Since its launch in Las Vegas in 2003, the Tilted Kilt, a combination of a modern American, Irish, Scottish and English sports pubs, is not only gaining steam in the casual concept category but also is enjoying great success with every new location opening. Part of that success comes from drawing on a unique experience. The Kilt Girls servers are clad in knee-high socks and short plaid kilts, and the Celtic theme, innovative food and drink menus and endless entertainment opportunities are all part of the pub’s novel concept.
Indeed, the Tilted Kilt executive team is cultivating a smart, ever-evolving concept. This year alone 28 new Tilted Kilts will open in the United States, with plans for 35 more locations in 2012, for a total of 100 locations. Tilted Kilt’s Vice President of Marketing Kristin Cronhardt talked to VIBE about Tilted Kilt’s plans for the future, how the concept’s drinks program continues to grow and why staying relevant means being innovative.
VIBE: What makes Tilted Kilt stand out from other chain concepts?
Kristin Cronhardt: The Tilted Kilt is a unique and different restaurant experience for guests. The Tilted Kilt Girls are definitely the cornerstone of our brand and the No. 1 reason guests say they initially come to the Kilt. The Kilt Girls along with our exceptional hospitality, large-draft selection, sports-viewing excellence, great food and fun Celtic atmosphere are key factors in keeping them coming back to the Tilted Kilt. We have designed a sports Pub that creates a warm and inviting environment for guys to come enjoy a cold beer and watch the hottest sports on TV. We like to say that we are lifting spirits one burger, one beer, one guest at a time.
VIBE: You offer a number of interesting beer cocktails, cocktails and spirits, what role does the bar play in the concept?
Cronhardt: With approximately 50% of our sales coming from alcohol, the bar is a key part of our business. The bar is also a key focal point in our Pub’s architectural design. Offering 24 beers on tap creates a great visual element, and the bar seems to be one of the most popular places for our male demographic to sit and catch the latest game on one of our [high-definition] TVs.
VIBE: What are your biggest sellers? From draft beer, bottled beer, domestics, imports, crafts and your cocktail list — what’s hot?
Cronhardt: We are a very beer-centric concept with the majority of our Pubs offering a minimum of 24 beers on tap. Draft beer accounts for approximately 65% of our total alcohol sales. We have a lot of guests that come in looking for the popular domestics like Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite, but we also have a huge percentage that are looking for more of the craft and import brands like Guinness, Stella Artois, Blue Moon and Samuel Adams. Believe it or not “Beer Cocktails” are very popular and the Black & Tan [pale ale and Guinness] is the No. 1 selling specialty drink on our Pub Pours Drink Menu. Our guests love Guinness, and they also love to mix Guinness with other beers and shots like the Black & Blue [Blue Moon and Guinness] and the Belfast Boom [Irish cream and Irish whiskey dropped into a half pint of Guinness].
On our Brilliant Bevvies Cocktail Menu, our guests love the Purple Haze [Three Olives Vodka, peach schnapps, blue Curaçao, sweet and sour mix, Sprite, cranberry juice], Tilted Tea [Tanqueray gin, Cruzan Light Rum, Three Olives Vodka, Michael Collins Irish Whiskey], Paddy Bomb [Three Olives Vodka, blue Curaçao dropped into a half pint of Red Bull], Bentley Margarita [Patrón Silver, Grand Marnier, fresh sour and lime, shaken and served on the rocks with salt] and the Caribbean Kilt [Cruzan Dark and Light Rums, pineapple, orange and cranberry juices]. We have been very fortunate to have some very creative and talented mixologists work on drink recipes that really fit well with our male-skewed demo.
VIBE: How often do you update your beverage menu?
Cronhardt: We update our entire beverage menu once a year.
VIBE: From the promotions you run, which has been the most successful, and what do you have planned for the fall?
Cronhardt: We just completed our “Shakers” Cocktail promotion, which has been one of our most successful limited-time beverage programs to date. The “Shakers” Cocktails are 16 ounce-cocktails that are hand-shaken tableside by a Kilt Girl and served in a Mason jar. We featured five “Shakers” Cocktails including one alcohol-free “Shaker,” featuring Red Bull to help boost drink purchases. The program was an overwhelming success with guests and franchisees asking for them to be added on as a permanent part of our beverage line up.
We do have some fun beverage programs running this football season tied in with some consumer activation programs. We ran a very successful Ultimate Fantasy Football Program. We have a Text-to-Win program where guests have an opportunity to win a trip to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. We also have a Stadium Cup program each Tuesday during the regular football season, and we will be introducing a Touchdown Bomber promotion as we head into late October.
VIBE: What challenges do you see facing your beverage program going forward?
Cronhardt: I think keeping up with new product innovation and ahead of consumer trends will be key. We are working closely with our beverage partners to look at consumer trends and get ahead of the curve. For us we have to keep in mind who our guest is and make sure that our drink development fits in line with our core demo.