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  • 06 Sep 2014 3:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: Savannah Morning News
    By JULIA RITCHEY

    Savannah takes few things more seriously than its history, architecture and fairly liberal drinking culture.

    So when a 31-page overhaul of its alcohol ordinance was unleashed onto the public the Friday before Labor Day, it came as a surprise to bar and restaurant owners whose establishments would be most affected.

    These owners and managers took to Facebook and the city’s public forums this week to voice concerns about several of the draft’s provisions, though most acknowledged revisiting the city’s 15-year-old ordinance was overdue.

    Representatives from a cross-section of establishments appeared at the meeting to listen to city staff go over the ordinance - from Savannah institutions such as Pinkie Master’s and Crystal Beer Parlor to the not-yet-opened 39 Rue de Jean.

    Most of the industry’s concerns boil down to about four key areas, including the repeal of a “hybrid” license to be replaced by a more expensive late-night one, beefed up security requirements, the elimination of bar cards and the rights afforded to adults ages 18-20.

    Sean Brandon, Savannah’s management services chief, said the city was trying to strike the right balance between public and private interests. He said much of the new ordinance was an attempt to be more consistent with state law.

    “We want something that makes the community better,” said Brandon.

    Although the ordinance states it would be enacted for “purposes of establishing reasonable and ascertainable standards for the regulation and control of alcoholic beverages,” the debate over what constitutes reasonable has been acute.

    Michael Owens, president of the Tourism Leadership Council, said he fielded calls and emails from about 60 owners and managers over Labor Day Weekend pertaining to the ordinance.

    “The real question is: What is the exact problem that we’re trying to solve?” said Owens. “I think our issues are really more outside the establishment than inside the establishment, and I’d be happy to hear the thoughts and considerations of the city on how they intend to address that problem.”

    By Tuesday, the date of the first public meeting on the ordinance, at least one proposal was nullified after the city received near unanimous criticism for trying to restrict 18- to 20-year-olds from restaurants serving alcohol after 10 p.m.

    The draft, which had been in the works for more than a year, had stipulated midnight originally, but some restaurant and bar owners questioned the logic of having a curfew at all in a town with such a heavy military and college presence.

    Jamie Durrence and Alan Williams, managing partner and director of operations for Daniel Reed Hospitality, which operates Soho South Café, Local 11ten and The Public Kitchen & Bar, said the regulation of legal adults with a curfew was unacceptable.

    “Members of the military and SCAD students are a huge client base for our restaurants,” Durrence said in a statement. “It just does not seem very hospitable and makes little sense considering you can legally bartend in the state of Georgia at 18 years and pilot an aircraft at 17. But not eat where alcohol is served after 10 p.m. or midnight? Unimaginable.”

    On Wednesday, the Georgia Restaurants Association spent most of its two-hour meeting at the Pirate’s House going page-by-page through the ordinance to explain the new regulations to its members.

    Mike Vaquer, the association’s lobbyist, said he’d been working with the city on the ordinance since June of last year. While the city is being diligent in trying to get its ordinance caught up with the times, he said, there were still areas for concern.

    “There are more questions than there are answers here, but we’ve come a long way,” Vaquer told members.

    Late-night licenses and security

    The elimination of a $250 “hybrid” license for establishments that transition into bars (or furniture stores serving spirits) was touted as an improvement. However, in its place, the city is proposing a $450 late-night entertainment establishment license for any bar or restaurant open past midnight.

    The city said the provision was not meant as a revenue generator but as a regulatory tool to better police establishments having problems in the late-night hours, i.e. nightclubs such as the now-shuttered Dosha and Frozen Paradise.

    Currently, about 30 bars hold hybrid licenses. City staff could not provide an exact number for how many establishments would be required to have the proposed late-night license, though it would likely be much higher.

    The owners of Lulu’s Chocolate Bar said they were originally classified as a hybrid bar until they appealed the decision based on the fact they operate the same business all day. Co-owner Rebecca Radovich said the idea of having to pay an extra fee and get bouncers for her casual dessert bar is just silly.

    “We’re not part of that late-night exodus problem,” said Radovich at Tuesday’s forum. “To be lumped back into that after we just got out … that’s one of our biggest concerns.”

    TLC’s Owens said he too is concerned.

    “Making anybody that’s serving alcohol after midnight to have security under penalty of law seems to be a little bit of an overstretch,” said Owens. “Think of the Pink House. At midnight, are they supposed to bring in uniformed security? That may not be the impression that they want nor we as a city want at all of these establishments.”

    Vaquer said he is encouraging staff to take a look at the operational footprint of a business in order to not cast such a wide net.

    “If I go into an establishment at noon … and I go back in at 1 a.m. and it looks exactly the same, then we’re not changing our business model. We’re continuing to operate as we have been,” said Vaquer.

    In concert with the proposed license fee is additional security requirements for bars of certain occupancy loads.

    For example, a bar with an occupancy load of 101-200, like The Jinx, would be required to have one door person and two additional security people on Friday and Saturday nights after midnight and on six major holidays.

    Language pertaining to security requirements for these late-night establishments is lifted verbatim, in parts, from Charleston, S.C.’s municipal code. City staff met with Charleston officials and looked at other codes such as Scottsdale, Ariz., when formulating the new ordinance, said city spokesman Bret Bell.

    Read the full article.
  • 05 Sep 2014 12:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    By Dan Chapman and Michael Kanell 

    Only the strong needed to apply Thursday for the warehouse jobs posted at the Norcross unemployment office.

    “Will perform repetitive work, stand, walk and bend for long periods of time,” the notice read. “Will carry up to 25-100 pounds frequently. Will lift up to 25-50 pounds, shoulder high, frequently.”

    The temporary job pays $8 an hour.

    Earlier that day, in Midtown Atlanta, fast-food employees and home-health workers rallied to more than double their wages. Most make $7.25 an hour, the minimum wage.

    The rally and job fair, though separated by 20 miles, spoke in unison about the nature of work in Georgia’s post-recession economy. Both spotlighted low-wage work, and as the economy limps back, those jobs make up a larger percentage of Georgia’s workforce than before the recession.

    Consequently, calls to raise the minimum wage resound loudly among workers and some politicians, who say it will help lift Americans out of poverty.

    And it is sparking pushback by those who believe raising wages will hurt the economy.

    Raising the minimum wage, they argue, is a job killer and raises costs for employers.

    “A dramatic minimum wage increase to $15 is not the solution to relieve poverty,” said Karen Bremer, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

    In restaurants, for example, a large hike would mostly serve to eliminate jobs for young people and “entry-level” workers, Bremer said.

    The argument over low wages is nothing new, but the voices have grown louder of late.

    Globalization, the demise of factory work and union clout and the shift to temporary or contract workers have worked to depress wages in the last three decades. The 2007-2009 recession obliterated 8.5 million jobs nationwide and flipped many families into bankruptcy or foreclosure, and they are finding it tough to fight their way back.

    Manufacturing and construction jobs were the big losers during the recession. And they paid an average of $61,637 a year, according to a recent study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

    New restaurant, hotel and nursing jobs have predominated since the recession ended. Yet they pay, on average, 23 percent less than the jobs lost during the downturn.

    “The picture of a breadwinner working on an assembly line has now been replaced by a breadwinner working on a cash register,” said Jack Temple, a policy analyst with the liberal National Employment Law Project (NELP). “There has been an economic restructuring. And the shift has been unequivocally bad for working families.”

    The rise in temporary jobs further depresses wages. Roughly 2.5 percent of all U.S. jobs are classified as temporary - most with little security and without benefits - up from 1.4 percent in 1990, the BLS reports. And in metro Atlanta, over the last five years, only hospitals have created more jobs (11,000) than temp agencies (8,210).

    Traditionally limited to administrative work, the temp industry has shifted headlong into once solidly blue-collar fields like manufacturing, transportation and warehousing. And “temp” is something of a misnomer, as Fortune 500 corporations keep temp workers employed for months and years at a time as a hedge against an economic downturn.

    Overall, workers employed by staffing agencies earn 22 percent less than the average wage for all private sector workers, according to NELP. And low-wage workers - temp or otherwise - avail themselves disproportionately of food stamps, Medicaid and other taxpayer-financed services.

    Few states have created as many low-wage jobs as Georgia.

    A decade ago, about one in 33 Georgia workers made minimum wage. Today, that has risen to about one in 20.

    Restaurants, for example, employed 7.2 percent of all Georgia workers a decade ago, BLS data shows. Today, 8.5 percent of all state workers are in that business. Many, like Joshua Collins, toil for $7.25 an hour.

    Collins, 25, sat in the middle of Ponce de Leon Ave. on Thursday, blocking traffic outside a McDonald’s. He demanded a wage of $15 an hour, more than double his current cook’s salary at a nearby Burger King. Collins was the first demonstrator cuffed, arrested and marshalled into a Fulton County prisoner transport van.

    “The fast-food corporations are making billions and billions of dollars and they can’t give us a raise?” he said in an interview before being hauled away. “We’re going to get our $15 an hour and a union. Something will come of this.”

    For the first time, low-paid health care workers joined the protest, such as Latonya Allen, 45.

    “Home care workers deserve $15 an hour just like fast-food workers. We do the dirty work, the hard work that no one else wants to do,” said Allen who is paid $9 an hour caring for a McDonough woman with cerebral palsy. “I have no retirement, no time off, no benefits, no paid vacation or sick days. But I am willing to fight for my rights. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

    Ten demonstrators were arrested for refusing police entreaties to quit sitting in the middle of the busy street.

    The higher wage push is gaining steam with California (minimum $10 an hour), Massachusetts ($11), the District of Columbia and its Maryland suburbs ($11.50) and Seattle ($15) already requiring employers to pay workers more. San Francisco, Chicago and New York City are likely to follow suit.

    President Obama, who supports a national minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, said last Monday that fast-food workers deserve a raise “so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity.”

    A growing number of economists, though, say that raising the minimum wage benefits more than just low-paid workers. Standard & Poor’s, the financial research agency, reported last month that low-wage jobs fuel income inequality which is “a drag on long-run economic growth.” The ratings agency reduced its U.S. growth forecast from 2.8 percent to 2.5 percent over the next decade.

    “The current level of income inequality in the U.S. is dampening GDP growth, at a time when the world’s biggest economy is struggling to recover from the Great Recession and the government is in need of funds to support an aging population,” S&P wrote.

    Howard Mavity, a senior partner at Fisher and Phillips, an Atlanta firm that represents fast-food companies in labor disputes, agrees that the minimum wage should be raised a bit. A jump to $15 an hour, though, would put too much of a financial burden on franchise owners and not solve the impoverishment of low-wage workers.

    “The purpose of the minimum wage is to try and help people get by,” Mavity said. “So if we only jack up the minimum wage, we won’t get at key structural issues facing the economy (like) better education and a trained workforce.”

    There is a heated debate about how to improve the lot of American workers, but in general, there is agreement that more money is good for working people, for boosting the middle class and for the economy as a whole.

    “When there are working people who can’t support their families, who can’t pay their rent, your whole community is going to suffer,”said NELP’s Rebecca Smith.

    Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers, 2013
    The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Nationally, 3.3 million workers are paid minimum wage or less. Here are some of their characteristics…

    Percent who work full-time: 35.5%
    Percent with college experience: 42.2%
    Percent who live in the South: 46.4%
    Percent food prep workers: 46.7%
    Percent aged 25 or older: 49.6%

    Sources: Cheryl Russell, Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • 05 Sep 2014 12:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution Politcal Insider Blog

    By Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy

    If you listened closely to Democratic Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn’s comments Thursday, you might have heard an attempt to distance herself undefined ever so slightly undefined from President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

    Nunn called Obama’s much-criticized recent remarks that he had no strategy to encounter the growing threat of ISIS an “unfortunate choice of words” and urged the administration to “quickly develop the right military strategy” against the militant group that’s carving out a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.

    Nunn almost precisely a year ago backed a military strike in Syria to deter President Bashar Al-Assad from using chemical weapons against his own people, which at the time matched the positions of Obama and Georgia GOP Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.

    But Obama a few days later backed off in the face of overwhelming opposition in Congress, and Nunn drew flak in her Democratic primary for the position. She has since focused much of her campaign rhetoric on domestic policy, such as the jobs plan she rolled out Thursday.

    She said in an interview that ISIS is a “dangerous terrorist organization that has to be defeated and that we must take a lead in that” through air strikes and cooperation with regional partners.

    “I also believe we need to recognize that we cannot fight a civil war on the ground in Iraq or Syria,” she said. “We have to look to the leadership of that region to resolve the long-term historic undefined but I think resolvable undefined schisms and conflicts with the right leadership there.”

    And then she came close to siding with some legislative leaders pushing for more Congressional oversight of the nation’s growing role in the conflict.

    “The president has to work closely with Congress. Especially at this moment in time, it’s incumbent for the president and Congress to come up with a unified strategy.”

    ...

    Republicans took quick aim at Nunn’s jobs plan on Thursday, in part for not vowing to repeal Obamacare and for seeking to raise the minimum wage. Republican David Perdue’s spokeswoman, Megan Whittemore, had this to say:

    “After reading Michelle Nunn’s so-called ‘jobs plan’ it’s clear her campaign will stop at nothing to deceive Georgians about who she really is and what she stands for. This confusing attempt to describe her vision for job creation is full of contradictions. Michelle Nunn mimics many of David’s ideas and then immediately undercuts them by advocating some of the same failed liberal approaches that caused the economic problems in the first place.

    “Missing from the ‘jobs plan’ are obvious solutions to address the economic crisis President Obama and Democrats in Washington have created. For example, Michelle Nunn claims she is for reducing the regulatory burdens on small businesses, but completely ignores the negative impacts of Obamacare, which is cutting back workers hours and increasing costs for families. Similarly, she claims she supports energy independence, but refuses to address how burdensome regulations on the coal industry will raise energy prices and destroy jobs.”

    And the Georgia GOP’s Leslie Shedd:
    “In Nunn’s latest so-called jobs plan – in which ‘there’s no pricetag for her pledges’ – she claims she will support No Budget, No Pay legislation. The problem? Nunn’s loyalties lie with Harry Reid, who, in addition to endorsing Nunn, also said it would be ‘foolish’ for Senate Democrats to even propose their own federal budget. So long as Harry Reid is leader, he will block any chances of passing a budget.

    “But it gets worse, a recent study by the Georgia Restaurant Association shows that [the minimum wage hike in] Michelle Nunn’s so-called jobs plan could cost more than 21,000 jobs statewide. It could cost state and local governments an additional $164 million annually because of the 60,000 public workers that could be affected.”
    ***

    Read the full article.

  • 02 Sep 2014 4:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Karen Bremer

    Source: www.myajc.com

    The cost of doing business has become increasingly expensive. It’s the product of repeated bad policies by elected officials following an aggressive agenda by organized labor. Ironically, the economic havoc they leave in their wake will eliminate the very jobs they proclaim to protect.

    Earlier this month, the National Labor Relations Board overturned a 30-year rule that gave local franchisees, including many that operate in Atlanta, the freedom to run their day-to-day business practices independently of their franchiser.

    The franchising model has successfully created millions of jobs; it did so by helping aspiring business owners realize their dream by offering resources to launch a locally owned operation underindividual management. This includes everything from capital investment to hiring employees and setting shift schedules to disciplinary actions and terminations.

    Unions, dissatisfied with declining numbers, would much rather target big corporations than a small, locally owned business with fewer employees. It has pushed to remove the traditional division between them and make franchisers liable for franchisees’ employment practices, though franchisers have no control over these practices. By tying franchisees to the hip of their parent company, labor unions can redefine a “small business” as “big business” and go after the parent in their organizing efforts.

    This dissolution of the “joint-employer standard” will have a chilling effect on job creation, particularly in Atlanta, which leads the nation as home to the most franchise headquarters. Aspiring business owners will be less likely to pursue their dreams, since they will face a lot more hurdles as a franchisee. Franchisers will have to be more involved in the day-to-day activities of local employment practices, which will add to their franchisees’ costs. In the end, jobs will be impacted.

    But it doesn’t end here. Unions are emboldened by the NLRB ruling and have begun a renewed push to demand minimum-wage hikes from business - as high as $15 per hour, more than double the current federal minimum wage.

    Any hike in the minimum wage comes with an undesirable price tag. Restaurants are low-profit, low-margin operations. On average, a third of their budgets goes to wages and benefits. When the cost of labor rises for a restaurant operator, hard choices follow. Entry-level job opportunities are diminished, and employee hours are scaled back or, worse, eliminated altogether.

    Read the full article.

    Karen Bremer is executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association.
  • 29 Aug 2014 8:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle
    By: Martin Sinderman, Contributing Writer

    While Atlanta’s array of new restaurants gets most of our attention, it’s the ones that date back a few decades (or more) that, in many ways, say the most about the city.

    “Atlanta’s dining scene is a vibrant and exciting array of all types of restaurants, from fine-dining to fast casual, food trucks to quick-service,” said Karen Bremer, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

    At the end of the day, many undefined but not all undefined of the restaurants regarded as Atlanta’s “classics” have strong connections to the city’s Southern heritage.

    “Atlanta still stays true to its Southern roots,” Bremer said. “This city has a lot of great Southern restaurants with many different styles of Southern cuisine.”

    Read the full article.

  • 26 Aug 2014 1:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Buckhead Business Radio

    Featuring David Audrain and Stephanie Everett with Exposition Development Co., Karen Bremer with Georgia Restaurant Association, Josh Brass with US Foods, Mark Haidet with Siftit & Takorea, Archna Becker with Bhojanic

    Listen to the Podcast: Play in new window | Download

    Karen Bremer/Georgia Restaurant Association
    Executive Director

    Karen I. Bremer Executive Director, Georgia Restaurant Association With over 35 years in the hospitality industry, Bremer is the Executive Director of the Georgia Restaurant Association, representing one of the largest industries in the state. The GRA serves as the unified voice for over 16,000 foodservice and drinking places in the state of Georgia with total sales in excess of $16.5 billion which provides more than 405,800 jobs. Bremer is a founding member of the GRA, Past President of the GRA Board and has served on the board of directors for the National Restaurant Association, Atlanta Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (ACVB) and Team Georgia. Currently, Bremer serves on the Industry Board of Georgia State University’s Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality, Board of Directors of DeKalb CVB, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Council of State Restaurant Associations and the Arby’s Foundation. She has also been inducted to Les Dames d’escoffier International and the International Women’s Forum. Bremer was the former owner of Dailey’s and City Grill restaurants and was a top executive with the Peasant Restaurant Group, starting out as a manager and ultimately being named its President. Bremer has garnered numerous awards including the ACVB Member of the Year Award in 2002 for her role in founding Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week. In 2009, Bremer received the Lifetime Achievement GRACE (Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence) Award for her outstanding contributions to Georgia’s restaurant industry. Recently, Bremer has also been listed as a notable Georgia by Georgia Trend Magazine for back to back years in 2012 and 2013.

  • 21 Aug 2014 4:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: Atlanta Real Estate Forum

    Listen to the Recording

    This week’s Around Atlanta guests on Atlanta Real Estate Forum Radio are Dale DeSensa, president and founder of Taste of Atlanta, and Ryan Costigan with the Georgia Restaurant Association. Together, these two organizations have collaborated to create Georgia’s Edible Agricultural Tour, also known as EAT GA.

    EAT GA is a dining program that aims to support the Georgia Grown program through unique dinner events that teach patrons how important it is to use local produce from Georgia’s farms. These fun, educational dinners help consumers learn from local chefs and farmers while enjoying delicious farm-to-table fare. At an event, the guest or in-house chef will introduce a dish. While attendees are dining on it, the farmer that sourced the dish’s main vegetable will tell their story, from the process of growing the vegetable to what it means to be a local farmer. This allows diners to truly understand where their food comes while they’re eating it. In addition, EAT GA is a nonprofit organization, so all proceeds that remain from each event after all expenses have been paid are donated to local food banks.

    So far this year, EAT GA has hosted six events, including those in Athens, Savannah, Thomasville and Atlanta. The next event will be held at Kennesaw State University, which has a great sustainability program and its own farm, Hickory Grove. Each dinner event is different, with the chefs and farmers having control over the menu and which vegetables will be showcased. The KSU event in particular will bring local restaurateurs and farmers in to host a dinner using a variety of the items grown right on campus.

    The EAT GA organization was created in the wake of the popular farm-to-table, locally grown movement in an effort to support Georgia’s restaurants. More and more restaurants are looking to provide local foods and fresher ingredients for their diners, and this event highlights those possibilities and teaches everyone involved how to support local farmers.

    The Edible Agriculture Tour is an inclusive program, and Dale and Ryan heartily encourage anyone that has a food-related mission to get involved. The more people that participate in or partner with the program, the better the outcome will be for everyone in the state – restaurants, chefs, farmers and diners alike.

    To learn more about the Edible Agricultural Tour, listen to the full podcast above and then visit www.EATGA.com.

    ____________________________________________________________

    The “Around Atlanta” segment is designed to showcase the best of metro Atlanta – the communities, attractions and special events that make this city great. To submit your event, community or attraction to the Around Atlanta edition of Atlanta Real Estate Forum Radio, contact mRELEVANCE at 770-383-3360.

    Please download and subscribe to all of the Atlanta Real Estate Forum Radio podcasts on iTunes. If you like this week’s show, be sure to rate it.
  • 10 Aug 2014 4:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    By Dan Chapman and Leon Stafford 

    Higher-wage rallies in Atlanta have followed a predictable script - until now.

    Unions or their affiliates typically gather fast-food workers outside a Burger King or an Arby’s and bull-horn their grievances to sympathizers and bewildered passersby. As street theater goes, it’s fun but ineffectual. Pay for most fast-food workers has remained stuck at $7.25 an hour since the protests began nearly two years ago.

    Protesters yet again took to Atlanta streets earlier this month, but this time they were energized by a recent federal ruling that could lead to more pay and a unionized workforce. The fast-food industry in Atlanta - home to more chain-restaurant headquarters, 23, than any other city - was rocked by the National Labor Relations Board edict and vows to fight it in court.

    In essence, the NLRB ruling means unions could one day organize nationally among all McDonald’s workers, rather than one store at a time. Labor experts say it’s a huge boost for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has tried to unionize fast-food restaurants the last few years. Its main grievance: low pay.

    “Today we are celebrating a major victory,” Neil Sardana, a community organizer with the nonprofit Jobs With Justice, said via megaphone to 15 activists protesting recently outside a McDonald’s on Fulton Industrial Blvd. “This campaign is really directed at the corporate headquarters of McDonald’s. You guys are responsible for low wages. You are the boss. (And) now we are one step closer to $15 an hour and a union.”

    Nowhere perhaps did the ruling reverberate louder than in Atlanta, headquarters for Arby’s, Chick-fil-A, Popeye’s and other fast-food franchises, as well as many hotel, retail and temp agency chains.

    “The restaurant industry is deeply concerned about this. It totally changes the nature of the franchisee-franchisor relationship,” said Karen Bremer, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association. “It could have a significant effect on, gosh, wages, taxes, workman’s comp rates, insurance, you name it.”

    Bremer said the association will challenge the ruling in court. And it’s unlikely the local McDonald’s or Hooters will go union anytime soon. Still, the ruling, as well as the movement to raise the minimum wage, troubles the franchise and contracting industries.

    Click here to read the full article. 

  • 31 Jul 2014 9:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: Columbus CEO
    By Leon Stafford
    Courtesy of the Associated Press

    Most consumers will tell you they prefer fresh, tasty, healthy food over processed, greasy, assembly-line fare. Millennials, though, may be the first generation to back that up with their wallets.

    Fast-food operators say they are getting increasing pressure from the demographic - generally defined as 18- to 34-year olds - to boost the quality of menu items or risk losing millennials. At stake is more than $1 trillion in spending by the group to the fast-casual category, which includes chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill or Moe’s Southwest Grill.

    Readers of Consumer Reports, including millennials, the biggest generational group behind baby boomers, recently put such traditional chains as Burger King, Krystal and Church’s Chicken near the bottom of lists ranking fast food chains on quality, value and healthy options.

    The magazine noted that, despite higher prices, fast-casual alternatives such as Firehouse Subs and Five Guys Burgers and Fries were gaining in popularity because quality increasingly matters more to millennials than the convenience that has been fast food’s advantage for decades.

    “Millennials have a renewed fascination with food,” said David Farmer, vice president for product strategy and development for Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A. “They grew up on food television and are more knowledgeable about ingredients. And social media has put a lot of attention on quality and customization.”

    Esther Yi, 25, counts herself among that group. Yi, a business affairs coordinator at Georgia State University, is a foodie who thinks knowledge of the subject has been assimilated into the everyday lives of millennials. She thinks that leads them to be more interested in menu innovation, service and an expectation that food be “fresh” and sourced as locally as possible.

    And because of their Internet savviness, food is a social experience for millennials, who post dinner pictures to websites or critique menu items in reviews.

    “I don’t go to a place unless I ‘Yelp’ it,” Yi said.

    Working in fast food’s favor are the economic struggles of millennials. Though their economic clout is great because of their sheer number, they are faring worse financially than their parents - a reverse of typical monetary trends in America in which each successive generation does better than the last.

    In fact, millennials’ economic struggles have been blamed in part for the market share losses of more moderately priced sit-down chains such as Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Ruby Tuesday, experts said.

    But fast-food companies have struggled with the group because they are boxed into a menu that has to entice the broadest customer audience possible. And the more items they add to menus to grab more market share, the more crowded and confused their menus become.

    “Most marketing leaders will tell you to figure out who you are and be true to yourself,” said Karen Bremer, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

    Read the full article.

    ©2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)
    Visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) at www.ajc.com
    Distributed by MCT Information Services
  • 31 Jul 2014 9:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: Access Atlanta 
    By Adrianne Murchison
    For the AJC

    It’s evening. You’ve just finished work, decide to stop in a restaurant for your favorite dish, and the hostess offers you a table shared with folks you don’t know.

    Don’t be put off. It’s a growing trend that’s been well received around metro Atlanta, according to Karen Bremer, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

    “It started gaining popularity after Sept. 11,” Bremer said. “That’s when you started seeing that people wanted to sit together and not be by themselves.”

    For owners of two local restaurants, the sharing of tables, also known as communal dining, is simply a matter of spreading joy, food and even culture.

    Portuguese couple Maria and Jose Emidio Sapeta sometimes introduce diners to one another at monthly communal lunches held at their Sandy Springs restaurant, Emidio’s. Everyone there is friendly, and the atmosphere is surprisingly comfortable for a newcomer.

    In Midtown, Italian native Luca Varuni, the exuberant co-owner of Varuni Napoli, regularly welcomes patrons as friends and extended family to the communal tables in his restaurant.

    “I’m a guy who loves to be around people,” Varuni said. “If I’m not making pizza, I’m on the (restaurant) floor. People love that.”
    Returning patrons often greet Varuni with a hug and a chat before entering a long line to order their meal.

    Varuni Napoli’s menu features Neopolitan pizza. Popular selections include SpaccaNapoli pizza made with taleggio cheese, oak roasted mushrooms, carmelized onions, truffle oil and pecorino romano; and King of Napoli, with mozzarella, plum tomatoes, Vesuvius cherry tomato, hot capicolla, pecorino romano and basil. You also can create your own Margherita pizza.

    Born in Naples, Varuni comes from a family of chefs and started to develop his own cooking skills at age 14. He and partner Giancarlo Pirrone opened the restaurant in a former manufacturing warehouse in April, where the pizza makers working in the open kitchen and the dining area featuring white horizontal communal tables are a natural fit for a social setting.

    Tables can comfortably accommodate eight diners, but Varuni acknowledged that communal eating isn’t for everyone. There are a few smaller tables for two and a long dinner counter with seats facing the kitchen.

    Patrons at the restaurant on a recent evening appeared to take the idea of shared tables in stride.

    “Sometimes you talk to people you don’t know,” said diner Jason Ewing.
    “I think it’s new to Atlanta. It’s very European. I think it’s great,” added his friend, B.J. Guthrie.

    Like Varuni, the Sapetas welcome diners as friends at Emidio’s, where they serve a special Portuguese lunch with communal seating on the first Sunday of each month. (At other times, their restaurant features regular seating.)

    The Sapetas are from Madeira, Portugal. “I think culture and food go hand in hand,” Maria Sapeta said. “We want people to mingle with us. We like to share. That gives us a lot of satisfaction.”
    Her husband’s parents were chefs. He serves meals family-style at the communal lunch as his mother did at home in Madeira. “The house was always full of people and my mom would put all of the food on top of the table,” he said.

    Maria Sapeta said it’s a great way to introduce people who are not Portuguese to the culture.

    Emidio’s regular menu features Portuguese, Spanish and Italian meals. The Portuguese dishes are greatly influenced by Africa.
    “Our food is a little different from the (Portugal) mainland. Madeira is close to the coast of Africa. We eat a lot of collard greens, and Jadineira (beef stew with vegetables served with rice),” Jose Sapeta explained.

    Menu items include Carne a Alentejana, with cubes of lean pork marinated with wine and garlic, and cubes of potatoes and clams; and Zuppi Dippicci, a seafood stew with capellini and a marinara sauce.
    Portuguese dishes, grilled sardines and salted cod were popular at the July communal lunch.

    It was the second visit to the restaurant in three days for Aida Moreira, a native of Portugal, and her 11-year-old daughter, Catarina. The family had moved to metro Atlanta from Rhode Island that week.
    “My husband discovered it during his business travels,” Moreira said. “Very nice food. I came to socialize and get to know people.”
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