Run a Successful Mug Club at Your Brewery

If you manage a brewery you have probably thought about creating a Mug Club, or maybe you already offer one. A Mug Club is typically a fee based membership that grants special status to a group of customers. The perks and benefits can vary widely, but the goal should be to increase customer loyalty and generate more business.

The name Mug Club comes from the fact that many clubs give special mugs to their members. These mugs are often larger than the standard pour size at a brewery and therefore have two built-in benefits for members:

  1. Custom mugs look cool and make members feel special when they’re at your brewery.
  2. Mug Club mugs are typically larger than standard glasses and therefore members get a larger pour when drinking out of their mug.
Example of Mug Club member mugs at Skeleton Key Brewery

Do You Need A Custom Mug?

No! You do not need to offer custom mugs as part of a Mug Club. The Mug is optional – the important part is the Club. If you decide to create a club without a custom mug then you should not necessarily call it a “Mug Club” except for the purposes of describing it to others within the industry. You can give your club any type of name (“Brewery Club”, “Beer Crew”, “Social Club”, etc.) and you can offer whatever benefits that you would like to offer. Your club benefits may or may not include a custom mug.

A custom mug is a fun addition to a club. You should definitely consider including one as part of your club if:

  • You have a vision for a cool mug that fits in with your brand
  • You think the mug will stand out in the brewery and garner interest from non-club members
  • You are equipped for the physical handling of the mugs (storage, cleaning, etc.)
  • You account for the additional cost associated with custom mugs as a cost of running the club

Club Perks & Benefits

Mug Club benefits fall into the one of the following categories:

  • Physical stuff / swag (Custom mug, T-shirt, etc.)
  • Discount or larger pour (16 oz pour instead of 12 oz, or 10% off growlers)
  • Free stuff (1 free beer per month, or a birthday beer)
  • Exclusive access (access to limited edition brews)

Most POS systems do not have features to accommodate the requirements of a Mug Club and standalone software options are limited. Due to a lack of automated benefit tracking, many Mug Clubs have evolved to offer only benefits that can be tracked manually. A larger pour (16 oz. vs. 12 oz.) within a custom mug is a perfect example of this. It is possible to offer this benefit to members without having to track and monitor redemption. Members are either known to staff or identified by the fact that they’re holding a members only mug. Members receive the larger pour on all eligible beers. This is manageable and can scale up to a large group of members at a brewery.

The same cannot be said for many other types of benefits. Any benefit that is limited or has time sensitivity becomes unmanageable with manual tracking. For example it is not feasible to offer a benefit of 1 free beer per month with manual tracking. There would be no reliable way to know if a member has redeemed their free beer and things would get messy very quickly.

Software like Submatic can be used to enable flexibility to offer any type of Mug Club benefit. Submatic integrates with multiple POS systems to automate benefit issuance and redemption. Automated tracking allows a brewery like the Tipping Pint Brewing Company to offer club benefits including 2 pints per week, 1 growler refill per month, and 15% off purchases for club members. Benefits are tied to customer profiles within the POS.

Tipping Pint Social Club Benefits

Choosing Benefits For Your Club

As noted above there are many potential benefits that one can offer as part of a Mug Club. You should consider the following factors when designing a Mug Club at your brewery:

  • Customer Appeal: The benefits you offer should generate excitement and add value for customers. This may come in the form of access to exclusive stuff (club shirt or members only tasting, for example), or through savings opportunities for members. The best types of benefits are ones that have high perceived value but which are also low cost/high margin. Customers will do the mental math to figure out if joining the club will offer them some added value. If there is clear value proposition for a customer they are more likely to join.
  • Tracking: As noted above if you are able to track club benefits through your POS you will have greater flexibility to offer different types of benefits. Furthermore tracking the cost and quantity of benefits redeemed allows you to better assess the impact the club has on your business.
  • Timing: Some club benefits may be time sensitive or have a limited quantity. For example if you include a special mug for members you will have a set quantity of these available. Many clubs operate on a calendar year and ask members to enroll or renew prior to January 1. Creating this type of structure can be beneficial if you plan to offer benefits that require advanced planning or special orders. However this structure also limits the size of your club and you will miss out of a segment of customers that would have signed up if you were to offer ongoing enrollment or monthly billing.

Offering Multiple Club Tiers

Most Mug Clubs offer a single tier of membership. In some cases this is forced by a limited ability to track benefits. When benefits are tracked manually it’s not feasible to have distinct sets of club members. However offering multiple club tiers is something that you should consider. If you take a look at successful Wine Clubs you’ll notice that many offer multiple tiers which allows for customer segmentation.

A goal of your club should be to drive incremental customer visits. If a customer typically visits your brewery three times per year, is there some additional incentive that would nudge them to visit five, six, or more times per year? Or for a customer that visits once per month, is there something you can offer that would incentivize them to visit fifteen times per year or more? You can offer incentives to bring in both of these customers more frequently and spend more at your brewery, but the right incentives are not one size fits all.

The best way to target distinct customer segments is to offer multiple club tiers. For example you could offer two tiers: one that costs less and offers fewer/inferior benefits and one that costs more and offers more/better benefits. Customers that visit your brewery less frequently may not be interested in a Mug Club that costs $200+ per year , but they might be interested in one that costs $50 per year or $5 per month. If you structure your tiers carefully you will be able to attract members at both levels.

Other Considerations

Communication: You should have a way to easily communicate with club members, and communication may include a mix of automated and manually triggered messages. If you are using a software to manage your Mug Club it should include options for customer communications, such as discount and benefit reminders.

Local Regulations: Laws for discounting alcoholic beverages vary from state to state. For example some states do not allow the sale of alcoholic beverages at a price below cost. If that applies in your state you can still offer a Mug Club, just be aware of potential limitations when structuring your club benefits.