It's not art, but Wolfgang Puck Catering and Events LLC is rapidly becoming a museum piece.


The Hollywood-based catering arm of Wolfgang Puck's food enterprise has recently added the Griffith Park Observatory, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Indianapolis Museum of Art to its list of clients.


Next year, museums and other cultural centers are projected to make up half of Wolfgang Puck Catering's business, up from 35 percent this year. Puck Catering also will be serving meals at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and the Georgia Aquarium, both expected to open later this year.


The cultural centers provide a steady revenue stream and help Wolfgang Puck Catering establish brand recognition in a new city, which can be useful in going after other clients.


"For a business model, it has been a good thing for us," said Carl Schuster, Wolfgang Puck Catering's chief executive. "When you go into a new market, it gives you a stable base."


Locally, Wolfgang Puck Catering also serves the Kodak Theatre, the Staples Center and the Home Depot Center in Carson. Patina Group, which is owned by the Compass Group PLC, caters the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hollywood Bowl and the Museum of Contemporary Art.


Schuster said that Wolfgang Puck Catering has challenged the Patina Group for Southern California jobs, but doesn't generally compete against Patina outside the area.


Westlife Goes South
Snowboard clothing maker Westlife Distribution USA LLC has moved its headquarters from San Pedro to Irvine to be closer to Orange County's surf, skate and snow sports hub.


"One of the biggest reasons we're moving down here is to let people know we're serious," said Michael Akira West, the company's president and creative director. He also cited a need for more warehouse and distribution space.


Westlife has 22 workers, who mostly commute from Los Angeles. The company also is looking to hire about 10 more employees in the next six months, about half for its warehouse.


Westlife's 686 snowboarding line is sold in more than 1,000 stores worldwide, with about half in the United States.


Unlike most of Orange County's action sports brands, which cater to the teen-to-20-something set, Westlife goes after a slightly older crowd. Its 686 line targets people 20 to 40 years old with pricier items, such as jackets that average $200 to $300.


Westlife is looking to expand its 686 line into shirts, sweaters and other casual clothes, although it won't be an easy move.


Competitors include Irvine-based Stussy Inc., Huntington Beach-based Quiksilver Inc. and Volcom. Westlife's 686 casual line is different from other local surf and skate clothing makers in that it doesn't include surf trunks and cargo shorts.


Fresh Farms
An Albertsons location in Westchester is the first in the chain being transformed into a Bristol Farms, the high-end grocer that Albertsons Inc. acquired last year for $135 million.


Kevin Davis, Bristol Farms' chief executive, said the decision was based on the proximity of Loyola Marymount University and Westchester's base of high-income customers average family income tops $80,000.


The 35,000-square-foot supermarket, which will be the largest in the Bristol Farm chain, is getting a complete interior remodel and is scheduled to reopen in early December. It will be the 12th Bristol Farms, which typically are around 15,000 square feet.


The new store will feature a large caf & #233; and new departments, but Davis declined to elaborate more, saying he didn't want to tip off the competition. "It's a new improved prototype, and we will take the best practices to other stores as they are successful," he said.


To grow the Bristol Farms chain, it's cheaper to convert an Albertsons store than to acquire a new site. But high-income areas ripe for Bristol Farms are the same places where Albertsons units perform well, and Albertsons has been hesitant to sideline successful stores. As a result, Davis said Bristol Farms isn't limiting itself to current Albertsons locations when identifying possible store sites. "We look at the demographics, and all the options in the trade area for a new store," Davis said.


Davis added that several new stores will be announced later this year.


Mitchell Corwin, an equities analyst with Morningstar Inc., said Albertsons frequently waits to gauge early returns before ratcheting up expansion. "They want to be able to get a conversion done where it is cost effective, and they feel that they have something they can roll out to other markets," he said.


*Staff reporter Rachel Brown can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 224, or by e-mail at rbrown@labusinessjournal.com . Orange County staff reporter Jennifer Bellantonio contributed to this column.

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