Chain Beverage Buzz: May 14, 2012

The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index measured 102.2 in March, marking its post-recession high. The RPI monitors the health of and outlook for the foodservice industry. March was the fifth consecutive month the RPI has stood above 100.

New York equity firm Centerbridge Partners acquired Scottsdale, Ariz.-based P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. in a $1.1 billion deal. Centerbridge agreed to acquire P.F. Chang’s stock for $51.50 a share. P.F. Chang’s owns and operates 204 P.F. Chang’s Bistro locations and 170 Pei Wei Asian Diner and Asian Market restaurants and is in the process of buying a majority position in the four-location True Food Kitchen. Centerbridge bought Rock Bottom Restaurants and Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group in late 2010.

Ignite Restaurant Group — the Houston-based parent company of Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern+Tap — amended its initial public offering, which sought to raise $100 million, to instead raise $75 million. The company, which operates 122 Joe’s Crab Shack and 16 Brick House Tavern+Tap locations, will offer 5.8 million shares on the NASDAQ, priced at $12 to $14 per share.

Columbus, Ohio-based Max & Erma’s, which operates approximately 75 restaurants in 10 states, promoted Steve Weis to the position of president. Weis will take the place of Hazem Ouf, CEO of the chain’s parent company American Blue Ribbons Holdings, who served as president prior to Weis’ appointment. Weis previously served as vice president of operations for Applebee’s franchisee Thomas & King Inc. as well as senior vice president of operations for Jillian’s Entertainment.

David Deno is now executive vice president and chief financial officer of Tampa, Fla.-based OSI Restaurant Partners LLC and its parent company Bloomin’ Brands Inc. He joins OSI from Best Buy where, since 2009, he has served as president of Asia and CFO of the international division. He also served in roles in private equity as well as with PepsiCo and YUM Brands. The company previously announced its CFO Dirk Montgomery would assume the new role of chief value chain officer.

Jim Lawrence will succeed Barry Moullet as Darden Restaurants Inc.’s senior vice president and chief supply chain officer, effective at Dardenthe start of the Orlando, Fla.-based company’s new fiscal year. In his new role, Lawrence will handle sourcing, distribution and quality assurance across Darden’s more than 1,900 restaurants representing the brands Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse. Lawrence joined Darden in 1995, most recently serving as senior vice president of supply management and food purchasing. Moullet is leaving for academia and consulting.

QSLFormer McDonald’s executive Debra Koenig will become chairman of the board of Quaker Steak & Lube. The current president of management consulting firm B2A LLC and former president of the McDonald's Southeast Division, Koenig replaces current President and CEO John Longstreet, who also served as interim chairman since July of 2011. Longstreet remains as chief executive of the Sharon, Pa.-based chain, which operates 47 locations in the United States and Canada.

On June 5, Michael Moore will replace Marguerite Duffy as chief financial officer of Ruby Tuesday Inc. and its 740 locations. Duffy announced in January she would retire from the Marysville, Tenn.-based chain, for which she served as CFO since 2001. Moore’s experience comes from roles such as executive vice president and CFO of both Pamida Stores and Advanced Auto Parts and interim chief financial officer of Kellwood Inc.

Carrollton, Texas-headquartered T.G.I. Friday’s launched a mobile app for iPhone and Android that gives guests the ability to start a tab, keep track of it and pay directly from their phones at the end of the night. The app technology automatically integrates with Friday’s POS software for a seamless checkout at about 300 of the brand’s 900 restaurants.


Bonefish Grill, the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based chain with more than 150 locations across the United States, recently unveiled its new Bonefishspring menu, which includes a Fresh Blueberry Martini (housemade vodka infusion with blueberries, agave nectar, fresh sour) inspired by “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s” Violet Beauregarde. Additionally, the chain announced that through June 17, guests who purchase $50 worth of gift cards online or at a restaurant will receive a $10 bonus card. Guests also can personalize a gift card online by uploading a photo of their choice or adding a personal message.

Maggiano’s Little Italy kicked off its ninth annual “Eat-A-Dish for Make-A-Wish” campaign to benefit Make-A-Wish. Forty-four locations will feature opportunities through June 27 for guests to help raise funds to grant at least two wishes per restaurant. When a guest orders the alcohol-free Lauren’s Lemonade (named after 17-year-old Lauren from Texas, whose wish is to go on a shopping spree in New York), Maggiano’s will donate 50 cents. The company also will donate money to Make-A-Wish when customers purchase select food items or a new Make-A-Wish CD or when Maggiano’s gets a new fan on Facebook.

The Darden Foundation, the charitable arm of Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants Inc., will award more than $1.7 million to nearly 900 nonprofit organizations in communities across the United States and Canada as part of its inaugural Darden Restaurants Community Grants Program. Each of Darden’s 1,900 restaurants had the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a nonprofit organization aligned with Darden’s three key focus areas: hunger, access to postsecondary education and preservation of natural resources.

Kansas City, Mo.-based Applebee’s kicked off Military Appreciation Month May 1 with the delivery of 101,000 thank you cards totaling 1,200 pounds to the nation’s military. Applebee’s guests and team members personalized the cards at nearly 1,900 U.S. restaurants, and team members then delivered the cards in person to veterans at the headquarters of Disabled American Veterans in Cold Spring, Ky. The cards are part of the Applebee’s Thank You Movement, an ongoing initiative to collect millions of thanks for veterans and active duty military.

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