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Thread: Being taken advantage of...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    Being taken advantage of...

    a.k.a. Opening Pandora's Box.

    So, when our little Brewpub opened in 2009, we never expected the popularity of our Mug Club.

    Our Mug Club has a capped membership and an annual fee. For $30/year, members get their own signature mug which is kept on premise. Membership includes:
    ---a free birthday entree
    ---exclusive invites to our monthly tappings which include two free beers
    ---their mug holds an extra 2 oz than our regular pint glasses
    ---a $0.50 discount on their tap beers at all visits
    ---a $1.00 discount on tap beer on Wednesday nights

    At our monthly tappings, we also put out a spread of appetizers which are free to members to enjoy while trying out the new beer.

    Membership has grown substantially, and with it, a few nagging problems have crept in. Mainly, non Club Members are joining their families or friends who are members and helping themselves to the food. While some of this is expected, it's becoming a problem. We are trying to come up with ways to police this without alienating our guests. If we offer wristbands for the food, there's nothing to stop someone from loading up a plate and taking it to their table to share. If we cancel the food part of it altogether (and after all, this is a BEER tasting event) people will become upset. What started as offering a few snacks during the sampling has become a let's-bring-our-family-for-free-dinner affair.

    I do not mean to come across as cheap or unappreciative, but when it starts affecting the bottom line more and more, we have to start weighing our options.

    Have you run across anything like this? How do you run your Mug Clubs?

    Any advice would be appreciated.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Wow, that's a pretty generous mug club! I'd join it!

    Could you plate the appetizers separately and hand them out directly to the mug club customer? Then offer a "discounted" plate for their family members?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    I'd up the price of the mug club. Your benefits for the cost are among the best I've heard of anywhere.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I've seen similar places who put out free appetizers (buffet style) on mug club/tapping nights. A couple of things that they do:

    1. The plates available are extremely small. That way each person can't take much at any given time. sometimes there are just cocktail napkins depending on if the apps are dry or wet.

    2. Since its buffet style there are usually a few serving trays. Don't put out the whole nights allotment at once. when the tray goes empty bring out another one but not right away. Wait a few minutes. if someone comes up and sees the tray empty, they just have to check back in a few minutes.

    3. Depending on your costs, figure out how much total food per night you can afford to give away. only make that much and when its gone, its gone.

    4. start making the free apps not quite as inviting. maybe cut back on the quality/complexity of the offering so people don't want to eat as much (i'm not saying make them taste bad, just maybe not as tasty- they are free afterall).

    5. Try to de-emphasize the free apps side of things. start referring to it as limited free apps. if any of your true club members complains, tell them you simply had to start capping it because of all the freeloaders.

    hopefully they will understand....
    Last edited by yap; 03-08-2012 at 09:03 AM.
    Scott LaFollette
    Fifty West Brewing Company
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Ex-Germany / California
    Thread hijack: where do you all store your personalized mugs?

    Pertinent to thread: don't cut on the quality - that shouldn't be necessary. Maybe instead you can introduce a "Friends & Family" day price, and charge non-members for buffet. Make the price so that it makes financial sense to join the club.

    Plus, $30 is a steal. Change the modus operandi altogether.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Greater NYC area
    I'm not surprised that your mug club took off the way you have described; I agree with those who have commented that the program you are offering is very generous. It would probably be generous even if were only the monthly tappings! Frankly, it would probably still be a great value even at twice (or more) what you're charging.

    You should very definitely raise the price, even if you don't double it. That would go along way toward solving your problem. Doing some quick math, it looks to me like your bottom line is taking quite a hit the way things stand now (unless my math is way off).

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