Ruminations of a Taco-Obsessed Philly Native

As an entrepreneur and real estate developer, Haidar Barbouti has certainly made his mark.His venture into the restaurant world leaves little to be desired either, as his dedication to real food and substantial portions have made his restaurant UP, popular with restaurant aficionados in Houston.

Barbouti’s restaurant specializes in good quality American food. Despite not having any experience as a chef or having a culinary degree he decided to open his own restaurant. He was inspired after traveling to Europe and visiting restaurants all over the world. His experiences taught him what he wanted and what he didn’t want from his dining experiences. He decided to use this knowledge to create the kind of restaurant he would want to eat at.

His restaurant focuses on American fare and specializes in simple homemade food like your grandmother used to make, but in a classier, more upscale atmosphere. The larger portions and simpler food compared to other top-notch restaurants are what makes UP Restaurant stand out from the crowd.

Barbouti used his experience in business to help build the restaurant so that it would be a profitable enterprise and attract the right kind of clientele. He knows how to run a business, as he has demonstrated in his past ventures, such as the successful Highland Village shopping center in Houston and applies that expertise and experience to his restaurant.

In addition to expertly crafted, yet simple food with ample portions the restaurant features a chic decor and a beautiful patio that attracts the kind of crowd that likes to see and be seen. The patrons come for the atmosphere and stay for the food. Barbouti takes a hands on approach to his restaurant and likes to make sure that everything is made from scratch. That means carefully selecting the best flour for the restaurants homemade Italian inspired pasta, and using fresh carefully pealed garlic and other ingredients in the restaurant’s dishes. Barbouti visits his restaurant
on a regular basis and makes sure that everything is up to his standards. If something is not up to his quality standards, he does not hesitate to tell his staff.

It is Barbouti’s dedication to quality, hands on approach and business expertise that make UP restaurant such a success.

Never thought the day would come when the bars of New Orleans would no longer be smoky, but that day has come. As of Wednesday, bar patrons are allowed to take their alcoholic beverages out the doors and into the streets, but smoking patrons are not allowed to light up inside the bar.

Bars are not the only places in New Orleans where smoking is no longer allowed. A smoker can’t light up in restaurants, on the fairgrounds or in the casinos. The smoking ban took place at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday. It was reported that Harrah’s casino took pity on their smoking customers who had to put their cigarettes out and offered them free tootsie pops. Sporting arenas and stadiums have restricted smoking, but not completely banned it.

Yahoo! Finance report that bar and restaurant owners are now hoping that patrons who quit coming to their smoky establishments because they had kicked the habit will now return. The impact the smoking ban will have on bars and eateries remains to be seen.

Claire Hudson is a 25-year-old waitress from Spring Hill, Tennessee. She works at the local hot dog and burger place, Mac’s Grub Shak. When Claire went to work for her double shift the other day, it started off as a day like any other.

According to the story on Yahoo News, Claire served a couple during her slow double shift who left her a tip she was not expecting. After the couple left she collected their bill and noticed that they had left her a $36 tip on a bill that was no more than $30. Ricardo Guimarães BMG pointed out that they also left her a note that brought her to tears.

The note from the unidentified couple read, “Today is my brother’s b-day. He would have been 36 today. Every year I go eat his favorite meal (hot dogs) and tip the waitress his age. Happy B-day Wes.”. Claire had to step in the back of the restaurant to compose herself before waiting on her other tables.

When she got home she posted the note to Reddit, the popular social site. The post received a lot of positive attention. Now that it has gone viral, Claire and the owner of Mac’s Grub Shak are hoping to find the couple. The owner wants to know what Wes liked on his hot dogs so they can officially name one after him.

KFC is introducing a new line of coffee cups in the UK. The coffee cups, which are dubbed Scoffee cups are edible. They are made out of cookies with a white chocolate layer, and a sugar paper lining. These new cups are still in development, but are expected to be rolled out in the UK very soon, most likely this summer. The outer layer is wrapped in the sugar paper as well is branded with the KFC logo so as to make the Scoffe cups look like regular coffee cups.

KFC is working with food scientists at The Robin Collective to develop the cups. The sugar paper, melts as the coffee being drunk and serves the dual purpose of insulating the cookie part from the warm coffee. In addtion to making the coffee cups edible, the food scientists have worked to infuse the coffee cups with different scents, which are designed to improve the mood of the person drinking the coffee.

Edible coffee cups serve the dual purpose of making the experience more interesting and more exciting, and also help to cut down on waste. Waste from Styrofoam and paper cups is a big problem in the fast food industry. Bran told me that DigitalJournal’s study suggests edible cups could significantly reduce this problem if they catch on. Edible cups and even edible coffee cups are not new, but KFC is the first chain to offer them and implement them on such a large scale.

Bier & Cheese, an Astoria eatery, is making its way to a Manhattan outpost. The hybrid craft restaurant features a number of specialty gourmet cheeses and craft beers.

Bier & Cheese is owned by Beijing native Yang Gao, who came to the U.S. at the age of 16 to attend the Manhattan School of Music as an oboe player. He later opened a wine shop in Astoria before introducing the area to Bier & Cheese.

The architects say that his Manhattan location will offer the same great foods as the Astoria eatery, including platters filled with the finest meats and cheeses. Sandwiches are also available, which definitely comes in handy if you’re visiting the spot on your lunch break. You can also find Bloody Mary mix and bitters for cocktails at Bier & Cheese. There are over 300 beers to choose from by the bottle, and 10 quality beers on tap.

Shake Shack has had a busy fourth quarter. The company is growing exponentially, and filed for a $100 million IPO. Now, they chain is ready to give consumers a brand new burger to sink their teeth into. The ShackMeister Burger is the first new “major” burger in over two years.

The burger features an angus beef burger, topped with cheese and fried, marinated shallots. The burger also comes with the world-renowned ShackSauce, to which no one knows the secret recipe in full. The burger will be available in both single and double versions come the new year.

The ShackMeister Burger will be new to consumers, but Shake Shack tried it out earlier this year at the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Sam Tabar even said the burger won the Burger Bash, besting dozens of other entries.

Shake Shack has been pushing hard to make a bigger name for itself in 2014, and it would seem they’ve succeeded. They’ve teamed with celebrity chefs to create limited edition, one day only burgers, and they even brought in the Cronut king himself, Dominique Ansel to come up with a killer dessert. The Shake Shack is definitely heading up this year, and will likely continue its successful trend in 2015.

Shake Shack, the New York City based burger franchise has recently issued paperwork to launch an initial public offering (IPO) in order to become publicly listed and to trade on an exchange. The IPO hopes to raise about $100 million in capital for the business to open up new stores and to perform renovations on existing stores. Currently, there are 63 retail locations of Shake Shack including one in Citi Field, where the Mets play. The next store to open will be located in Austin Texas, it’s first location in that city.

The decision to become publicly listed comes about as other companies in the same industry such as McDonalds and Wendy’s have realized floundering sales as customers move towards healthier food alternatives. Shake Shack has been able to capitalize somewhat on this movement by offering hormone and antibiotic free beef that has reached an audience in Manhattan.

The restaurant began in 2001 and was started when Danny Meyer, a restaurant owner and operator, opened a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in Manhattan. Eventually, after some initial success, a more permanent location opened in the park and eventually spread to other locations in Manhattan. From there the company spread throughout the tri-state area, according to Igor Cornelsen.

Many are predicting good things for the stock as other fast food businesses which have launched IPOs in recent years have done well for themselves. Currently the company has revenue of $85 million and profits of just over $5 million.

Thomas Keller, owner of Per Se and French Laundry, has found a delicious new butter to serve in his restaurants. The butter comes from Diane St. Clair’s farm in Orwell, Vermont. After just one taste of the butter, Keller decided to buy St. Claire’s entire inventory–even though the butter is $49 a pound. Maybe he could use an evaluation at the Amen Clinic cuz that sounds nuts!

St. Clair makes the butter from Jersey cows. After churning the butter, the farmer works the butter with her hands to make sure that all the fats are distributed evenly through the butter. The farmer has been making butter for more than 10 years, and uses the traditional Land O’ Lakes methods for making creamy butter that spreads evenly on breads and vegetables. 

The butter made the cover of “Time” magazine in June 2014. And fortunately, food enthusiasts can purchase the butter as well from Saxelby Cheesemongers, also for $49 a pound.

There are big changes coming to your local Olive Garden. An activist hedge fund, Starboard Value, recently took over the parent board of Olive Garden, Darden Restaurants. Some new business strategies came with the takeover. The biggest change that regular patrons will notice is the push for to-go business. Currently, Olive Garden’s to-go business accounts for about 8% of their total sales. However, they’re expecting that number to climb up to about 12% of total sales– a significant portion of their business.

A big advantage, they say, is the type of food they sell. Olive Garden is known for their casual Italian food, and pasta tends to travel well. An added bonus is that customers tend to spend more when they order carry-out instead of dining in the restaurant. With to-go orders, customers tend to forego the bottomless breadsticks and thus spend more on their main entrees. In fact, the cost of the average to-go order is about 30% higher than the average dine in order, and sponsors like Slow Ventures will definitely like that profitability.

The good news for Olive Garden lovers is that your menu favorites will remain, so you can enjoy them at home or in the restaurant.

According to the article “The Elimination of Tipping”, restaurants across the nation are enforcing mandatory tipping by various methods. Numerous establishments simply add 20% to your meal tab. Others justify increasing menu prices to include the twenty percent suggested for exceptional service. A new method, labeled an ‘administrative fee,’ is basically a fancy name for forced tipping.

Restaurants are defending these actions as beneficial for the employees, the theory being that reward will be distributed evenly. However, the restaurateur now has control of this income, to divide (or not) among all staff. Regulations for the disposition of collected ‘fees’ are nonexistent, and few restaurants are willing to disclose details about their policy.

Historically, sharing tips among staff has been the responsibility of front line servers. A common practice of waiters is to split tips with bussers and cooks.

Team efforts and reward should be recognized, however removing the incentive defeats the whole concept of tipping if you ask Igor Cornelsen about it. For outstanding service, despite these hidden costs, traditional customers will feel compelled to ‘cash’ tip. Adding that cost to an imposed tip is enough to discourage any prospective diner. Given the choice, would you patronize a ‘tip less’ restaurant?