4 Ways to Improve Your Brewery Taproom
Updated: Mar 28, 2022
For smaller breweries, the taproom is arguably the most important aspect of your business. Simple changes to the taproom can result in a positive impact directly on the customer, and also indirectly, by giving your staff and management the tools and insights to provide the best service. Check out four things we think improves every taproom.
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Keg Punk is a centralized keg inventory and tap management system
INSTALL A DIGITAL TAPLIST
Have you ever been to a brewery and felt like you needed a team of crypto-analysis experts to decipher the scribbled chalkboard tap list? Some of these DIY tap lists are beautifully done, complete with hand-drawn artwork and text that you swear was done by a professional calligrapher - while others are quite the opposite.
I've felt this frustration many times while visiting brewery taprooms. It's frustrating not being able read the menu because it's messy, but it's even more frustrating that it's such an obvious problem to me and yet the management seems oblivious to how a poorly drawn menu might affect the customer experience.
Not only are you risking readability with a DIY tap list, you're sacrificing convenience for the taproom staff. Do your taps rotate frequently to where a bartender may have to scratch out a name and replace it with the new beer? Is the tap list easy to get to, or does the bartender have to pull out a ladder to reach it? Tasks like these are time consuming and tedious, especially during busy taproom hours.
With the right set-up, a digital screen to display your tap list solves a laundry list of problems and annoyances for both your staff and customers. Modern, brightly lit TV screens are great for displaying clear text that is readable for everybody. Using software to control the menu gives your team an effortless way to make changes to the menu, even during the busiest hours.
TAP IDENTITY SYSTEM (WHAT'S ON EACH TAP?)
Some taprooms I've visited had each tap clearly marked, either with a special tap handle or with labels on the wall. But I've been to several that have long rows of taps with identical handles and no sign or indication of what's on them. On one such occasion, I asked the bartender how she remembered what was on each one. She said there was no real trick other than to memorize what beer was on each tap.
For some breweries, I guess this works! But if I was the one pouring beer, there's no way that I could remember which beer was on each of my taps. This must prove especially difficult if your taps rotate on a regular basis.
Communicating with the server which beer is on which tap gives them the convenience of not having to memorize it. Not only that, the right system could alleviate any miscommunications among your team. Say for example a bartender from the previous night put a new beer on tap but never mentioned it to today's server. They might pour a pint before figuring out that it's not what they thought, or worse, give the wrong beer to the customer (assuming the beers looked similar).
Having the right system in place can help keep your servers informed about what's on tap and help them be efficient at pouring the right beer the first time without any confusion or doubt.
This may seem like it's an improvement for the production side of the brewery, but I speak from experience when I say that cellar inventory is a big part of running a smooth taproom. I worked for a short time as a taproom manager at a local brewery here in New Orleans. We did daily inventory by counting each and every keg in the cooler and writing the counts down on a log sheet. The keg cooler was towards the back of the building, whereas the bar (and the kegerators we served from) were all the way in the front, a time-consuming hike during busy hours.
I'll be the first to admit that I have terrible memory. And during my time as the taproom manager, I became increasingly frustrated each time I went to grab a keg only to realize that the one I had grabbed before was the last keg of that beer. The log sheet was kept by the cooler, so there was no way to know the current inventory numbers if you were behind the bar. Sure, we could have made a copy of the log sheet and updated both sheets each time a keg was tapped, but human error would have played a negative role in that at some point.
Being informed of the inventory at any given time gives you a huge advantage, especially if you are a brewery that regularly adds new beers to your line-up, or you have pilot series that rotate out quickly. Pen and paper works for some breweries, but I suggest going with a modern touch and using a digital system to help track your inventory, both in and out of the cellar. Easily keeping your team up to date alleviates any shred of doubt about what you have available in the cellar.
When business owners and managers start looking at analytics, the first thing they want to look at is sales. How have my sales changed over time? Have sales gone up? Have they gone down?
Say your charts show that sales have gone down slightly in the past year. This is good knowledge to have! But an even more important bit of knowledge to have is WHY sales are down. Looking at and analyzing various metrics (other than sales) can give you insights into why things are improving, laying stagnant, or declining in your taproom.
Don't overthink this - simple variables (such as ABV) can affect sales, and many of these variables are easily quantifiable. Let's say that you crunch the numbers and discover that the average ABV of your Winter tap list was 8.1% and the average ABV of your Summer tap list was 7.6% Not much of a difference there. For many beer drinkers, an 8.1% beer might be appropriate for December weather, but a 7.6% beer would be too heavy for the 90 degree days of July. A scenario such as this might go un-noticed without doing a little bit of simple analytics. But with this nugget of information, you can adjust your brewing pattern to fit the situation, and do it with confidence because the decision was based on real data.
Tracking numbers can be tedious, error prone, and time consuming if done by hand or without a procedure in place. On top of that, analyzing error-ridden data may result in negative outcomes if you chose to act on your findings. Let a computer do most of the work. Spreadsheets are great tools for any business owner, and combining them with automated software is even better.
Having statistical insights into your taproom can give you a data-driven advantage in combatting weaknesses and improving upon your strengths.