Part of that rebound has been revving up an off-premises program that was essentially nonexistent prior to COVID. When the world shut down, World of Beer brought in consultants to bolster the program. The strategy was guided by Chief Brand Officer James Buell, who oversaw the integration of third-party delivery services and first-party platform Olo. The effort increased off-premises from less than 1 percent of sales to about 4 percent, or more than a 300 percent increase. Avery expects off-premises to be around 6 to 8 percent of sales by the end of 2021, and he anticipates a lot of incremental revenue to come with that growth.
Part of the opportunity is relaxed alcohol to-go laws instituted by governors during the pandemic. More than 30 states and Washington, D.C. lifted restrictions for restaurants and bars during COVID, according to the Wall Street Journal. Some allowed delivery, as well. Avery says World of Beer tried several alternatives when it came to this particular opportunity, but the CEO admits the chain has yet to crack the code. During the height of the pandemic, the brand served gallons of margaritas and gallons of sangria and mojitos. Like others, the company placed individual cocktails in little containers and sold crawlers and canned wine.
However, he wouldn’t describe it as an exciting result. While the brand hasn’t optimized that sales channel quite yet, Avery knows there will be future chances.
“I think it's a great opportunity for World of Beer, knowing that we serve adult beverages and offer them, to have an interesting adult beverage served with your takeaway food,” Avery says. “That's a great proposition, and one that we need to do a better job and figure out how to market that and appeal to consumers.”
What World of Beer has been successful at is unit growth—something not many full-service counterparts can say. The company managed to open four stores in 2020, three of which were company-run and one that was franchise-led. Three of the four are hitting their sales projections, mostly because they opened in the latter part of the year when states were more open. The fourth location is based in Virginia, a state with tighter restrictions. But given how the other locations have performed with loose regulations, Avery is confident the Virginia unit will bust out soon.
Six locations are planned for 2021. Beyond that, World of Beer plans to open about 12 restaurants per year, and 70 to 75 percent of that will be company-owned. The brand is 46 percent corporately run, and Avery expects that proportion to increase.
“We're certainly open to franchising and want to franchise to the right partners and welcome that,” Avery says. “But I think it would be good for us to end up in a 65/35ish company vs. franchise. The franchise group we have today is fantastic. We have a stronger group today than we did going into COVID. We've got about 15 percent attrition through COVID times in the unit level numbers. But what we're left with today is a much healthier fleet than we were going into it. And I believe as a result of the manner in which our leadership team supported our franchise community, we have better franchise relationships today than we have ever had.”