Bars and restaurants throughout the U.S. grappled with their ability to meet the takeout and outdoor dining needs of their clientele at the height of pandemic in 2020. One such area that many operators had to embrace is the concept of “to-go” beverageware and other containers for takeout orders.
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse established a unique to-go beverage platform to enable guests to enjoy its popular handcrafted cocktails, beers and wine from their comfort and safety of their homes. This started with offering its award-winning handcrafted beers in both growlers and six-packs. Guests could also order mixed 6-packs and single cans of beer
The Huntington Beach, CA-based chain, the 2021 BevX winner for Single Concept Restaurant Beverage Program. also offered some of its handcrafted cocktails for takeout where allowed. These included the Sparkling Sangria (served with La Marca prosecco splits), Tito’s Strawberry Lemonade and Alabama Sunset. BJ’s also offered four different Margaritas for takeout: the Ultimate Patrón Margarita, Fresh Strawberry Margarita, Handcrafted Margarita and White Peach Margarita. The cocktails were made fresh and served in 32-oz. to-go containers perfect for sharing.
And for wines, the restaurant made 22 domestic and import selections available to-go. The wines are priced close to retail costs and start at $10 per bottle.
“We know with the pandemic, guests still wanted to have the ability to enjoy great food and drinks to-go in the comfort of their own homes with the convenience of being able to enjoy their BJ’s favorites paired with the perfect beverage option in a convenient one-stop approach,” says Kevin Mayer, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at BJ’s Restaurants. “In addition, we wanted to promote value and convenience by offering a variety of wines at competitive retail pricing.”
Challenges and changes
Implementing this type of to-go service—especially as the pandemic precautions were evolving—came with its fair share of challenges. As BJ’s established its off-premise beverage program, the biggest hurdle was ensuring the restaurants followed the ever-changing local jurisdiction laws pertaining to alcohol to-go.
“Early on in the pandemic, we started to notice that laws eased in some markets, which allowed further distribution in many of our restaurants,” Mayer says. “Coming out of the pandemic we continue to monitor the laws and shifts that granted temporary approval and where those have changed permanently.”
To ensure a streamlined and efficient execution, the BJ’s team focused on quality items that travel well and taste just as great at home as they do in their restaurants.
“Another opportunity that we wanted to focus on was to create value with differentiated items unique to BJ’s,” Mayer says. “As a team, we looked very closely at the competitive set to help determine a strategy that would add value for our guests.” BJ’s offered Family Meal Deals and Food & Beverage Combos, along with individual to-go beverage offerings to help drive off-premise growth.
BJ’s not only focused on price, but reviewed a variety of items “to ensure our selections were attractive for guests to add-on to their food orders,” Mayer says. “We continue to optimize and launch new offerings including bundles to provide guests the ability to have choices as it relates to our menu and beverage complements.”
As dining rooms began to reopen with capacity restrictions, BJ’s quickly mobilized to build temporary outdoor patios to provide guests with a safe and enjoyable dining experience.
The chain also launched a Margarita Flight—a sampling with four of BJ’s top-selling Margaritas—this past May to bring something fresh and exciting to the in-restaurant dining experience. BJ’s continued to innovate with different seasonal beverage LTOs and special celebration days, including Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
BJ’s aims to embrace opportunities for additional incremental sales, including expanding its to-go program. “We will continue to review data, focus on our guest wants and needs and innovate around offerings that could expand our current lineup,” Mayer says.