Chain Beverage Buzz: October 3, 2011

SKy Ranch FoundationSky Ranch Foundation is launching a new phase in operations with over $200,000 in annual funding for quality programs for boy sand girls in need of help. The first commitment made was for $75,000 in support of the surviving part of the former Sky Ranch program, Sky Ranch Behavioral Services whose staff helps kids 24/7. The Sky Ranch Foundation also will make two grants totaling $50,000 for the current year to California-based programs Pops Kids and Pacific Lodge Youth Service; both charities help kids with special needs. To learn more about how to help, visit the website at

Heineken USANick Lake and Monique Acevedo were appointed to two new senior leadership positions at Heineken USA. Lake was named the company’s new Senior Director, Category Management where he’ll focus on national and regional off-premise and on-premise chain accounts; he reports to Steve Ward, Vice President of National Accounts. Acevedo was appointed as Vice President of Innovation and will act as a member of the marketing leadership team; she reports to Chief Marketing Officer Lesya Lysyj.

Richard Tasman, Chief Operating Officer at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc., announced that he is leaving the company at the end of the fiscal year. His resignation comes at a time when P.F. Chang’s earnings are down and as the company tries to turn around those results with a series of new initiatives.

DardenDarden Restaurants’ management is planning for growth by bringing in 50% more revenue in the next five years. Darden’s Chief Executive Officer Clarence Otis is hoping $3 billion worth of sales increases will come from its staple brands Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse while Seasons 52, Capital Grille and Bahama Breeze will add another $700 million. The company plans to add 500 more restaurants in the next five years, as well.

Seasons 52In fact, Darden concept Seasons 52 will see six new locations in the upcoming year alone. Three will open by the end of November in Naples, Fla., Jacksonville, Fla., and in Kansas City, Mo. The other three locations in Santa Monica, Calif., Long Island, N.Y., and Oak Brook, Ill., will open in 2012.


Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Musician-owned restaurant concepts are all the rage these days. Familiar brands such as Jimmy Buffett's Margaretville continues to expand, growing to more than 20 restaurants, hotels and casinos since its inception in 1985. Other rockers are testing the hospitality waters, as well. In fact, Lynyrd Skynyrd announced plans to open a barbecue restaurant at Excalibur Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and KISS also are opening a new concept in Vegas next year, the KISS Coffeehouse, with plans to expand to Myrtle Beach, S.C.. Other successful musician-owned bars and restaurants include Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar & Grill, B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill, Vince Neil’s Tres Rios Cantina and Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina. 

Wine glassesAccording to a New York Times article, chains such as Starbucks, Burger King’s expensive Whopper Bars and Sonic are experimenting with selling alcohol during rough economic times. Because beer and wine are high-margin items, they can lead to increased revenue. However, adding alcohol to these fast casual menus requires more money and presents more challenges: management must obtain permits, train high-turnover staffs, slow down service to check IDs, and find a dedicated area for alcohol service. As a result, these operators are finding serving alcohol may not be worth the effort, a realization that will benefit full-service restaurant operators. 

Morton's The SteakhouseMorton’s The Steakhouse in Las Vegas is offering its Food and Wine Pairing Class on Oct. 7, hosted by Sara Fasolino, Certified Sommelier for Morton’s, who will lead guests through a wine-pairing seminar while they enjoy Morton’s signature hors d’oeuvres including Smoked Salmon Canapes, Chicken Goujonettes and more. Featured wines include Lunetta Prosecco, 2009 Argyle Riesling Eola-Amity Hills, 2009 Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2009 Ponzi "Tavola" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2005 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain and Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos. Additionally, all participants will earn a “Morton’s Associate Sommelier” certificate.

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