As consumer demand for convenience continues to fuel growth in takeout, it’s important we continue to explore additional product offerings that meet the needs of our guests,” says Andrea Benzschawel, director of beverage at Buffalo Wild Wings. “Beer to go is a great option.”
BWW has been testing the idea of offering its entire range of draft selections—domestic, regional and local craft brands—for takeout in a limited number of locations in Michigan, Washington and New York. For the casual-dining chain and others testing booze takeout and delivery, it’s also a way bump up the average off-premise check while recouping lost dollars from those not dining—and drinking—in-house.
Beer sold for off-premise consumption isn’t a revolutionary idea. Boise, Idaho-based Flying Pie Pizzeria has been offering its beer and wine for takeout and delivery since 1985. “We have become a one-stop shop for dinner,” says Kayce Bradford, director of marketing. All four of its locations offer beer and wine by the bottle as well as growlers of beer to go, leading alcohol to account for 15% to 20% of sales, according to the company.
Buffalo Wild Wings is currently testing draft-filled growlers as well as crowlers, a 32-ounce can version of the growler that’s filled and sealed on-premise. While operators need to invest in a machine to fill crowler cans, versus the glass growlers filled at the tap, the cans have lower breakage—a key consideration during delivery—and fewer sanitation issues. Plus, they keep beer fresh longer—qualities that appeal to customers as well as operators. The one-time-use crowlers (compared to growlers that consumers often bring back for refills) may attract consumers who don’t want to lug their glass growlers to restaurants. Also, because lighter-weight crowlers are made of aluminum, they are more suitable for takeout to pools, picnic areas, parks and other venues that prohibit glass containers.
Still, delivering beer isn’t without its challenges. “There’s very little consistency from state to state and even city to city in terms of laws and regulations,” says Benzschawel. Even within its limited-market test, Buffalo Wild Wings is still working out the logistics to deal with these challenges.
Flying Pie insists on charging customers’ credit cards before delivery drivers leave the store with wine or beer. Additionally, drivers must be 21 or older and have to pass alcohol certification, such as the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Alcohol Training & Certification or other state-mandated programs. Training includes how to properly ID the person accepting the delivery at the door.
There’s another slowly emerging option for those who don’t want to vet drivers and teach ID verification procedures: delivery partners. At this point, most of the third-party services do not deliver booze along with food, but some are starting to test it out—for a fee charged to the restaurant. The delivery partner works with operators to ensure that, legally, the right checks and balances are in place, taking most of the logistical pressure off the operator. In practice, operators just need to fill the order for off-premise alcohol when it comes in—similar to adding soda to a takeout order, with a higher profit margin.