While many in the beverage end of the restaurant business seem convinced that vodka is the fuel that’s driving today’s Cocktail Culture, when restaurateurs turn their minds to developing a killer concept they increasingly look to tequila for inspiration.
The Jose Cuervo Tequileria (above) at Detroit’s Metro airport could be just the first in a chain of tequila-themed units from Host-Marriott.
Two recent cases illustrate the powerful grip tequila can exert on the drinking public.
In Long Beach, CA, a failing country diner concept was dragging down the rosy prospects of growth at a burgeoning two-unit restaurant company. The beach-side diner, which drew heavily from the coupon-clipping crowd, couldn’t attract the kind of free-wheeling and -spending customers that put most restaurants on the map and in the black, and they were losing upwards of $20,000 each month. Alcohol sales, never brisk, had plummeted.
Co-owners David Reynolds and Steele Platt, determined to salvage the location’s bleak future, switched over to a beach blanket tequilathon concept known as Tequila Jack’s, complete with patio seating and hefty Margaritas. Almost immediately, Tequila Jack’s was awash with crowds of tequila and Margarita swillers.
Tequila was the draw, and Reynolds, who in retrospect calls the decision a no-brainer, says it couldn’t have been a more obvious move, especially as the tequila and Margarita boom continues.
Tequila Jack’s in Long Beach, CA, (top) stocks 100+ varieties of tequila. The Jose Cuervo Tequileria (middle, bottom) includes a chilled tequila tap in its Mexican cantina theme.
Reynolds isn’t the only restaurateur who has noticed the glowing light bulb over his head. Host-Marriott beverage honcho Stan Novack last fall opened what may seem an unlikely prototype–a tequila-themed unit in the even more unlikely locale of the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The result? Finding locations for the concept–called Jose Cuervo Tequileria–has jumped onto the company’s fast track for 2000, with airports in Miami and Phoenix being mentioned as possibilities.
The Power Of Blue Agave
While tequila still constitutes a small–about 4.7%–portion of total distilled spirits sales in the US, its growth rate is phenomenal: since 1987, tequila consumption has jumped more than 55%, this during a period when only Irish whiskey among all other spirits (excluding prepared cocktails) showed any appreciable growth. In 1998, tequila was the only category with double-digit growth, up 10%. When all the 1998 data is compiled, tequila is expected to pass blended whiskey to become the ninth largest spirit category in the US.
Product introduction is also booming; in 1998, a slow year for new spirits, 16 nuevo tequilas crossed the border, accounting for almost 20% of new products. Some, of course, were mixto tequilas, meant primarily for blending into mixed drinks, shooters and the classic lick-pound-bite macho tequila crowd. But others, like Brown-Forman’s Don Eduardo, Allied-Domecq/Sauza’s Triada and the continuing brand extensions from UDV/Jose Cuervo, are based on careful production and marketing programs and aimed directly at the on-premise market.
With Don Eduardo, for instance, Brown-Forman’s master distiller shipped once-used bourbon oak barrels to develop a tequila with subtle vanilla flavor. Like with the El Tesoro Presidio which is aged in cognac casks supplied from France by cognac maker A. de Fussigny, Don Eduardo A