Loyalty Programs Make Casual Drinkers Frequent Customers

Howells & Hood

Creative tools let guests track and rate favorite beers.

Creative tools let guests track and rate favorite beers.

Remembering your favorite beer at Howells & Hood can get a little complicated.

The number of taps at the Chicago restaurant clocks in at 114. And like many restaurants with a large beer program, the taps are in constant rotation.

There are the usual categories of beer, such as IPAs and lagers, but also seasonal beers, local brews, and limited-selection barrels. So it’s little surprise that guests’ memories can get a little foggy about beers they’ve ordered before.

“We got a lot of feedback from guests that tells us they would like to be able to track and rank the beers,” says Angela Zoiss, marketing director for Bottleneck Management, parent company of Howells & Hood.

So recently Howells & Hood, along with sister restaurant Old Town Pour House, unveiled an interactive beer tracker on its websites. The online tool lets guests track and rate beers they drink, share the information on social media, and read recommendations from drinkers with similar palates.

Crafty Conversions

Programs to reel in beer lovers have existed for years, but the uptick in craft beer consumption has restaurants re-examining whether they’re doing enough to convert beer drinkers into dedicated customers. Restaurateurs are investing in innovative websites, mobile apps, and even old-fashioned punch cards to target these drinkers, and executives say they’re the ones reaping large rewards.

The notion behind beer loyalty programs has little to do with monetary rewards. In fact, cultivating regulars and satisfying their tastes ranks as the primary aim for a beer loyalty program — much more so than growing beer sales or even attracting new customers, according to restaurant executives interviewed for this story.

At Brixx, a North Carolina–based pizza chain, beer revenue was an afterthought for the Masters of Beer Appreciation (MBA) loyalty program.

“It builds relationships with guests and turns one-time guests into friends and regulars,” says Jeff Van Dyke, the managing partner at Brixx, who dreamed up the tongue-in-cheek MBA. “It definitely drives beer sales, but the big reason to have it is just to create a fun experience at Brixx with the beer. I think if people have fun, they’re going to be back.”


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