Chain Beverage Buzz: July 9, 2012

Red Lobster scored the highest customer satisfaction rating among full-service restaurant brands, according to the 2012 American Customer Satisfaction Index. The chain posted a score of 83, ahead of the segment average of 80, which is down 2.4% from last year. Applebee’s made the ACSI list for the first time, debuting at a 77 ranking, which lagged the whole sector except for Chili’s, which scored 76. Outback Steakhouse’s ranking was flat at 81. Olive Garden declined 2.4 percent to a ranking of 80.

Consumer Reports awarded nine chains with especially high marks in its annual sit-down restaurant survey, the results of which will be published in the magazine’s August issue. The consumer rating and advocacy publication surveyed 47,565 readers who ate a total of 110,517 meals at 102 table-service restaurant chains. Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano, Black Angus Steakhouse, Bravo Cucina Italiana, J. Alexander's and Fatz Eatz & Drinkz were the top-ranked full-service chains, receiving high marks for the survey’s four main attributes: taste, value, service and mood. They also were praised in the three other key areas of menu variety, cleanliness and a lack of noise.

Old Chicago launched its annual America’s Beer Mini Tour June 27, offering beer lovers a cool reprieve from the summer heat with all-American themed brews. The America’s Mini Tour runs through July 15 and features eight beers, including Rouge American Amber Ale, Woodchuck Summer Seasonal Cider, Sam Adams Boston Lager, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Budweiser. Additionally, some of the 96 Old Chicago restaurants will carry an exclusive beer from one of the oldest existing post-Prohibition breweries, Boulder Beer’s Kinda Blue, a pale malt with subtle notes of blueberry.

Darden Restaurants Inc. is serving up new value-oriented menu options at its flagship Olive Garden and Red Lobster brands to reverse recent same-store sales softness. The promotions, including a “Two for $25” deal at Olive Garden, precede complete menu overhauls that will occur at both chains this winter. Orlando, Fla.-based Darden, which operates 1,994 units and is the nation’s largest casual-dining operator, reported a 10% increase in fourth-quarter profit over the same quarter last year but also said it continues to struggle with reduced guest traffic and customer spending at its two largest brands.

Purchase, N.Y.-based Pernod Ricard announced several senior management changes effective Sept. 1, including promotions for two top executives. Paul Duffy, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard USA, has been appointed chairman and CEO, The Absolut Co., based in Stockholm, Sweden. Bryan Fry, currently president and CEO of Pernod Ricard Brazil, will succeed Duffy at Pernod Ricard USA.

Wok Acquisition Corp., an affiliate of Centerbridge Partners, LP, successfully completed its tender offer for all outstanding shares of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. Approximately 17.8 million shares of P.F. Chang's common stock were validly tendered at the offer price of $51.50, representing approximately 83.7% of the outstanding shares of P.F. Chang's common stock and giving Centerbridge control of P.F. Chang's. Centerbridge promptly moved forward with a "short-form" merger under Delaware law after exercising its top-up option under the merger agreement, and P.F. Chang's became an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Wok Parent.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Chanticleer Holdings Inc., a minority owner of Hooters of America, late last month began trading in its $11 million initial public offering. Chanticleer bought a minority interest in the 450-unit Atlanta-based Hooters of America in January 2011 and has rights to develop the brand’s restaurants in parts of Brazil, Hungary, South Africa and other future international markets and to operate a joint venture with a current franchisee in Australia. With its IPO, Chanticleer issued more than 2.4 million units at $4.50 a share with a warrant to purchase another share at $5.

Tony Roma’s parent company has a new chief operating officer. Romacorp Inc. on June 22 promoted Brad Smith to the post to oversee operations of the 168-unit chain. Romacorp also revealed several other executive changes: Chukk Mills was promoted to vice president of franchise operations from his previous position as director of franchise operations, and Jessie Bray was promoted to vice president of training and human resources from the prior role of executive director of training.

Nashville, Tenn.-based J. Alexander’s Corp. has agreed to a cash-and-stock buyout with Fidelity National Financial Inc., which owns restaurant company American Blue Ribbon Holdings Inc. and O’Charley’s Inc. J. Alexander’s will be combined with the current restaurant operations of ABRH LLC, which operates the Village Inn, Bakers Square, Max & Erma’s and Legendary Baking brands. Following the transaction, which is expected to close during the fourth quarter, the combined restaurant operating company will own and operate more than 700 restaurants in 43 states under seven different restaurant concepts.

Sports pub chain Beef  ‘O’ Brady’s is expanding its reach with the acquisition of The Brass Tap, a craft beer and wine bar with three locations in Tampa, Fla. All but seven locations of the 213-unit Beef ‘O’ Brady’s chain are franchised. The acquisition of rights to The Brass Tap marks the company’s first investment in another franchise brand. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.


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