Winners of the VIBE Vista Award for Best Beer Program in the past have set the bar pretty high, but this year’s winner may have nudged it a little higher.
Taco Mac, the Georgia-based chain with 28 units in three states, currently strives to be the place for craft beer on draft as part of their “Sports, Beer, Wings,” concept. Built on the back of a 100-plus draft beer selection and a loyalty program called Brewniversity, beer sales have bolstered the chain at a time when such sales can be challenging.
Brewniversity is Taco Mac’s loyalty program. Members, also referred to as students, receive rewards as their beer knowledge expands. Taco Mac’s program maintains the theme of learning about beer as an education of sorts, and all language, communication, even status levels, are thematic.
For every new beer that members try at Taco Mac, they receive a Brewniversity credit. The more credits, the higher the status, and with higher status comes better, more unique rewards. Currently, there are more than 300,000 Brewniversity members, and they spend an average of $6 more per check than a non-member guest. This year, to date, Taco Mac has 33,476 new members. If each new member only visited Taco Mac a single time this year, the chain would enjoy more than $200,000 in sales, based on the increased check spend over non-members.
The first marker members can reach is Pledge status (10 credits), followed by Bachelors (175 credits), Masters (225 credits), Ph.D. (325 credits), Professor (575 credits), Dean (750 credits), Chancellor (1,000 credits), Double Chancellor (2,000 credits and the opportunity to brew a beer at a local brewery), Platinum Chancellor (3,000 credits and the chance to attend an all-inclusive trip to the Great American Beer Festival), and Beer God, the highest status (5,000 credits). Each year, new Beer Gods earn a trip to Oktoberfest in Germany, to which Taco Mac took eight Brewniversity members in 2017. (Each Beer God likely spent nearly $25,000 at Taco Mac—assuming an average of $5 a beer—to reach this level.)
Brewniversity members receive e-mails and push notifications on the Brewniversity app about upcoming promotions and credit opportunities at least once a month. And to incentivize members to return for new beers, the chain employs various promotions, including Beer of the Month, Nooners, and Quarterly Flights.
Each month, they partner with a brewery to curate a list of beers to feature, chosen based on what’s trending, what’s seasonally appropriate, and what’s new to market. To keep it fresh, beers and breweries are featured no more than once every 24 months.
Every quarter, Taco Mac launches three themed flights focused on a style or region. One of the flights is always dedicated to the Beer of the Month, the other two themed. Recent themes have included flavored IPAs and coffee beers.
To drive sales during lunch time, Taco Mac launched Nooners, a program in which any beer can be purchased in a 5-ounce glass. The Nooners program provides Taco Mac guests a way to customize their own flights, and Brewniversity members receive 0.5 credits for every Nooner they purchase. This promotion, launched in May 2016, has brought the chain an additional $850,934.99 through October 2017.
Comparing the numbers generated from January to October 2016 to the same timeframe in 2017, Beer of the Month sales have increased by 3% ($59,918). Using the same comparison, Flight sales increased 72% ($93,011).
To support Brewniversity, intensive staff training is a necessity. Sixty percent of Taco Mac’s management team has earned the certification of Cicerone Level 1 (Cicerone Certified Beer Server) after completing the required training and passing the exam, while 100 directors of operations and just over half of support center team members achieved the same.