Chain Beverage Buzz: July 26, 2010

Macaroni GrillRomano’s Macaroni Grill named Norman Abdallah chief executive, replacing Brad Blum. Abdallah most recently served as president and chief executive officer at Restaurants Unlimited Inc. In other Romano news, Carey Carrington was named the new chief financial officer, while Bob Mock, the chief operating officer, has left the company.

Diageo Chateau & Estates Wines sold its Barton & Guestier Bordeaux business to Castel Freres Sas. The move is intended to allow Diageo to focus on its U.S. core strategic brands including Beaulieu Vineyard wines, Sterling Vineyards and Acacia.

The NPD Group reports that the number of restaurants in the U.S. fell by 5,204 units, a 1 percent decline from spring 2009. However, unit counts for chain restaurants remain stable.

DineEquity Inc. is selling 63 of its corporate Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar restaurants in Minnesota and Wisconsin to Apple American LLC, Applebee’s largest franchisee. After the sale, there will be 334 corporate Applebee’s locations within the 2,001-unit chain. DineEquity Inc. also owns the IHOP chain, and Apple America owns 206 Applebee locations.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue signed a bill into law to reform the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control system. Liquor stores cannot accept gifts from local contractor and will be expected to meet performance standards or face store closure; both changes follow revelations about high ABC administrator salaries and meals paid for by spirits companies.

Big Bowl, an Asian-themed casual-dining chain and part of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, is offering a gluten-free menu, including a wheat-free beer, Milwaukee’s New Grist. The gluten-free menu is available in Chicago and surrounding areas, and it will be introduced in other locations within the next few weeks.

Ruby Tuesday is offering a limited-time summer cocktail menu including watermelon-flavored Mojitos, Martinis and Margaritas and pitchers of Sangria. The Sangria, which serves three to four people for $14, is made with red or white wine and fresh fruit. Strawberry Sangria is also available.


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