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Food

At Granite City, ribs tap regional flavor to rise to the top

Pairing beer and food makes for an LTO win.
Granite City

At Granite City Food & Brewery, food comes before beer in the brand’s name, but “We’re a brewery first,” says Weston Baril, VP of culinary for the chain. “Food has to be born for the beer.” To fulfill that mission, Baril focuses on the flavor profiles of the chain’s signature beers when developing limited-time offers. In May, the brew of the month was Granite City’s Belgian Gold Fever Ale, so Baril created Golden Honey BBQ Ribs as an LTO pairing.

The ribs resonated with consumers: 63% said they would purchase them after hearing the description, according to data collected by Technomic’s MenuSurf program. In fact, the ribs ranked No. 1 for both purchase intent and craveability in the May survey. Craveability, which can elicit high scores based on the flavors and ingredients included in the item’s description, often ties into an increase in sales. And that was the case at Granite City. “The ribs captured a 25% share of LTO sales in May, beating out other limited-time offers that month,” says Baril. Customers ordered them both as a shareable bar food plate and as an entree paired with the ale.

Selling flavor

Baril ties menu development into the calendar, and in May, “People want to go outside and start grilling,” he says. To put a different twist on the ribs, he channeled North Carolina’s honey-mustard barbecue style, adding some “Nashville hot” flavor. “The Belgian Gold Fever Ale packs a bit of punch, so I wanted the ribs to pack a punch too,” says Baril. The kitchen braises the ribs in the ale to infuse the meat with subtle yeasty, fruity notes, then finishes them with the housemade barbecue sauce.

Telling the story

When an LTO is ready to debut, Baril holds tastings with the executive chefs at each of Granite City’s 32 locations, pairing the food with the beer and presenting the story behind both. The pitch plays up the beer’s nuances, the R&D that went into the ribs, the regional American flavors and the thinking behind the pairing. Each location then holds a tapping event on the day the seasonal beer and its food pairing launch. “The tapping event brings the story to life [for our guests],” says Baril.

Promoting the pairing

Before the launch, Granite City alerts its email club about the latest seasonal pairing and the upcoming tapping event. On the day the beer is tapped, the LTO is priced slightly lower to encourage trial. Marketing materials within each restaurant’s four walls highlight the story and remind Granite City’s customers about the concept’s scratch kitchen and unique beer program.

“Sometimes we sell out of beer before the end of the month,” says Baril.

68%—Male

Purchase Intent

Men were more likely to purchase the LTO than women. Only 58% of females would order the ribs, 10 percentage points lower than male customers. With its hearty dishes and robust beer program, Granite City’s customer base seems to skew male.

83%—Millennials

Craveability

While 69% of consumers overall found the ribs craveable, younger diners were especially enticed by their flavor profile. According to Technomic’s recent Generational Consumer Trend Report, 64% of millennials like trying new flavors. The beer notes in the braising liquid and the ribs’ bold sauce create craveability.

The result

Granite City Food & Brewery’s Golden Honey BBQ Ribs; $18.99 half rack; $22.99 full rack

Learn more about top LTOs.

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