand openings and local marketing strategy for McAlister’s Deli. Her previous experience includes more than 18 years of media strategy roles working with brands like Applebee’s, Blimpie, Buffalo Wild Wings, Pizza Hut and Ruby Tuesday.


Beni’s Cubano Opens at the Avenue East Cobb, June 5

Monday, June 12th, 2017
Beni's Cubano

Courtesy of Beni’s Cubano

Beginning June 5, say “¡Hola!” to Cuban dishes and a immersive dining experience in Marietta at Beni’s Cubano, opening in The Avenue East Cobb. The new restaurant is from Southern Proper Hospitality, the team behind Tin Lizzy’s Cantina, Gypsy Kitchen, The Southern Gentleman, Smokebelly BBQ, Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails and The Big Ketch Saltwater Grill. Designed to take diners back in time to Havana, the menu at Beni’s Cubano was created by executive chef Cesar Velazquez and features takes on classic Cuban dishes.

“At Beni’s Cubano, we want to transport you from the day-to-day and into a fun, festive atmosphere you’ll want to return to time and time again,” says Southern Proper Hospitality partner John Piemonte. “Just like our other restaurants, we are creating a sense of community, a super-comfortable place to kick back and enjoy a great meal and excellent beverages.”


Menu highlights include the following:

  • A classic Cuban sandwichwith mojo-roasted pork, ham and Swiss cheese with pickles, mustard and garlic aioli
  • Seafood criollo, a sautéed shrimp and mahi mahi dish in a Cuban-Creole sauce with sofrito, tomato and olives
  • Vaca frita, Velazquez’s creative new take on an old favorite made with crispy short rib, grilled onions and peppers, mojo and lime
  • Yucca friesor mariquitas (crispy spiced plantain chips) with a choice of two dipping sauces such as garlic aioli, mojo or house-made hot sauce
  • Beef picadillo empanadasstuffed to capacity and served with a choice of two dipping sauces

    Beni's Cubano

    Courtesy of Beni’s Cubano

Diners looking to satisfy their sweet tooth can order a house-made bread pudding with golden raisins, pecans, whipped cream and dulce de leche paired with a pot of classic Cuban coffee, espresso-style with sugar espuma.

The menu features classic Cuban cocktails, including:

  • Cuba Libremade with Havana Club Añejo rum and served on the rocks with a Mexican Coke and a lime
  • Havana Heat, a sweet-spicy concoction made from Flor de Caña 7 year rum, Ancho Reyes Chile liqueur, mango purée and sour mix
  • Beni’s Mojitomade with Havana Club Silver rum, house-made mint simple syrup, muddled with limes and mint and topped with a splash of soda water

Tunes from the Tomb

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

June 10 2017, Historic Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta. For more information, visit Tunes from the Tomb


Rock the Cure Benefiting Diabetes Research

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

June 10, 2017, Sweetwater Brewery, Atlanta. For more information, visit Rock the Cure

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