World of Beer

World of Beer 1

World of Beer celebrates a decade of specializing in craft beer from around the world

and plans to continue expanding its franchise worldwide. 

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

World of Beer is at the forefront of the craft beer movement with 50 brews on tap and more than 500 in its cooler from around the globe in 77 locations worldwide. “Continued momentum of craft beer consumption in America remains strong and has proven to be a sustained trend,” CEO and President Paul Avery says.

Friends Scott Zepp and Matt LaFon co-founded the Tampa, Fla.-based tavern in 2007 with the goal of creating a welcoming place where friends could gather to discover craft beer and swap stories while taking in a game or enjoying live music. Today, World of Beer leads the unique cultural phenomenon of craft taverns. “At our core is, of course, beer,” the company says. “We hunt and gather beers from around the world, offering the best craft variety on the planet to the beer aficionado and casual beer fan alike.”World of Beer Fact Box

Before starting World of Beer, Zepp co-owned and operated a retail shop in Clearwater, Fla., selling premium beer from around the globe. LaFon is the co-founder and CEO of Blend, an upscale wine and martini lounge in Tampa. The pair invested every penny they had to open World of Beer to meet the demand they saw in the craft beer market.

World of Beer was strictly a craft beer tavern until 2013 when Avery joined the company and implemented a food program. In the beginning, the tavern would collect menus from nearby restaurants to provide to customers who would then order in food. “Until I came in that was the food program,” Avery says. “Customers could order tacos one day, burgers or chicken the next. That was really cool and people loved it. I looked at [adding a food menu] as a tremendous revenue-generating opportunity.”

A food menu was introduced at a pace the system could execute properly in mid-2013 and has evolved over the last four years. Today, World of Beer offers sharable appetizers like the artisan sausage and cheese board, flatbreads, sliders, dogs, soups and salads, and sandwiches.

The company features two desserts on its menu. Caramel apple rings, which are warm and golden brown beer-battered apple rings dusted with powdered sugar and served with a salted caramel dipping sauce and Belgian Waffle S’Mores, which are light and crispy, fresh baked, Belgian beer-infused waffles with toasted marshmallows drizzled with a Kahlua fudge sauce and topped with graham cracker crumbles and powered sugar. “We are proud of where we have ended up and continue to evolve the menu, tweak and advance it,” Avery says.

Beer Selections

World of Beer partners with several brands and national breweries to offer their products system-wide, but the company largely discovers new brews on a local basis and is dependent on its local distributors. “We want to present craft beers of the world to our customers that have unique flavors and come from all over the place,” Avery says. “That’s part of the World of Beer experience.”

Drafts are 75 percent of World of Beer’s sales and most options are local products. “We have to have great World of Beer 2relationships and awareness with local breweries,” he says. “The preferred brewery is developing new beers and interesting products that the craft customer really craves and that’s a draw.”

Its draft products rotate based on seasonality. In the winter, World of Beer sells heavier beers like porters, stouts and barrel-aged beer. In the summer its customers want lighter ales and IPAs.

World of Beer has nearly 30,000 approved beers and each one has gone through an approval process. An operator will send in a request for approval for a specific brand and the corporate team will review it and ensure it comes from a reputable brewer. The taste is judged locally by the World of Beer franchisee.

Once the beer makes it into the system, details are loaded into a tabletop iPad and the company’s mobile app and the product is ready to be sold. “In the tavern, you don’t want to walk up to the bar and scrutinize every beer in the cooler – if you can read that far,” Avery says. “We have iPads in the tavern that we bring over to the table so guests can roll through and filter our selection by country, alcohol content or style of beer. Say you pick China, the iPad will show you what beers we have bottled or canned in-house that day. When you click on a beer it will tell you the story about the beer and more details.”

Novices to Aficionados

Craft Beer has become more ubiquitous in the industry and more players are adding it to their menus. Because of this, World of Beer has geared some of its prices to the value consumer, but also offers unique and rare beers that appeal to the aficionado, as well. The industry has three segments of drinkers: the casual, core and aficionado.

“We have to appeal to all three of those,” Avery says. “More people have come into the casual category and that’s the value proposition expected. We have sharpened our happy hour programs and expanded upon value while maintaining a strong core knowledge of staff who know beer and help guide people through their beer experience.”

World of Beer requires a rigorous training program for its staff members who need to be enthusiastic about learning. Taverns host training every week on new products. “There are a number of servers on our staff that have the unbelievable ability to retain facts about craft beer,” Avery says. “It blows me away. We need to make sure our new servers have enthusiasm for learning and a personal drive to know as much as they can, retain it and have the ability to articulate that and explain it to the customers.”

Franchising Worldwide

“We have strong brand positioning, strong consumer demand for our products, an outstanding food program, strong unit economics and that’s all complemented by our experienced and supportive franchisor team,” Avery says.

The ideal World of Beer franchisee is someone who will be engaged in the business and has experience in the hospitality industry. “We want someone who has a passion for the business and experience,” Avery says. “They don’t have to be an expert on craft beer because we will help with that, but someone who knows what drives the hospitality industry.”

Interested franchisees need to have access to growth capital and World of Beer offers funding resources. The company works to turn the interest of financial institutions across the country into available capital for new and existing franchisees. In January 2015, World of Beer secured $25 million in funding from Benetrends through its franchising funding program, which provides qualified franchisees with direct access to capital. This will help the brand expand its presence in new and existing markets.

World of Beer assists in the site selection process using advanced tools to help reduce risk. The company is resourceful during lease negotiations to help maximize the opportunity for the franchisee to receive the proper build-out and landlord support to keep the initial investment low. The ideal location of a site is confidential, Avery says.

Socially Inviting

World of Beer’s design team is critical in the development of a new tavern. The team helps franchisees select the tavern’s floor plan that includes bar design, restrooms, musician placement, retail flow, outdoor space, back office, equipment layout, storage, television and audio equipment placement, and point-of-sale placement.

“We are creating primarily an adult-driven experience,” Avery says. “The experience is complemented by our great food, we have entertainment available like trivia nights and live entertainment on the weekends. Our taverns are 4,500 to 5,000 square feet and have patios in use when the weather is favorable. Taverns are perfectly imperfect. We don’t want to create that chain-looking environment.”

Although there are standard ingredients to designing a World of Beer tavern, not one looks exactly the same. Because a majority of World of Beer taverns are in-line, the footprint of each location will differ. The company recently opened several free-standing locations that it says are performing well. World of Beer expects additional growth in this area.

“Like many franchise entities, you start off with in-line because there is less capital requirement to open it,” Avery says. “Once you get the model more proven you take the risk of building a free-standing location and see how it performs. We opened several that are consistently performing above expectations.”

Loyalty Rewards

World of Beer believes its customers should be rewarded for their loyalty. Customers earn points for every different beer they try at World of Beer, and rewards include gift cards, t-shirts, mugs and parties paid for by the company. Registering through the World of Beer mobile app allows patrons to track their points, see what beers they’ve had, find new beers and filter the list to find what they want next.

This summer, World of Beer will evolve its loyalty program to a more sophisticated platform that allows the company to recognize consumer transactions, monitor purchasing habits and announce incentives. “Our loyalty program will guide our customers through the menu and help guide their purchasing decisions to fit their preferences,” Avery says.

Internationally Known

Moving forward, World of Beer plans to open 20 locations this year. The company expects to open four to six new taverns internationally, continuing development in China and South Korea, as well as three to five company locations and 12 to 15 franchise locations in the United States.

“We are excited about our heritage here in Tampa and how the business has grown over the past 10 years,” Avery says. “We have celebrations planned and we will have promotions and incentives throughout the year to leverage the 10-year anniversary.”


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