Fazoli's tests sale of beer, wine at restaurant near UK

ssloan@herald-leader.comAugust 20, 2012 

As part of a series of changes at its restaurant near the University of Kentucky, Lexington-based Fazoli's is testing the sale of beer and wine.

Customers are able to buy Budweiser, Bud Light, Peroni and Kentucky Ale beer, and Copa di Vino pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon wines.

"We don't know necessarily if it's a system-wide initiative as much as it is this location," CEO Carl Howard said.

It's a delicate situation for Fazoli's, Howard said, as the company doesn't want the sale of beer and wine to detract from its family image.

"That's one reason why we're not in a rush," Howard said. "This location doesn't skew as high-family as some of our other ones.

"We really have to think about it before we take it to another location, like Tates Creek, which is right in the middle of a neighborhood."

If the new offerings are well received, the first expansion might be to other Fazoli's restaurants near college campuses.

"If this goes over extremely well, perhaps," Howard said. "I need to make sure it's the right move for our brand."

He said he doesn't expect it to be a "game changer" in terms of sales, a viewpoint echoed by Dennis Lombardi, an executive specializing in restaurants with design-development company WD Partners.

"It's an accommodation more than it's likely going to be a major menu category," said Lombardi, executive vice president of food-service strategies for the Columbus, Ohio, firm. "For most fast casual places that offer beer, wine and cocktails, it's a relatively small percentage of sales, certainly single-digits and in many cases low single-digits."

That said, Lombardi predicted that wine might be popular "as it will play well with the Italian meals."

The move is a part of a number of changes at the Winslow Street restaurant, including a new exterior and interior paint scheme that replaces the company's usual red with UK blue.

"Our formal colors are almost (University of Louisville) Cardinal red," Howard said, laughing, in explaining the change.

The restaurant also added a patio out front in a spot that was formerly landscaped and replaced its soda fountain with a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine so customers can pick from a much broader combination of beverages.

The Winslow restaurant is the only one in Lexington with the Freestyle, Howard said. The company is testing a half-dozen machines in a few markets.

"So far, we're seeing very good results," he said. "We really want to expand it to a larger test."

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz.

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