Friday, June 3, 2011

LRG, LVMH and VC

Program, get your programs here...can't tell the players without a program...

LRG - Lifestyle Revolution Group

LVMH - Louis Vitton, Moet Hennessey

VC - Veuve Clicquot

A new restaurant has opened on Poydras St in an area mostly populated by drinking establishments that serve food. The area bustles when major events happen at the Superdome and lunch brings lots of potential action from the location in the CBD (Central Business District). Fine dining at night has not stretched successfully to this area. Enter a growing player in the New Orleans scene, LRG. They also run Republic (the bar/nightclub), Loa (International House's bar), Capdeville and Sylvain (restaurants).

Their website describes the restaurant as, "an elegant, modern French restaurant inspired by the legendary Champagne houses of France...taking inspiration from renowned Champagne houses like Veuve Clicquot, Ste. Marie offers an extensive menu featuring six Champagnes and twenty-two sparkling wines from different locations, each possessing distinct flavors."

To remind diners of the importance of champagne to the restaurant they have constructed a champagne tower. http://www.stemarienola.com/ste-marie-champagne.html Every diner that orders a bottle of Veuve Clicquot gets an "orange paint pen" to autograph the bottle and have it placed in the tower for all to see. I assume the La Grande Dame bottling ($418) will be included but I'm sure there will be a lot more of the Yellow Label (I question my ability to see color every time someone calls this yellow - it's clearly more orange) priced at a more reasonable $110.

Let me point out the level of import this will have for the ownership of the restaurant. If people buy into this concept it might just keep them around for a while. I guarantee Veuve Clicquot and/or the distributor, coincidentally named Republic...hmmm, is offering them free goods or a healthy discount for the devotion and the glass pour. I bet the incentive to the restaurant is significant. More power to them. Capitalism at work. Generate a need, offer the product to fulfill that, get it at a larger discount than others in the market and charge market rates. Pocket profits and enjoy.

Please don't delude yourself into thinking that the featured champagne is unique or distinct any longer. Production numbers have increased significantly and, in my opinion - and I am not alone in this, quality has slipped. For comparison, Louis Roederer, a well-known producer - they make Cristal among others bottlings, uses about 320 hecatres (approx. 645 acres) to produce all their wines. Veuve Clicquot owns more than that (not a bad thing) but even their extensive estate vineyards (382 hectares) only account for about one-quarter of their needs. They are a huge producer of champagne and have lost any aura of uniqueness in the wine world. That being said, it still sells well because most consumers know it and are comfortable with it.

The same can be said of McDonald's hamburgers, Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirts and USA Today. By all means, be one of those things if you want, but don't try to make me think you're something else. And don't expect me to be part of your customer base.
Be LRG, but don't think you're really revolutionizing a lifestyle by featuring a champagne that can be found in convenience stores. Don't offer a wine that produces 600,000 cases of the Yellow Label Brut each year (that was nearly a decade ago, who knows where they are now) and tell me it's distinct.

Maybe the location of the restaurant, sandwiched between a local chain pizzeria (Reginelli's) and a Jamba Juice outlet says it all. Maybe the restaurant shouldn't be called Ste. Marie, a reference to an old name for the neighborhood, maybe it should be called LRGLVMHVC. There's an alphabet soup that I have no interest in sampling.

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