One of few full-service brands to report both sales and unit growth in 2020, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants began positioning itself as a lifestyle brand with multiple revenue streams long before the pandemic.
The full-service restaurant and wine bar is also part wine maker. The brand has a wine club with more than half a million members, who have access to monthly wine dinners and group trips to travel to wine-making regions of the world.
That diversification built around a loyal fan base was a driving factor for Cooper’s Hawk’s success through 2020, when the Downer’s Grove, Ill.-based chain recorded sales of $385.4 million, up 12.5%, according to Datassential’s Firefly 500 report.
Founder and CEO Tim McEnery said the chain was forced to pivot during the pandemic, like most restaurants across the country.
“Our operators became good at opening and closing the restaurants, so it was great for me that they were handling that aspect of the business so I could help navigate a way out of it for us,” he said.
About six months into the pandemic, he said the company made some big decisions.
“We were going to grab ahold of our future,” said McEnery. “We started investing in talent, technology, digital, data warehousing, really everything that would help Cooper’s Hawk live up to its potential over these next few years.”
Hear McEnery look back on those decisions and how they have set the brand up for more-accelerated growth this year and beyond.
FAT Brands — the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based global franchising company known for its flagship brand, Fat Burger, along with five other brands — has fared relatively well in pivoting to off-premise during the COVID-19 lockdowns. But some of the biggest challenges for their company, CEO Andy Wiederhorn tells us, are in creating different strategies for their wide range of brands. Panderosa Steakhouse features buffet-style dining that turned into cafeteria-style, with employees instead of guests serving the food. For Fat Burger, to-go sales rose from 40% to almost 70% over the past few months as the company pivoted to off-premise. Now, as dining rooms begin to reopen, FAT Brands casual-dining brands are performing better than many of their industry counterparts. That relative success, Wiederhorn said, has many causes: “We’re fortunate that the design of our casual dining restaurants incorporated outdoor features and some of the menu items are grab and go items like chicken wings and you don’t need a lot of attended service,” Wiederhorn said. “I also think the alcohol component is real. People want a break and want to get out, sit outside and they can have finger food themselves that’s not being passed around by other people. And we’re right now at least 25% alcohol [sales] right now.” In our podcast, Wiederhorn continues to discuss the added challenges of reopening in states where the number of COVID-19 cases is going back up, as well as how he aided franchisees during the nation’s time of political unrest in June. ...
This week on the Extra Serving podcast, a production of Nation’s Restaurant News’ Last Bite Network, NRN editors Holly Petre, Sam Oches and Joanna Fantozzi discussed earnings season, which brought on a slew of menu price increases. Restaurant chains from Burger King to Noodles and Company to Texas Roadhouse to Shake Shack all announced menu price increases during their quarterly earnings during this earnings season. The NRN editors discussed how customers will react and what it means for the industry. This week, Black Box Intelligence also reported that guest check growth set a record in the month of January, but that traffic is slowing down. The team talks about what that means and what restaurant operators can expect from those results in terms of automation versus hospitality. Lastly, the team discussed the news that the CEO of Fat Brands, Andy Wiederhorn, is under investigation for fraud by federal prosecutors. What does this mean for the epic growth that Fat Brands experienced in 2021? This week’s interview is Zak Omar, CEO of New York-based regional chain Atomic Wings, which is beginning to expand outside the NYC area and introducing thigh wings. ...
This week on the Extra Serving podcast, a production of Nation’s Restaurant News’ Last Bite Network, NRN editors Holly Petre, Sam Oches and Joanna Fantozzi discussed the news that came out of the recent virtual ICR conference. Companies like Shake Shack, Domino’s, El Pollo Loco, Chuy’s, Dutch Bros and more pre-reported their latest quarter earnings during the conference. Fast-casual Shake Shak saw quarterly earnings exceed pre-pandemic levels for the first time since 2019 in the fourth quarter despite sales in the chain’s hometown of New York City shrinking by 20%. The team discusses why that is and what Shake Shack could do to change the trends. Also, the team discusses the labor crisis and how its impacted restaurant finances. This is the first quarter where both the labor crisis and the supply chain crisis have impacted restaurants financially, so the team analyzes what it means looking ahead. Plus, Fantozzi speaks with the CEO of Checkers and Rally’s, Frances Allen. The two discuss how the chain is improving its technology and using AI to step up to the plate. ...