Private Equity Firm Ares Management Acquires Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk has been acquired by Ares Management for over $700 million. Some estimates suggest the purchase price approached $800 million—an unthinkable number for many burgeoning restaurant chains.

Cooper’s Hawk offers consumers a unique restaurant-winery experience. The Chicago-based restaurant crafts its own premium wine with 50 unique blends. The wine is made in the chain’s suburban Woodridge production facility.

According to data from Restaurant Business, the deal is likely worth about 23 to 26 times that of the restaurant’s 2018 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). Chicago Business estimated lower, calculating the deal to be worth 17.5 times that of the restaurant’s income last year. Cooper’s Hawk reported $31 million in earnings in 2018.

Experts compare the move to Fidelity investing $200 million in Sweetgreen in late 2018. The investment implied a billion dollar valuation for Sweetgreen, surprising some in the industry.

Current owners and operators Tim and Dana McEnery founded the first Cooper’s Hawk restaurant in 2005. The chain is understood to be the first restaurant-winery hybrid of its kind in the state. It remains unclear what the McEnerys’ role will be after the deal is completed.

Cooper’s Hawk currently operates more than 35 restaurants in ten states. The chain just opened a new location in Rockville, Maryland. Cooper’s Hawk also features a wine club that is now comprised of over 400,000 members. Club members pay $19.99 a month for a total of twelve company branded wines each year.

The Wine Industry to Face Challenges in 2019

Wines

Although today's wine drinkers, especially millennials, are more adventurous, they aren't drinking nearly as much wine as baby boomers.

This presents a future challenge for the wine industry because it’s no secret that the millennial generation has and will continue to have the greatest buying power in the market. There are more millennials working and earning a living than any other age group. With that in mind, brands are all fighting to appeal to this segment of the population.

According to Lulie Halsted, CEO of London-based market-research firm Wine Intelligence, millennials are drinking less wine than the previous reigning population segment.

“We’re proportionally losing some wine drinkers,” said Halsted at 28th Sonoma County Winegrowers Dollars & Sense Seminar and trade show last week.

The population that drinks the most wine is aging. 21 percent of the wine drinkers in America are over 65 years old. This is quite a spike from the 16 percent of wine drinkers being in this age bracket in 2015.

Three years ago, there were 7.5 million wine drinkers between the ages of 21-24. Fast forward to 2018, there were one million fewer wine drinkers in this age group.

“It feels like from the information and insight we have that we have kind of reached a sort of plateau and a peak in terms of growth in the number of drinkers we have in the marketplace,” said Halsted.

But this isn't just the trend in the U.S. either. In the U.K. and Australia, there fewer and fewer wine drinkers as the baby boomers grow older.

So what are millennials gravitating too instead?

Well, today's market offers a range of alcoholic beverages including craft cocktails, craft beer, and even boozy milkshakes. These alternatives could be tempting millennials away from wine.

“It feels to them like there is more choice available, and maybe wine isn’t quite up there in their consideration set,” said Halsted.

Read more about how millennials aren't drinking as much wine as their parents did at the "North Bay Business Journal" now.

It's more important than ever to have a wine list at your restaurant that is compelling to pique millennials' interest.

On this recent episode of The Barron Report, we took a closer look at some of the top wines on the "Wine Spectator's" annual list with the Wine, Sake and Cocktail Journalist and Consultant Shana Clark. Watch the video below to learn more about these beverages and why they made the coveted list from this wine expert.

How This Season's Wildfires are Devastating California's Wine Industry

How This Season's Wildfires are Devastating California's Wine Industry

The recent wildfires in California's Napa Valley area have been devastating on all fronts. 

The death toll is currently at 21 and 670 people have been reported missing. 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed. 

As of Wednesday, six major fires have been responsible for burning through nearly 88,000 acres. 

This season has been especially damaging due to the unusual number of fires that have ignited at the same time paired with the recent aggressive wind. 

On Wednesday, the wind has reportedly increased significantly, which means the fires will likely continue on their destructive paths. 

Wineries in this area are used to prepping for fires, but that doesn't mean that these establishments are safe from damage. Several are going to feel a significant impact.

Five wineries have been totally burned down or have been significantly burned this season.

Although the majority of grapes have been picked for the season, many of the grapes touched by smoke will have to be thrown out. Depending on the damage at the winery, it may take years for the vineyard to recover. 

“A significant amount of acreage will likely be out of commission for a while,” said Phil Lynch, a spokesman for Brown-Forman Corp., the company that owns Sonoma-Cutrer vineyards and markets Korbel champagne to "Bloomberg." “If it’s only smoke damage, it’s one season. If it’s fire damage, it’ll be three or four seasons.”

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Entrepreneur Spotlight: Washington's Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Washington's Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery

By L.M. Archer, Foodable Contributor

For anyone about to start their own business, winery owner Mark McNeilly’s unconventional success story may sound more like a cautionary tale than an entrepreneurial blueprint. McNeill’s interest in wine making sparked during a fluke flip through a Wine Spectator issue on Napa Valley. Thinking “maybe I can do that, “ he opted out of college at Western University, landed a wine distributor job with Unique Wine Company, and spent five years covering territories in Snohomish and eastern King County, all the while wrestling with a nagging desire to make his own wine. 

That persistent passion eventually paid off. Passion, plus an unusual knack for attracting the right people at the right time, asking the right questions, and an uncanny ability to collaborate and delegate, catapulted McNeilly into the role of ‘accidental impresario,’ founder of Mark Ryan Winery, and a juggernaut in the Washington state wine industry.

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Spokane Quickly Becoming a Nationally Acclaimed Wine Destination

As Washington's second largest city, Spokane's rather slow development of its reputation as a wine destination was rather surprising. Despite the fact the region is home to a number of quality producers who have been making wine for several decades, it was the Walla Walla and Yakima Valleys that were given the most national acclaim. 

Yet recently, a number of small artisan producers are looking to launch Spokane into a wine region of note. Small production wineries such as Nodland Cellars, Robert Karl Cellars and Barrister Winery are all taking part in an artisan wine boom that complements the city's recent gentrification. With other local, small businesses opening up in the city limits as well, Spokane is well on its way to receiving the recognition this quality wine region deserves. Read More