Chain Beverage Buzz: March 5, 2012

In its soon-to-be-released Beverage Alcohol Report (BAR), market research company The NPD Group found men and women generally prefer the same top vodka brands — although that preference varies depending on age. Grey Goose is most popular among all age groups, followed by Absolut, Smirnoff, Ketel One and Stoli/Stolichnaya. Those aged 21 to 49 prefer Grey Goose slightly more than those over 50. Additionally, the study found 21- to 34-year-olds prefer Smirnoff significantly more than 35- to 49-year-olds, and the 35-and-older groups liked Absolut significantly more than the 21- to 34-year-olds. The report surveyed nearly 34,000 adults over the age of 21. Warren Solochek, vice president of foodservice, will cover highlights from the study during the VIBE Conference later this month in Las Vegas.

The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association announced the 2012 Silver Plate Awards winners, recognizing excellence in nine segments of the foodservice industry. Clarence Otis Jr., chairman and CEO of Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants, won the Silver Plate Award for chain full-service, while Frank Weber, vice president of food and beverage operations at Miami-based Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruise Lines, accepted the prize for the hotel and lodging segment.

And the World’s Greatest Bartender is… David Kringlund from the T.G.I. Friday’s location in Stureplan, Sweden. Kringlund won the World Bartender Championship — as well as the prize of $10,000 — in Dallas through his blend of mixology knowledge, crowd-pleasing energy and drink-making skills. Sir Raminad "Ram" Ong of the Philippines was named T.G.I. Friday's Fan Favorite. More than 8,000 Friday’s bartenders from the Carrollton, Texas, company’s 900 locations worldwide competed in a series of local and regional events leading up to the final showdown.

TGI Fridays

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-headquartered P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. recently named Larry Ryback chief operating officer of the P.F. Chang’s concept, effective March 2012. Ryback, who has more than 20 years of restaurant operations experience, currently serves as the chief operating officer of Kona Grill Inc.

Hilton Worldwide announced plans to open 500 new restaurants around the world in the next three years. In support of this goal, the McClean, Va., company launched an external version of to help partner with approved restaurateurs to bring concepts into Hilton hotels. After its internal launch, the website has garnered nearly 900 registered hotel owners who are interested in pairing with restaurant concepts.

Hooters of America LLC revealed a “new-generation Hooters” Feb. 27 in downtown Atlanta, featuring a new menu and design. The new restaurant, located in the hometown of Hooters headquarters, is a look into the future of the brand under the new leadership team. This location, which opened in 2002, is double the size of the original Hooters of Downtown Atlanta, totaling 8,268 square feet with seating for more than 340 guests. It features more than 50 high-definition flatscreen TVs, 32 tap handles and an indoor/outdoor bar. There are more than 430 Hooters restaurants in 44 states and 27 countries.

Texas Roadhouse Inc. announced plans to open at least 25 new locations in 2012 to add to its 360 restaurants around the world. Executives said they plan to open a few more locations in the Middle East this year and eventually expand to Mexico, Canada, Russia and China. Additionslly, the Louisville, Ky.-based company expects to increase same-store sales between 4 and 5%.

Melting PotThe Tampa, Fla.-based Melting Pot Restaurants Inc. announced plans to expand the brand to Saudi Arabia through a five-unit franchise development agreement with Albabteen United Foods Co. LLC. The first will open in Riyadh in late 2012, with additional locations slated for Jeddah and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. The company also is looking to Australia, China, India, Brazil and other provinces in Canada for further expansion opportunities.

The 45-location Capital Grille will kick off its third annual Capital Grille Artist Series Wine Event March 19. As part of the event, guests can order an exclusive, limited-edition Capital Grille Artist Series Cabernet, adorned with original artwork by Missouri-based artist Julie Agee on its label. The promotion supports Share Our Strength’s mission to end childhood hunger in America. For every limited-edition bottle sold, the Orlando, Fla.-based brand will donate $25 to Share Our Strength.

The 96-unit Old Chicago chain launched its annual St. Patrick’s Day Mini Beer Tour Feb. 22, which runs through March 18. The mini tour features eight specialty beers, including guest favorites from Guinness, Killian’s, Smithwick’s and O’Hara’s. Old Chicago’s World Beer Tour members who complete the mini tour by sampling all eight beers will receive a mini-tour T-shirt with a new St. Patrick’s Day design chosen by guests. To kick off the mini tour, tapping parties were held at each of the chain’s locations, where guests could try the Old Chicago Bitter Leprechaun ESB, made exclusively for Old Chicago.

To celebrate the birth of guests born on Leap Day, fans were invited to visit Outback Steakhouse’s Facebook page to wish one of its biggest enthusiasts,Outback Jennifer Barfield, a happy birthday as part of its new “BirthLeapYearDay” promotion. The Tampa, Fla.-based chain, which has more than 1,200 locations nationwide, gave four randomly selected fans who wished Barfield a happy birthday on Facebook an exclusive Leap Year Card good for one free meal at Outback every month for four years.

The Tampa, Fla.-headquartered Bonefish Grill has debuted “Happier Hours,” running Feb. 21-April 16. From 4 to 6:30 p.m. daily, most Bonefish Grill Bonefishlocations will offer four $5 appetizers to go along with its regular $5 alcohol beverage list. Regular $5 cocktails include the Rum Punch and the Classic Side Car with a Mango Twist.

Classic Side Car with a Mango Twist

2 ounces brandy
½ ounce Patron Citronge
2 ounces fresh sour mix
½ ounce mango syrup or juice
1 lemon wedge
Soda water

Squeeze lemon wedge in pint glass or shaker and drop in wedge. Add brandy, Patron, sour mix, mango juice and ice until glass is 3/4 full. Cover and shake well, then pour all ingredients (including ice) into a sugar-rimmed wine glass. Top with a good splash of soda water and swizzle stick.

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