Chain Beverage Buzz: August 6, 2012

Restaurant operators have scaled back their expectations for the future despite increases in same-store sales and customer traffic levels during the month of June, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index. The survey’s Expectations Index slipped 0.7% compared to May, despite 61% of operators who said same-store sales increased between June 2011 and June 2012. Meanwhile, research company Black Box Intelligence also reported an increase in same-store sales (1.5%), although it reported a decrease of 0.6% in traffic for the month. The second quarter in general saw significant volatility in the metrics; June’s same-store sales metric was preceded by a 0.4% decrease in May and a 1.3% increase in April. For the quarter as a whole, same-store sales rose 0.7% and traffic fell 1.6%.

Fidelity National Financial Inc. and J. Alexander’s Corp. have amended their previously announced merger agreement. Under the amended agreement, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based financial firm agreed to make an all-cash tender offer for all the shares of the Nashville, Tennessee-based restaurant chain for $13 per share, valuing the equity of J. Alexander’s at approximately $78 million. Fidelity’s original proposal was to acquire the chain for $12 per share in a combination of cash and stock. J. Alexander’s Corp. operates 33 J. Alexander’s restaurants in 13 states.

Applebee'sDineEquity Inc. has agreed to sell 65 Applebee’s restaurants in Michigan, which will complete the company’s five-year strategy of turning the casual-dining chain into an almost fully franchised brand. Since acquiring Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar in 2007, Glendale, Calif.-based DineEquity has sold or entered into agreements to sell all of its 510 domestic company-operated restaurants, except for 23 test market locations the company intends to keep.


Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Kona Grill Inc. announced plans to expand its happy hour and menu initiatives after they Kona Grillcontributed to strong profit in the second quarter, executives said during the company’s earnings call. The American grill and sushi chain rolled out a new wine list in June with more competitive pricing in addition to new healthy, spicy and summer food menus. The restaurant owner and operator also will begin a remodel program across its 23 properties.

Darden Restaurants is making progress on its road to sustainability, according to the Orlando-based company’s second sustainability report. Most notably, Darden has exceeded its 2015 goal of reducing water consumption in each of its 1,900 restaurants by 15% on aggregate and is more than halfway toward meeting the same goal for reducing energy consumption.

Ruth's Chris Steak HouseOrlando-based Ruth’s Chris Steak House is partnering with Wine Enthusiast Magazine to host its inaugural 90+ Rated Wine Dinner. The five-course meal, held Aug. 23, will feature wines rated with 90 points or more handpicked by the editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Each guest also will receive a complimentary three-month subscription to the magazine. Ruth’s Chris counts more than 130 restaurants in its global portfolio.


Brinker International Inc. honored global franchise partner, Alsea, with its "Franchisee of the Year" award for the excellence the company has achieved operating 34 Chili's Grill & Bar restaurants throughout Mexico. The award is the highest honor bestowed on a Brinker franchisee and is determined by measuring several operational standards, including guest experience, team member engagement and sales. Dallas-based Brinker owns or franchises more than 1,500 restaurants in 32 countries and two territories including Chili's Grill & Bar and Maggiano's Little Italy.

New Port Richey, Fla.-based Manitowoc Foodservice donated $1,000 to the Red Robin Foundation public charity and an additional $1,000 to the "In Memory of Alex 'Sully' Sullivan" donation fund, to aid victims of The Dark Knight Rises movie premiere shooting in Aurora, Colo. Sullivan, who lost his life in the shooting on July 20, was one of eight Aurora Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. team members injured. The other seven are recovering from injuries. Donations received from the Red Robin Foundation will be used for needs of the Red Robin's eight team members such as medical bills or lost wages. There are more than 460 restaurant locations in Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Red Robin’s portfolio.

Red Lobster promoted Chip Wade to the position of executive vice president of operations. Wade succeeds Doug Green, whom the casual-dining chain said left “to pursue other opportunities.” Wade has been with Red Lobster’s parent company, Darden Restaurants Inc., for 11 years. Most recently, he was Darden’s senior vice president of enterprise operations. As of the end of May, Red Lobster had 677 units in the United States and 27 in Canada. Orlando, Fla.-based Darden had 1,994 casual-dining restaurants across its Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52 and Eddie V’s brands.

Chart House topped all U.S. restaurant chains with 10 of its nearly 30 locations listed on OpenTable’s list of the Top 100 Scenic View Restaurants. The rankings reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 15,000 restaurants in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The winners span 29 states, with California handily outpacing the pack with 37 honorees. Washington came in a distant second with eight winning restaurants.

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