World of Beer to open taverns in China this year, India and the Philippines are next

February 17, 2016
Justine Griffin, Times Staff Writer
Tampa Bay Times
Thursday, February 11, 2016
http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/retail/world-of-beer-to-open-taverns-in-china-this-year-india-and-the-philippines/2265064

Paul Avery, CEO of Tampa-based World of Beer, is pushing the craft beer tavern chain into new international markets this year. 
[Photo courtesy of World of Beer]World of Beer is about to become an international brand.

This year the Tampa-based tavern chain known for its extensive craft beer offerings will open its first overseas bar in Shanghai, CEO Paul Avery said. After that, World of Beer is headed to India and the Philippines. For Avery, a 20-year veteran of the Outback Steakhouse chain, the move to open franchisee-owned taverns overseas is the next logical step for the brand’s growth.

“I am very confident that World of Beer will do well in international markets,” Avery said. “Craft beer is already there. But no one out there offers what we do.”

Americans like to think that beer is solely a yellow, bubbly beverage born in the United States, thanks to brands like Budweiser and Coors, said Brian Connors with Connors Davis Hospitality, a global food and beverage consulting firm in Fort Lauderdale. But every country has a beer culture, he said.

“What you’re seeing is this globalization of American concepts that are flourishing overseas. World of Beer isn’t the first, but it’s part of this wave of fast casual restaurants and gastropubs that are popping up in new markets,” Connors said. “Beer is globally accepted. It’s a good move.”

Avery, 56, joined World of Beer as the company’s CEO in January 2013 when he bought a controlling interest for an undisclosed price. In just three years, World of Beer hardly looks like it did when it launched in 2007. The bar now offers an array of craft cocktails. The footprint is nearly double in size. And most of the taverns serve food.

The 6,000-square-foot World of Beer that opened in September on Fowler Avenue near the University of South Florida offers an open-air bar atmosphere and its own kitchen. It represents what many World of Beer locations will look like soon, Avery said. And when the World of Beer in West Shore’s Avion Park opens in May, it will have a two-story patio called “the flight deck.”

“The taverns that don’t have kitchens yet will get them soon. We’re working on converting all of them,” he said.

Just don’t call World of Beer a restaurant.

“The focus is still on craft beer,” Avery said. “But we knew we had to expand what we offered in order for this to be sustainable. We think the new food menu and craft cocktails only broaden our appeal.”

Restaurant analysts agree.

“The pub experience is one for social gathering that just so happens to have great food and great cocktails,” Connors said. “It’s a smart move by World of Beer, and I think a lot of what’s behind it is millennial-driven. Even at a chain, consumers look for that authentic beer and food experience these days.”

There’s a lot competition, too, in the craft beer market. In Tampa Bay alone, World of Beer competes directly with another craft beer bar chain, the Brass Tap; local brewpubs; and a slew of restaurants that sell craft and locally brewed beer. That’s not to mention the dozens of local breweries that have started up on both sides of the bay.

“As high-quality craft beer has grown and can be found in most bars and restaurants, competition is heating up and the pressure to deliver a better and more unique experience is more pressing,” said Darren Tristano, president of Technomic, a Chicago food research firm. “Their strategy appears to be putting them on track to satisfying a more broad-based consumer occasion set by expanding to food and cocktails.”

World of Beer has 77 locations in 19 states, including taverns in Manhattan and Kentucky, which opened last year. Of those, 14 are company owned and the rest are owned by franchisees. Avery said World of Beer will open 35 new restaurants this year, including at least one of the three planned for overseas in Shanghai.

The goal is to grow the number of company-owned stores to 30 percent, Avery said.

“It’s a great investment for our shareholders, and it makes us a better franchiser when we know what the day-to-day operations are like,” he said.


Bootler brings comparison shopping to food delivery services

February 3, 2016
Cheryl V. Jackson
Blue Sky Innovation
Chicago Tribune
January 26, 2016
http://www.chicagotribune.com/bluesky/originals/ct-bootler-food-delivery-bsi-20160126-story.html

Food deliveryA Chicago startup plans to feed on the food-delivery boom with a search engine that makes comparing costs and delivery times easier.

Bootler (at gobootler.com) launches Tuesday in Chicago with a platform that allows users to compare menu items, prices, delivery times and fees, and order minimums across a variety of services. Users can add booze to their orders through the company’s partnership with on-demand alcohol delivery service Saucey.

Founder Michael DiBenedetto says customers who use Bootler don’t have to hop from one delivery site to the next to find what they want, then evaluate costs and other information.

The site currently includes Delivery.com, GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates and EatStreet, with plans to add Uber, Amazon, Caviar and Eat24.

“It’s a very saturated market,” DiBenedetto said.”We think it will work because of how many companies are in the space. We’re driving more awareness and traffic for all the players in the space by arranging them all in one spot.”

Users can search by restaurant or food category then see the total from various delivery services, including menu price, taxes and delivery fees. They can then click through to their preferred service to complete the order.

Using Bootler is free to consumers. The company plans to get a cut of the delivery services’ take.

One-stop shopping for online food and alcohol ordering seems a natural with the growth of restaurant delivery services, said Darren Tristano, president at research and consultant firm Technomic.

“It was only a matter of time before somebody built a site that makes comparisons,” Tristano said. “It makes sense. We’ve seen it in other types of comparative places like with travel, with airfares and hotels and car rentals.”

It could be difficult to get consumers who already order from particular sites to steer first to an aggregator, though, Tristano said.

It “will be interesting to see if they can get consumers for a few dollars’ or a few minutes’ savings,” he said.

DiBenedetto said he started working on the website in June.

“I’ve wanted to order from one restaurant and it didn’t have what I wanted, so you end up having three or four tabs open until you find one that delivers what you want,” he said.

The site began operating beta in December, he said.


U.S. Taco Closes: Taco Bell Shutters Experimental Upscale Eatery in Huntington Beach

September 28, 2015

Nancy Luna
Tribune Content Agency, LLC
(c)2015 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
http://www.ocregister.com/articles/taco-683078-bell-restaurant.html

Taco Bell has closed U.S. Taco Co., an experimental fast-casual restaurant that failed to generate the kind of foot traffic needed to sustain the year-old Huntington Beach taco eatery.

The upscale “American taco” concept was the chain’s attempt to win the taste buds of sophisticated fast-casual eaters. But the Irvine-based chain cited “lower than anticipated foot traffic” and “hurdles securing alcohol permits” as challenges contributing to its decision to close U.S. Taco.

The Day of the Dead-themed eatery, at 150 5th St., closed Thursday.

Taco Bell said the closure allows the company to focus on Taco Bell Cantina, the company’s new urban concept that caters to its next generation of customers — millennials. The first cantina restaurant, which will offer an enhanced Taco Bell menu along with beer, wine and alcohol-infused slushie beverages, opens Tuesday in Chicago.

The next cantina will open later this month in San Francisco. Taco Bell said they are incorporating successful features from U.S. Taco — its open kitchen layout and edgy design — into new concepts like cantina. And, despite its closure, future U.S. Taco restaurants may open, the chain said.

“U.S. Taco Co. remains a fantastic concept, and was very successful as a place to experiment and learn,” Taco Bell Chief Executive Brian Niccol said.

Last year, Taco Bell unveiled U.S. Taco., a slick counter-service eatery attempting to appeal to non-Taco Bell eaters with disposable income. Jumping into the fast-growing $34 billion fast-casual space, the experimental restaurant featured a menu of American-inspired tacos, milkshakes and seasoned fries. Each taco was a twist on a classic regional dish — from an East Coast lobster roll to Texas-style brisket.

But from its inception, U.S. Taco ran into one major hitch.

The original “taproom” business model included a menu of craft beer and wine. But the eatery, located in the city’s bar heavy downtown, was unable to secure an alcohol license when it opened. The restaurant was finally able to secure a permit this summer.

Restaurant industry analyst Darren Tristano said brands “moving upscale” face challenges, including higher operating costs and higher price points.

Adding alcohol to your menu also is tough: “Adult beverage is not in (Taco Bell’s) DNA so it can be a difficult transition,” said Tristano of Chicago-based Technomic.

Tristano, who had visited U.S. Taco during visits to California, said legacy brands like Taco Bell should be true to their brand. In the case of Taco Bell, that’s “convenient, consistent, high value and indulgent crave able food.”


Hard Pass on Alcohol and Fast Food Combinations

September 2, 2015

Rachael Andersen
(c) Copyright 2015, Argus Leader. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.argusleader.com/story/blogs/beerblog/2015/08/26/hard-pass-alcohol-and-fast-food-combinations/32392715/

I generally try to keep a pretty open mind, and overall I am tolerant of some pretty strange ideas … even if I don’t agree with all of them.

There are a few things, however, that I just can’t completely wrap my brain around.

Take fast food, for example. It makes total sense to me. You’re in a hurry. You’re starving, and you need to grab a quick bite. Find the nearest drive-through, and your problems are no more.

Now, consider a beer menu at a restaurant. I not only understand this, I condone it. There is nothing more relaxing than enjoying a beverage at dinner while in good company.

But when you combine those two concepts, you end up with a (somewhat) new trend that I’m just not sure if I can get behind: beer (and other alcohol) offerings at fast food restaurants.

For the past five years or so, well-known fast food giants have begun offering alcoholic beverages at select locations. Favorites such as Burger King, Sonic, Qdoba, Chipotle, White Castle, and others offer choices of bottled beer and wine, and in some instances, mixed liquor drinks. Even Starbucks is in on the trend, offering an “evening menu,” which includes beer, wine and appetizer options.

Most recently, Taco Bell has started marketing beer, wine and frozen cocktails. “Just put yourself in the mind of the young male customer,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic. “He might want to have a chalupa. But he’s with a female, who says, ‘I really don’t want to have Mexican, but I’d love a glass of wine.’ You’ve eliminated the veto vote by providing what is likely going to be a nicely priced wine.”

I may be an anomaly, but when I want a glass of wine, I don’t typically imagine myself enjoying it in a teal-and-purple plastic swivel chair at a table smeared with nacho cheese and old lettuce shreds. This is not to say I’m not a fan of Taco Bell and its undeniable charm, but there is a time and place for everything.

Additionally, I consider most fast food restaurants to be family-friendly. Beer can certainly be present in these types of environments, but there will inevitably be people who abuse the offerings. I definitely wouldn’t want to bring children around these situations.

One must also consider the fast-paced, “grab-and-go” nature of fast food restaurants. Obviously, these fast food chains are not offering beer for sale in their drive-throughs. But consider this: When was the last time that you sat down to eat at a fast food restaurant and stayed longer than about half an hour? If I drink a beer, I like to give myself time to enjoy it and let it digest a bit before I leave a restaurant. I have to wonder if the fast-paced environment of these restaurants may lead people to down a drink and hit the road.

I’m all for restaurants expanding their business and trying new things. And I undoubtedly enjoy seeing beer selections at various eateries. But I’m just not sure I can get behind the idea of beer at fast food restaurants. When I think of a bar, I think of beer. When I think of Starbucks, I think of coffee. When I think of Taco Bell, I think of guiltily delicious faux Mexican. I’m just not sure that the trouble of attaining a liquor license is worth it for these fast food chains.

Although Sioux Falls has yet to see much of this trend, if it’s successful in bigger metropolis areas, I don’t think we’re too far behind. Maybe by the time wine is offered at my favorite Starbucks, I’ll be more open to the idea. But for now, when the cashier at Burger King asks if I’d like a beer with that, I’ll reply, “Nah — I’ll stick to fries.”