concept rom Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises(which also does beverages or the Tai-French usion restau-rant, VK). Established cocktails have been checked to seei swapping in lower-priced spirits brands has any impact onavor.Te Cosmo, still a big seller at Shaw’s, is one example o arevamped drink. “We tried our recipe with several diferentvodkas, at diferent price points, to see i changing [spirits]afected the avor,” notes indle. “In a blind tasting, we triedit with high-end vodkas like Ketel One and Grey Goose incomparison with Svedka.” Te latter compared well and now isthe base spirit or the drink.Switching out brands does not always work. For example,Shaw’s bartenders could not nd a pepper vodka to replace Absolut Peppar in their signature Bloody Mary.Te bottom line is quality, indle says. “I don’t want themto be thinking value rst; I want them to be thinking aboutcreating a great drink.” While the cost o goods recently hasbeen above budget, Shaw’s is holding the line on prices.But other operators are developing new drinks that put costat the oreront.
For the past ew years, Uno Chicago Grill has been keepingcosts in line by careully monitoring purchasing and inventory.Recently, it began ofering select by-the-glass wines or $4.99each. It now is working on a cocktail program to accompany its“Snack Hour” promotion, which ofers smaller ood portionsrom $1.99 to $2.99 during happy hour and rom 10:00 p.m.to closing.“Customers are being more careul with their dollars,” saysMarc Sachs, corporate beverage manager or Uno, which hasmore than 200 restaurants in 31 states. “Yet they still deservethe kind o experience restaurants ofer, and that’s not justeeding you.” At high-end chain restaurants, controlling costs can take a back seat to preserving quality, says ylor Field III, vice president o wine and spirits or Morton’s Te Steakhouse, which has 78 unitsin the U.S., plus ve internationally. “In our luxury segment, wecan’t go rom resh cucumber to a powdered substitute.”Morton’s current oferings incorporate resh ingredients andelegant twists such as the oam on their signature Mortinis.Field says the drinks have established the chain’s reputation orne drinking as well as ne dining. urning away rom thatduring tough economic times would send the wrong signal.It also would be bad business. “Te specialty drinks arena repre-sents the astest growing segment or us in all beverage,” says Field.Like Morton’s, the O’Charley’s chain recently upgraded itsbeverage program with positive results, introducing signatureMargaritas made with a tangerine-graperuit mix designedespecially or the company. It plans to stick with the new strategy,says Stuart Melia, corporate director o beverage operations.
Despite the recession, O’Charley’s plans to stick with the upgraded beverage concept itsuccessully implemented last year, which includes its Pomegranate-Tangerine and Tangerine-Graperuit Margaritas (above) and the Cotton Candy Cosmo (right).