The Georgia Restaurant Association has enlisted one of Atlanta’s best-known Asian restaurateurs for a long-term effort aimed at attracting more Asian members.
Anna Hsu, who with her husband Raymond owns Hsu’s Gourmet Chinese Restaurant and Pacific Rim Bistro downtown as well as Silk Restaurant in Midtown, recently joined the association’s board and is exploring how she can help use her good standing in the Asian culinary community to market the benefits of membership.
“She’s the perfect person to sort of lead the charge,” said Ron Wolf, executive director of the association. Over the next three years, the association is mounting a yet unnamed campaign to build a membership base that better reflects the cultural variety of restaurant owners and operators around the state.
In his experience targeting Hispanic restaurateurs, Mr. Wolf learned that going after specific ethnic markets requires a certain amount of cultural finesse and a considerable shift in the organization’s recruiting methods.
Instead of an aggressive campaign based on the whims of current members, the association is determined to step back and take a more long-term, developmental approach, investigating ways to add value for its prospective Asian members, Mr. Wolf said.
That’s where Ms. Hsu comes in, wielding a lifetime’s worth of expertise in the food industry. Although ethnically Chinese, she grew up in Korea, where her parents owned a restaurant serving northern Chinese cuisine.
The food tradition has stayed strong within the family. All five of Ms. Hsu’s brothers are chefs, and her two sisters are involved in the restaurant business as well.
She told GlobalAtlanta that many Asians around Atlanta and the state aren’t aware of the benefits Mr. Wolf’s organization now offers and plans to introduce in the near future.
And Asian restaurants are underrepresented in the association, a phenomenon Ms. Hsu said she hopes to help change.
“You need to be a part of a community where you can learn from other people and get to know other restaurateurs,” she said, adding that the association sometimes provides legal advice and consults members on where to locate or how to market their restaurants.
The latter is a forte of Ms. Hsu, who has initiated or nudged along a variety food- and retail-related marketing efforts around the city, and not just in the Asian community.
She co-founded Midtown Atlanta Shop and Dine Week through the Midtown Neighbors Association. The effort, during which restaurants, shops and hotels in Midtown cooperated to market the area, helped boost the profile of Ms. Hsu’s newest venture, Silk Restaurant, which she opened on Peachtree Street nearly four years ago.
Deedra Hemphill has known Ms. Hsu about that long and considers her a friend. Ms. Hemphill, a coordinator for Shop and Dine, said Ms. Hsu’s connections helped draw in other restaurants.
Ms. Hsu has also been heavily involved with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau as a longtime board member.
She serves as an outspoken voice for Atlanta as a dining destination and makes promoting the city part of her business model, said Lauren Jarrell, communications director at the bureau.
“She is definitely one of the most active restaurateurs that we have specifically in downtown in terms of working with the ACVB to promote our hospitality industry,” Ms. Jarrell said. “She’s an excellent, very strong businesswoman.”
In part relying on Ms. Hsu’s experience but involving a wider cross-section of the Asian community, Mr. Wolf said the association would like to eventually create a food festival in Atlanta focusing on the broad theme of Asian cuisine while appreciating the diverse ethnic identities included under that umbrella.
The association also eventually plans to offer training materials and seminars in a variety of languages to give restaurant owners with mother tongues other than English the same tools available to English-speaking members.
Such cultural sensitivity will be key in showing Asians and other restaurant owners that the association wants to better understand and represent their interests, according to Mr. Wolf.
“We tout ourselves as the voice of Georgia’s restaurant industry, and the voice has to be spoken in more than one language to be a voice,” he said.
To reach that lofty goal, which he says will probably take more than a year, Mr. Wolf hopes to advertise in foreign-language publications and work with universities and other culinary organizations in Atlanta to provide translations for programs like Georgia food code training and Servsafe, the association’s food safety training.
A fluent speaker of Chinese, English and Korean with a little Japanese proficiency, Ms. Hsu has no problem with multilingualism or cultural diversity, two traits that helped shape the flavor of the food and the atmosphere at her restaurants in Atlanta.
Mr. Wolf said the city is gaining increasing international recognition as a dining destination. Ms. Hsu and her husband chose to open Hsu’s and Pacific Rim on Peachtree Center Avenue to take advantage of convention centers nearby, which bring in clients from all over the world.
With the association’s new initiative taking shape over the next few years, Mr. Wolf hopes that other Asian restaurants will have the resources to propel them to success similar to the Hsus’.