Top Beer Programs Win Vista Awards

Winners of the 2012 VIBE Vista Awards were announced at the 2012 VIBE Conference held March 13-14 in Las Vegas. Over the next few issues of VIBE, we’ll profile the leaders behind the award-winning programs in a series of VIBE Spotlights.

In this issue, we’ll take a look at the award-winning beer programs from Buffalo Wild Wings and Caesars Entertainment/O’Sheas. Buffalo Wild Wings took home the top spot in the Chain Restaurant and Multi-unit Operator segment, sponsored by Crown Imports LLC. The Chain Hotel, Casino and Cruise Line Operator segment award, sponsored by MillerCoors, went to Caesars Entertainment/O’Sheas.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Buffalo Wild Wings

“Draft beer is a lot like chicken wings — they’re both hard to replicate at home,” says Buffalo Wild Wings Beverage Director Patrick Kirk. Which is why the Minneapolis-based brand focuses so intently on providing guests with the best beer-drinking — and wing-eating — experience possible.

In 2011, management at Buffalo Wild Wings launched the Draft Beer Initiative, which aimed to decrease waste and costs, Atmosphereincrease sales and guest satisfaction and provide an environment that would make the restaurant chain the “best place to enjoy draft beer.” Each of Buffalo Wild Wings’ 830 locations offers between 20 and 30 beers on tap and more than 30 bottles.

Through this initiative, Buffalo Wild Wings improved efficiencies in new and existing draft systems, trained management on the principles of draft systems and developed new training materials and draft guidelines for use across the entire brand.

“We figured we have about 15,000 bartenders in our system who all come from different backgrounds and levels of experience. The program we are building is designed to teach our bartenders and servers the Buffalo Wild Wings way of doing things, from pouring beer and storing kegs to talking about beer with our guests,” Kirk says. “We basically said: ‘Forget what you learned from other concepts, bartenders or beer reps. We want to unite under one set of standards and best practices.’”

This training focused on the elements of the perfect draft beer, including the proper pour, correct temperatures, “beer-clean glasses” and speed of service. Additionally, bartenders and servers learned to show the guest why Buffalo Wild Wings offers a great beer-drinking experience, teaching them about optimal temperature, a collar of foam and the brand’s unique glassware.

The tall pilsner glass — highly preferred over pint glasses, Kirk notes — has a wide top that allows the beer to breathe, which tapers down to a narrow, easy-to-grip neck and ends with a thick base that “acts like a big ice cube to keep the last few swallows colder longer,” Kirk explains. “It’s a common style of beer glass, but we’ve made a few tweaks here and there to make it proprietary.”

The most significant tweak is the laser-etched bottom that is shaped like a buffalo. “The etched bottom — or bubble technology, as we like to call it — really lets the full character of the beer come through,” he explains. “The glass certainly costs more, but our guests have really appreciated the improvement.” While several beer brands offer etched glasses, Buffalo Wild Wings became the first restaurant chain to offer the nucleated beer glass in January 2011.

So far, the enhancements and brandwide guidelines have led to increased same-store sales of draft beer (up 3%) and higher keg profitability — each restaurant is now saving an estimated 30 kegs per year, according to Buffalo Wild Wings data.

“We feel an enormous sense of responsibility to deliver the beer fresh, crisp and clean from the keg to the table — the way beer is meant to be served,” Kirk says. “People rely on the bottle because they know they’ll get the same consistency from one bar to the next, but our goal is to create the same consistent draft beer experience from one ‘B-Dubs’ to the next, and we hope our guests will appreciate the beer the way the brewer intended it.”

Caesars Entertainment/O’Sheas Casino

In more than 50 casinos around the world, Caesars Entertainment has more than 150 locations that sell beer, including Las Vegas’ famed O’Sheas Casino. And last year, O’Sheas teamed up with MillerCoors to raise money and honor America’s Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

Last summer, O’Sheas ran a 60-day promotion offering Miller High Life for $1; for every bottle cap collected, 10 cents were OSheasdonated to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association. Through custom point-of-sale items and promotion on the casino’s marquee, as well as advertisements on local military bases, O’Sheas raised more than $7,000 for the program.

Then, in October, the promotion culminated with a special event at O’Sheas — all veterans and active-duty military with active IDs received complimentary beers (all others were still just $1). Wendell Middlebrooks, the “beer delivery guy,” was on hand to chat with guests and retailers, and Brian Thomas, O’Sheas “Lucky the Leprechaun,” also visited the casino.

At the end of the evening, Middlebrooks, Thomas and several Caesars Entertainment executives presented a check to representatives from the charity. The standing-room-only event — which attracted political dignitaries, active military personnel and a mix of visitors and locals — was a “tremendous event for a great cause that Caesars Entertainment was honored to be a part of,” says Chris Picone, Director of Strategic Sourcing, National Beverage.

O’Sheas is known for being very “beer-centric,” which made it the perfect location to launch this promotion, Picone notes. Plus, he says, “based on the daily foot traffic, this was the best location that would allow us the greatest opportunity for volume.”

As the current O’Sheas readies for its closing at the end of the month, Picone says its new location — in the forthcoming Linq development on The Strip — undoubtedly will take part in this program in the future. Additionally, Caesars hopes to make its contribution even greater this year by getting multiple properties involved, Picone notes.

The promotion highlighted a good cause, of course, but it also helped increase customer traffic and beer sales, adding up to a winning combination of which all parties involved should be proud.

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