In his two and a half years as CEO of World of Beer, Paul Avery has seen the craft beer business explode and the concept gain a strong foothold in food as well as beverages.
Avery returned to the foodservice industry in early 2013, more than three years after leaving his position as chief operating officer at OSI Restaurant Partners Inc., the parent of Outback Steakhouse, which is now Bloomin’ Brands Inc.
Avery took a controlling interest in Tampa, Fla.-based World of Beer Franchising Inc. and set upon adding food offerings to the then-41-unit tavern concept.
World of Beer now has 75 restaurants, with 12 of them company-owned in the Florida, Louisiana, Texas and soon-to-open North Carolina markets. The company is expanding internationally with deals in China, India and The Philippines.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of quality brewers,” Avery said. “You have to compete at a high level to exist today. To continue to be the leader, we have to find the exceptional beers — especially the low-allocated items — and to represent the craft beers of the world.”
World of Beer has 24,000 approved beers in its system, Avery said. “That doesn’t mean we offer all 24,000 in every location, but those are unique beers that continually rotate through our system,” he said, adding that at any time, each restaurant will offer about 500 beers by the can or bottle and 50 on tap.
Avery spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about craft brews and the menu offerings at World of Beer.
How do you describe the food evolution at World of Beer?
It’s ongoing. I got involved in World of Beer in January 2013. It was very clear to me that the brand needed to have more attributes to keep its relevance long term. They were serving just craft beer and wine. We put in a food program we called “tavern fare.” And then we put in craft spirits as well. That implemented in the middle of 2013, and it’s been constantly improved for the last several years.
What are some recent menu additions?
We just put on chimichurri meatballs, which are really good. We’ve put on ahi poke done in a more progressive style. We have a Chimay burger that is made with cheese with Belgian beer. That Chimay burger is one of our biggest sellers. We have a Guinness-infused bratwurst sandwich served on pretzel bread. One of our signature dishes that we sell a considerable amount of is the German pretzel. It’s about 18-inches high and uses a Bavarian pretzel recipe. That’s served with fresh homemade mustard, and it’s a great presentation.
We are seen very much as a sharing experience. We do have steak frites and fish and tots and other entrées. We tend to gravitate more toward the sharable items.
How many items are on the menu?
Right about 25 items is what we think is the sweet spot. I’d say about 65 percent to 70 percent are designed to be shareables.
How do you set the food offerings apart from the competition?
We’ve got what we think are some differentiated flavors, with beer in certain food items. We have a fall menu that is coming up at the end of October. It has seven new items on it that are fall-centric and feature fall beer flavors.
A focus on food
Who oversees the menu?
I brought in a gentleman named Mark Adair. Mark worked with us at OSI. He was the food guy for Fleming’s [Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar] for six years and Bonefish [Grill] for three. We’re proud to have him on the team. He’s a very competent and capable culinary leader. We brought him on five months ago. … He is bringing in a lot of exceptional ideas with global relevance. He’s been matching our consumer profiles and preferences.
How will he help the brand as you expand internationally?
I see him being very influential. He has considerable international experience. We have three deals done internationally. We just had our Philippines group over here.
You started as a beer concept. How do you approach food pricing?
We try to stay in the sweet spot of $8 to $15 [per item]. We do have some items that are below that. And we do have some items that are above that. But the dominant number of items are in that category, which we think offers great value. We’re getting exceptional feedback from consumers on what they receive and how it meets their expectations.
Did the move to more food items require equipment and operational changes?
Every location that that opens up from now on — we’ll do about 30 to 35 a year domestically — will have full kitchens in them. It’s not an option. It’s a full kitchen and full spirits program. It’s the new model moving forward.
And older locations?
We’ve had a number of older locations that we’ve relocated because the physical plant did not allow for the new presentation. There are some of them that we were able to cut into the square footage next door to pop in the kitchen equipment for the food program. Two weeks ago, we had a successful tavern in South Florida put in a kitchen, and they are seeing about 70-percent sales growth year-over-year. The addition of food, no surprise, is a considerable attraction to World of Beer.
How about guest traffic?
I brought in a guy named Terry Haley from P.F. Chang’s as vice president of marketing. He’s done a great job with our ability to message about the products. If you want dinner, you don’t have to leave and go to a restaurant. With the addition of food, we’ve also seen our average consumption of beer per guest increase as well.
Do you have a favorite craft beer?
I float across a wide variety of craft beers. Like many, I go with the seasonalities: the darker ones in the winter and the lighter ones in the summer. I’m like a lot of consumers today who come into our tavern with intention of having two beers, and those are two different beers. … It’s not so much brand loyalty today as brewer loyalty or style-of-beer loyalty.
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