VIBE Vista Awards Honor Beer Programs

At the first VIBE Conference, held March 9-10 in Las Vegas, we celebrated the winners of the VIBE Vista Awards. Continuing our profiles of the winners, we take a look at the winning beer programs. Fox & Hound Restaurant Group took home the VIBE Vista Beer Award for the Chain Restaurant and Multi-unit Operator segment, while Disney Theme Parks and Resorts, snagged the beer program award in the Chain Hotel, Casino and Cruise Line Operator category. Both categories were sponsored by MillerCoors. Congratulations to both!

Fox & Hound Restaurant Group

By creating a beer program that encourages repeat business and builds excitement in local markets, Fox & Hound’s restaurant philosophy of “sports, spirits and fun” is getting results in a tough economic environment.

With 84 restaurants nationally, the Wichita, Kan.-based company places heavy emphasis on its beer menu, offering popular major labels as well as local and regional favorites. A majority of the venues (57 out of 84) boast 36 draft handles, 16 have 24-30 handles while the remaining venues have 10-20. Each location can create its own draft, bottle and happy hour menus, and promote those selections via customized menu inserts that have helped Fox & Hound increase customer loyalty and sales. Additionally, the beer menu shows the breadth of Fox & Hound’s beer knowledge, showcasing the mixability of beers with the Beer Blends menu, featuring traditional and innovative combinations of different beers, but also educating guests with the “Hop-erations” insert, where guests learn about ale, lager and beer facts and pairings.

Fox & Hound Beer Blend menu

Additionally, Fox & Hound keeps guests coming back with its seasonal and event-driven promotions, including its annual St. Practice Day (a pre-St. Patrick’s Day event; the 2009 event saw a 3 percent increase from the previous year), St. Patrick’s Day (up 41.5 percent from 2008), Cinco de Mayo (up 54.5 percent from 2008) and Oktoberfest). Erin Shipley, marketing and beverage director for Fox & Hound Restaurant Group, says the concept’s party atmosphere comes from an “if we build it they will come” attitude. “Our teams know that we will be successful if we do more than just open our doors and expect a party to come to us; we have to build it. With that in mind, we work with our stores to send them various tools to promote their parties,” Shipley says, noting that tools include posters, table tents, e-mail marketing templates and party kits.

Fox & HoundTo encourage guest loyalty, Fox & Hound also relies on guest reward programs such as the recently conceived All Star Brew Club, which replaces the chain’s Mug Club. Stores are signing 85 - 90 percent new members since its inception in August 2009. As guests hit new tiers in the sampling program, they receive gift cards, T-shirts and their names on an all-star plaque.

Fox & Hound knows what works for its patrons: draft and bottled beer generate 61 percent of Fox & Hound’s total alcohol volume, and beer sales increased 7.5 percent as of November 2009. Promoting beer and supporting beer also works for the Fox & Hound Restaurant Group. Data shows restaurant sales increase by 30 percent during draft and pint night promotions. Because of its profitable promotions, rewards programs, beer variety and strong server knowledge, it’s no surprise Fox & Hound’s beer program is the winner of the 2010 VIBE Vista Award for an outstanding beer program.

Disney Theme Parks and Resorts

The Wave Restaurant Bar DisneyDisney Theme Parks and Resorts strives to create an exemplary experience for every guest, and the beer program at Disney only enhances that experience. In fact, the depth and variety of Disney’s beer selection, from national favorites to craft specialty brews, provides the theme park and resort operator a unique point of differentiation among family-focused properties.

Not only does Disney’s beer selection consist of local favorites from the different regions where the theme parks and resorts are located, but its multi-faceted beverage program also showcases its extensive list of craft and specialty beers from around the world. “Many of our lounges and restaurants are highly themed, and the beverage selections, including beer, need to help support the story of the location,” says Stuart McGuire, beverage and concept director at Disney Theme Parks and Resorts. For example, Disney’s African-themed restaurant Sanaa, in the Animal Kingdom Villas at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, features African and Indian beers including Tusker Premium Lager from Kenya, Windhoek Lager from Namibia and Kingfisher Premium Lager from India.

The Wave Restaurant, in Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Orlando, features healthy food options complemented by an organic beer selection from Wolaver’s, one of America’s first certified organic breweries. At Crew’s Cup Lounge at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Samuel Adams brands are on tap, and a Samuel Adams’ Brewmaster personally selects a small batch of draft beer for a monthly rotation. This exclusive arrangement with Disney drives beer sales, customer loyalty and individualizes the guest experience.

Disney Sam Adams sampler

Additionally, Disney focuses on beer training, which McGuire says gives staff a “powerful competitive advantage.” Brewmasters are invited to present their beers during training, and servers are educated on food pairings and sales techniques during pre-shift meetings. For example, at Whispering Canyon Café at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, staff is trained to help make food and beer pairing suggestions. Disney “cast members,” as staff members are called, are also encouraged to share first-hand product knowledge and interesting stories about products to guests.

Because Disney takes the time to educate staff and perfect its specialty dining venues, it is successful in engaging guests in the beer program. In fact, beer makes up 48 percent of Disney’s overall alcohol beverage sales. By taking advantage of guest interest in craft beers and regional favorites, Disney offers beer as an affordable, profitable alternative.

VIBE recognizes chain beverage executives for excellence in corporate beverage programs, professionalism and creativity. The VIBE Vista Awards recognize a company’s excellence within its industry segment, either Chain Restaurant and Multi-Concept Operators or Chain Hotels, Casinos and Cruise Line Operators.

Winners were selected by a panel of beverage professionals against a specific set of criteria spelled out in the Entry Application. For more information, visit Look for ongoing coverage of the winning programs in future issues of VIBE.

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