Cheers Beverage Conference 2001: Find Out What You Missed

 
Dave Palumbo, corporate food and beverage director, Interstate Hotels, accepts the Best Hotel Beverage Program award from sponsor Forest Glen’s gm Gary Ramona at the conference in April .
 
Matthew Holmes of sponsor Scottish & Newcastle presents Chris Cage, asst. vp beverage operations, Dave & Buster’s, the 2001 Best Chain Beer Program award at the Aladdin Hotel event.



Cheers Beverage Conference 2001:
Find Out What You Missed
With twice the participants as 2000 and an expanded 1 1/2 day schedule, the Cheers Beverage Conference took off in Las Vegas this year.

COVERAGE BY ROBYN OUCHIDA AND JACK ROBERTIELLO


 
Diane and David Alexander of DC’s celebrated beer haven the Brickskeller with their award for Best Independent Beer Program.
 
Ocean Spray’s Jeff Falk and the Bellagio’s Tony Abou-Ganim with the Cheers Classic Award. Winner Harry Denton, once Tony’s boss in San Francisco, was forced to remain in SF during the conference.

 
The 2001 Cheers Conference drew a record attendance–more than 325 attendees.
 
Heineken’s Russel Kuck at the stellar cocktail party at the Aladdin with Jillian’s Entertainment’s Kathryn Sotelo.


KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY MICHAEL KAUFMAN, METROMEDIA RESTAURANT GROUP.


Beverages to Brands – A Profitable B2B.


Keynoter Michael Kaufman revealed how brands and drinking patterns have changed the restaurant business.


By the middle of 1990s, the food service industry was stricken with an overall uncertainty about the proper marketing of alcohol in bars and restaurants, according to Michael Kaufman, president of Metromedia Restaurant Group, the keynoter for this year’s conference.


Beverage mix had reached its high several years before in the late 1980s, Kaufman said, and there was a decline that continued through the early 1990s.


Looking back, Kaufman said, the gradual re-emergence of alcohol happened in casual restaurants in three waves. First, microbreweries and chains featuring beer experienced tremendous growth. Appeal to consumers in terms of taste and beer knowledge helped attract new customers and develop brand loyalty to new brews and operations. Using full pricing and premium brands, the operations discovered that customers were attracted to quality. Bennigan’s, a Metromedia restaurant group, initiated the Copper Clover International Beer Quest program and increases were seen in the beer mix, although not as powerfully as originally hoped.


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Morton’s of Chicago’s Tylor Field told attendees that wine by-the-glass was now a part of the company’s culture.
 
Ken Hall, bar star at Rio Suites Voo Doo Lounge, talked about Las Vegas and his award-winning flair style.


Secondly, stronger channel marketing increased the level of education among consumers about alcohol. Both aging Baby Boomers and younger generations discovered a nostalgic fascination with nightclubs, dressing up and drinks like Martinis. Customer-friendly menus made spirits less intimidating to the consumer and partially as a result, premium brand sales went up. There was a focus on taste and quality and it was more comprehensive than just the introduction of a beer program.


Finally, the bar itself became a high-energy facility focused on quality, fun and social interaction. Discounting fell out of favor, and the customer response to the bar experience carried over to the restaurant.


No doubt, Kaufmann said, the emergence of quality in beer, wine and spirits signaled the resurgence of these facilities. And brand positioning was in many cases the driver of business success. By building regional and national strategies and creative plans to match these priorities, business continued to grow.

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