Chain Beverage Buzz: Nov. 28, 2011

Benihana's Sho Chiku Bai Classic — its house sake — was presented a Gold Award at the 2011 U.S. National Sake Appraisal. The Sho Chiku Bai Classic is brewed by Takara Sake USA Inc., bottled and labeled as "Benihana Sake" and served in the chain's 63 locations. The sake competed against 96 contenders in the Junmai category.

Differentiating flavors can become a restaurant's calling card, according to a new consumer survey from Technomic. More than half — 53% — of 1,500 consumers surveyed expressed greater willingness to visit a restaurant offering new or innovative flavors, up from 42% in the 2009 survey.

Maggiano's Little Italy celebrates 20 years this month and is headed into the holiday season with a new happy hour menu and revamped wine list. The happy hour wine-by-the-glass selections are priced at $5, while draft beers come in at $3 and signature cocktails at $6, showing a definitive focus on wallet-friendly offerings. The revamp of the beverage menu involves Sangria, the 44-unit chain's leading adult beverage, made available in pitchers and 40 wines offered by the glass.

Health Communications' eTIPS On Premise, an online training and certification program for servers, was approved by the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA).

Darrell Johnson has been named Senior Director of Regional Marketing at Heineken USA. He had been Senior Director of Innovation, Sparkling Beverages at PepsiCo.

MADD released its Report to the Nation, which rates each state on its progress toward eliminating drunk driving, based on the state's mandating ignition interlock for all drunk-driving offenders, conducting sobriety checkpoints, enhancing penalties for drunk-driving offenders who have children in the vehicle and other measures. Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska and Utah earned five-star ratings from the organization.

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