Since last December, White Castle in Indiana has served wine and beer, along with its signature sliders. The wines are displayed in a glass cooler, except the Merlot, which is served unchilled.
Reporting from Lafayette, WSJ’s Barry Newman commented on Jeanette Merritt’s lunchtime visit for a tasting.
Merritt is the Indiana Wine Grape Council’s marketing director. She ordered three cheeseburgers and the full array of four available wines in seven-ounce bottles, priced at $4.50 each.
A White Castle staffer carried Merritt’s wine to a booth, twisted open the screw-tops, and provided plastic glasses. Table service is required by state law.
Ms. Merritt began with the Merlot, from Barefoot Cellars, and said it was “good”. She then described the Chardonnay: “The fruit’s there instead of the butter.” Merritt said the Moscato was “fun” and commented that the Merlot paired best with the burgers.
“I have never in my mind combined the idea of wine with White Castle,” says Richard Crosby, a music professor at Eastern Kentucky University who says he eats there 300 times a year.
“Our customers wanted beer, so we thought, why not try wine, too?” said Lisa Ingram, White Castle’s chief operating officer.
Some staff at another White Castle in downtown Columbus questioned the wisdom of adding beer and wine to the menu. “We got all kinds of drunks already,” said Dominic Williams, tending the grill behind bulletproof glass.
“Fast food plus fast alcohol equals fast drunks,” warns Michele Simon, research and policy director at the Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group.
After employees told Dave Dore, a White Castle regional manager, that several hours had transpired with no wine orders, Dore said, “It isn’t Bordeaux, it’s Indiana.”
According to USAToday, Burger King “Whopper Bars” recently opened in Miami, Las Vegas and Kansas City that sell beer.
In a tough economy, the move towards alcohol is a way to compete with casual dining — and can help boost typically slow evening business, says Ron Paul, president at Technomic, a restaurant consulting firm.
“For consumers, it’s basically about having it your way — even if it’s having a beer with your burger.”
Sonic plans beer and wine sales at one store in Miami and one in Fort Lauderdale. The Miami unit will sell three types of draft beer, 25 kinds of bottled beer and 10 varieties of wine to customers who eat on its patio.
Four Starbucks coffee shops in the Seattle area now sell beer and wine. Beer goes for $5 a bottle, and a glass of wine for up to $9.
Pizza Hut has sold beer for decades in many dine-in locations, and a handful of delivery/carry-out locations offer it, says spokesman Chris Fuller. A brew sells for up to $3.