Kids cook the darndest things.

In the restaurant industry, when we hear a story about a CEO of a major restaurant chain starting off as a bus boy or a renowned chef learning how to cook at his or her first food service job, we are inspired. Yet, these stories of success are not necessarily remarkable. The restaurant industry provides the perfect platform for people to realize the “American Dream,” and we couldn’t be prouder to play some part in that process.

The National Restaurant Association put together this video about the “Industry of Opportunity,” and if you get through it without watery eyes, you’re a stronger person than we are.

All of this is to say that, as restaurant supporters, innovators, experts and insiders, we have a responsibility to perpetuate this unique cycle by fostering future generations and their career endeavors.

And, we just so happen to know how you can do it, too.

The 2011 Second Annual ProStart Invitational culinary competition is just around the corner. Houston’s regional contest will be held January 29 at Westside High School and the state-wide contest will be held in Austin on March 5. Winners will then proceed to the national ProStart Invitational in Overland Park, Kansas, on April 29.

So where do you come in? Those interested can sign up to sponsor or even participate in judging. Additionally, we are seeking volunteers in all of the following areas: registration, student lounge monitors, plate check-out, sanitation station, chicken/meat distribution, check in assistant/plate escorts, timers/guides, monitors, tabulators and media escorts. And at the very least, you can show up at the competition to encourage the young chefs and watch them put their culinary skills to the test. It’s like our very own Top Chef in real life!

Last year’s inaugural competition was a resounding success, and we believe 2011 will be even better. But, we can’t do it without you! Please do your part to make this opportunity for our industry’s youth even brighter.

For more information, contact or call us at 713.802.1200.


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ABC’s of Cash Flow Management

The Greater Houston Restaurant Association hosted its second Educational Outlet on November 16, 2010 at Central Market. “The ABC’s of Restaurant Cash Flow Management” was a perfect way for our members to learn the basics of managing finances, looking at historical trends in sales, and increasing profits.

Throughout the seminar, the panelists discussed the different ways to improve the cash flow of restaurants. Having a strategic marketing plan as well as understanding the break -even point are essential to managing your restaurant’s finances. The panelists also stressed the importance of proactively anticipating unexpected expenditures, such as equipment replacement or structural repairs.  Additionally, the panelist noted that whether you enjoy reviewing your books or not it is a necessary task of all successful restaurateurs.

The seminar had panelists from various backgrounds within the restaurant industry: Ernie Pekmezaris, CFO and Treasurer of Pappas Restaurants, Inc., Ric Mausser, owner of Campioni Restaurant, and Joe Erickson, leading contributor and Vice-President of . The seminar was moderated by Chris Tripoli of A’la Carte Foodservice Consulting Group. Each participant brought a unique perspective to the class, making it highly informative and beneficial to anyone needing advice or tips on how to manage restaurant cash flow.

The GHRA holds a different Educational Outlet every quarter, and the next one will be on February 16, 2010 in the Central Market Community room from 3:30-5:00 p.m. The seminar will cover the Healthcare Bill and how it will affect restaurateurs in the future. For more information, please call the GHRA office at 713.802.1200 or email

Cash flow is the sometimes the measure that restaurants live and die by. Most restaurants fail in their first year of operation because they simply run out of cash to keep the business going. The funds from the loan run out, credit cards and lines of credit have been tapped, and the money faucet has dried up.

Cash Management on Premises

  1. If you accept cash only, robbers make you number one on their hit lists. Accept credit cards. Shop around for the cheapest processing rate and settle your transactions on a daily basis after closing. The GHRA recommends Hartland Payment Systems. They even have next day deposits!
  2. Keep a drop safe in the office and make cash deposits at least once a day, varying the times and people you send to the bank.

Top Cash Burners

  1. Payroll – Staff must be paid on time. Morale will plummet and service will take a nosedive if staff is not paid, aside from it being unethical. Both Ernie Pekmezaris and Joe Erickson recommended that you use a separate bank account for payroll only!
  2. Food Inventory – There’s no way to know exactly how many people will order food in your restaurant on any given day, but you still must have enough fresh food on hand to make all the items on your menu. While good chefs know how to minimize waste, there is no way to avoid spoilage when business is down 50% on a Friday night because there’s a major thunderstorm with torrential rain right outside your door. Fish, for example, is only at peak freshness for a relatively short period of time.
  3. Loan Payments – Loans and mortgages must be paid on time. If they’re not, the bank or mortgage company may foreclose.
  4. Vendor Bills – The monthly phone, utility and other bills must be paid on time, regardless of how business is.
  5. Miscellaneous Expenses – Even though you may budget for repairs and other unforeseen expenses, things always seem to crop up which require immediate cash. It’s easy to underestimate the costs of re-printing the menu, paying the plumber for fixing the leak in the restroom and all the rest.

Maximizing Cash Flow

  • Delay payments as long as possible to those vendors that don’t give you a discount for paying early.  One of our panelist, Ric Mauser likes to pay all of his vendors as soon as possible he said this really allows him to get a true depiction of his actual cash on hand and he gets some of the best rates because of it.
  • Negotiate with staff to pay as many workers as possible every other week.  It was noted by the panelist to make sure you set aside all of the applicable fees and pay your taxes timely.

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December 6, 2010 the Greater Houston Restaurant Association had their annual Past-President’s Council Luncheon

We had some great GHRA historical figures come out and dine with us at this year’s Past-President’s Council Luncheon like Rosemary Garbett formerly of Los Tios, GHRA past president from 1982-1983, one of the first female leaders the association has ever had as president! We also had past-presidents like Shelby Dodson, from What-a-Burger, the GHRA past-president from 1989-1990. In addition to Jeffrey Foster, past-president from 1998-1999 who was formerly with Jack-in-the Box but is now currently with the What-a-Burger family foundation. We were very glad to hear their perspectives of the growth of the association from all three of these past decades and were thrilled to have the current President, Mike Shine, of Texas Food Group and Chris O’Donnell of Brinker International, Inc., President-elect to get their views on where they see the future of the GHRA. Below is a list of all of our Past Presidents that we would formally like to honor. We thank you for you commitment to the GHRA and what you have done for restaurants as an industry!

Year Served Names
1941-43 C.M. Lindsey 
1943-45 John Weldon 
1945-46 Virginia King 
1946-47 Jimmie Petka 
1947-48 Allen Gibson
1948-49 John L. Lewis 
1949-50 Travis Hughes 
1950-51 Bill Williams  
1951-53;   1979-80 Tom Katz
1953-54 Guy Frances 
1954-55 Sonny Look
1955-57 Claverine Buybee 
1957-58 Walter Lewis 
1958-59 Joe Schnitzius 
1959-60 George Dentler
1960-61 Alfred Kahn 
1961-62 Jay Nickerson 
1962-63 Albert Gee 
1963-64 Granveille Harber 
1964-65 Leonard McNeil 
1965-66 Jack Bryant 
1966-67 Vincent Navarro 
1967-68 Sonny Allbritton
1968-69 Allen Petty 
1969-70 Don Bennett
1970-71 Jay Allbritton
1971-72 Leonard LaBarba 
1972-73 Deno Caloudas 
1973-74 James Weeks 
1974-75 Michael Shields 
1975-77 Ennie Allbritton 
1977-78 Hank Dentler
1978-79 Pete Cook
1980-81 John Snyder 
1981-82 Claude Vargo
1982-83 Rosemary Garbett 
1983-84 Carl Perry 
1984-86 Bob Borochoff 
1986-87 Gayle Anderson
1987-88 Jeff Pinkerton
1988-89 Pat McCarley 
1989-90 Shelby Dobson
1990-91 Wesley Howard 
1991-92 Larry Forehand 
1992-93; 2008-09 Ricardo Molina 
1993-94 Lynn Temple
1994-95 Darrin Straughan 
1995-96 Kenneth James 
1996-97 Ricki Oberoi 
1997-98 Bill Edge
1998-99 Jeff Foster 
1999-00 Clifford Moore 
2000-01 Jesse Chaluh 
2001-02 Carmelo Mauro
2002-03 Michael Massa
2003-04 Gary West
2004-05 Russell Ybarra
2005-06 George Christie
2006-08 Carl Walker 
2009-10 Michael Shine

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Picky Eaters: Thanksgiving Edition

Thanksgiving brings together all kinds – your grandmother, your next door neighbor, your in-laws and your daughter’s new college boyfriend. And with this eclectic contingent comes a plethora of dietary restrictions, preferences and consequently, complexities as you begin preparing your holiday feast. THANKFULLY, we’ve put together a list of a few of the possible obstacles you may have to overcome and useful tips for making even the pickiest eaters satiated this year.

Gluten-Free. If you have guests on a gluten-free diet, there are tons of specialty products available at stores like Whole Foods and Central Market. But, if you want to take this opportunity to get outside your comfort zone, try using alternative ingredients and taking new twists on the traditional fixin’s. Almond breadinstead of wheat is fabulous, and even gluten-free gravy is possible (and easy!).

Vegetarian/Vegan. Of course, you’ll have to skip the turkey (unless you opt for tofurkey), but that doesn’t mean everything else has to go – and it doesn’t mean the meal has to be any less savory and filling. Try making a hearty squash dish or a vegetable pot pie, and of course we can’t forget the pumpkin pie! Be conscious of your use of animal products in other dishes – remember, bacon, lard, eggs and cheese may be literally off the table.

Low Sodium. Thanksgiving dinner is notorious for its sodium content, so if you have guests with high blood pressure, consider changing your menu to suit their needs. Low salt stuffing, specially prepared turkey and using unsalted butter and fresh vegetables (instead of canned ones) will make the meal more appropriate for everyone – and hey, you might even feel less bloated too!

Diabetic. There are many ways you can accommodate eaters who need to moderate their sugar intake. For instance, using artificial sweeteners like Splenda or sugar alternatives like Xylitol and Stevia in your baking instead of sugar is a good start, and avoiding syrupy canned fruits makes a difference too.  Focus on fresher foods with minimal preparation (like steamed vegetables instead of sautéed) and whole grains, too.

Picky. Every family has one – the person who just doesn’t like Thanksgiving dinner. Encourage that person to make a dish that they like or speak with them ahead of time so you can prepare a little something special. In fact, no matter what the dietary restriction, having a potluck Thanksgiving where everyone gets to participate is tons of fun and takes the pressure off of the chef.

And when all else fails, these are our GHRA recommendations.

Backstreet Café
Goode Company
Mockingbird Bistro
Omni Hotel Westside Houston
Ragin Cajun


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The pinnacle in Houston culinary achievement is bestowed by the Houston Culinary Awards, presented by My Table Magazine. All Houston restaurants (members and non-members) are eligible, and voted on by the public. We would like to take the opportunity to congratulate our winning members – and boy, where there a lot!

Restaurateur of the Year:
WINNER: Alex Brennan-Martin (Brennan’s
FINALIST: Elouise Adams Jones (Ouisie’s Table)
FINALIST: Tracy Vaught (Backstreet Cafe, Hugo’s, Trevisio)

Chef of the Year
WINNER: Randy Evans (Haven)

Up-and-Coming Chef of the Year (a chef age 35 or under)
WINNER: David Cordúa, 28 (Americas)

Outstanding Wine Service
FINALIST: Mark’s American Cuisine
FINALIST: Mockingbird Bistro Wine Bar
FINALIST: Vic & Anthony’s

Pastry Chef of the Year
WINNER: Ruben Ortega (Hugo’s, Backstreet Cafe)
FINALIST: Armando Ramirez (Benjy’s)

Outstanding Bar Service
WINNER: Capital Grille

Service Person of the Year
WINNER: Sean Beck (Backstreet Cafe, Hugo’s, Trevísio)
FINALIST: Hector Andrade (Mockingbird Bistro)
FINALIST: Mary Donna Moceri (Grotto)

Houston Classic (a restaurant that’s been around for more than 10 years) It should be noted that every finalist and the winner in this category is GHRA member – and in such fine category too!
WINNER: Carrabba’s
FINALIST: Backstreet Cafe
FINALIST: Churrascos
FINALIST: Ninfa’s on Navigation

Best Interior Design
WINNER: Américas (The Woodlands)
FINALIST: Masraff’s

Best New Restaurant

We’d like to recognize the following award-winners as well:

2010 Legends of Houston Restaurant Awards
FINALIST: The Mandola Brothers – Vincent, Tony & Damian

2010 Houston Foodie Star Awards

Favorite Barbecue
WINNER: Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Que

Favorite Breakfast
FINALIST: Kenny & Ziggy’s

Favorite Burger
WINNER: Becks Prime

Favorite Mixologist
WINNER: Sean Beck (Hugo’s, Backstreet Cafe, Trevisio)

Favorite Outdoor Dining

WINNER: Backstreet Cafe
FINALIST: Brennan’s of Houston
FINALIST: Grappino di Nino
FINALIST: Ouisie’s Table

Favorite Wine Seller
WINNER: Spec’s

Way to go members! And, congratulations to each and every placing restaurant, chef and service person. You are what keep us coming back for more!


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The best of trends.

Well, it’s October, so that means 2010 EOY lists are pouring in. ASIDE: November and December, our condolences. At any rate, the most important and arguably most thorough survey pertaining to restaurant trends was performed by the National Restaurant Association, and it has been recently released. What’s all the rage in brunch fare? Ethnic breakfast items. What’s SO out of style it’s not even funny? Cupcakes (BUMMER!).  The list is long, so we’ll give you the high and low points.

Top starch/side went to quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH), receiving a 55% approval rating as a  “hot trend.” And, it stands to reason that a densely nutritious and delicious grain would garner this much attention as consumers continue to demand healthier meals and chefs explore new ways to provide wholesome options.

The big dessert trend this year went to bite-size/mini desserts. We’re hoping that means it’s acceptable to order more than one at a time. But, with a 79% approval rating, we’re guessing people are trying to save on calories, cash and eat more of their main course.

Superfruits like acai, goji berry, mangosteen and purslane came in a close second for produce trend (losing out to locally grown produce) with a 73% approval rating. We’ve seen these anti-oxidant-rich fruits everywhere – from cocktails to dessert – and it doesn’t look like they’re going away any time soon.

Artisinal cheeses, black garlic and ancient grains (like kamut, spelt and amaranth) were also big winners in the “other” category. Black garlic is typically used in Asian cuisines and is made from specially fermented garlic to produce a syrupy sweet and tangy result. Ancient grains provide an often healthier alternative to wheat products, and for those on gluten-free diets, kamut is highly recommended. And artisanal cheese? Come on, it’s delicious cheese!

The unfortunate losers of the list include marshmallows, energy drinks, flavored water and box wine. So, I guess if your supplier is the gas station around the corner, you’ve got a tough road ahead.

The biggest winner of the night, taking the overall prize, is locally grown produce, falling just ahead of locally sourced meats and seafood and sustainability. The biggest prediction for next year is a rise in restaurant gardens, too. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times – supporting local vendors and promoting nutritious eating is here to stay!

What do you think about the latest trends? What do you predict for next year? Share your insight below in the comments!


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BYOB: Rethinking Drinking

You don’t have anything against restaurant wine lists. You’ve tried many unique bottles around town, and they’ve been expertly paired with delicious dishes. But, sometimes you just want your tried and true favorite – the kind you order by the case for special occasions and insist on at the end of a long day. Or perhaps you’ve been craving your favorite craft beer, and you want to celebrate.

So why not BYOB?

There are several Houston restaurants that encourage you to bring your own bottle (s), and with a minimal corking fee (if any), you can avoid overpaying too.

Here are some of our favorites BYOB hotspots:

Lucio’s – The atmosphere may be casual, however, the food is anything but. Bring a few bottles and a few friends, and enjoy a relaxed meal that’s never rushed and always fresh. The crab cakes are to die for, and the blue cheese torte is out of this world. You can even host a wine tasting party! Tip: No corking fee on Tuesdays.

Bistro de Amis – When it comes to Bistro de Amis, French doesn’t have to mean fancy. This restaurant invites you to “come as you are” and bring a bottle while you’re at it! If you run out, you are welcome to try their selection of hand-picked beers and wines too. Tip: Don’t miss out on the traditional crème brulee and go there on your birthday – you’re in for a treat.

Ruggles/Ruggles Green – With several locations and their latest venture, Ruggles Green, BYOB-ers always have tons of options. Bring a bottle or a six-pack (or both!), and take advantage of their extensive menu. We love the warm goat cheese salad and the sweet potato fries.  Tip: Go during off-hours – this place gets packed!

And there you have it. There’s no shame in bringing your own bottles and heading out on the town. What are your favorite BYOB restaurants? Leave your tips in the comments!


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