News Briefs for November 1, 2011November 1, 2011
•As Washington State prepares for a referendum (conducted by mail and ending next Tuesday) on privatizing liquor sales, it’s reportedly mulling bids from two firms for the Seattle liquor distribution center currently run by the state’s liquor control board. The Seattle Times reports that the two companies, Washington Beverage (funded by private equity firm Lindsay Goldberg) and Washington State Beverage Logistics, have submitted bids to lease and operate the distribution center under an arrangement in which the state would remain in control of the ordering, pricing and selling of spirits. If Washingtonians vote to privatize liquor sales across the state through Initiative-1183, backed by mega-retailer Costco, however, it would render the bids moot. Potenial bidders for the Seattle site were asked to tour the distribution center in September—the group included representatives from Costco, United Warehouse, Young’s Market Co and Odom-Southern, according to the report.
•Baileys global marketing director Philip Almond has left Diageo after 17 years with the drinks giant. He is being replaced by Diageo’s former Russia and Eastern Europe managing director John O’Keeffe, who is transitioning to the newly created role of global category director for beer and Baileys. Almond’s departure coincides with Diageo’s ongoing global restructure, which aims to maximize cost efficiency and “ensure that all our resources are deployed closer to the market and in those areas where potential for growth is greatest,” according to CEO Paul Walsh. Two additional longtime Diageo executives—Stuart Fletcher, president of Diageo International, and Ron Anderson, chief commercial officer—are also departing the company during the current fiscal year (ending next June) amid the global organizational shakeup.
•Restaurants nationwide are preparing to raise menu prices due to recent increases in food prices, Bloomberg reports. In September, supermarket food prices were 6.2% higher than during the same month last year, while restaurant menu prices were 2.6% higher, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Restaurateurs closely monitor price increases at grocery stores to determine whether they can also raise prices without customer backlash. As U.S. consumers grow accustomed to higher priced groceries, they’re more likely to feel the same way toward higher restaurant prices. Faster inflation for grocery prices compared with restaurants has proved favorable for restaurateurs, who’ve been able to slowly increase menu prices since 2009 despite the weakened economy.
•Online restaurant resource service Urbanspoon announced that 1,000 restaurants signed up for its reservation iPad app, Rezbook, since January of this year. Over the same period, reservations made through Rezbook increased 325%. Launched in May 2010, the app allows restaurant operators to manage online bookings on iPad tablets. Urbanspoon also offers a restaurant recommendations app, launched in 2009, which reportedly boasts 20 million downloads and more than 25 million monthly visits.
•New York State’s wine industry has launched a promotional campaign in the run-up to the holiday selling period. The “Fall in Love with New York State Wines” promotion is running through December, targeting New York consumers through 50,000 restaurants and the state’s 2,800 wine-selling liquor stores. The campaign, which relies primarily on posters placed both on- and off-premise and word-of-mouth, is also seeking to strengthen relationships between retailers and wineries. New York is the second-largest wine producing state in the U.S., after California, at around 30 million gallons.
•Fort Lauderdale-based Scottish Spirits Imports is releasing its eponymous single-grain Scotch whisky and blended Scotch whisky in a can in the U.S. market. The 80-proof expressions, which have been distilled and matured in Scotland for at least 3 years in oak casks, will be available in over 100,000 liquor stores nationwide beginning in December, priced at $5 per 355ml can.Subscribe to Shanken News Daily’s Email Newsletter, delivered to your inbox each morning.