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

News Briefs for December 9, 2011

December 9, 2011

•New York-based Lot18, a flash website for wine and gourmet food, has entered the European market with the completion of its acquisition of Paris-based e-commerce company Vinobest for an undisclosed sum. Lot18’s European business will be located in London and headed by Will Armitage, an early investor who joined the company last month. Vinobest founders Paul Guillet and Thierry Rochas will stay on to work with Lot18 and will remain in Paris. The Vinobest website will be redesigned and rebranded early next year. Lot18 now has over 600,000 registered members and reportedly brings in approximately $2 million in revenue per month. As its U.S. sales of wine have reached over 700,000 bottles, Lot18 now hopes to carry that success into strong European markets like the U.K., Germany, and France.

•Celebrity chef Jose Garces will open three new restaurants early next year at Revel Atlantic City, the $2.4 billion casino scheduled to open in the spring. Drawing from the success of his Philadelphia restaurant concepts, Garces will open Amada, an Andalusian tapas bar; Village Whiskey, which will serve cocktails and upscale American bar food; and Distrito Cantina, a Margarita bar with Mexican street food. Garces owns seven restaurants in Philadelphia (with an eighth slated to open next year) and recently announced plans to open his first West Coast restaurant in Palm Springs, California, with details such as name and cuisine yet to be revealed.

•Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group has launched a National Private Dining Program as a way for customers to easily book and plan private events at any Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Del Frisco’s Grille and Sullivan’s Steakhouse nationwide. National Private Dining Program account holders will have the ability to contact a “dedicated national point person” in charge of booking events, as well as a “dedicated on-site point person” to ensure that events are perfectly executed, the company said. Dallas-based Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group owns and operates 31 restaurants nationwide.

•A recent Technomic study, “Market Intelligence Report: Restrictive Diets,” shows that restaurant menus have become increasingly allergy- and diet-friendly in order to meet customers’ special needs. More and more menu items are described as having low or no cholesterol, fat and salt, and being free of gluten and other allergens such as nuts. Gluten-free items on menus jumped 61% from 2010 to 2011, while cholesterol-free items jumped 83% over the same period. The results point to an acceleration of the health-consciousness trend, said Mary Chapman, Technomic’s director of product innovation.

•Kirin Brewery of America is launching Kirin Free, a 100% alcohol-free malt beverage at 60 calories per 11.3-ounce serving. Southern California is the initial U.S. market for the product, which has had strong sales in Japan. Kirin Free will be available in the on- and off-premise, retailing at $1.98 a bottle in supermarkets. Anheuser-Busch and Mutual Trading Company are handling distribution. While most non-alcohol beers contain 0.5% alcohol, Kirin says this is the first zero-alcohol malt beverage. “Anyone who desires a malt beverage, but doesn’t want the effects of any alcohol at all can enjoy Kirin Free,” says Kirin Brewery of America president Randy Higa.

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