Good Food Fast…in Jamaican Restaurants
I have been in the Jamaican restaurant business in Atlanta since 1994. Even though this
has been a very rewarding experience, I have concluded there is another level of serving
food that I, and others, have not reached.
Don’t get me wrong when I say another level, because everything has to grow to its
limits; if limits are set, too. What I am talking about is the consistent conservativeness we
Jamaicans practice when making food in our restaurants. If we are to reach out to
everybody else as we do when we market our beaches to tourists, then a little change in
attitude and concept will not only bring about fun but also attract more people and give
wider acceptance to our serving delicious foods, in style.
In addition, a clearly defined marketing strategy and modern selling techniques will be
the keys that will make us grow to excellent status in the food selling business. The ‘hard
sell’ style that most of are used to from the Caribbean will not work in all parts of the
So instead of assuming that your customer knows what he or she wants, give away free
samples of the different kind’s food one day a week. It is also noted, too many times, that
we do not easily employ subtly and tact as we should when marketing our products.
When I have discussions with Jamaican restaurants owners, the subject of marketing
rarely comes up, though. In fact, the emphasis is invariably on higher profits and more
customers. In my humble opinion, more customers do not always bring higher profits.
The better way to market is to make your current customers spend more money by
enticing him or her with things of interest and stress the benefits of these products.
When I travel throughout the Atlanta area, I cannot help but notice the many brightly
painted Jamaican restaurants that have popped up in the last five years. They are scattered
from the top of the metropolitan area to the bottom of the sprawling suburbs. As much as
this might appear a phenomenon, I still get goose bumps at the thought of Jamaican
restaurants competing with so many other ethnic restaurants that have entrenched
themselves in the Atlanta culinary landscape for so long.
Notwithstanding, the feeling that Jamaican food is making an impact on the food scene is
one of excitement and pride, in many ways. Whereas other ethnic restaurants do have a
massive support system for buying stock and supplies, we make do with our
unconventional ways of bargain hunting for the lowest prices to please our customers.
On top of that, the exclusive Jamaican restaurant suppliers in Atlanta that have made it
their goal to provide the best service to the Caribbean community, have also had to deal
with other suppliers who see this as a lucrative market for future gain, too.
As a result, cutting the price of certain critical Jamaican items such as curry powder, jerk
seasoning, and scotch bonnet peppers by the new restaurant suppliers has helped many a
Jamaican restaurateurs both old and new to the business. In the long run, however, this
type of astute business penetration do create a disadvantage for the traditional suppliers
who have gone far out of their way to stock some of these same items for the sole
purpose of selling to Jamaican restaurants. In essence, all industry thrives on without any
intent, the zero-sum game; one has to lose so the other has to gain. Making that the point
is another bleak issue that few of us Caribbean people will ever agree to acknowledge.
However the truth is, if Jamaican restaurants are doing very well in a particular market, it
comes naturally that other service providers of ethnic foods will see fit to join in the fray
for profit. Like it, or not, we have no choice but to welcome these suppliers.
A challenge in the Jamaican restaurants business is to replicate the same cooking
methods we use on the island. I have always hoped to make the pit style Jerk Chicken as
I know how, but the rules of the local Department of Environmental Health and other
statewide health agencies, restrict what cooking methods I use to bring food safely to the
As a result, I, and others, have had to use an oven to make Jerk Chicken. It is safe, clean,
authentic, and genuinely jerk. I have seen, though, where some chefs use a grill at first to
create the smoke flavor and then finish the jerk chicken in the oven. It is a matter of
choice under the rules set forth by the local health authorities.
When making other foods, too, we must take care that the final result meets the national
health standards and our customers taste. It is only fair, also, to take care that we show
some sensitivity towards our customers’ choice in eating certain foods based on religious
teachings and health issues.
How authentic do you want your Jamaican food? This question seems to be at the heart of
some people who are more preservationist than the average Joe. There is no way to make
the food as your grand mother did on the three stone wood-fire up in Trelawney…that is
the plain truth.
A case in point is the new Jamaican breakfast food that has wholly taken over the
market…porridge. Jamaican restaurants are now using the packaged porridge mixes that
save time and bring better quality porridges to the market today. Even banana and
plantain porridges are now combined in packages with peanut and oatmeal for porridge
making; which would have taken a long time not so long ago. Are these porridges
authentic? You bet they are…taste and all.
All in all, the modernization and changing cooking techniques have made it easier to
serve more people in a short time as opposed to yesterday. The food is still authentic and
even more flavor induced than any other time.
One facet of the Jamaican restaurant business I can boast about is the fresh foods we
By default, some of the spices we use do not taste good after sitting in gravy for very
long time. Curry powder especially is the chief of spices that can make one lose
customers and eventually go broke. It takes special handling and knowledge to preserve
curry in stews. Because of this, many restaurants take the precaution of not making too
much curry based foods each day...only an ample amount will do, in case it does not sell
For that reason, some Jamaican restaurants may not have your favorite stew peas and rice
if you get there late at night…when it is done for that day, it is done. Since nobody is
rushing to find a way to preserve Jamaican restaurant food for a long time, the food is
automatically made fresh everyday.
Fresh juices and drinks are also a signature trademark of Jamaicans. Of all the ethnic
restaurants in Atlanta, Jamaican restaurants are that leading ones in making fresh
homemade drinks. You can get Peanut Punch,
and Stallion Punch, at almost every little Jamaican hole in the wall everywhere around town.
The prices are reasonable as well; if you look at the fact, that all these juices and drinks
are natural and the amount of time the workers put into making them, without
In conclusion, we Jamaican restaurants operators face some challenges we will easily
overcome if we pay close attention the practices of the local market. In our quest to be the
best at our craft, we must embrace positive changes with as much keenness and
enthusiasm in claiming our rightful place in the Atlanta culinary industry.
Although we have had an impact on the local market, it is still peripheral at best. When
an effective Jamaican Restaurant Association is in place with the intent to create an
economic force with ample purchasing power, we will continue to wade in the financial
waters, so to speak.
Keeping those thoughts in mind, in the meantime, let our presence be that gesture for
growth and progress through the years to come…for everyone’s sake. YAH MON!
These little Jamaican restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia serve up the real Jamaican taste. They do it right
every time; no frills, no bells, no whistles.
It’s just good ‘ol fashion Jamaican cooking.
Stop by any one of these locations at:
1142 Athens Hwy.Grayson, GA 30017.
Telephone: (678) 344-5864. Get Map
All Island Cafe
4761 Memorial Drive Decatur, GA 30032.
Telephone: (404) 292-0106 Est. 1992
Eat Right (Location 1)
1943 Wesley Chapel Rd. Decatur, GA 30035.
Telephone: (404) 289-1623
7173 E. Covington Hwy.Lithonia, GA 30058.
Telephone: (770) 482-8313. Get Map
6116 Covington Highway, Suite D Lithonia, GA 30058.
Telephone: (770) 593-8400. Est. 2000Get Map
6651A Covington Hwy.
Suite A Lithonia, GA 30058
Telephone:(770) 987-9971 Est. 2006Get Map
6125 Covington Hwy. Suite# 5
Lithonia, GA 30058
Telephone: (678) 518-8649 Est. 2006Get Map
4885 Redan Road, Stone Mountain, GA 30088.
Telephone: (404)296-1475 Est. 1995 Get Map
JAMAICAN & CARIBBEAN GROCERY STORES
E & J CARIBBEAN GROCERY
1982 E. Main Street Hwy. 78
Snellville, GA 30078
Telephone: (770) 985-0822 Est. Get Map
And, sign up for the Internet's only Jamaican food e-zine, "Foodie Jamaican", solely dedicated to giving you valuable information on cooking Jamaican food.
Sugar Nuts Pastry
6814 Main St.
Lithonia, GA 30058
Telephone:(770) 482-2770 Get Map
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