Travis Hill - Op-Ed - Richmond Times Dispatch
The General Assembly’s bipartisan decision to convert Virginia ABC to an independent authority three years ago launched the agency on a trajectory to become an even greater asset to the commonwealth by focusing on the need to invest in modernization of the business and identify operating efficiencies.
That bold action gave Virginia ABC greater flexibility in its processes while also shifting its leadership structure. While the change in structure afforded new opportunities for operations, it also emboldened us to shift our thinking — to contemplate not just how to generate more revenue but how to build a more resilient and customer-focused organization with greater confidence around change. We’ve drawn on that shift in thinking to redesign our licensing structure and create online access starting in 2022, streamline store operations to empower store employees and deploy a vision for how we serve customers in a digital world.
Empowered through investments made by the commonwealth, Virginia ABC has spent the past seven years investing in its systems and its people. Over the past 18 months, these investments are what enabled us to continue to serve the commonwealth during the pandemic. As demonstrated by the record financial performance recently announced, Virginia ABC met its responsibility as an essential state service, contributing more than $616 million for designated state programs and services — an increase of $71.1 million over the previous year.
At the same time Virginia ABC was completing its transition to an authority, the commonwealth made the largest investment in our organization’s existence, approving more than $100 million for a new distribution center and headquarters. Completed this summer, the buildings are symbolic of the commonwealth’s commitment to a modern control state model.
This approach focuses on managing a billion-dollar retail organization guided by sound business principles with an eye toward long-term sustainability, while never forgetting our role as public servants, and the part our regulations and revenues play in providing for all Virginians.
Our success is not possible without the incredible teammates we have at Virginia ABC. All of them served the commonwealth during a time of great physical and emotional strain, and for that they are true public servants.
Ensuring the public trust is a motivating factor in everything we do at Virginia ABC. While our revenues help to support public safety, public health and other essential government services, it is imperative that the means to that end uphold values required of us by those we serve. Growing revenues is important, but only if we can do so with a focus on public safety and minimizing negative impacts on our community.
There is no question that the perception of alcohol has changed in many respects, and that sales have increased during the pandemic. Our own education and prevention programs — paired with an emphasis on responsibility found in all our efforts to regulate the industry, operate our stores and market to our customers — are critical components of our service to the commonwealth.
We will not lose that focus as the beverage alcohol industry reacts to meet shifting customer demands regarding access and convenience, and as we make further investments in building our own e-commerce capabilities. We will continue to be worthy of the public’s trust by meeting or even exceeding expectations of customers and the larger community through regulatory and retail programs that properly balance convenience and responsibility.
Our success during this pandemic is reflected in the way we worked together to support licensees and maintain operations for our customers. Every day, our dedicated teammates help us realize the intent of our transformation and allow us to not just survive this crisis but to become better, as a result, to continue to serve the commonwealth.
Travis Hill is the Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
August 26, 2021 - National Restaurant Association
Pandemic-inspired policies become permanent in 16 states and D.C.; another 14 pass temporary measures
When the pandemic temporarily shuttered dining rooms in 2020, more than 35 states issued emergency orders allowing to-go sales of cocktails and other alcoholic beverages—an important lifeline for struggling restaurants. At its pandemic high point, 39 states permitted cocktails-to-go in some way.
In many locales, cocktails-to-go are here to stay—a decision that consumers and operators are toasting. Currently, 16 states and Washington, D.C. have made cocktails-to-go permanent; 14 passed temporary measures extending their policies, according to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Restaurant Industry Mid-Year Report, which released Aug. 26.
The 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry Mid-Year Update is now available for download
El Arroyo in Austin, Texas, is among those restaurants that embraced the change, selling margaritas-to-go accompanied by chips and salsa. “Alcohol-to-go is exactly what restaurants need and Texans want,” Ellis Winstanley, president of Cozumel Empresas, the holding company for El Arroyo, told the Texas Restaurant Association. “Restaurants are about experiences, and alcohol-to-go lets restaurants give their customers a more complete experience in the comfort of their home.”
In states where alcohol-to-go is legal, 89% of operators who can serve alcohol are selling it, according to an Association survey last year. The high-margin drinks are boosting the bottom line for many operators. On average, 5% to 10% of off-premises sales can come from alcohol-to-go, the report states.
Three tips on how to build an alcohol-to-go program with staying power:
1. Learn your local regulations. Find out which alcoholic beverages can be served to-go, including any limits on the alcohol content per drink and the number of drinks. Some states require food to be sold along with the order. Some allow only carryout. Others prohibit third-party delivery specifically. Be sure to comply with any packaging requirements. For example, Georgia requires that cocktails be in a sealed tamper-evident container with no openings or straw holes and with a label that identifies the business that made the cocktail. Be aware of when any temporary extensions expire, and check whether your local jurisdiction has any regulations that supersede state law.
2. Promote your portable potables. Use social media and email marketing to let the public know you offer one-stop shopping for their dining and drinking pleasure. A recent email from California Pizza Kitchen invites customers to “enjoy happy hour to go” by adding wine or beer to their favorite takeout meals. Highlight your cocktails, beer selection and wine list online, giving tips on food pairings. When the holidays roll around, consider offering package deals that include a bottle of champagne or a cocktail kit.
3. Serve responsibly. Train your staff to check customer IDs for pickup and delivery orders; verify that the purchaser is 21 or older. Never provide alcohol to anyone visibly intoxicated. If your local jurisdiction allows third-party delivery of alcohol, work closely with these delivery companies to ensure they follow proper procedures. The National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Alcoholprogram provides training on responsible alcohol service.
This article is brought to you by Sage Intacct, sponsor of the National Restaurant Association's State of the Restaurant Industry Mid-Year update
Tito's Handmade vodka is top-selling brand
Virginia Business PUBLISHED AUGUST 24, 2021 BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) reported $1.4 billion in gross revenue for fiscal year 2021, up $163 million over the previous fiscal year.
It’s the third year in a row the state authority has surpassed $1 billion. As a division of state government, ABC sends its profits — $616.4 million — to the state coffers. It’s $71.1 million more than last year. The ABC made $237.3 million in profits from retail sales, $294 million in taxes and $85.1 million from wine and beer taxes.
Retail sales grew 14.7%, according to the ABC. Six new ABC retail stores opened across the state, generating nearly $4.9 million in sales. Additionally, four stores were remodeled and 10 stores relocated. Sunday sales increased 11.8% to $104.9 million.
Licensee sales picked up and were 5.6% higher than the previous year.
The top five brands purchased in Virginia’s state-regulated liquor stores over the past year were:
Restaurant Industry Financial Security in Danger of Being Wiped Out by Delta Variant
August 24, 2021 - National Restaurant Association
Today, the National Restaurant Association and its state restaurant association partners sent a letter to Congressional leadership, sharing concerning new consumer confidence survey findings and urging swift replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).
The survey found that a majority of consumers have already changed their dining behavior, which is beginning to put acute pressure back on the restaurant industry. This faltering consumer confidence comes on top of food and labor costs that are increasing at their fastest pace in several years, continued indoor capacity limits in 11 states, and crushing long-term debt loads for countless restaurant owners.
Specifically, the survey found:
"For an industry that requires a 'full house' every evening to make a profit, this is a dangerous trend," said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of Public Affairs for the National Restaurant Association. "These changes indicate declining consumer confidence that will make it more difficult for most restaurant owners to maintain their delicate financial stability."
The letter urges Congress to complete the mission of the RRF and provide adequate funds to replenish the program and offer relief for the applications still pending.
"The rise of coronavirus variants like delta threaten to push these restaurants closer to permanently closing their doors," added Kennedy. "The RRF has proven its effectiveness in every state, saving restaurants, workers, and the suppliers who depend on their business. The small gains that our industry has made toward financial security are in danger of being wiped out, dashing the hopes of communities, entrepreneurs, and consumers nationwide."
177,000 RRF applications that totaled $43.6 billion in grants are still pending.
While the first half of 2021 showed positive gains for the industry, there is still a long road ahead, especially for full-service restaurants facing the greatest threat from new government restrictions in response to the delta variant.
Read the full letter.