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Beverage

Inside BJ’s beer-subscription program

Members of the “club” pay $30 for $75 in takeout and on-site benefits.
Photograph: Shutterstock

BJ’s Restaurants is testing a new beer subscription program at eight units in northern California. Here, from the website of the store in Arden Fair, is a look at how the Beer Club pilot works.

For a $30 upfront fee, enrollees in the club are entitled to a series of perks on a two-month cycle. The 208-unit casual chain says the foods and beverages included in those paybacks are worth $75 a la carte and include access to small-batch brews that are available only to members.

The every-other-month deliverables include a 750 mL bottle and four 16-ounce cans of the small-batch brews, which are custom-crafted by BJ’s brewmaster, Alex Puchner. The beverages are provided for to-go service.

Members are also entitled to a large deep-dish pizza during the two-month cycle at no extra cost, but exclusively for takeout. They can also refill their growlers for $5 a pop at any time, but only for to go, and only one per visit. 

If they opt to dine on-premise, members are treated to a Pazookie dessert and appetizer, one of each over the two-month cycle. They can also upgrade any 16-ounce draft to a 20-ounce serving at no extra charge.

All members are automatically enrolled in BJ’s frequent-guest program and are entitled to $10 in credit for every $100 they spend.

Founding members receive the added perks of a 750 ml. bottle of Imperial White Ale, a popular premium brew; a pint glass for at-home use; and either a 64-ounce growler or a six pack of BJ’s house beer, a proprietary brew.

In addition to Arden Fair, the pilot sites include Elk Grove, Folsom, Modesto, Natomas, Roseville, Stockton and Vacaville.

BJ’s started the test in early September. “We’ve learned a lot in a few short weeks since launch,” CEO Greg Trojan told financial analysts at the end of October. “With the most encouraging data point being the high level of engagement of members once they sign up. The level of activity around the member benefits is a great indication of future word-of-mouth subscriber increases, minimization of subscriber defections and ultimately, the program’s ability to drive in-restaurant frequency.”

Subscription programs have slowly been gaining traction in the restaurant industry, with meal-kit plans apparently serving as a model. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit recently introduced three meals that are available on a subscription basis. Every month, participants can receive a family-sized meal of two proteins, two sides and four individual desserts for $99; five proteins, two sides and six dessert portions for $150; or 10 proteins, four sides and 12 dessert portions for $280.

Panera Bread said last month that 500,000 customers had signed up for its beverage subscription service, whereby patrons pay $8.99 a month. In exchange, they are entitled to any size and flavor of hot coffee, hot tea or iced coffee at the rate of one cup every two hours.

According to CEO Niren Chaudhary, 35% of those enrollees are new customers for the brand, and more than a third opt for food to accompany their free java.

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