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Fleming’s By-The-Glass Program Is Difference Maker In Competitive Steak House Segment

January 10, 2014

The upscale steak house segment is highly competitive, making it difficult for restaurant brands to differentiate themselves. But by redoubling its emphasis on drinks (and wine in particular), Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar is achieving that goal. The 65-unit chain, which has revenues of above $250 million (about 30% from beverage alcohol), offers 100 wines by the glass and provides interactive iPad wine menus at every location.

The Fleming’s 100, as the by-the-glass list is known, is organized by varietal. Within each subgroup, the wines are arranged from lighter styles to more full-bodied selections. The chain’s director of wines, Maeve Pesquera, builds the list—which includes 30 offerings for $10 or less—and updates it annually. Some 80 labels chosen by Pesquera are available at every Fleming’s location nationwide, and 20 are selected jointly by Pesquera and each restaurant’s local wine manager to reflect regional tastes and special offerings.

To keep pace with current trends, a sweet wine section was added over the past year, as well as expanded international offerings from Europe and South America. California Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons also have a strong presence. The wines can be ordered in standard 6-ounce glass pours, as well as the 9-ounce Big Pour and in flights of three two-ounce pours. They’re also sold by the bottle, joining a larger reserve bottle list of roughly 80 high-end selections.

“Lighter-style white wines like Riesling and Pinot Grigio are increasingly popular, as are lesser-known wines from Spain and South America like Albariño and Torrontés,” Pesquera tells SND, adding that the introduction of the list on iPads has created “a dynamic and interactive experience for guests.”

While emphasizing wine, which dominates its beverage alcohol sales, Fleming’s also recently revamped its cocktail menu to feature 30 options, subdivided into categories like Retro Chic, Modern Classics, Couture Cocktails and Skinnier Cocktails. “People are becoming more adventurous with their cocktails, so we’re elevating classic drinks with more innovative ingredients,” says Pesquera, who also manages the chain’s spirits and beer programs. The goal in offering such a broad drinks list is to do the same thing for cocktails that Fleming’s has done for wine by the glass—give patrons an opportunity to explore.

Part of the Bloomin’ Brands portfolio, Fleming’s posted same-store sales up 4.2% in its most recently reported quarter, through October, outpacing stablemates Outback Steakhouse (-0.3%), Carrabba’s Italian Grill (which was flat) and Bonefish Grill (-2.7%). Overall, Bloomin’s revenues rose 1.5% to $968 million for the period.

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