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Chain Beverage Buzz: August 22, 2011

August 22, 2011 By: Alissa Ponchione


National Restaurant AssociationOn Aug. 12, the Departments of Health and Human Services and the Treasury released proposed regulations detailing what makes an employee health plan affordable, which individuals qualify for tax credits and other government assistance, and how employers will interact with state insurance “exchanges,” which market health insurance to small businesses and individuals. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) currently is analyzing the latest regulations to ensure they’re workable for restaurant employers; the Association will comment within the required 75-day comment period.


O'Charley'sO’Charley’s founder Charles H. Watkins Jr., died this past week at his home in Nashville at the age of 87. Watkins opened his first O’Charley’s in 1971 in Nashville. He sold the company 11 years later but continued to develop restaurant concepts including Cheeseburger Charley’s.


After a few weeks of speculation, it's finally official. Tilman Fertitta, Owner and Chief Executive of Landry’s Restaurants Inc., who recently looked to purchase McCormick & Schmick’s, is teaming with Eva Longoria to manage, own and operate her financially troubled Beso Restaurant at CityCenter in Las Vegas. Fertitta also is considering re-opening Longoria’s now defunct Eve nightclub if the deal goes through.

Eva Longoria


Debuting in 1992, the House of Blues is going into its 20th year by revamping the concept. Ron Bension, the new Chief Executive of House of Blues Entertainment, plans to revitalize the 13-club chain, taking the House of Blues back to its roots by recruiting mid-tier bands to tour the venues, offering live entertainment at each club every night of the week and enhancing food quality with the help of Food Network celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez. With returning events such as the Sunday gospel brunch featuring live local singers and a new concert series called the Metal Arise! Tour, Bension estimates that the 5,700 shows will attract 5 million people, which would be a 10% increase from 2010.


Eight new Yard House restaurants will open in the next 12 months, including its first New York location in Yonkers. Other planned Yard House locations include Westchester County, N.Y., Virginia Beach, Va., Fresno, Calif., Boston, Atlanta, Lone Tree, Colo., Portland, Ore., and four locations in Southern Florida.

Yard House


Double Cross Vodka and Morton’s The Steakhouse are launching “The Double Cross,” a pear Martini that features a baby pear garnish and a golf-tee inspired cocktail skewer. One dollar from sales of the Martini will go to “Birdies for the Brave,” a charity founded by pro golfer Phil Michelson that supports wounded soldiers.


OSI Restaurant Partners, LLC, parent company to Outback Steakhouse, is accelerating the restaurant renovation initiative and increasing capital spending to between $150 million and $160 million for the remainder of 2011. OSI plans to renovate 175 Outback Steakhouse restaurants, after improving 84 at the beginning of 2011. The renovations include more contemporary décor of the Australian theme such as updated colors, fabrics, textures, art, lighting, props and murals. 


Palm Management Corp., the parent company to the luxury steakhouse chain Palm Restaurants is updating the brand as part of its 85th anniversary celebration. The revamp includes new menu items, redesigned uniforms and tableware, a new ad campaign and a new Website. The rejuvenated design will be tested when the Palm Boston location moves to its new location next year.


Back Bay Restaurant Group sold 19 of its locations and five brands, including Abe & Louie’s, Atlantic Fish Company, Charley’s Eating & Drinking Saloon, Coach Grill and Joe’s American Bar & Grill, to Tavistock Restaurants LLC; the proposed sale closed in February of this year.


DardenDarden Restaurants, Inc. and CMR, a Mexican casual dining company, formed an agreement to develop Darden’s Red Lobster, Olive Garden and The Capital Grille brands in Mexico; CMR will develop a minimum of 37 restaurants in the country over the next five years.


Southern Wine & Spirit of America, Inc. (Southern), appointed Kirt Clemens to Senior Vice President – Eastern Region, North American Spirits & Wine Brokerage division (NASW) where he’ll report to Robert Swartz, Executive Vice President and General Manager of NASW. In other Southern news, Richard Booth has been named Vice President – Strategic Accounts Development at Southern Wine & Spirits for the state of Florida. He will report to Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida Executive Vice President – General Manager Steve Power.


David Flanery joins Benihana, Inc., as the company’s new Chief Financial Officer (CFO), replacing Gene R. Baldwin, who was the interim CFO since January 2010. Flanery previously was CFO of Papa John’s Pizza.


Young’s Market Company and Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC) announced their merger recently. The new entity is operating as Young’s Market Company of Arizona with Mark Moser, former President of RNDC of Arizona, helming the new enterprise.


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