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Anew convenience retailing concept has busted out on the Texas c-store landscape.
Beer 'N All, with three stores in San Antonio and several others under construction there and in Dallas and Houston as well, can be described as a combination of a drive-through bar and a small, limited-assortment convenience store — with the ambience of a Hooters restaurant.
"The concept is simple," said founder Steve Bergenholtz, president of Dallas-based Franchising Ventures Group, which launched the first store last fall. "Drive your car through the building and get immediate service at your car window by ladies in custom uniforms. Simple."
Bergenholtz, a 40-year-old entrepreneur who previously founded a video game publishing company, said the typical Beer 'N All store will generate revenue of around $1 million per year, without fuel sales. "We can go mid-street or on a corner," he added. "We can pull traffic past 20 or more c-stores. We have regular customers who travel 25 minutes or more to get to our stores." Bergenholtz owns the three current units in San Antonio and anticipates opening another four company-owned stores in other Texas markets before the year's end. One is a new location now under construction, while the others are conversions from former mechanic shops.
At the stores, customers will find a limited inventory of c-store products — about 300 SKUs, including soft drinks, candy, salty snacks and nuts, cigarettes, fountain drinks and coffee. And, they will find lots of beer in a 1,000-square-foot cooler with a 10-foot- high ceiling.
Beer 'N All also features over 50 different frozen margaritas, wines and other drinks. All are packaged for off-premise consumption, but the company's license does permit on-premise consumption as well. "We'll serve 350 to 550 margaritas per day," Bergenholtz told Convenience Store News.
And, of course, there are the company's comely, smiling waitresses. "People love the concept," said Evis Sanchez, Beer 'N All's director of operations, who is in charge of hiring and training. According to the company's Web site, www.girlshired.com, starting pay is $10 per hour, plus tips. The waitresses use wireless handheld units to take orders from the drive-through patrons. The company is currently reprogramming its POS systems to rollout to the new units.
Drive-through liquor stores are nothing new, particularly in Texas. Diane Flores, who operates the 50-year-old Diane Ice House in San Antonio, told the San Antonio Express News that customer service and convenience are more important than scantily-clad employees.
"What's important is the service you give people and the way you treat them," Flores said. "People also like the convenience of not getting out of their cars, and we pump their gas. Snow, rain or shine, we are here."
Bergenholtz' group has reportedly invested $5 million in the venture. He originally planned to franchise as many as 200 Beer 'N All locations throughout the United States, but now is re-evaluating the franchise possibilities and considering a modified version of the business, which would include an unspecified licensing fee for different territories. He told CSNews that this "Hooters-type of concept is working magic in Texas" and that he will be licensing locations in Florida and Arizona next, and has received inquiries for a New York license. California is also on the expansion agenda.
The third Beer 'N All store opened in July and was immediately profitable, after all expenses, according to Bergenholtz. The first store, which opened last October, is also profitable now. "People just flock to it. There are lines seven days a week to get food, snacks, cigarettes. And it's not just guys. The third store is in an affluent area, and almost 40 percent of our customers are females," said Sanchez.
Despite the concept's frat-house connotations, male patrons make up a surprisingly low percentage of Beer 'N All's total clientele. Women, who so far haven't objected in great number to the store's, shall we say, less-than-politically-correct format, comprise 35 to 40 percent of the store's customer mix. And, the female customers "love our margaritas," Sanchez added.
One of the beauties of the concept, apart from the waitresses, is that it can open almost anywhere, said Bergenholtz. "We don't need a corner location and we could open next door to a 7-Eleven and still be successful," he said, noting that Beer 'N All is a "magnet." He also plans to add a car wash to one of his San Antonio facilities and is developing a similarly-themed car wash chain as a potential outgrowth of the core concept.
Bergenholtz also doesn't have to spend a lot of money on advertising. Beer 'N All gets a great amount of free promotion from local television networks, which sometimes broadcast from the stores. "We also send some Beer 'N All girls to various events and night clubs, and we do a lot of charity work," said Bergenholtz.
Foodservice sales may be next. He said he'd like to build larger stores with a kitchen to prepare and sell hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza to take out.