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Recession Cocktails

Recession Cocktails

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Published by applejak
Restaurants are using innovative methods to keep their high-end cocktails attractive to customers.
Restaurants are using innovative methods to keep their high-end cocktails attractive to customers.

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Published by: applejak on Mar 19, 2009
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11/19/2012

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www.chsnin.cm
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march 2009
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 welve dollar cocktail, meet the recession.Te on-premise beverage alcohol industry is nowhere nearthe shambles o the automobile or banking businesses. But therestaurant industry is tightening its belt in a manner unknownor a generation. rac is down and companies are reportinglower volume and disappearing prots.Tis comes on the heels o a lengthy cocktail revolution that hasbeen based upon quality and innovation. Te quality movementhas upgraded and upsold the drink experience. Experts wonder i this revolution, once ueled by ree-spending consumers, can holdup in the ace o a ull-blown recession. As restaurateurs ranti-cally rethink growth plans and try to staunch bleeding prots, will they cut back beverage programs to save money?It is too early to know or sure. Nevertheless, some opera-tors are careully ne-tuning how they do business. Others areintroducing low-cost options. Most seem to be dealing with theeconomy by tightening inventory, managing purchasing andingredient cost increases. While these measures nibble the edgeso cocktail programs, they do not undermine the years o work put into enhancing the drink experience. When the bar team at Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago de-velops cocktails these days, they don’t ocus on a specic basespirit, says Steve indle, wine and spirits director or the 2-unit
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uxury  
Shaw’s Crab House is testing the use o lower-priced spirits in cocktails suchas its Cosmo above.
AffordAble
bvag pssinas aapt ccktaipgams  cst-cnscius cnsums.
By Jk Rbr
 
www.chsnin.cm
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march 2009
concept rom Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises(which also does beverages or the Tai-French usion restau-rant, VK). Established cocktails have been checked to seei swapping in lower-priced spirits brands has any impact onavor.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 oreront.
Recession PRicing
For the past ew years, Uno Chicago Grill has been keepingcosts in line by careully 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 portionsrom $1.99 to $2.99 during happy hour and rom 10:00 p.m.to closing.“Customers are being more careul 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 justeeding 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 orne 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-graperuit 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 itsuccessully implemented last year, which includes its Pomegranate-Tangerine and Tangerine-Graperuit Margaritas (above) and the Cotton Candy Cosmo (right).

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