Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants apparently became a lot better at selling food and drink in 2022. It opened two locations, growing from 50 restaurants to 52, but its sales jumped by more than 27%, from $415.5 million to $528.2 million. That puts it in the top 100 of all restaurant chains in terms of sales (99th place to be exact, up from 102nd last year). It also puts its estimated sales per unit at $10.3 million, almost 14% higher than the $9 million in sales per restaurant last year. Only The Cheesecake Factory and Ocean Prime have higher average unit volumes.
The chain’s model is unique in that it’s both an upscale restaurant and a wine club with some 600,000 members, up by about 20% over the past couple of years. Those members, who can join at three levels, getting them one, two, or three bottles per month, respectively, have access to monthly wine club dinners — multicourse meals with wine pairings — and special “Friends of Cooper’s Hawk” events, including special dinners, wine tastings, and chef presentations. They also can buy tickets to annual trips to wine-growing regions organized by founder Tim McEnery, chef Matt McMillan, and master sommelier Emily Wines (on the docket this year are trips to the Italian regions of Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast, Portugal, South Africa, and Argentina), or get exclusive access to wineries in California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
Wine club members pick up their bottles at a Cooper’s Hawk location, ensuring regular customer traffic.
The chain is also a beneficiary of increasing demand for experiential restaurants and, with its wine club, feeling part of a greater community, all stemming in part from the pandemic-related lockdowns.
Apart from its extensive wine list, Cooper’s Hawk’s menu explores the globe with appetizer such as bacon-wrapped shrimp in tequila-lime butter sauce, Asian pork belly tacos, pistachio-crusted grouper, steaks, chops, seafood, pasta and daily specials, all with their own wine pairings.
Although the chain had a solid 2022 and plans to open several more restaurants this year, not all is rosy for Cooper’s Hawk. It recently announced the closing of Esquire by Cooper’s Hawk, a three-story, 24,000-square-foot restaurant at the former Esquire Theater in Chicago’s River North neighborhood that hosted visiting celebrity chefs and other specialty events. That restaurant opened just a few months before the COVID-related shutdowns and the steep drop-off in traffic in central business districts and the expense of running the space damaged its viability.
It’s slated to close in July.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]