Saru Jarayaman, Co-Founder of Restaurant Opportunities Center United

Profile of Saru Jayaraman of Restaurant Opportunities Center United

Written by R.W. Smith Co.
September 8th, 2014

Saru Jayaraman is a well-respected foodservice industry professional who believes in establishments being aware of how to incorporate more responsible practices and effectively manage employees. She is the Co-Founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United and inspiring author of Behind the Kitchen Door.


R.W. Smith: As a successful and well-respected Food Labor Researcher, what inspired you to Co-Found and Co-Direct the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United)?


Saru Jayaraman: When September 11 occurred, there was a restaurant called Windows of the World where many employees lost their jobs due to the catastrophic event. I was asked to start a relief center for the victims and at first it started with providing support to the workers. My primary focus was to ensure employees pay and benefits were being allocated to each person appropriately from their employers. These efforts later became known as part of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United) where I’m currently the Co-Founder. We have aided thousands of citizens to receive the assistance they require during overwhelming times. The ROC-United has helped employees in 32 cities and is expanding at a rapid rate.


RWS: Your partnerships with upstanding establishments and efforts to positively impact the industry are well-known. Please share strategies on how commercial kitchens can implement more responsible practices.


SJ: I would recommend commercial kitchens to focus on sourcing locally and engaging in more environmentally conscious practices.  Embracing a more holistic approach when it comes to livable wages, earnings that don’t require government assistance, paid sick days, and offering healthcare benefits to all employees are also important key items to address.


Currently, there are over 100 establishments, including well-known Chef Tom Colicchio, who believed paying their employees realistic wages will help you receive more customer loyalty, better employee retention rates, and quality work.


Knowing and understanding more about the ergonomics within a kitchen should be another top priority to employers looking to be more responsible. When I was assisting with the development of the Mount Sinai’s School of Medicine kitchen, we suggested having adjustable height cutting boards, using cleaner chemicals with limited amounts of toxins, and non-toxic degreasers. If more businesses took these issues into consideration, there would be less employee accidents and the work environment would be safer.


RWS: What industry resources are helpful to restaurants, hotels and casinos looking to become more sustainable?


SJ: The Rage Association is a supportive resource for restaurants, hotels and casinos interested in advancing the industry standards in employment. There is also an application available to inform consumers if the establishment they are dining at considers the well-being of their employees and work environment.


Learning from other restaurant owners who are implementing sustainable strategies can be influential since you can see the strategies in action. I advise downloading the free ROC Diner Guide to help educate consumers on the hotels, restaurants, and casinos they frequently dine at. The Restaurant Owner’s Manual from the NYC consumer affairs website is also an effective resource that informs employers on proper ergonomic practices and how to effectively manage employees.


RWS: You recently wrote, Behind the Kitchen Door. What inspired you to write about the sustainable, political, economic, and moral implications of dining out?


SJ: Having watched the industry change for the better when books came out for sustainable change, I thought it was necessary to keep these issues at the forefront of both the employer’s and consumer’s minds. My goal was to write a book where customers would understand and demand changes be made within the industry. All of the topics would inevitably need to be adhered to and I felt that it was imperative to get the word out about the modifications taking place. My attempt was to spark a movement for change that would include employers realizing the human side of the business equation.


RWS: The best dining experience that you’ve ever had – where were you and what made it so special?


SJ: I remember when my husband and I took our children to Washington D.C. for a conference and we dined at the Busboys and Poets restaurant. Being vegetarian, options were limited yet our dining experience was exceptional. It was nice to enjoy a meal at a restaurant where our values aligned on employee management and work environment. Also, it impressed me to see they had diversity among the staff.  


Native Son Alehouse Opens in Santa Ana California

New Craft Beer Alehouse in Santa Ana, CA

Written by Ashley Almodovar
September 2nd, 2014

Attention craft beer lovers! Santa Ana has gained a new alehouse in the thriving downtown community that many Southern California locals are excited about. Located on East 4th Street, Native Son Alehouse specializes in small craft breweries from all over California and Portland, OR. Guests can enjoy an open-air second floor patio and indulge in diverse selections of beers including 27 rotating taps.  Some of their more popular drink choices are Lambic and Sour beer, wine, cider and 3 Nitro handles.


Take a night out with friends and experience this new pub that has everyone talking. Discover a new beer that will make your taste buds dance.

Newly Renovated Kona Kai Resort & Marina in San Diego California

Experience Kona Kai’s Beauty in San Diego

Written by Ashley Almodovar
August 12th, 2014

Surrounded by captivating views of the marina and bay on the very tip of Shelter Island, Kona Kai Resort & Marina brings an impressive style and inspiring American spirit to guests coming to visit beautiful San Diego. Just before the Fourth of July weekend, the resort, purchased by Noble House Hotels in late 2012, announced the completion of phase 2 of its $22M renovation.


The high-end boutique Kona Kai Resort now welcomes vacationers from around the world to experience new spacious guest rooms, revitalized in-room amenities, a refreshed lobby, a revamped pool and meeting spaces. Guests can also enjoy the completely refurbuished waterfront restaurant, Vessel, which offers New American cuisine by Executive Chef Erik Nitsche in a chic, yet elegant atmosphere. Have a drink, dine and delight in the 360 degree bar and gorgeous panoramic video art walls or relax in furnished cabanas by the new tiki bars.


For a much needed vacation, come out and experience what Southern California has to offer at the new Kona Kai Resort. To learn more about the resort’s restoration, see their latest news release.

Andrew Freeman

Q&A with Andrew Freeman of AF & Co.

Written by Lauren Zeleniak
August 12th, 2014

Millions of visitors flock to beautiful San Francisco each year to take in the amazing sights, sounds and food. The city is home to famous hospitality and tourism landmarks including Pier 39, historic hotels and exciting festivals.


Andrew Freeman, an expert in Public Relations and Marketing, calls San Francisco his home along with his agency AF & Co. He and his team have played an important part in opening and promoting many luxury restaurants and hotels nation-wide. Andrew also contributes to his industry and community by serving on the board of notable charities and offering his insights to numerous magazines and blogs.


R.W. Smith: After many successful years in the world of marketing and public relations, what inspired you to open your own hospitality consulting agency, Andrew Freeman & Co.?


Andrew Freeman: I’m old! I will be celebrating my 30th year in the business. Over the years, I had the most amazing experiences working with venues including the Rainbow Room, The Russian Tea Room and Windows on The World, along with spending a wonderful 9 years with Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. In each position, I worked with agencies –some of which I loved and a few I thought could do a better job. Along the way, I thought if I ever opened my own agency, I would take the best of the best from the agencies I have worked with and add in my own experience to build an amazing team. One morning I woke up and thought if I don’t do this now, it will never happen. It took me 6 months to set everything up, while I transitioned out of Kimpton, and my agency opened in November of 2005.


RWS: You strive to make the world we live in a better place and feel strongly about working with companies who do the same. Please share with readers the ways in which restaurants and hotels can support and benefit their community.


AF: First off, choose partners and charities that align with your business goals and target markets. Also, the person that is responsible for this type of cause or partnership marketing needs to have true passion for the work, the charities and the goals. For me, this was a no brainer as my mentors in life taught me how important it was to give back and use my voice as well as my skills to make the world a better place. I am a huge supporter of Dress for Success, Meals on Wheels and The Richmond Ermet AIDS Foundation. I was very proud in my years at Kimpton to help create the highly successful LGBT Travel Program, the Women In Touch Program and the Pet Friendly Program – all of which had charity tie ins.


So here’s the deal – for restaurants and hotels, these affiliations are still very much about business, of course they raise funds and awareness as well. Once you lock in your partners and give them an idea of what you can commit to, in the way of funds, rooms and meals, you need to put a value on those contributions and ask what you get in return. This may include promotion to their donor base, inclusion in their newsletters or positioning as the lead sponsor at their annual gala. Once you have made your commitment, do not be a one night stand. If it was good for the business along with being successful, keep building and growing the partnership. If it wasn’t successful, move on and make sure the charity understands why you made the decision.


For community marketing, I feel that hotels and restaurants can truly cut back on paid advertising and give the money to these charities –to achieve a win-win model.


RWS: What advice do you have for restaurants, hotels, bars and casinos that are working to implement or improve their marketing approach?


AF: Don’t be all things to all people.  Identify your target markets, do the research and don’t guess, then build strategies that are directed towards those groups.  Also if your concept is not clear, and can be recited by everyone in one sentence or less, you are not ready to market at all. I am also a big advocate for putting yearly plans together, but then doing 90 plans to keep things on track or change them as needed.  It truly is all about heads in beds and butts in seats. Lofty plans are always disappointing, so less is more. Focus on three actions per quarter that will make the most impact. The best advice I can give these restaurants, hotels, bars and casinos is simply to hire me!


RWS: AF & Co. works with restaurants, hotels and chefs to build awareness of their brand and increase sales. Please tell us about one particular strategy that helps a foodservice establishment achieve these goals.


AF: In addition to the partnership and cause related marketing that I discussed earlier, I am a real believer in an opening full of marketing programs that make people want to visit you and then keep coming back. Celebrate loyalty creatively and reward your very best guests with dinners, stays and public recognition. In addition, have fun with programs like Sunday Family dinners, stay-cations, social media contests and over the top brunches.  Above all of this, be sure you are very secure with the quality of your products, food and service that you are creating evangelists to spread the word about how fabulous your properties are.  Right now I am into two initiatives, I love Instagram to tell stories with pictures and I am a big advocate of a return to snail mail for invitations and offers.  People still enjoy getting mail.


RWS: Having been instrumental in many restaurant and hotel openings nationwide, describe for us a stand-out grand opening event that you attended and what made it so special.


AF: Well, this is like choosing my favorite child. I have opened over 75 hotels and restaurants. We have had clowns, live animals, fire eaters and so much more. Openings should truly support your concept on all levels, so no boring ribbon cuttings.


One of my favorites was the opening night of the Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz – everything about the invitation and the party was about discovery. Expect the Unexpected was the theme and as guests made their way through the party, clues and unique entertainment were revealed. We even had mermaids and mermen.


Another big night for me was the opening of the very first SF Chefs, now called Eat Drink SF in its 6th year.  It is the biggest food and wine festival on the West Coast.  We are proud to be the co-producers on behalf of our client The Golden Gate Restaurant Association. The opening night of the grand tasting tent on Union Square was unbelievable.  We had over 50 chefs cut the world’s biggest noodle and amazing noodle dancing displays from our client M.Y. China, Chef Martin Yan’s highly successful San Francisco based restaurant.  I can go on and on, so many crazy and wonderful memories.



Andrew Freeman is a New Jersey native with an impressive resume in the world of Public Relations and Marketing including legendary venues such as Windows on the World, the Russian Tea Room, the Rainbow Room and Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. In 2005, Andrew opened his own agency, AF & Co. in San Francisco, and began working with some of the best restaurants nationwide including Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, David Burke Restaurants, Marriott Hotels International and the Palm Restaurant Group. Andrew firmly believes in making the world around him a better place and does so by helping the causes he feels most strongly about including Meals on Wheels San Francisco, Dress for Success San Francisco and Richmond Ermet AIDS Foundation.

Dry Orange Marmalade Martini

Refreshing and Rad Cocktails!

Written by Lauren Zeleniak
August 12th, 2014

By featuring a selection of exotic ingredients, you can rejuvenate your cocktail menu. These adventurous recipes are sure to delight guests. Also consider incorporating your own flare by infusing your establishment’s theme in to the drinks below.


Refreshing Kiwi Smash

Highlight the bright essence of ripe kiwi and lemon in your alcoholic beverages to add a lively addition that is sure to exceed diners’ expectations. Muddle fruit with fine white rum and serve in a high ball glass or tumbler to showcase the vibrant ingredients.



  • Lemon or Kiwi slices
  • White Rum
  • Lemonade



Strawberry Sriracha Margarita

Intensify your guests’ dining experience by offering a red hot strawberry margarita. Blend juicy strawberries, ice and fine tequila with Sriracha until zesty and smooth. Present in a margarita glass with a salted rim.



  • Strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • Tequilla
  • Cointreau (or other orange flavored liquor)
  • Agave nectar
  • Sriracha
  • Ice



Dry Orange Marmalade Martini

Tie-in an orange twist to your cocktail menu with this refreshing and delectable martini recipe. The cohesion of vodka, juice and marmalade creates an explosion of citrus flavor. Shake and pour the ingredients into a stunning martini glass for visual inspiration that is sure to impress guests.



  • Grapefruit Vodka
  • Triple Sec Liqueur
  • Fresh Lime Juice
  • Dry Orange Marmalade


Let your creativity flow when crafting new cocktails for your bar menu! Rotate your drink selection often to allow guests the opportunity of sampling new beverages with each visit.





Alphabet City Root & Bone Restaurant Opening in Manhattan

Root & Bone Brings a Rural American Taste to Manhattan

Written by Ashley Almodovar
July 29th, 2014

In June, a team of two former Top Chef Contestants opened a new restaurant in the Alphabet City neighborhood of Manhattan in NY. Chefs Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth bring their artistic culinary ideas together at Root & Bone, a casual farmhouse restaurant with a twist of timeless rural American traditions. Surrounded by flowers, bones and antique china décor, this neighborhood restaurant offers a wide menu of southern small-town dishes including their fried chicken and waffle sandwich, southern style cornbread and grilled sweet corn cob. To highlight their passion for a garden-to-table atmosphere, all ingredients are locally sourced to ensure the highest quality seasonal products are used. For guests on the go, adjacent to the restaurant will be a takeout counter called The Little Root Market, offering salads, sandwiches, buckets of chicken and desserts such as pies and cakes.


Next time you’re in New York, come by and experience mouth-watering dishes that will surely make your taste buds dance. To see more photos of Root & Bone, check out their gallery and enjoy!

Restaurant Tabletop Accessories

Dining Room Installation Insights from the Experts

Written by Whitney Humphrey
July 21st, 2014


Every restaurant owner and manager desires to stand out with a captivating atmosphere, unique menu items and eye-catching food presentations. The china, flatware and glassware you choose should reinforce the theme of your establishment.


According to our seasoned R.W. Smith team member, April, a combination of creativity and practicality should be considered when designing a dining room. Incorporate a balance between unique products along with items that are easy to obtain while still maintaining a realistic budget.


Establish a blueprint for tabletop settings that synchronizes with your opening or remodeling plans.  You can order for yourself or work with a trusted Sales Consultant who will assist with price points, discuss initial costs, and long-term ordering goals. One of our tabletop experts, Alexa, in our Arizona territory recommends selecting items that can be assured a timely delivery. She makes it a priority to have product arrive on schedule.


Selecting the Right Tabletop Products


Time is a valuable commodity for restaurant owners and managers. Use the resources available to you from the beginning to help speed up the product selection process.


Fully understanding the vision and goals that you aim to achieve are critical. Consider the overall theme that you desire to create for your customers and purchase tabletop product with a design that heightens the room’s aesthetics. As well as boosting the visual appeal of your dining room, it’s important to choose dinnerware, flatware and glassware that are durable enough for your day-to-day operations to reduce your long-term costs.


Purchasing Complementary Products


To ensure products will enhance your customer’s experience, RWS specialist Claudia suggests having a cohesive understanding of the style and general theme you wish to express. It may take time to achieve the ultimate look and feel you want to convey to guests.


San Diego-based team member, Gilles, suggests requesting samples of product you are most interested in. Before purchasing, set example tabletop presentations to gauge which best fits with your dining room design. The front of house and back of house visions need to harmonize in order to establish a consistent and pleasing restaurant décor.


Achieving a Successful Installation


A well-designed dining room balances a unique experience for guests, smooth operational flow and a restaurant atmosphere that makes a statement.


Guidelines for a winning install experience:

  • Establish your vision and identify your target audience first.
  • Research online and check out publications for theme ideas and inspiration.
  • Select product that highlights the theme.
  • Make product quality and durability a priority.
  • Choose product that will deliver on time.
  • Stay within the initial budget.


Work with a Sales Consultant who understands your short-term and long-term goals.

Kimpton Brice Hotel

Project Showcase – The Brice Hotel

Written by Ashley Almodovar
July 18th, 2014

Project: The Brice Hotel – Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group


Opened:   May 2014


About Company: Based in San Francisco, the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group operates more than 60 luxury hotels and restaurants in about 27 cities nationwide. In 2012, Kimpton bought The Mulberry Inn in Georgia and closed it for renovations in August 2013.


In May, The Brice Hotel opened its doors with a new restaurant, 145 contemporary rooms and upgraded facade. With nearly 6,000 square feet of meeting and event space, the hotel is ideal for work conferences, holiday celebrations and weddings. Guests enjoy a warm rustic atmosphere while indulging in age-old Italian cooking techniques at the truly unique Pacci Italian Kitchen and Bar Restaurant. The Brice Hotel is Kimpton Hotel Group’s first Savannah property.


Length of project:  9 Months


RWS Contribution: Our Sales Consultant assisted Kimpton Corp. Management with their product development needs from the selection process to ordering to delivery. By staying in tune with current trends and new product launches, R.W. Smith found unique and cutting-edge products that ideally fit Kimpton’s concepts. From start to finish, our Sales Consultant provided a variety of products including tabletop for the entire property, kitchen smallwares, light equipment, banquet supplies, bar supplies and specialty custom pieces.


Partnership: One word that describes the relationship between Kimpton and R.W. Smith is strong. Our Sales Consultant built a long-lasting relationship not only with the corporate mix of individuals, but also the end-user at the hotel level that he worked with on a daily basis. Jason, R.W. Smith’s seasoned Sales Consultant, thoroughly enjoyed each and every Kimpton employee throughout the project and continues to build a very trusting and professional partnership.


Jason worked thoughtfully on his presentation, combing through dozens of documents that were sent his way for inspiration. He drew together many accurate documents (and countless revisions) to get the overall project budget where it needed to be. He was responsive and thorough at all hours of the day. When it came time to put rubber to the road, Jason was on the ground in hot, sticky weather with a pending monsoon overhead, receiving dozens of palettes of equipment, directing traffic and really expediting the process.


It’s great to work with someone that can go from a board room with third party ownership to a desktop detailing accurate spreadsheets and accountability to getting dirty in the field.”


Matthew Meidinger
Director of Restaurant Openings, Transitions & Concept Development
Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group


Rancho Capistrano Winery Opens in San Juan Capistrano

Written by Ashley Almodovar
June 30th, 2014

Calling all Southern California Wine Lovers!  Come and indulge in a glass of wine at the new Rancho Capistrano Winery in San Juan Capistrano. This family-owned winery offers “handcrafted wines from grapes gathered from around the world” and, of course, from here in California. Each wine is made locally, and the winery features 50 plus different wines to fit all types of wine lovers. Family and friends can enjoy delicious small plates with their wine while relaxing on the expansive garden patio or in the cozy lounge.


Looking to join a wine club? Rancho Capistrano Winery has a remarkable wine club that offers free tastings for members and the best part is they can choose when to stop by. There are several club membership levels with many benefits including two bottles of wine each month, extra discounts and invitations to special gatherings and events. If you’re looking for something different, why not create your own wine? Whether for an event or just to relax, Rancho Capistrano’s winemaker will assist you in creating your own extraordinary wine. It is fun, easy and a great way to bring out your inner winemaker.


Drop by Rancho Capistrano Winery today and experience incredible handcrafted wines from around the world.

Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, California

Poppy Hills Shows Off New Look in Pebble Beach

Written by Ashley Almodovar
June 20th, 2014

Deep within the Del Monte forest of Pebble Beach, CA lays a newly renovated and gorgeous golf course. Poppy Hills Golf Course, owned and operated by the Northern California Golf Association, underwent an extensive 13-month renovation to help improve water conservation and management throughout the course. Every hole has been renewed from sand capping to natural course elevation to wider fairways creating a fast, firm and fun atmosphere for members. Poppy Hills is already scheduled to co-host The First Tee Open in September and will continue to host the event until 2016 or beyond.


Along with improvements to the golf course, other areas of the facility have been renovated. One in particular is the dining room. With the addition of Chef Johnny De Vivo, Porter’s is now a farm-to-table restaurant using local and organic ingredients throughout the menu. For those who love the outdoors, members can enjoy their meals on a rebuilt deck with heated outdoor seating, protected high glass railing and stunning views of the course. The practice facility includes seven greens, four bunkers and an acre teeing ground for quality practice all year long.


For more details, please visit