Adult beverages take center stage at a new generation of casual-dining chain restaurants built on the premise that the beer, wine or cocktails menu deserves as much attention as the food menu.

These concepts—Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, Yard House and Eddie Merlot’s among them—also have banked on the belief that today’s increasingly beverage-savvy consumer will gravitate toward restaurants that respect the idea that sampling from an interesting selection of alcohol beverages is a key element of a memorable dining-out experience. It’s a gamble that seems to be paying off: Cooper’s Hawk, Bar Louie and Eddie Merlot’s all rank on Technomic’s list of the Fast 50 Growth Chains, culled from among the 2014Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurants (as ranked by 2013 U.S. systemwide sales). Craft beer-focused Yard House, which didn’t make the Fast 50 list, still saw impressive sales growth of 17.5%—to more than $370 million—in 2013.

The standout performances of these beverage-centric concepts is notable especially in light of the lackluster growth of casual-dining chains on the whole. As a group, varied-menu chains on the Top 500 list (including category leaders Applebee’s and Chili’s) recorded a 2.5% increase in U.S. systemwide sales last year. Limited-service (fast-food and fast-casual) chains, in comparison, saw growth of 3.8%.

Now consider Cooper’s Hawk: The Countryside, IL-based chain, which produces more than 125,000 gallons of wine each year and offers guests membership into an exclusive wine club for $18.99/month, saw sales spike 26.4% in 2013 to $91 million. Cocktails-focused Bar Louie? Sales up 23.5%. Fort Wayne, IN-based Eddie Merlot’s? Sales up 19.4%.

Notably, casual-dining concepts are consumers’ top restaurant destination for adult beverages. Fifty-three percent of consumers ages 21 and older polled through Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics program said they generally order an adult beverage at a casual-dining restaurant at least once a month, versus 40% who said the same about fine-dining restaurants and 45% who reported enjoying an adult beverage monthly at a local, independent full-service restaurant.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of these dining concepts where adult beverages are at the fore:

Concept: Cooper’s Hawk
Founded: 2005
Headquarters: Countryside, IL
2013 year-end stats: $91 million in sales/14 units; No. 284 on the Top 500
Positioning: Founder Tom McEnery sought to create a winery that offered a full-service restaurant component and opened the first Cooper’s Hawk in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park nine years ago; a central wine production facility is located in nearby Countryside and will produce nearly 50 wines in 2014. (Grapes come from California, Washington, Oregon and Michigan.) The Cooper’s Hawk Wine Club serves as an important differentiator for the chain; members pay $18.99 a month and can choose to receive red wines, white wines, sweet wines, or an alternating selection from the Cooper’s Hawk winery.
News and notes: Cooper’s Hawk announced plans in June for its first Washington, DC-area location, to open in 2015. A second Orlando location will open next month. Of note among Cooper’s Hawk’s food selections is the Life Balance menu, offering appetizers, entrées and a dessert containing no more than 600 calories each. Wines by the glass are priced at $6.50 to $12, and six wine flights (including a create-your-own option) are offered.

Concept: Eddie Merlot’s
Founded: 2001
Headquarters: Fort Wayne, IN
2013 year-end stats: $43 million in sales/9 units; No. 486 on the Top 500
Positioning: Eddie Merlot’s offers a classic steakhouse menu and emphasizes an approachable wine list. Like Cooper’s Hawk, Eddie Merlot’s aims for an affluent, somewhat older-skewing audience. More than 75 wines by the glass are available; Reserve wine lists offer more than 150 selections. On the menu, wines are listed progressively (sweet to dry, mild to full intensity) to help consumers find a selection they’ll enjoy.
News and notes: As of May, Eddie Merlot’s was developing its 11th unit, in Englewood, CO. The chain made its Pennsylvania debut in Pittsburgh in March; other locations are in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. This summer, Eddie Merlot’s is offering a limited-time Napa Valley Summer Grill special, featuring dinner for two (choice of four entrées, Napa or Caesar salad and fresh vegetables) plus a bottle of wine from Trinchero Family Estates for $89.95.

Concept: Yard House
Founded: 1996
Headquarters: Irvine, CA
2013 year-end stats: $370.1 million in sales/48 units; No. 95 on the Top 500
Positioning: Operated since 2012 by Darden Restaurants (which purchased it from TSG Consumer Partners for $585 million), Yard House describes itself on its website as “a modern public house where food and beer lovers unite.” The chain also claims to offer the world’s largest selection of draft beers—100+ taps at each location. Selections change regularly and are tailored to local tastes.
News and notes: New additions to Yard House’s craft-beer rotation this spring included Founders All Day IPA, Green Flash Le Freak, Ace Pineapple Cider and Omission gluten-free beers. Also in May, Yard House opened its first Oregon unit in beer-loving Portland.

In the highly competitive, take-share environment in which full-service restaurants are operating, a differentiated concept positioning is essential for sustained growth. Dining out with family and friends remains an acceptable indulgence for many Americans, but consumers now more than ever seek a dining-out experience (encompassing food, beverage, atmosphere and service) that justifies the outlay of their not-unlimited disposable income. An expansive, high-quality and, perhaps of most importance, dynamic selection of adult beverages absolutely can be a route for restaurants to achieve this.

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Coming soon: Cooper’s Hawk to debut on I-Drive in mid-September

By Megan Ribbens
Web Producer, Orlando Business Journal

International Drive’s restaurant scene had a busy summer, as numerous new eateries debuted along the tourist corridor. But the I-Drive area will start the fall season with another restaurant opening with Central Florida’s second Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant location.

Central Florida’s second Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant will debut on I-Drive Sept. 15.

The restaurant will open Sept. 15 at 8005 International Drive, part of Unicorp National Developments Inc.’s $200 million I-Shops project.

The 12,400-square-foot eatery will feature indoor and outdoor seating for more than 380 guests. In addition, the location will be the only Cooper’s Hawk nationwide to serve breakfast and brunch — a bonus for visiting convention-goers.

This is the 16th location for the Cooper’s Hawk chain, but the second in Central Florida. The first location debuted April 28 at the Waterford Lakes Town Center in east Orlando. Together the I-Drive location and the Waterford Lakes eatery have created 380 new jobs for the Central Florida market.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant joins several other restaurants in the I-Shops development including BJ’s Restaurant & Brew House, Chuy’s Tex-Mex, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and LongHorn Steakhouse.

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Cooper’s Hawk second location to open Sept. 1

Paul Brinkmann
Orlando Sentinel

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants has set an opening date for its second Orlando location, on International Drive, of Sept. 1.

The company is hiring 200 new people to work at the new restaurant, in the I-Shops location at International Drive and Sand Lake Road.

A job fair will feature full-time and part-time positions on Wednesday (July 16), 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Wyndham Hotel, 8001 International Drive, Suite 1332. Positions include bartenders, kitchen staff, dishwashers, hosts, retail/tasting room staff and servers.

It’s a 12,400 square-foot restaurant, the third in Florida. The first Orlando location opened inWaterford Lakes on April 28. Between the two locations, Cooper’s Hawk will have 380 employees.

Applications are also being accepted online.

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I-Shops business to hire 200-plus workers

Orlando Business Journal

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants is holding a job fair on July 16 to fill more than 200 positions at its I-Shops locations opening later this year.

The restaurant, which will fill 12,400 square feet of space at the I-Drive development, is looking for full- and part-time bartenders, kitchen staff, hosts, retail/tasting room staff, servers and more.

The I-Shops development, alongside the I-Drive 360 entertainment complex, will create hundreds of new jobs, as well as provide new options for tourists to visit and spend money locally.

See Also

The I-Shops restaurant is the second Central Florida location for Cooper’s Hawk, which opened another eatery at Waterford Lakes on April 28.

The Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive on the corner of I-Drive and Sand Lake Road will host the job fair between 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Also, Cooper’s Hawk will collect applications online at

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Winery to open at Ashburn’s Belmont Chase

By Ryan Clancy
Loudon Times

Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant has signed a lease for a new location that will be opened in the Belmont Chase retail center by Whole Foods.

Ashburn will be getting a new winery and dining location in February. Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant has signed a lease for a new location that will be opened in the Belmont Chase retail center by Whole Foods.

Cooper’s Hawk combines a variety of businesses into one building including a restaurant, bar, barrel aging room and tasting room. The restaurant and menu is designed for the younger and affluent market that the company caters to.

“It’s a very high quality chef driven menu,” said George Galloway of Next Realty Mid-Atlantic, the real estate firm that represents Cooper’s Hawk.

The company currently has 15 locations across the country. They sell only their own wine, which is made from grapes imported from vineyards in four different states and produced at their facility in Chicago.

One unique aspect of Cooper’s Hawk is that it is designed to help novice wine drinkers become more accustomed to the different varieties of wine. The restaurant has both tasting rooms and staff that can help customers discover more about the wines they’re drinking.

“People are aspirational,” Galloway said. “People want to learn more about wine and Cooper is an ideal place to learn about wine.”

Cooper’s Hawk also has its own wine club, which Galloway said is one of the largest in the country.

“The wine club creates a sense of devotion to a restaurant not often found in the restaurant industry,” Galloway said.

Galloway said that the restaurant’s proximity to Whole Foods will increase business for both locations.

“The customer that comes to Whole Foods is a Cooper’s Hawk customer,” Galloway said.

While Cooper’s Hawk did not decide to put a location in Loudoun because of the increasing number of wineries in the area, Galloway said that it is a bonus.

“I think it happens to be a nice dovetail that there are more wineries in Loudoun County,” Galloway said.

This will be the second Cooper’s Hawk location in Virginia, and the first in the D.C. Area.

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Restaurant review: Cooper’s Hawk in Orlando

By Heather McPherson, ORLANDO SENTINEL FOOD EDITOR12:24 p.m. EDT, June 26, 2014

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant is the newest addition to the Waterford Lakes Town Center enclave.

What makes Cooper’s stand apart from the usual chains that thrive in east Orange County is its format: A combo platter of dining destination, winery, wine-tasting room and gift shop.

The concept, which originated in a suburb of Chicago, pairs Cooper’s Hawk wines with creative turns on upscale-casual fare. There is not a lot of new ground broken in the kitchen, but the food is good.

All guests pass through the gift shop and tasting room to be seated. For those who like to shop, the path can be somewhat distracting, but I found the staff to be gracious and accommodating.

A tasting includes eight pours and starts at $7, a fair price and a nice way to spend your time if you have to wait for a table.

The dining room has an eclectic décor of brown tones with a good mix of booths and regular tables. There is more seating in the bar.

We started with the Cooper’s Hawk appetizer sampler ($21.49), a platter with four over-the-border egg rolls, several chicken pot stickers, two crab cakes and so-so calamari. There was too much fill in the cakes for my taste, but they were pretty good. The tender calamari had no flavor; a little salt and pepper or herbs in the breading mix would have helped. The egg rolls had a pleasant shot of heat and the pot stickers rocked.

On a second visit we tried the Asian pork belly tostadas ($8.99), which our server described as “life-changing.” For me that is going to take a Lotto win, but the appetizer was wonderful. It had a nice balance of flavor and texture from sweet pork, rough-chopped scallions, sesame seeds, fresh cilantro, radish and a sweet chili barbecue sauce.

For entrees, the soy ginger salmon ($20.99 dinner, $14.99 lunch) with wasabi buttered potatoes and Asian slaw was perfection. The rich salmon bordered on a juicy medium rare, the potatoes were enlivened by the wasabi topping and the Asian slaw had just the right mix of sweet-and-sour crunch.

Anne’s chicken saltimbocca ($17.99 dinner, $13.99 lunch) with prosciutto, provolone, sage, artichoke hearts and capers in a white wine lemon sauce is a to-go-box worthy selection. My only quibble is that the sauce made the overall flavor more like a piccata rather than the wallop of flavor a saltimbocca always promises.

The country rigatoni ($15.99) is a hearty mix of Italian sausage, mushrooms, chicken, fresh herbs and roasted grape tomatoes tossed in a tomato garlic cream sauce. The only thing I would add to the equation is a little more sausage.

The chicken giardiniera ($16.99 dinner, $12.99 lunch) featured Parmesan-breaded poultry topped with shaved Parmesan and served with Mary’s potatoes (whipped with butter and cream).

Of the wine portfolio, I only sampled the barrel red, a serviceable blend that pairs nicely with beef or pasta. I am leaving a more extensive review of the wine for when I return with my colleague, night-life reporter Tod Caviness.

The Dish on dining
Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants

Where: 529 N. Alafaya Trail in Orlando (next to Pier 1 Imports in Waterford Lakes Town Center)

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EY announces winners for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2014 Midwest Award

Exemplary entrepreneurs were honored at program’s gala event

CHICAGO, June 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — EY has announced the winners of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Award in the Midwest. This group of leading entrepreneurs was selected by an independent judging panel made up of previous winners of the award, leading CEOs, private capital investors and other regional business leaders. The winners were revealed at a black-tie gala on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at Navy Pier in Chicago.

“EY has honored outstanding entrepreneurs for the past 28 years,” said Todd Novak, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Program Director for the Midwest region. “These business leaders are accomplished entrepreneurs who have contributed a tremendous amount to the community.”

The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014 Midwest Award winners are:

  • Tim McEnery, Founder and CEO, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants (Countryside, Illinois)
  • Jerry Jendusa, Founder and CEO, EMTEQ (New Berlin, Wisconsin)
  • Kevin Conroy, President and CEO, Exact Sciences Corporation (Madison, Wisconsin)
  • Tim Beaudin, President and CEO, IndCor Properties (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Jim Hallett, CEO, KAR Auction Services (Carmel, Indiana)
  • James Cutillo, Founder and CEO, Stonegate Mortgage Corporation (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • Kristi Ross, President and Co-CEO, and Tom Sosnoff, Founder and Co-CEO, tastytrade (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Patrick Allin, Chairman and CEO, Textura Corporation (Deerfield, Illinois)

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Program honors entrepreneurs regionally in June, leading up to the national awards in November. The Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner then moves on to compete for the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Award.

Now in its 28th year, the program has expanded to recognize business leaders in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries throughout the world.

Regional award winners are eligible for consideration for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National Program.  Award winners in several national categories, as well as the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner, will be announced at the annual awards gala in Palm Springs, California, on November 15, 2014. The awards are the culminating event of the EY Strategic Growth Forum®, the nation’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.

Founded and produced by EY, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards are sponsored in the United States by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and SAP America. In the Midwest, sponsors include LaSalle Network, Benefitdecisions, PNC Bank, Becker Professional Education, Merrill Datasite and Smart Business magazine.  Local sponsors include 1871 and The Big Picture.

About EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries.

About EY’s Strategic Growth Markets
EY’s Strategic Growth Markets (SGM) practices guide leading high-growth companies. Our multidisciplinary teams of elite professionals provide perspective and advice to help our clients accelerate market leadership. SGM delivers assurance, tax, transactions and advisory services to thousands of companies spanning all industries. EY is the undisputed leader in taking companies public, advising key government agencies on the issues impacting high-growth companies and convening the experts who shape the business climate. For more information, please visit us, or follow news on Twitter @EY_Growth.

About EY
EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization and may refer to one or more of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit

This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP, an EY member firm serving clients in the US.

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​Cooper’s Hawk Winery comes to Ashburn and other new restaurant news

Staff Reporter
Washington Business Journal


Loudoun County, known as D.C.’s wine country, will have a new, imported vintage come 2015. Illinois-based Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant will open its first D.C. area location in Ashburn.

The restaurant, which serves American fare and house-branded wine in an upscale

The barrel-aging special event area at Cooper’s Hawk set for an event. The Illinois-based winery and restaurant chain plans an Ashburn location.

casual setting, will open late next year in Ashburn at the Whole Foods-anchored Belmont Chase retail center at Claiborne Parkway and Russell Branch Parkway, according to a statement.

Founded in 2006 by Tim McEnery, Cooper’s Hawk makes wine at an Illinois-based production facility using grapes it purchases from the West Coast. The group’s blanc de blanc was the exclusive sparkling wine served during Michelle Obama’s toast at the Illinois inaugural ball,according to the restaurant’s website.

Cooper’s Hawk has 16 locations in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, with several more planned for the next year, including one in Richmond, Virginia. The Ashburn location will include a bar and restaurant, barrel aging room for special events and a full-service tasting room with retail store and chocolatier, according to a release.

Next Realty’s Andrew Rose and George Galloway represented the tenant, and H&R Retail’sGeoffrey Mackler and Bradley Buslik and Regency Centers’ Jack de Villiers represented the landlord.

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Fourth annual West County Restaurant Week to benefit Autism Speaks

By: Mary Shapiro,

Satisfying area residents’ taste buds ‒ and their desire to help others ‒ will be on the menu during the fourth annual West County Restaurant Week, set for June 9-15.

Some of West County’s finest restaurants will take part in the event, including Balaban’s Wine Cellar & Tapas Bar, Charlie Gitto’s From the Hill, Gianfabio’s Italian Cafe, the Mediterranean Grill, McCormick & Schmick’s, Surf & Sirloin, Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant, and Villa Farotto. A complete list of participating restaurants and their menus can be found at

Participating restaurants will feature a special three-course, fixed-price dinner menu highlighting their best dishes for $25 plus tax and gratuity. When paying their bill, diners can consider donating an extra $5 to Autism Speaks.

Rob Muckler, a managing partner of event marketing firm R&B Productions LLC, said the event was created four years ago to “help drive business into our local restaurants and to create something fun for our local community.”

“The $25 price will allow customers to revisit classics or explore new favorites,” Muckler said. “There are no passes to buy, coupons to carry or cards to punch – diners simply attend the restaurants of their choice and select from a special three-course dinner menu.”

“This is the third year that we have been fortunate enough to be a part of West County Restaurant Week, which has raised over $2,000 for the Autism Speaks St. Louis chapter,” said April Bloom, senior coordinator – St. Louis for Autism Speaks.

Each guest who donates to Autism Speaks will be entered into a raffle to win four tickets to a St. Louis Cardinals game in the Grey Eagle suite, courtesy of Grey Eagle Distributors.

Matteo Terzo, an owner of Gianfabio’s Italian Cafeº in Chesterfield, said his business has taken part in West County Restaurant Week since its inception.

“The event is great exposure for us, lets people see the good value and taste a nice three-course meal from restaurants in the West County area, and also benefits a good cause,” he said.

Event sponsors include West Newsmagazine, St. Louis Magazine, Feast MagazineOut & About Magazine, Money Mailer, Stella Artois, Wildhorse Fitness, and KLOU 103.3 Radio.

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Gluten Free in Orlando: Disney & BeyondAlexis Salerno

Our daughters had their last day of school today, so we went to Cooper’s Hawk for a celebratory lunch.

I knew they had an extensive gluten free menu because I had looked at it online, but I was still blown away by how many pages and choices there were.  You can view all of Cooper’s Hawk’s gluten free options here.  They have a gluten free wine list, drink & beverage menu, appetizers, salads, chicken, seafood & beef entrees, burgers & sandwiches, lunch-sized entrees, sides, and house made desserts.

There were so many wonderful things to choose from, I didn’t know what to order.
The gluten free bread we started with is the same bread they use for their hamburgers.  It was heated perfectly, and tasted quite good.
From the appetizer menu, I ordered the Mexican drunken shrimp, which is described as bacon wrapped shrimp, tequila lime butter sauce, and fresh guacamole. My shrimp were cooked perfectly, and I loved all the flavors of this dish.
I also ordered a lunch portion of the Dana’s Parmesan-Crusted Chicken.  It was one of the best entrees I have had at a restaurant this year.
I loved the combination of parmesan-crusted chicken with tomato basil relish and lemon butter.  My garlic green beans, which are hidden under my chicken, were cooked and seasoned perfectly.
My chicken dish was served with a bowl of Mary’s Potatoes, which are whipped potatoes with butter and cream.   They were just as delicious as my chicken!
My friend Shelley loved her Anne’s Chicken Saltimbocca with prosciutto, provolone, garlic, artichoke hearts, capers, tomatoes, white wine lemon sauce, Mary’s potatoes, and asparagus.
Her daughter Bella enjoyed her burger, and said the Mary’s potatoes were the best mashed potatoes she had ever had.
For dessert, my daughters and I ordered a gluten free chocolate brownie with vanilla bean ice cream, and chocolate, caramel, raspberry and vanilla sauces.  The brownie is an OMG…It’s Gluten Free Fudge Brownie, a brownie we are familiar with from Disney.  They are always fudgy and delicious, and we loved the brownie with the ice cream and sauces, which we ordered on the side.
I tried a sample of Cooper’s Hawk’s sangria white and loved it so much, I purchased a bottle of wine before we left.
Cooper’s Hawk takes gluten free food preparation seriously, and the manager and chef are informed when someone with a special diet orders from the gluten free menu.  After reading amazing reviews on Pretty Little Celiac and Gluten Free Living Now, I was so excited to go to Cooper’s Hawk Restaurant & Winery.  The food was all incredibly delicious, and our server Katie H. did an amazing job.  We will definitely be going back.
Have you been to Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant?  You can view their restaurant locator here.