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Belgian Beer Café invades New York

Belgian Beer Café in Melbourne, Australia

New Yorker area denizens soon will have a trio of new places to savor Belgian beer and cuisine.

The first of these Belgian-owned restaurants, all operating under the Belgian Beer Café banner, opens soon at Newark Liberty International Airport, according to the company, though an exact date hasn’t been set. Additional units will open  early in 2013, in Manhattan and Port Chester, an executive told me .

Belgian Beer, a global chain created in 1998 by what is now Leuven, Belgian-based Anheuser-Busch InBev, operates 60 locations in a dozen countries in Europe, Australia and the Middle East. The first U.S. unit is scheduled to open next month at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, just a few weeks after the concept’s first North American unit opens in the airport at Edmonton, Alberta on Sept. 15.

The Manhattan branch, scheduled to open early in 2013 at 220 Fifth Ave., diagonally opposite Madison Square Park and close to the booming Eataly restaurant and foods complex. Port Chester will open next spring.

As many as 60 units, modeled on the classic Brussels brasserie café are planned for the U.S. within four years, according to a press release issued last year announcing the chain’s planned entry to the U.S.

Creneau International, one of Belgium’s premier interior design firms and the designer of the restaurants, owns the U.S. franchise rights to the Belgian Beer Café concept. A-B InBev owns the rights to the concept elsewhere in the world.

Belgian Beer Café logo.

To be sure, Belgian Beer Café won’t be the first Belgian-style eatery in the New York area.  In Manhattan, Belgian beers and cuisine has been offered since the 1990s by such restaurants as Petite Abielle with four locations, Markt and more recently BLX Café with two units and Brabant Belgian Brasserie. On Long Island, Waterzooi has operated in Garden City since 1998. Belgian Beer Café, however, may be the most upscale of them all with its white-jacketed wait staff.

Surprisingly, the beer offerings at the new cafés will go well beyond the A-B InBev portfolio. The beer selection at the two New York venues are expected to be similar to that of the other locations around the world — about 60 different Belgian brews, including Trappists, abbeys, ambers, fruit lambics, gueuzes, lagers, and wits. Among the brew typically carried at Belgian Beer Café are Bockor, St-Feuillien, Palm, Van Honsebrouck, Brasserie de Silly, Bosteels and Dubuisson.

Belgian beer tower at Belgian Beer Café in Australia

The Atlanta restaurant will offer five Belgian draft brews: Palm,  Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Leffe Blonde and  Leffe Dark. Bottled beers will include Delirium Tremens, Saison Dupont, Chimay Triple, Budweiser, Corona Extra and the locally brewed Sweetwater IPA.

Beer lists will vary by location due to differences in distributors.

Meanwhile, the menus will include such Belgian specialties as mussels, Flemish beef stew, steak frites, asparagus a la Flamande and sausages with stoemp.

Creneau International is seeking franchisees to open additional U.S. units. According to the U.S. operations web site, Creneau is seeking “restaurant entrepreneurs in the upper segment of the market that have a proven history of operating one or more high-quality venues.” Potential licensed franchisees are also expected to have expertise in both beer and wine. Franchises, according to the web site, can expect to spend $2.3 million per unit, which range in size from 2,000 to 5,000 square feet.



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