Omnivore - Atlanta not ready for goat cheese

The New York Times has a fascinating article this week about how much planning, market research and financial risk are involved when a restaurant chain adds a new dish to its menu.

In an anecdote that doesn't speak well for the sophistication of local diners, the story describes how the folks who run a hometown chain decided that Atlanta wasn't adventurous enough to handle goat cheese:

Goat cheese, for instance, failed to impress customers when it landed in a salad last year on the menu at the Atlanta Bread Company chain of bakery restaurants, based in their namesake city. That surprised Chris Campagna, the vice president for marketing, who said his customers like to take risks. Those who tried the salad liked it, he said, but there were not enough orders to keep it on the menu.

“It was a little too early for goat cheese,” Mr. Campagna said. But, he vowed, “we’ll try it again a few years down the road.”

While goat cheese bombed, a sandwich of Cuban roast pork loin with cheese, mustard and roast pickled onions is being served at all 160 of the company’s locations in 24 states, even as far north of Cuba as Beloit, Wis. Modeled after the classic Cuban version, the Atlanta Bread sandwich sells well in areas both with and without sizable Hispanic populations, Mr. Campagna said.

For the most part, however, the company has focused less on ethnic dishes and more on sauces and spreads that can make a sandwich seem more sophisticated. For example, it puts a sun-dried tomato topping on its turkey sandwich, served on ciabatta. “They still want their chicken salad, they still want their turkey, but they want sun-dried-tomato spread and pesto,” Mr. Campagna said.

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