As we gear up for the VIBE Conference vibeconference.com/ tomorrow and Wednesday in Las Vegas, we take a look at Bar Louie’s spirits program, winner of the VIBE Vista Award for the Chain Restaurant and Multi-unit Operator segment, and Loews Hotels, winner in the Chain Hotel, Casino and Cruise Line Operator category.
A neighborhood restaurant and bar concept with more than 43 locations, Glenview, Ill.-based Bar Louie keeps its strong beverage program energized by consistently bringing in new customers and by focusing on specialty cocktails and seasonal drink promotions. With its stand-alone beverage menu featuring signature cocktails like the Louie’s Cosmo and The Ultimate Bloody Louie, its seasonal beverage programs and Louie’s Passport Interactive program, Bar Louie’s focus on mixology is unique for a chain of its size. It’s also one of the first concepts to use natural juices and feature flavorful brands such as Red Stag, Cabana Cachaça and St-Germain.
Beverage director Blake Rohrabaugh says Bar Louie stands out among its competitors because it uses market testing to stay ahead of trends. “I think the big part is that Bar Louie works in so many different markets. We’re on the cutting edge,” he says. “We have a good combination of front-end, trendy drinks with some true-tested favorites.”
Bar Louie’s sharp focus on its drinks business has managed to keep the chain above the economic fray. Bar Louie experienced a 13.8 percent increase in drink sales in 2009, driven by a 7.4 gain in spirits sales alone, which resulted in 50.9 percent of its total revenue coming from beverage sales.
VIBE recognizes chain beverage executives for excellence in corporate beverage programs, professionalism and creativity. The VIBE Vista Awards recognize a company’s excellence within its industry segment, either: Chain Restaurant and Multi-Concept Operators or Chain Hotels, Casinos and Cruise Line Operators.
Winners were selected by a panel of beverage professionals against a specific set of criteria spelled out in the Entry Application. For more information, visit vibeconference.com.
Loews Hotels’ “uniquely local” brand standard, featuring great local flavors at each of its 17 U.S. properties, is a cornerstone of its success. This has allowed New York City-based Loews to customize titles, descriptions and pricing for every food and beverage item on the menu. One of Loews’ newest drink features is the Signature Cocktail menu created by bartenders from each of its participating hotels. The menu highlights upscale cocktails capitalizing on the latest trends. For example, organic ingredients highlight the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel’s Beach Berry, which uses Prairie Organic Vodka, and the Acai High, created at the Loews Denver Hotel using the organic Tequila Tierras Blanco.
One of Loews’ most valued assets to achieve success is its staff. In fact, Loews puts employees through an intense training program that includes a signature cocktail test to ensure product knowledge. The premium line of spirits and signature beverages, has enabled Loews to increase guest check averages and provide superior guest services and satisfaction, resulting in high customer loyalty.
Loews’ creative director of food & beverage, Ellen Burke Van Slyke says educating and supporting their staff is just one of Loews’ objectives to improve success. Additionally, it increases revenue by paying attention to its guests needs. Burke Van Slyke says a key objective, “is offering our guests a sense of place which the cocktails underscore. We always want to surprise and delight our guests and the Loews Signature Cocktail program does just that!”
Bar Louie and Loews, along with 10 other Vista Award winners, will be recognized at the first VIBE Conference in Las Vegas this week.
The VIBE Vista Awards recognize excellence in corporate beverage programs in two industry segments: Chain Restaurant and Multi-Concept Operators or Chain Hotels, Casinos and Cruise Line Operators. Winners were selected by a panel of beverage professionals against a specific set of criteria. For more information, visit vibeconference.com.