Grandstanding: Mug Club Alternatives - Considering Some Revisions to This Classic Promo

Mug clubs have long been the kings of driving bar patron loyalty. But, what if you don’t have the space to fill your ceiling or back wall with steins? Or, what if beer isn’t your thing? Tasting rooms and cocktail lounges, anyone? Maybe it’s time to shake things up? Even your best regulars will likely thank you in the end. 

Picture this: challenge coins jingling in a pocket, personalized keychains that grant rare access, or sleek, custom glassware raising the bar on that branded pint. Here, we’ll serve up some refreshing twists with the aim of helping you help your fans show off their loyalty. Join us as we peruse a few other loyalty program ideas that can jumpstart a new tradition or add extra VIP elements to your existing program.

The mug club lowdown

We all love those beer enthusiasts cozied up at their usual table, cheersing with their personalized steins, high-fiving the staff, and rallying fellow customers to cheer for the hometown team on the big screens. They’re regulars, and they make a bar a communal space. In the next section, we look at some other ways to capture the mug club vibe … without the mugs.

Other ways to foster that mug club vibe

Again, we’re not knocking those mug lovers. But, there are so many ways to set your VIPs apart from the crowd. Let’s do this

T-shirts for that casual exclusivity

Custom t-shirts are an affordable, easy-to-store, imminently customizable, and impactful way to showcase your company while calling out your VIPs with coolness and style. From the business side, branded apparel is a great way to create a walking billboard that proudly advertises your business and any other important information you want out in the world. From the customer side, a loyalty program t-shirt is an exclusive and casual way to denote their special status at one of their favorite spots.

The visual impact of a well-designed t-shirt is undeniable, and a truly wow design will also capture the attention of patrons in your establishment who do not yet have one. Maybe you give VIPs a discount for wearing the shirt, or maybe you set aside a section of seats closest to the taps for these loyalty program members.

Mug Club T-shirtMug Club T-shirt
Mug Club GlassMug Club Glass

Glassware, of course

While still in the realm of the mug, custom glassware breaks new ground. Imagine your VIPs toasting with a custom-designed Rastal or Libbey adorned with … wait for it … your logo and a super-unique design made only for the club. It's not just a glass; it's a symbol of exclusivity that also has the potential to transform ordinary drinks into extraordinary experiences, especially when you activate the beverage in the glass with something like nucleation.

Remember: Serving a regular in a special glass with a bold, eye-catching design – one different from your everyday options – will get the other patrons thinking. “Why didn’t I get one of those?” Use that curiosity to sign up others for your program and continue building your VIP list. Mug, glass – whatever the container – these clubs are about identifying the insider. Upgraded custom glassware can be more compact than a mug and can allow you to achieve mug club-exclusivity while saving on space.

Membership cards with a secret twist

There are lots of apps aiming to replace physical cards and menus, but can those apps open a bottle? A credit card-sized bottle opener branded with your name and loyalty club language is a discreet-and-suave way to let your VIPs show status in a subtle and sophisticated way. Imagine these cards as more than a giveaway – they’re the access card for VIP treatment. Small, functional and easily carried, these cards can help eliminate the “I forgot it at home” pain point. And, the opener feature ensures your regulars can always get “access” to your fermented handiwork when outside the four walls of your establishment.

credit card bottle openercredit card bottle opener
keychain bottle openerkeychain bottle opener


Have you ever really felt a quality keychain? Set aside the plastic church key. A metal option has noticeable weight, weight that conveys durability and importance. Put your customer’s name and your brand on there and you’ve got something really special – and it’s dangling from your favorite customers’ keys. Every glance at their keys reminds these VIPs of the good times that await them at your establishment. It's not just an accessory; this keychain can be the “key” that unlocks special VIP pricing or access to exclusive releases and events designed just for them. And, maybe it can serve as the decider when they’re wondering where to go for a few glasses of red and some tapas.

Challenge coins

Step into a world of collectible coolness. Challenge coins aren't just for military buffs anymore. Here’s the rundown: 

The rules and designations of challenge coins vary, but for the most part, members (typically a military unit or team) would be gifted commemorative “coins” to keep with them at all times. If a group of the initiated were to gather at a pub or lounge, a game can be played with the bill. The first person to set their coin on the table essentially challenges all of the other members to present theirs. If someone left theirs at home, they are then tasked with picking up the bill for everyone. But, if all members have theirs on them, then the challenger must pick up the bill. In the end, you’re free to draft your own set of rules to fit the unique culture you wish to create. 

Whatever you decide, imagine your VIPs flashing a custom coin with the establishment's logo, earning nods of recognition from fellow members. It's the ultimate symbol of loyalty, and they’ll feel like a VIP wherever they go. Who’s tried all your signature cocktails? Who comes in each and every week, without fail? Who is your loudest social media fan? Honor these heroes with custom (if non-fungible, sorry!) cash.

challenge coinchallenge coin

Get creative and give that mug club a new twist

Yes, Grandstand has a ton of options. We’ve also got a ton of great people on staff ready to help you figure this out. There’s no perfect answer – there’s just you, your amazing establishment, and your favorite customers. Have fun, mix it up, and see what happens. And, remember: Change is a great attention-getter and sales driver.