Ruthas Chris Gives Dads an Early Gift with Five-Course Scotch Pairing

While countless dads received the same ho-hum ties, socks and golf balls for Father’s Day, more than 1,000 restaurant-goers who visited a Ruth’s Chris Steak House on June 10 received an early Father’s Day gift much more memorable: a five-course single-malt Scotch dinner. The meal, the sixth in a series of national dinners hosted by the Orlando, Fla.-based chain, melded Ruth’s Chris’ cuisine with the tastes of Glenmorangie’s single-malt whiskies and some select wines.

Glenmorangie ambassadors played host at 57 Ruth’s Chris locations nationwide, where they helped guests enjoy selections such as the Bacon Crusted Baked Goat Cheese with a Maple Reduction, served with the Glenmorangie Original 10-Year-Old, or the Smoked Salmon Carpaccio with the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12-Year-Old, extra matured in “Ruby” Port casks.

Ruth’s Hospitality Group’s Director of Beverage Strategy, Helen Mackey, recently discussed the inspiration behind the meal, the impact it had on guests and what she would have done differently. Read on for more insight.

VIBE: Why did you decide to offer the Glenmorangie pairing?

Helen Mackey: I worked on the 2012 calendar last fall and knew we wanted to do something special around Father’s Day. The idea to focus on spirits led us to Scotch, and, of course, Glenmorangie is a perfect fit for our guest as a benchmark single malt.

VIBE: How successful was the promotion?

Mackey: The national dinner took place simultaneously in 57 cities and was attended by over 1,000 people on June 10. By our measure, this was a great success—not just by the numbers but also by the level of experience we were able to offer our guests with this distinct, uniquely crafted five-course menu that paired perfectly with four Scotch selections and two wines. We also saw a great amount of brand-new faces and are pleased we were able to attract new guests.

VIBE: Why did you select the Scotches, Champagne and Cabernet?

Mackey: This entire evening was an exploration of the interplay between Scotch and wine—how Scotch gains character as a spirit that is extra matured in wine casks and how to showcase wine and scotch individually paired with five courses. We highlighted the Quinta Ruban finished in Port casks and the Nectar d’Or finished in Sauternes barrels alongside the 10-year and 18-year. It was a fascinating tasting because each single-malt Scotch begins as the same base spirit and takes on unique profiles based all on wood—type of wood and level of maturation. It was an incredible evening in celebration of Scotch, wine and food.

VIBE: Did the chef work directly with the beverage team to create the pairings?

Makey: Our VP of Culinary, Chef Rick Crossland, and I worked on the menu together and then did trials in the kitchen to finalize the dishes and pairings. With the Scotch pairings, we were looking to highlight the individual unique elements in each of the single malts—tawny attributes in Quinta Ruban, Sauternes and aged attributes in Nectar d’Or and 18-year-old Reserve.

VIBE: How did you promote the event?

Mackey: We promoted this and all of our national dinners in many ways: social media, website, emails to our database and communication in the restaurant. The absolute best promotion, however, is guest word-of-mouth. This is our sixth national dinner in a series that we started last May, and each dinner has been building on the previous due to what has become a loyal local following of repeat guests. In this way, there is an emerging  “wine club” of return dinner guests in certain cities.

VIBE: Is there anything you would do differently if you were to do this promotion again?

Mackey: Regarding what we would do differently, we look to vary the educational component. On Aug. 23, for example, we will co-host a dinner with Wine Enthusiast magazine. This will be an unbelievable experience for our guests and Wine Enthusiast readers. We are working with their editors to choose wines rated at 90+ points and will pair these with a five-course meal. The education component will be a discussion on how to taste like the pros, what it means to earn 90+ points and how ratings help us all shop smartly.

The final dinner of 2012 will be held on Oct. 18, and it is titled “Explore Port with Taylor Fladgate.” It will be a unique opportunity to taste multiple styles of Port in order to demystify this much-loved wine category.

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