Never mind Endless Shrimp. How about all the booze you can hold?

Restaurant Rewind: There was a time 50 years or so ago when the big come-on for a flurry of new restaurant chains was the promise of unlimited beer and wine. What could go wrong?

All-you-can-eat deals can be risky, as Red Lobster’s current plight attests. But there was a stretch 50 years or so ago when the danger extended beyond business fallout, to actual physical peril for customers and neighbors using the same roads.

This week’s episode of Restaurant Rewind looks back at that era when a flurry of upstart concepts used the promise of unlimited beer and wine as their main draws. Today, adult beverages offer restaurants an extremely attractive profit margin. Back then, they were the cheapo giveaways, the bait for luring in patrons willing to pop for a steak or burger. That’s where the money was.

Join as we look back at a day when $10 could get you drunk and decently fed, and why those times mercifully ended quickly.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Saladworks-parent WOWorks is shopping for new brands to buy

The platform company is almost finished assimilating its existing six brands. Now it's time to add to the family, said CEO Kelly Roddy.


2 more reminders that the restaurant business is risky

The Bottom Line: Franchising is no less risky than opening your own restaurant. Just ask former NFL player David Tyree and the former president of McDonald's Mexico.


There's plenty happening at the high end of the pricing barbell, too

Reality Check: Decadent meal choices are also proliferating, for a lot more than $5.


More from our partners