The day I sat down to write this column, I realized that it was—unbelievably—my six-month anniversary as the Southeast bureau chief for Nation’s Restaurant News. When I wrote my first column in June, I said I knew I had a lot to learn about the restaurant industry. In retrospect, however, I had no idea how much.The past half-year has been a whirlwind of travel and introductions. I’ve met with many executives, toured several operations, attended conferences and, of course, eaten very well. ...

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