Chain Beverage Buzz: Jan. 9, 2012

The largest selection of wines by the glass available via an automated wine service system at sea now is available on Royal Caribbean IWinenternational's Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas cruise ships. A 48-bottle WineStation self-service dispensing system was installed in the Vintages wine bars, allowing guests to swipe their SeaPass card and sip selections, including Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Caymus, Robert Mondavi, Penfolds and others. Royal Caribbean International's wine tenders — staff trained in wine sales and service — are on hand to assist guests as they explore the offerings.

American interest in and willingness to spend on Champagne is bubbling up. Shipments of Champagne increased nearly 22% in the first six months of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010, according to the Washington-based Champagne Bureau. Sales of the French sparkler had been impacted by the U.S. recession.

Coors outscored Budweiser, Bud Light and seven other brews in a taste test conducted by Consumer Reports. The blind taste test Coorsinvolved 10 beers, including regular and light beers and two store brands. Coors scored a Very Good rating — none of the brews rated Excellent — and the report states that "Coors stood out for balanced flavors with citrus notes and no off-tastes." Coors also was rated as a "Best Buy" by Consumer Reports.

Spirits volume and shelf dollars grew in the control states in November, according to NABCA. Sales of 9-liter cases increased 4.2% in volume over the same month in 2010, and dollars increased 6.3%. Looking at the 12-month period, total spirits shelf dollars grew 4.3%. Whiskey is the fastest-expanding category with a 14.5% jump in November and a 19% hike during the 12 month-period.

Welcome to a new year and a new level of minimum wage: Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Vermont each implemented minimum wage hikes as of Jan. 1. Washington is the increase leader, breaking the $9 mark by going to $9.04 an hour, up 37 cents. The Washington Restaurant Association reports nearly two-thirds (70%) of 450 restaurant operators surveyed responded that they'd be cutting employee hours or reducing staff to deal with the increased minimum wage.


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