Chain Beverage Buzz: May 29, 2012

Marketing to Millennials (aged 19-34) can be challenging, but the group has a distinct idea of what they’re looking for when dining out, placing high value on attributes such as social responsibility, sustainability, emotional connections to brands and more, according to a recent study by Chicago-based Technomic Inc. Three casual-dining chains that perform well with Millennials are Logan’s Roadhouse for its social responsibility initiatives, Red Lobster for its food quality and Bonefish Grill for its support of local community activities.

Industry performance improved slightly in April, according to Black Box Intelligence’s Restaurant Industry Snapshot. Same-store sales rose 1.3%, but guest traffic was down 2.1%. Additionally, food and beverage alcohol sales were positive, and check average was 3.4% higher than April 2011.

Houlihan’s Restaurants Inc. has obtained Piper Jaffray & Co. as an adviser on a potential sale, according to an article in Nation’s Houihan'sRestaurant News. The company comprises 101 restaurants under the Houlihan’s Restaurants brand as well as Devon Seafood Grill, Bristol Seafood Grill, Braxton Seafood Grill, Chequer’s Seafood Grill and J. Gilbert’s Wood Fired Steaks. The private equity firm Goldner Hawn Johnson Morrison purchased the Leawood, Kan.-based company in 2006. Reports estimate Houlihan’s could sell for nearly $100 million.

Planet Hollywood Group named Rick Tasman president and CEO of its casual-dining brand Buca di Beppo. Tasman most recently served as COO of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. but previously held positions with Boston Market, Brinker International and Steak and Ale. The Orlando, Fla.-based brand operates 86 restaurants in the United States and franchises five in the United Kingdom and one in Mexico.

Rick Tasman

The Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. recently added three new food-and-beverage (F&B) positions, including a master mixologist, Donna Ruch. Ruch is the former F&B innovation team leader at T.G.I. Friday’s. The other new members of the “Menu Team” are Scott Weaver, former executive manager of culinary operations at The Cheesecake Factory, who will serve as director of culinary, and Laurie Scanlin, previously the manager of nutrition and food improvement at Chipotle, who will be the director of research and development for the brand’s more than 460 restaurants.

Red Robin

From left to right, Laurie Scanlin, Scott Weaver and Donna Ruch.

John Grady, president of Woburn, Mass.-headquartered Ninety Nine Restaurants, will receive the Council of Hospitality and Restaurant Trainers’ Commitment to People Award this summer at CHART’s 84th semi-annual Hospitality Training Conference in Chicago. The award, now in its 19th year, is given annually to a CHART member’s CEO/president who demonstrates outstanding commitment to his/her employees’ development. Grady started at Ninety Nine as a bartender and rose through the ranks, including 10 years leading the training department, before being named president in 2004. Ninety Nine Restaurants operates more than 105 restaurants in New England and New York, employing more than 6,000 people.

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