A lot of people are talking about craft beer these days, but what exactly does it mean to your customers — and your business?
Craft breweries are typically small, independent beer companies with the majority of their products made through traditional fermentation and and with traditional ingredients. Because of the niche nature of the business, craft beer brewing is not about making beer that everyone will drink, but finding their brewery’s particular tastes and interests and creating the best version of that kind of beer for their audience.
And restaurants that find themselves catering to the same audience can take advantage of a craft beer’s popularity by offering them alongside the rest of their beers.
Craft beer can be a big hit with your guests thanks to that authenticity element. Yes, there will always be guests who just want to order a big pitcher of Budweiser to share with their friends, but there’s a growing group of beer lovers who are looking for something unique and special when they go out.
If those seekers of unique beer give their seal of approval, you could potentially be getting yourself loyal customers for years down the line. The connection they make to the craft beer radiates into a connection with your establishment.
There’s also the local element. Finding a well-loved local craft brewery to partner with can help solidify your credibility as a must-check-out local restaurant. Locals appreciate a restaurant rooted in their community, and guests visiting from out of town want to try beers that would be difficult to find elsewhere. Either way, keeping local craft beers in stock can be a crowd pleaser for a variety of diners.
Yes, there is risk for the restaurant owner new to craft beers that they’ll invest in ordering these new, unique beers and they’ll go unordered. However, if promoted and paired smartly, the results of developing a craft beer list can really mean a lot to your bottom line.
In fact, the Brewer’s Association has found there’s an average $16 more on tickets from diners who ordered craft beer, compared to that of a guest who orders non-craft beer.
Incorporating Craft Beer onto Your Taplist
When choosing what beers to sell, think about both seasonality and menu pairings. Work with your chef to come up with specific entrees that would pair nicely with the beers you’re planning to include on your beer list. Make it easy for servers to suggest beers that go with the entrées the guests have chosen (or vice versa, to suggest entrées to go with the beers the guests are already drinking with their appetizers).
Like with wine lists, make sure your craft beer list is balanced with a wide variety of beer styles. You might like a Belgian-style witbier over all over brews, but resist the temptation to fill your restaurant’s bar with only your own personal favorites. Even if you’re starting out with just a handful of craft beers on your menu, make sure to have a good range of dark and light beers among them.
That being said, craft beer drinkers appreciate creativity and variety, so don’t be afraid to shake things up. Explore new and small batch beers. Don’t be afraid to rotate out styles on a monthly basis to give your guests some variety.
However, have your bartenders and servers keep an eye out for which beers are getting the most buzz from your tables. And ask them to make a note if regulars come in requesting beers you’ve rotated out. These may need to become permanent staples on your taplist.
Offering beer flights (as you would a wine flight) is a good way to encourage guests to compare and contrast. Your servers can ask them which ones they enjoyed the most, but they can also look to see if there are any beers the guests consistently didn’t finish by the end of the meal.
Once you get a good idea of what your clientele like the most, you can start incorporating that beer more permanently on your beer list (or, if discontinued, you can start looking for styles similar to the one your guests liked).
If you do decide to rotate your craft beer list, make sure you keep your website’s taplist consistently updated. It’s also advisable to have your taplist (craft beer or otherwise) presented as text on your site rather than a downloadable PDF. Not only is it easier to edit your website’s text compared to a full PDF, but website text is easily searchable via Google or other web browsers. If your craft beer selection is rare enough, you could get some strong traffic from its inclusion on your website.
Start getting used to posting new craft beers on your social media accounts. This is especially helpful for encouraging visits if you have a seasonal beer that fits the time of year and is guaranteed to be around for only a short while.
Take good photos of the beer and share them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You should include the name of the beer and a brief description of the style and flavor or a link to your online taplist, depending on the social media platform you’re using (Twitter might be too short to include a description and Instagram doesn’t allow links).
Perhaps most important of all, your bartenders and servers alike should have a strong knowledge of all the craft beers you serve. If any of your guests ask questions about the style, flavor, and color, you want your employees to be able to answer them and help them make informed decisions. This is important whether you’re serving someone who’s never had craft beer before or serving a well-traveled connoisseur.
Consider putting together a “like” list – a guide that helps your server compare the flavors and styles of your beers to popular beers out in the market.
Scheduling a beer tasting day for your front-of-the-house staff is also recommended. It’s much needed sales training as well as a fun team-building experience. If you plan out a tasting seasonally to anticipate the seasonal beer choices, your servers have a much better chance of keeping up with the drink selection.
Along with being able to describe them, train your servers to be able to pair the beers with menu items. Not only will this help your guests choose the right beer for their particular tastes, but it will show your restaurant takes its beer seriously, which leads to an overall better experience for your customers.
Want advice on building out your bar inventory beyond beer? We have your go-to guide: