When Paul Avery came on as CEO and president of World of Beer in 2013, he soon realized—contrary to the brand’s name—that just having a craft beer–focused tavern with an extensive number of brews wasn’t going to result in true staying power.
Stocking shelves and filling kegs with unique and hard-to-find options was becoming a common notion for competitors, and World of Beer, with its 500 bottled beers and 50 taps at each location, wanted to leave a larger imprint. “It needed more attributes to sustain its relevance long term,” Avery recalls. That’s when food entered the equation.
Nearing the end of 2015, World of Beer Franchising Inc., which began in the Westchase community of Tampa, Florida, in 2007, numbered 78 locations distributed across 21 states, with a concentration along the East Coast (and the Southeast specifically). Over the past three years, the entire chain has been transitioning from a beer- and wine-focused model to one that offers spirits and food as well.
The benefit of adding fare to the menu was immediate. “It was very evident to me that there were significant opportunities associated with putting a food program into it, along with spirits, to broaden the appeal,” says Avery, who joined World of Beer after more than 20 years with Outback Steakhouse and OSI Restaurant Partners, Inc., serving as the latter’s chief operating officer. “The World of Beer business model, when I got engaged, was to offer five to seven menus of local restaurants right in the immediate area.”
At that time, customers could simply call and place an order to a nearby restaurant with their table number and the food would be delivered. “Some locations had tremendous volume from neighboring restaurants,” Avery says.
Then, World of Beer decided to take ownership of its food program and brought on experienced chefs in David Belliveau and, later, Mark Adair—who had experience working with Bonefish Grill. Soon after, the beer-focused tavern unveiled a significant new food menu and a spirits program unique to the brand.
There were some challenges with adding food to the concept, especially in terms of logistics. Given the small footprint that was often available in many of the existing World of Beer franchise locations, it was difficult to add extensive kitchen space. The square footage had to be optimized and high-performance kitchens were required to enable a small team to move a relatively large volume of food.
Much of the menu, codified as “tavern fare,” revolves around shareable appetizers, including wings (with house-made sauces), flatbreads, and a signature German pretzel. The entrée section includes a Chimay burger, Guinness-infused bratwurst sliders, and healthier salad options.
The program was made mandatory for all new World of Beer locations. In fact, the food and spirits additions have performed so well that the company decided to transition most of the existing World of Beer locations to begin serving the core menu.
“A number of locations didn’t have the square footage, or the right [permissions] from a lease-agreement standpoint, to be able to introduce food,” Avery explains. “So we’ve actually relocated a number of the older ones into what we think are better locations that are more suitable for a food program.”
All but a handful of locations have switched over to the full-service format at this point. At the World of Beer Easton location outside Columbus, Ohio, franchise partner Darren Greene recently made the switch to the full-service format, opening the location’s kitchen in July. To accommodate a kitchen, they built out the second-floor mezzanine with an additional 700 square feet.