Exclusive news and research on the wine, spirits and beer business

News Briefs for November 11, 2011

November 11, 2011

•VinNobles, a new flash site specializing in rare and iconic wines, has launched. Led by a team of master sommeliers, including Barrie Larvin, formerly wine director of Las Vegas’s Rio Hotel, VinNobles will initially offer weekly flash sales on hard-to-find, high-quality wines. The social media-driven site will also give consumers the opportunity to interact with winemakers, wine educators and its sommelier team. In addition to Larvin, VinNobles’s selections will be curated by master sommeliers Michael MacNeill and Kathy Morgan, former wine director for Washington D.C.-based restaurant Citronelle.

•Bay Area restaurateur Cindy Pawlcyn and partner Sean Knight have opened a new concept, Brassica Mediterranean Kitchen & Wine Bar, in the site of their former Go Fish sushi restaurant in St. Helena. Brassica claims to have the largest by-the-glass wine list in Napa at over 75 selections, 75% of which are from California (50% are from Napa), as well as a wine-on-tap program and a list of more than 400 bottles available to purchase at the table or for retail to-go (wines purchased to-go are marked down 25%). In addition to Brassica, Pawlcyn owns and operates Mustards Grill in Yountville and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena, and has helped create a dozen concepts in all across the Bay Area, including Tra Vigne, Bix, Roti and Fog City Diner.

•Tampa-based OSI Restaurant Partners, which holds the Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar chains, posted a 6% increase in restaurant sales to $2.86 billion in the nine months through September. The pace was higher in the third quarter, as company restaurant revenue rose 8.9% to $928 million. Company-owned same-store sales in the U.S. rose across the portfolio in the nine-month period, with Outback up 3.2%, Carrabba’s up 4.9%, Bonefish up 9.6% and Fleming’s up 10.2%. Across its 1,400 operated and franchised locations, OSI took an $8.5 million loss in the third quarter, but posted net income of $44 million for the year to date.

•European online restaurant reservation group Livebookings has expanded into the U.S. with Freebookings, a free, web-based reservation service. Using Freebookings’ site or Facebook page, consumers can access the reservation platform via computer, smartphone and tablet to make online reservations 24 hours a day. Restaurants can use the platform to view booking information and customer databases. They can also opt to access services including table management, email and mobile marketing and flash sales. Headquartered in London, Livebookings reported 2.8 million diners for its 2011 third quarter—a 58% organic rise on the same period last year.

•A new analysis from Technomic predicts that the restaurant industry will experience a modest increase in alcohol sales in 2012. The research firm expects overall on-premise alcohol sales to rise 2.4% next year as guest traffic gradually improves. Within specific segments, Technomic predicts that hotel restaurants will have the best performance, with 5.4% growth, followed by fine dining restaurants with 3.6%, casual dining with 3.2% and casinos with 1.8% growth. Wine sales are expected to show the highest numbers with a 3.5% increase, while spirits sales will improve 2.3% and beer sales will rise 2.2%.


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