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Archive for August, 2017

Finalists for 11th Annual GRACE Awards Gala Announced

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

The Georgia Restaurant Association announced the finalists for the 2017 Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Awards.

Restaurateur of the Year: Small/Independent

Robert Owens and Gregory Vivier, Grand Champion BBQ

Steven Satterfield and Neal McCarthy, Miller Union

Melissa Clegg and Jaamy Zarnegar, The Last Resort Grill


Restaurateur of the Year: Franchisee

Allen Peake and Mike Chumbley, Fazoli’s

Jonathan Ewing and Jonathan Joiner, Amici

Dan Jenkins, Subway


Restaurateur of the Year: Large/Corporate

Longhorn Steakhouse

Ted’s Montana Grill

The Krystal Company


Industry Partner of the Year

PSG Construction




Distinguished Service Award

KBP Foods


Taco’s and Tequila


Culinary/Hospitality Student of the Year

To be determined by the Hospitality Education Foundation of Georgia (HEFG)


Manager of the Year

Andy Palermo, El Felix and Superica


Restaurant Employee of the Year

Ronald Foster, Fresh To Order


Lifetime Achievement Award

John Ferrell, Mary Mac’s Tea Room

All finalists are peer nominated. The winners are then decided by the GRACE Academy, consisting of all former GRACE nominees and current GRA Board Members.

On Sunday, October 29, 2017, the GRACE Awards Gala, an exclusive event honoring leaders who have made outstanding contributions to Georgia’s restaurant industry, will take place at the Stave Room at American Spirit Works in Atlanta, GA. At the event, winners for Restaurateur of the Year (Small/Independent, Franchisee, Large/Corporate), Industry Partner of the Year and the Distinguished Service Award will be announced. The GRA will also honor the Restaurant Employee of the Year, Manager of the Year, Culinary/Hospitality Student of the Year and this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner, John Ferrell of Mary Mac’s Tea Room.

“The GRACE Awards Gala is a time to recognize hospitality and foodservice professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields, emphasizing the GRA’s mission to celebrate and honor Georgia’s exemplary culinary scene,” said Karen Bremer, CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

A portion of the proceeds from this event will go to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank, whose mission is to fight hunger by engaging, educating and empowering the community.

To learn more about the GRACE Awards, or to purchase tickets, visit


Established Atlanta Restaurants Post Q2 2017 Sales Decline

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

 By Robert Wagner, CPA 

Atlanta Q2 2017 restaurant sales volume shrank 0.5% vs. Q2 2016. For the quarter ended June 2017 negative sales trends were reported at 62% of the 113 independent Atlanta restaurants surveyed.  

National Trends    

In its survey of national restaurant sales TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence, a restaurant sales and traffic- tracking company, reported national restaurant Q2 2017 revenues declined by 1.0%. This was the sixth consecutive quarter of negative sales results nationally. Restaurant traffic declined 3.1% nationally in Q2.  


Robert Wagner, NetFinancials president states that, “Established Atlanta restaurants have generally not grown their customer traffic and for many reasons were not able to increase pricing as much as they would like. Accordingly Q2 2017 sales were lackluster. The exception is the upscale-casual and fine- dining operators who experienced less resistance to raising prices and were able to achieve sales improvements through higher menu prices.  

There were a couple of bright spots. Though the improvement was small, the Q2 sales trend was better than the Q1 2017 sales trend of -0.7%. Also in-town restaurants caught a break when the I-85 bridge collapse was repaired and traffic returned to normal half-way through Q2 on May 13, 2017. In addition, Q2 ended on a positive note with many stores reporting strong June comp sales.  

The Atlanta economy continues its expansion. Metro Atlanta unemployment dipped in June 2017 to 4.9% from 5.3% in June 2016. Since June 2016 total Metro Atlanta jobs have grown by 113,711 according to the Georgia Department of Labor. As we saw in Q1 2017 the pressure on established Atlanta restaurant sales is more competitive than economic. Carl Muth of FoodService Resource Associates LLC who tracks restaurant activity in Atlanta estimates that 700+ new restaurants opened in Atlanta between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017. The substantial growth of new restaurants continues to siphon diners from established operators producing a negative impact on existing store sales.”   

The Sample: The 113 non-franchise restaurants were drawn from the metro Atlanta market. Total survey sales volume was $163 million for YTD 2017. The survey includes restaurants in Atlanta’s fast- casual, casual and fine-dining segments opened at least 18 months.   



American Culinary Federation – Monthly Meeting

Monday, August 28th, 2017

August 28, 2017, Buckhead Beef, College Park. For more information, visit American Culinary Federation


15 Restaurant Apps to Check Out Now

Monday, August 28th, 2017

We scoured the internet to see what apps are popular and which ones ranked high with users. From dozens of options, these 15 offer to help with all kinds of issues, including inventory management, scheduling, table management, online ordering – even help with opening a second location. Who knows? You just might find your new favorite.



What it is: Scheduling app for restaurants

Provides: Management of staff from anywhere, forecasting of labor costs vs. projected sales, integrated time-clocking feature, notification when employee about to hit overtime

Promises to: Spend 80 percent less time on scheduling logistics

Best for: Any restaurant or hospitality company with multiple employees  


Bar and Club Stats

What it is: iPhone/iPad, Android ID app

Provides: ID scanner to ensure customers are in your bar or ordering drinks legally

Promises to: Help you deter underage drinking

Best for: Anyone who serves alcohol, high-volume bars and clubs  



What it is: Supplier/inventory management app

Provides: One-click ordering for all your suppliers in one step; manage inventory from your phone, check in orders when truck arrives

Promises to: Reduce time spent on ordering; decrease returned orders by 82 percent, cut food waste in half[

Best for: Any restaurant, hotel, supplier, wholesaler or distributor  



What it is: Online ordering system with custom-built iPhone and Android ordering apps


Provides: Ability for customers to place orders directly from restaurant website, Facebook page and apps branded to your business; dashboard that shows top spenders, amount in sales and more 

Promises to: Increase number of orders and free your staff from the phones

Best for: Anyone offering to-go orders or delivery  


Find Me Gluten Free  

What it is: Smartphone app  

Provides: Allows diners who eat gluten-free to find restaurants that cater to their needs

Promises to: Promote your restaurant to diners who eat gluten free  

Best for: Gluten-free restaurants or those marketing gluten-free menu items  


Kitchen CUT

What it is: Cloud-based software and app for entire F&B operation

Provides: Supplier management, recipe costing and menu planning, allergen tracking, nutritional analysis, track your kitchen waste and more

Promises to: Give you more time for customer engagement, creativity and innovation 

Best for: Restaurants and bars  



What it is: Waitlist management app recently acquired by Yelp

Provides: Reservations, wait lists and seating by sending alerts to guests via smartphones

Promises to: Eliminate need for expensive pager equipment, organize waitlist and plan seating; diners can browse restaurants by wait time and add themselves onto your wait list, then receive a text when their table is ready

Best for: Restaurants looking to ditch the pagers  



What it is: Invoicing and inventory app

Provides: Paperless invoicing, automated accounting and easy inventory.  

Promises to: Automate spend reports, show price trends, cut inventory time by 50 percent

Best for: Any restaurant big or small  




What it is: Smartphone app to quickly measure spirits at end of night  

Provides: Consumption analytics to help you spot check variances, ID your top movers and dead stock

Promises to: Inventory your bar in 15 minutes; save you up to $10,000/month

Best for: Bars; any restaurant with full ABC  



What it is: iPhone/iPad-based app for opening a new restaurant  

Provides: Ability to sketch out a business and financial plan, profit & loss statement; chart operating expenses and project revenue

Promises to: Provide documents to negotiate rent or prepare for banks and investors  

Best for: Those planning to open another location or a new restaurant concept  



What it is: Web-based employee scheduling app

Provides: Create, post and manage weekly schedules online, including coordinating time off and shift changes 

Promises to: Help you avoid costly overtime and forecast labor costs.  

Best for: Any restaurant or hospitality company with multiple employees  



What it is: App to manage your food truck’s digital presence

Provides: Ability to share and update food truck location via Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare; send push notifications to diners when your truck is near; schedule locations for up to a year out

Promises to: Be your social media hub

Best for: Food trucks  



What it is: iPad-based wine menu

Provides: Ability to keep wine, liquor, beer and cocktail menus updated in real time; information and pictures that shows customers each bottle’s origin, vintage and recommended pairings.  

Promises to: Potentially boost wine and beverage sales by 20 percent or more

Best for: Any restaurant with a beverage program  


When I Work

What it is: Mobile employee scheduling app for iPhone and Android  

Provides: Ability to set up employee schedules that can be accessed or viewed by employees and managers 

Promises to: Save an average of 8 hours/week on employee scheduling and attendance, reduce employee no-shows and improve accountability by 25 percent

Best for: Any restaurant or hospitality company with multiple employees  



What it is: Order fulfillment platform


Provides: Online ordering to your existing website with menu images, upsales and social media integration

Promises to: Match your existing brand’s appearance; provide client demographics, top customers and delivery heat-map

Best for: Any restaurant looking to add online ordering  


Chefs Collaborative to Host 8th Annual Chef Summit in Atlanta this September

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Chefs Collaborative Local Leader chef Steven Satterfield, co-owner and executive chef of Miller Union, and team are welcoming culinary professionals from across the country to the upcoming Chefs Collaborative, Sept 9-11.

Chefs Collaborative, a national organization founded on inspiring and educating the culinary community to build a better food system. This year’s gathering will focus on the theme “Growing Community – Owning the Future,” highlighting Atlanta’s culinary community and the role chefs can play in driving change. Attendees will explore Atlanta’s evolving culinary community, showcase modern Southern cuisine, and learn and share industry best practices in sustainability with local and national changemakers.

“I’m excited to host the 8th Annual Chefs Collaborative Summit in Atlanta this year,” said Satterfield. “It gives all of us in the good food community here – chefs, farmers, activists, producers and food enthusiasts – a chance to show off our tight knit community. We are a rich tapestry of different people working to build a better local food system that embraces strength in numbers and a willingness to work together.”

In past years, cities such as Boulder, Colo., Charleston, S.C., and New York City have hosted the educational culinary experience and explored different themes focused on sustainability. The Chef Summit 2017 will offer a variety of programming options including informative lectures, breakout sessions and moderated panels set against the backdrop of Atlanta’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Fox Theatre, Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Ponce City Market. Topics will include Seafood Solutions, Food Waste, Storytelling and Publishing, Meat Matters, Plant-forward and more.

Guests will have access to field trips ranging from butchery demonstrations to local farmers market tours led by chef Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow and Revival, as well as curated tastings and dining experiences, such as a special “Georgia State Fair” dinner hosted by chef Anne Quatrano of Star Provisions and Bacchanalia.

Guest speaker highlights will include Michiel Bakker, director of Google Food; U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME); Kim Severson, national food correspondent for The New York Times; Nicolette Hahn Niman, livestock rancher and environmental attorney; Joe Fassler, senior editor of New Food Economy; Paula Daniels, co-founder of Center for Good Food Purchasing; Matthew Raiford, chef at The Farmer and The Larder and farmer at Gilliard Farms; and Tamara Jones, executive director of Southeast African American Farmers Organic Network (SAAFON).

Tickets to this year’s Chefs Collaborative Annual Summit are available for purchase online at For more information about the organization, visit


Turn Data Into Dollars

Monday, August 28th, 2017

By Christy Simo 

Rich Chey. Photo by Sarah Newman

Whether it’s cloud-based POS systems, mobile loyalty apps or iPad POS systems, Georgia’s restaurants are continuing to integrate technology into their business model – and taking advantage of the data collected in the process.  

One such restaurant owner who is benefiting from using more technology is Rich Chey, who operates Osteria 83 Pasta & Pizza, Dragon Bowl and two Doc Chey’s Noodle House restaurants in Atlanta along with a third Doc Chey’s in Asheville, N.C. 

For many years, his company, HomeGrown Restaurant Concepts, used a loyalty card designed much like a credit card – customers showed the card when dining and got discounts and deals, and servers swiped the cards to keep it current. A few years ago, however, the company switched to a mobile loyalty app. Now, Chey says, there’s a lot of information at his fingertips.  

“We’re able to track their spending history – how much they spend, what they like to order. It’s pretty detailed, a lot of information on our customers’ spending habits,” he says. “We use it a lot for marketing, either through text messaging or through email, and communicating with these guests.” 

Chey can also use the data to thank regular or high-spending customers with customized rewards.  

“We segment our customers based on their spending habits,” he says. For instance, the company offers a birthday reward to all of its Karma Club members, but the amount’s not the same across the board. “It really depends on what your spending habits are and what your frequency of service is, the level of your gift,” he says. “So if someone only comes in once a year or a couple times a year, their birthday reward is going to be very different than someone who comes in every week.  


Tracking Trends

Chey’s switch from a physical loyalty card to an app tracks a larger trend in the restaurant industry. As people continue to rely on apps and smartphones to manage their lives, they’re expecting restaurants to do the same – and to interact with them that way, too.  

 “There’s this whole movement toward engagement and the dining experience. Having the guests involved in what we’re doing and the decision-making gets them more invested in what we’re doing. It helps with their brand loyalty.”  

According to Technomic, a research and marketing firm for the foodservice industry, that trend is impacting several aspects of how restaurants do business. Yes, guests think tech is important, especially at limited-service restaurants (LSRs) like the fast-casual segment and those restaurants that offer take out and delivery. At these types of places, 38 percent of respondents think technology amenities are very important – that number is even higher with the millennials (between the ages of 18 and 34), 50 percent of whom think it is very important.  

People also want to read menus on their phone, with 44 percent wanting restaurant websites to be mobile-friendly. Nearly half of 18-34 year olds also want to be able to place orders online or through their phones.  

Guest interaction with technology is not confined to quick-serve or fast-casual restaurants, however. In full-service restaurants, some 26 percent of consumers have used a tabletop tablet, with 38 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds doing so.  

“Customers ordering for themselves is going to definitely become more common,” Chey says. “All of our concepts are fast-casual at lunch, and table service in the evening. At lunch I could see having self-serving kiosks where people just order [for] themselves.”  

And while retail businesses have been mining data for years, it’s only recently that the restaurant world is getting in on the game. While several years ago there may have been only a few main players when it came to software for inventory management, seating diners or scheduling employees, now there are dozens of companies intent on helping you run your business better through technology. (See page 14 for more on some of these popular apps.)  

Many of the apps and cloud-based software, which typically run on iPads and smartphones, collect information on customer preferences – what time they came in to eat, how long they stayed, what they ordered, etc.  As more restaurants continue to incorporate the technology into their business, however, it’s led to another asset that was once overlooked – all that data that accumulates, both about your customers and your business.   

“Big data” – the big buzzword in the business world – is the huge amounts of information stored within those apps and software that can be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends and associations about human behavior and interactions. From what your customers order and how long they stayed to their drink preferences and whether they prefer to sit inside or out, it’s information that restaurant owners used to have to rely on their instincts and observations for but is now almost instantaneously at their fingertips.  


What That Data Can Do

So now that you have all this information, what do you do with it all? While the sheer volume of data generated can seem daunting, it is immensely helpful, especially since many of today’s cloud-based software and apps include ways to analyze the data it provides. Here’s just a few ways you can use big data to your advantage: 

Test specials and get immediate feedback. Chey often asks Karma Club members to provide feedback on menu specials.“We tend to use the feedback with the new menu items or with specials,” Chey says. “We always have our idea of what the customer will like, and sometimes we’re right on, and sometimes we’re way off. So it’s usually better to get a little feedback on that first before we actually roll it out.” 

Streamline your product inventory. No more clunky excel files and stacks of paper invoices. Today’s inventory management apps offer paperless invoicing, automated accounting and the ability to see price trends and track inventory turns. So you can determine why, exactly, your food costs went up one month to the next, or even week to week or day to day. 

Know whats up with your employees. You can get more accurate information on the number of sick days, vacation or hours works per week for each of your staff, how often they’re working at each of your locations, working opening or closing shifts, and more.   

Provide precisely tailored products or services to different types of diners. You can narrowly segment your customers based on anything from how often they eat at your restaurant to whether they order vegetarian dishes to how often they order take-out.  

“We can segment those guests based on what their frequency is or their spending levels are,” Chey says. “We can get a better idea of what our really regular guests feel about what we’re doing, as well as just the occasional visitor.”  

Create a more effective menu. Figuring out which items are big sellers and which ones aren’t – and why – used to take time to figure out at best, and was a guessing game at worst. Some apps provide information to help you price menu items more effectively, promote specials and to which group of diners, and determine which ones are too costly to keep on the menu.  

Boost employee performance and loyaltyEspecially with younger employees, managing their shifts or communicating with managers via an app makes life easier for them, too.  

“With the millennials, they’re definitely more comfortable with this kind of management tool. … They’re comfortable with the interface and the fact that we can communicate with them fairly seamlessly and as frequently as we want to,” Chey says. “It’s a really good thing. The whole excuse of ‘I didn’t know I was working today’ just goes away.” 

Some apps even can tell you how often you’re selling appetizers and dessert and which employees successfully upset more frequently than others. Not only could this help boost server performance, it can also show managers where more training may be needed.  

As restaurant owners become more comfortable with using these apps and software, many predict the industry will start to change as a result. Restaurants will eventually start customizing their offerings to suit individual guests through everything from menu offerings to server behavior. And these types of technology are not just for the big chains or big-city restaurants. In fact, according to industry research firm SMB Group, 18 percent of small and 57 percent of medium-sized businesses of all kinds are already using what it calls “business intelligence and analytics solutions.”    

For Rich Chey, who also uses 7shifts for scheduling employees and Aireus, a cloud-based POS system, it’s not only helped the bottom line, it’s allowed him to free up his time to focus on building his business, not doing the busy work.  

“We all kind of look at this administrative stuff as being necessary evils. We don’t really enjoy doing it, but we have to do them,” he says. “A lot of these tasks that aren’t making any money, you’re spending less time on those, and you can actually spend more time on tasks that either improve your customers experience or increase sales.”


13th Annual Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

August 27 2017, Roswell. For more information, visit Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’


11th Annual Give Me Five: Five Chefs & Five Sommeliers

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

August 27 2017, Atlanta. For more information, visit Give Me Five


Marlow’s Tavern Signs Lease for Peachtree Corners Location

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Marlow’s Tavern has signed a long-term lease for its newest location in the expansive Peachtree Corners Town Center mixed-use project. The Town Center is a  21-acre development that is scheduled for a 2018 opening. When complete, it will feature entertainment venues, restaurants, shops, office space, townhomes, and more.  

The plans include a town green which is designed to be the heart of a community gathering area. This 2+ acre spot will feature an open air pavilion, amphitheater, fire pit, open lawn, café tables and a community garden.   

“We’ve wanted to be a part of Peachtree Corners for quite some time, and this is the perfect opportunity to join this growing community,” says John C. Metz, CEO/executive chef and co-founder of Marlow’s Tavern. “We look forward to providing our new neighbors with a friendly gathering place they’ll want to visit again and again.”  

Peachtree Corners Town Center (at the corner of Peachtree Parkway and Medlock Bridge Road) will be the third Gwinnett County location for Marlow’s, joining its locations in Duluth and the Mall of Georgia in Buford. 

Marlow’s offers an array of crisp, cool, salads, classic burgers and salads and other chef-driven fare, emphasizing fresh ingredients and made with seasonal, locally sourced items when available. The beverage menu features wines from around the world,  signature cocktails and a stellar selection of draft, bottled and canned beers, ranging from local craft brews to national brands.


Chef Linton Hopkins Debuts C. Ellet’s in the Battery Atlanta

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

The kitchen will be led by executive chef Damon Wise, executing dishes, alongside Hopkins’ signature from-scratch and whole-animal, whole-vegetable approach.  

Tomahawk Steak And Mushrooms. Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Steak will be sourced from up to 15 brands, farms and artisan butchers across the nation. From the colossal tomahawk ribeye out of Nebraska and cowgirl ribeye from Iowa, to Denver steak from Texas’s 44 Farms, dry-aged porterhouse from Kansas and Delmonico chuck from Idaho’s Snake River Farms. The beef will be prepared using fire, iron and steel – through the use of la plancha, a broiler and cast-iron skillets in various sizes.  A beef tasting that features Angus filet, Tajimi strip and Charolais ribcap will let guests compare and contrast different cuts and breeds. To dress each cut of steak, C. Ellet’s has created a unique offering of sauces, styles and butters; Geechee style with fried oysters and marmalade, Eugene style with egg and red-eyed gravy, sauce Colbert, bone marrow butter and Sapelo shrimp, to name a few. Beef selections may be complemented by seasonal sides such as roast baby carrots with puffed sorghum and dill, Thomasville Tomme White Flint grit soufflé and roast hen of the woods mushrooms.   

Apart from the steak selections, anticipate rack of Colorado lamb, Gulf black grouper with Sapelo clams and Vidalia onions and Kankan pork chop with skillet peaches and peppered butterbeans, among others. Smaller plates include American caviar service, tableside White Oak steak tartare, New Orleans BBQ shrimp with Creole-butter sauce and French bread and shellfish pan roasts. In the Club Room, the menu brings entrée-sized salads and sandwiches such as Gulf Blue crab cake sandwich, fried oyster or shrimp po’ boy and shaved prime rib beef dip, in addition to steak features.  

“C. Ellet’s is a reimagining of the great American structure – the steakhouse. We’ve taken all the things Americans love about the classic steakhouse and crafted a more modern, chef and ingredient-driven seasonal restaurant,” says Hopkins.   

The wine list offers more than 900 selections, committed to deep, rich offerings of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Nebbiolo from France and Italy, while also covering Napa and Sonoma. The margarita sidecar and boulevardier riff are just two features of the craft beverage program, which also highlights the classic martini, in true spirit of the American steakhouse. The raw oyster program – helmed by head shucker James Geoghegan – will be available in both the Club and Dining Room, featuring up to 10 oysters from across the country. The walk-up oyster bar will feature four rotating options when open, plus wine and beer on draft.

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