HASSELT, BE – It has been said about Belgian beers that there is a “beer for everyone.” If the popularity it has already found around the world is any indication, Belgian Beer Café is soon going to discover that everyone will be there for a beer when the unique Belgian bar / restaurant concept arrives on American shores.
Created in 1998, Belgian Beer Café is truly fresh and exciting and sure to be a welcome addition to the U.S. casual dining landscape. The recipe is simple: Offer an extensive selection of world-renown and local-brewed Belgian beers; classic Belgian cuisine; an attentive, knowledgeable, white-jacketed wait staff and an atmosphere that evokes the comfortable surroundings of a classic Brussels brasserie café.
The first Belgian Beer Café is tentatively scheduled to open at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey in late 2011 / early 2012. Franchise / licensing projections call for the opening of approximately 60 Belgian Beer Cafés in the U.S. within three to four years.
Creneau International, one of Belgium’s premier interior design agencies, owns the Belgian Beer Café concept outright in the U.S. from Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns the rights to all non-U.S. franchises and licenses the Belgian Beer Café concept elsewhere throughout the world. There are more than 60 Belgian Beer Cafés in about a dozen countries.
Creneau International has been associated with Belgian Beer Café since the concept’s launch, having designed and built every location. The firm holds all licensing and franchising rights for the U.S. market.
In addition to the Newark airport location — licensed to HMSHost — a tentative development agreement is expected to bring 10 Belgian Beer Cafés to the New York City and Boston metropolitan areas within the next five years.
“There are some new beer-only concepts that have opened, as well as some beer-related restaurant brands that are franchising, but none are related to specialty beers such as the Belgian Beer Café,” said Erwin Himpens, franchise director for Creneau International.
“Belgian beer (which includes the popular Stella Artois brand) is extremely popular in the U.S. and based on the success of the cafés already open around the world, we feel the U.S. market is primed for a proven concept like Belgian Beer Café.”
Creneau International is seeking experienced restaurant and/or investment groups with previous experience operating and managing multi-unit concepts in the upper segment of the restaurant marketplace. It is off to a running start. HMSHost, the Newark Airport licensee, is the world’s largest provider of food, beverage and retail services for travelers.
Belgian Beer Café fills a unique niche for potential investment groups and franchisees as an international brand and appealing concept, with an authentic atmosphere and world-class design and construction services.
“There are four pillars behind the success of Belgian Beer Café: our wonderful beers, outstanding food, terrific ambiance and great service,” Himpens said. “We stand out from the rest. For example, where else can you go where your server will be able to explain and educate customers on how certain beers pair well with specific dishes?”
Backed by the design expertise of Creneau International, Belgian Beer Café offers a safe refuge after a hectic working day or the proper finishing touch to the end of a pleasant day. Typical of a Belgian brasserie café, patrons will find spacious rooms with extensive seating and a perfect view of the comings and goings of the surroundings, both inside and outside.
The atmosphere has been meticulously designed and is typical of that found in Belgian meeting places of the 1920s, featuring wooden floors with old cement tiles; dark, solid wooden furniture and paneling; and a welcoming wood and marble-top bar with brass hand- and foot rails.
“It provides a level of comfort and familiarity, almost how you feel when you’re at your grandmother’s house,” Himpens said. “But at the same time, we also try to make every Belgian Beer Café unique based on the setting where it is located.”
As its name implies, patrons will find no better place to enjoy the incredible array of Belgian beers featured at Belgian Beer Café. With a population of roughly 11 million, Belgium has more than 100 breweries that feature more than 500 different beers, each with its own composition and character and served in its own distinct glass.
Each Belgian Beer Café will typically feature 20 to 40 Belgian beers, both bottled and draught, representing a full range of flavors. Only authentic Belgian beers are available in eight different styles: Abbey, Amber, Fruit, Gueuze, Lager, Specialty, Trappist and Wheat. Each is served in the proper glassware at the proper temperature, with a specific pouring ritual (see sidebar) for draught beers.
“Belgian beers are unique because there is such a wide taste pallet among the many varieties,” Himpens said. “Each beer has a unique story and taste behind it, so there is truly a beer for everyone.”
Patrons are also sure to appreciate the delectable cuisine found in every Belgian Beer Café. Each will feature a wide array of Belgian and Belgian-inspired dishes such as Mussels, Vol au Vent (a light pastry shell filled with meat), Flemish Beef Stew, Cheese and Shrimp Croquettes and much more. For the less adventurous, the menu will feature such American staples as burgers and chicken wings as well as regional favorites.
Belgian Beer Café has all the ingredients for success. And even though the U.S. economy has seen better days, Himpens believes Belgian Beer Café will have no trouble prospering in the U.S. — as it has throughout the world. Good beer, good food and good atmosphere equal a winning trifecta.
“The economy continues to go up and down, but consumers still want to go out to enjoy a good meal and drinks,” Himpens said. “Belgian Beer Café provides that in a very unique and attractive environment.”