This spring, savvy food service operators all over Austin are tinkering and making adjustments to increase their market shares. A prime example would be the changes at Jean Luc's French Bistro (705 Colorado, 494-0033), where chef-owner Jean Luc Salles has initiated some features to increase his client base beyond the satisfied patrons of his bistro-priced French country specialties. For the rushed downtown business lunch crowd, there is now the Bistro Lunch Express that offers fast, affordable deli sandwiches, soups, salads, desserts, and special daily plate lunches. Orders to eat in can be placed at the deli counter, while food to go is available by phone or fax (494-0040); the restaurant will also deliver box lunches in the downtown area. Another new addition is a complete catering operation with extensive French and Mediterranean party menus, which should be popular with Jean-Luc's legion of fans from his days at Cook's Night Out. The restaurant can arrange small private parties on-premises at lunch or dinner and now has the capability for off-premises catering, as well. Kallen Mata-Gastaldi (329-9489) is working with Salles to promote and arrange parties. And for the loyal dinner customers, Salles plans regular evenings where he will offer Paella Valenziana, Cassoulet de Toulouse and an authentic bouillabaisse.

Elsewhere around town, 34th Street Cafe (1005 W. 34th, 371-3400) has added an affordable wine list and a new dessert line called Weezy Cakes, to enhance their in-house and off-premises catering and in preparation for their plans to open for dinner a few nights a week. Capitalizing on the mild weather, Madame Nadalini's (3363 Bee Caves, 328-4858) is actively promoting their attractive new outdoor seating area as the place to enjoy a completely new, expanded menu which features beef, fish, pork, and poultry dishes from Northern Italy. Word of Mouth Fine Catering (451-6986) is busy relocating their base of operations to the 900 block of W. 12th Street. They are temporarily operating out of the former Amandine Bakery while they renovate the old Run-Tex building to house a kitchen, offices, and storage facilities. When the new space is finished, owners Rebecca Wallace and Leslie Moore plan to turn the free-standing bakery building into an upscale take-out food shop. Look for work to be completed by late summer. Craig Thibodeau and Steve Wright, new owners of Heart of Texas Produce (1305 E. Sixth, 479-8771), are enlisting a group of chefs to act as an advisory panel for their business. A couple of upscale dinner houses, Bertram's (1601 Guadalupe, 476-2743) and Zoot (509 Hearn, 476-6535) have opened for brunch and opted for beautifully presented à la carte menus rather than buffets. Manuel's (310 Congress, 472-7555) hired experienced catering director Christel Mayer (472-4422) to create their new catering operation and introduced both to their clientele at a margarita reception on May 15. Chef Miguel Ravago (450-0076) inaugurated his own catering business with a party for Arista Records last weekend. Ravago is available for parties while he continues his search of the right restaurant deal.

How's this for a send-off? Becker Vineyards off Hwy290W near Stonewall will launch their 1996 Chardonnay with a Hot Air Balloon Launch on Memorial Day, Monday, May 26. The balloons will lift off in both the early morning and early evening. Festivities include winery tours and tastings of the new vintages and will run until 9pm. For directions, call 210/644-2681.

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