Best Chain Beer Program
“Our beer philosophy is to offer a great mixture of well-known domestic, craft, local and premium American light beers,” says Ken Lennox, director of beverage for Ruby Tuesday. The 753-location casual restaurant chain, headquartered in Maryville, TN, boasts an all-encompassing beer program that taps into a variety of guests’ tastes for suds.
Ruby Tuesday’s beverage menus feature both well-known, widely available beers such Sam Adams Boston Lager, Miller Lite and Guinness Stout, as well as local favorites. Individual locations have the autonomy to hand pick hometown selections to round out the menu, and strive to offer those brewed within a 50 to 100 hundred mile radius.
This speaks to the company’s sense of community, says Andy Scoggins, Ruby Tuesday’s vice president of culinary and beverage. Though locations need to follow some guidelines to assure that popular choices are highlighted, he adds that they also have the flexibility to look at their markets and sell what the locals are craving–Brooklyn Brown at New York restaurants, for example.
The “Big Adventurous Beers” section of the menu offers large format cans, including Foster’s 25.4-oz. and Pabst Blue Ribbon 16-oz. cans. Scoggins notes that while these are generally marketed towards men, the can packaging offers clean taste, a low carbon footprint and in some cases, a nostalgia factor.
Ruby Tuesday has also developed beer cocktails to drive cocktail lovers to the other side of the drinks menu. The Beer-Rita is a Margarita riff, with Sauza Gold tequila, Triple Sec, agave, lemon, lime and Coronita Extra; the Raspberry Moon mixes Blue Moon Belgian White Ale with Chambord and fresh berries. The chain may add other hop-tails seasonally, for example, focusing on heavier beers during the cooler months.
Ongoing and seasonal promotions help fuel beer sales, including a daily Happy Hour, with specials on Miller Lite ($2) and Blue Moon ($3). Guests can upgrade to a larger 22-oz. draft for an additional $.99. During the 2012 football season, Ruby Tuesday’s Football Watch program encourages fans to linger longer by showing NFL games via DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, as well as college games on Thursday and Sunday nights. Free WiFi allows guests to create, track and maintain their fantasy leagues.
Lennox notes that Sunday afternoons have always been busy, but Ruby Tuesday amped up beer sales this year by attracting the Monday night crowd. “We thought about where you’d want to go to have some great beers and great food, and watch football,” he says. Because of the easy availability of catching the game on TV plus the internet access, Monday night traffic has increased.
The chain’s March Madness Million Dollar Bracket Challenge takes places annually in conjunction with the NCAA basketball tournament. Guests enter an online bracket challenge through Rubytuesdaybasketball.com for a chance at $1 million dollars and other prizes and discounts. Miller Lite and Blue Moon were featured throughout the program, which resulted in more than 13,000 brackets submitted and 24,000 new “Likes” on Facebook.
Beverage training is thorough and ongoing. Ruby Tuesday’s general managers attend leadership sessions twice a year involving hands on training in a state-of-the-art beverage center. Bartenders undergo robust online and printed training, and have their skills tested at regional bar meetings.
Beer comprises about 34.4% of Ruby Tuesday’s total beverage sales, and 2012 initiatives have increased overall case volume by as much as 52% over the same period in 2011. Above all, Lennox and Scoggins are proud of how passionate Ruby Tuesday is about beer.
Based: Maryville, TN
Number of units: 709 owned-and-operated restaurants and 77 franchised restaurants
Annual sales: $1.326 billion