Chain Beverage Buzz: Feb. 6, 2012

The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index reached its highest level in December, rising sharply to 102.2 —Chart a 1.6% increase over November. Additionally, December marked the third time in four months that the RPI went above 100. Fifty-seven percent of restaurant operators reported increased customer traffic levels between December 2010 and December 2011, while only 23% reported a decline in traffic.

Additionally, the National Restaurant Association's 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast predicts the U.S. foodservice industry as a whole will post a record-breaking $631.8 billion in sales this year, marking a 3.5% increase over 2011. This is a slower rate of growth than the industry experienced in 2011 (4%), but it marks the third consecutive year of positive growth. Full-service restaurant sales are expected to total $201.4 billion — a 2.9% increase from 2011.

Kona logoScottsdale, Ariz.-based Kona Grill Inc. named Berke Bakay president and CEO of its 23 grill and sushi restaurants. Bakay, who is replacing Mike Nahkunst, previously served as director of the company, and he is the investment manager to BBS Capital Fund, which is Kona Grill’s largest shareholder.

Romacorp Inc., the Plano, Texas-based parent company of the nearly 200-restaurant Tony Roma’s chain, named Robert M. Sinnott as its CFO. Sinnott brings more than 20 years of experience to the newly created position; he most recently served as CFO of Silverleaf Resorts Inc., a Dallas timeshare resort operator.

Claudia LevitasAtlanta-based Hooters of America LLC recently named Claudia Levitas chief legal officer and general counsel. In her new position, Levitas will oversee all legal matters for the company, including litigation management and franchise law compliance. Previously, she spent 16 years with Huddle House Inc., an Atlanta-based diner concept with more than 400 locations, where she served as general counsel and chief administrative officer. Hooters of America franchises and operates more than 430 restaurants in 44 states and 27 countries.

Café Enterprises Inc. named Fred T. Grant Jr. chief financial officer of Fatz, the 49-unit casual-dining chain with locations in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia. Prior to joining Fatz, Grant served as executive vice president and CFO of Perkins & Marie Callender’s Inc.

Huntington Beach, Calif.-based BJ’s Restaurants, in partnership with the BJ’s Restaurants Foundation, raised $566,000 in 2011 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation through its new restaurant grand-opening charity events, fundraising campaigns and the Cookies for Kids program. “For many years, BJ’s has joined in the struggle to fight and eliminate cystic fibrosis,” Jerry Deitchle, chairman and CEO of the 115-restaurant company, said in a statement. “On behalf of the 14,000 team members at our company, BJ’s remains steadfast in continuing our work to support the CF Foundation going forward.”

CupsAfter launching beer and wine sales at six locations in Portland and its headquarter city Seattle, Starbucks plans to expand its beverage alcohol sales to a handful of stores in Atlanta and Southern California by the end of the year. Five to seven Chicago locations are already scheduled to offer alcohol and an expanded food menu this year. The expansion comes after Starbucks officials said units testing the new expanded format have shown double-digit same-store-sales increases after 4 p.m.

Champps Entertainment Inc. marked its 25th anniversary Jan. 25 and will offer patrons specials on the 25th day of each month throughout the year. Additionally, the Wichita, Kan.-based company, which includes more than 55 restaurants across the country, will give out $25,000 in cash and other prizes through a Facebook contest.

Old Chicago’s annual “I Love Beer” Mini Beer Tour launched last week. The tour allows guests to craft their own mini tours with eight of their favorite beers from the chain’s expansive 110-beer list. Select markets of the Louisville, Colo.-brand’s 96-restaurant portfolio will offer exclusive beers available just for this tour.

Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group LLC filed registration papers to raise $100 million in an initial public offering (IPO) of stock. The filing from the Southlake, Texas-based operator is the first pending restaurant IPO of the year. The group operates 31 restaurants under the Del Frisco’s Sullivan’s and Del Frisco’s Grille brands.

The Boston-based Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group is preparing to celebrate the 50th annual National Wine Week, March 5-9, by launching its proprietary “Private Reserve” Sauvignon Blanc and offering a variety of select wines to pair with food on eight of the nine Smith & Wollensky restaurants’ menus. As part of the anniversary, patrons can sample 10 wines for $10 with the purchase of a lunch entrée.

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville locations are readying for Feb. 22: National Margarita Day. The Key West, Fla.-based chain is hosting a recipe contest on Facebook with a Key West getaway awarded to the winner, and on Feb. 22, each of its 17 locations will feature the winning margarita. Additionally, all locations will offer food and Margarita specials and extend a 22% discount on Margarita-related merchandise. All patrons who are celebrating a Feb. 22 birthday will receive a $22.20 gift certificate to use during their visit, and guests born on Feb. 22, 1922, will receive complimentary food and beverages throughout the day. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville also is releasing the recipe to Jimmy Buffett’s favorite Margarita, The Perfect Margarita, listed below:

1 ounce Margaritaville Gold Tequila
½ ounce Margaritaville Silver Tequila
½ ounce Triple Sec
½ ounce orange curacao
½ ounce lime juice
2 lime wedges

Rim Margarita glass with salt. Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Squeeze limes and add to tin. Shake vigorously and pour into a Margarita glass.

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