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Restaurant Roundup: California Legislature Approves To-Go Cocktail Extension; Dave & Buster’s Sees Record-Breaking Quarter

California bars and restaurants got some good news on Thursday (Sept. 9) as the state legislature passed a bill that extends the cocktails to-go allowance until the end of 2026. Now, the bill is headed to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom for approval.

The measure initially began as a way to allow bars and restaurants to generate revenue amid indoor dining shutdowns. Now, as the devastating economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak continue to take a significant toll on bars and restaurants, extensions of these measures are allowing these businesses to boost sales, fitting into consumers’ on-the-go lifestyles.

“It is very likely that even when consumers are allowed to dine in restaurants, there will be those individuals who will still prefer to get their cocktails delivered rather than having to gather in an enclosed space,” bill author State Sen. Bill Dodd commented. “This bill will provide that opportunity.”

To date, 16 states and Washington, D.C. have made their cocktails to-go allowances permanent, and 14 states have extended their temporary allowances into 2022 and beyond.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate California’s hospitality businesses, and it will be years before they fully recover,” Adam Smith, VP of state government relations at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said in a statement. “Cocktails to-go has already proven to be a vital part of their survival during COVID-19 and will provide increased stability as they work to get back on their feet.”

Dave & Buster’s Breaks Sales Records, Boosted by Mobile Technology

Restaurant and entertainment chain Dave & Buster’s announced Thursday (Sept. 9) that, in its second quarter of 2021, the company broke records for revenues, net income, and EBITDA, helped by investments in digital technologies.

“Mobile web adoption has been extremely strong significantly exceeding our expectations,” the company’s CEO Brian Jenkins told analysts on a call. “The majority of our guests now use the technology and our success on this front has been crucial and facilitating a more efficient operation while also allowing us to deliver a great D&B experience.”

In the challenging labor market that restaurants face today, the company’s technological upgrades such as mobile ordering and payment capabilities and in-store ordering tablets have helped the company meet demand.

As Pete Thornfield, vice president of brand marketing at Dave & Buster’s, told PYMNTS in an interview in June, “The world is becoming more digital. We’ve seen it in all facets of life — digital disruption is happening everywhere.”

Read more: Dave & Buster’s Enters ‘NFT’ Craze With New Digital Image Prize Offer

Revenues were up more than 640% year over year, which is hardly surprising given the business’s non-quarantine-friendly, in-person-dependent model, and they were also about 10% above 2019 levels. Additionally, net income was up 190% year over year for the quarter, rising from a $58.6 million net loss to a $52.8 million net income.

Still, the delta variant and additional contagion concerns could cause further challenges for the on-premises-dependent business in the future, though executives say that they are not worried.

“We do have some markets where COVID cases have resurged, and we have seen some regional softening from that, but this in my view is a bump in the road,” Jenkins said. “We’re super encouraged with where this business sits right now.”

JPMorgan Chase to Acquire Restaurant Recommendation Site The Infatuation

JPMorgan Chase announced Thursday (Sept. 9) its upcoming acquisition of restaurant discovery platform The Infatuation, which itself is the parent company of legacy restaurant ratings brand Zagat.

The banking and financial services firm stated in the release that the goal of this deal is to grow its reach in dining and to build towards its goal of “meeting customers where they are with exceptional benefits, useful content and one-of-a-kind experiences, at scale.”

The Infatuation was founded in 2009, and over three funding rounds between 2014 and 2018,

The company raised $33.5 million. In 2018, the company acquired Zagat.

“We’ve long admired The Infatuation’s fresh approach to reaching people with relatable content that inspires new ways to experience life through food and drink, whether it’s down the street or across the globe,” Marianne Lake, co-CEO of Chase, said in a statement. “[We] anticipate our collaboration will create more ways to engage our growing base of shared customers through dining and experiences.”

Smoothie-Serving Robotic Kiosk Raises $2 Million in Crowd Funding

Food automation company Blendid announced Thursday (Sept. 9) that it had surpassed its $2 million crowdfunding target, showing its 1,475 individual investors’ interest in the robotic smoothie-making solution. The round brings the company’s total funding to $20 million, and the company stated that, as these funds were coming in, Blendid closed a deal with a “major commercial food service operator.”

“AI-powered robots play a primary role in the future of food service, and Blendid is committed to not only optimizing the consumer experience, but also helping food operators overcome labor shortages and post-pandemic demand complexities while improving operator margins,” Vipin Jain, the company’s CEO and co-founder, said in a statement.

While many kitchen automation robotics companies have been bringing in funds in recent months from major venture capital (VC) firms, this crowdfunding round shows that it is not just industry insiders interested in this technology.

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