New Beer’s Resolutions
Draft beer is great for profits: It is cheaper and needs less cooler space per serving, requires less downtime for restocking and carries a premium perception for customers. The margin on draft is substantial, even on pricey specialty kegs.
However, when I’m out in the marketplace, I still see old systems, poorly maintained lines, chipped glasses and blank tap markers. Come on, folks, it’s 2011! Let’s make some “New Beer’s” resolutions on how you’re going to improve your draft program in 2012 to serve better beer, draw in more customers and make more money.
1) CLEAN YOUR TAPS! It’s tempting to make this resolution No. 2, as well, because it’s so important and so often neglected. It costs money, I know, but there’s no excuse for selling skanked-out draft. If your wholesaler is allowed to clean your taps, use that resource; if not, buy the equipment and learn how to do it right — and do it once a week, every week — or hire a service. Better-tasting beer is worth the effort and expense.
2) Train, train, train. Every server should know what’s currently on tap, what each beer tastes like and how to pour properly — wide open without wasting beer. Simply pouring properly will save a lot of money, and your establishment will get a great reputation as the place where the servers know what’s good.
3) Consider flowmeters. I’m not saying get them, but take a look, weigh your shrinkage issues and think about them. If you do get them, make sure staff knows they are in place, politely but firmly. In some places, flowmeters pay for themselves in fewer than six months.
4) Invest in your draft system. Get a pro to optimize it, do what you can to make lines as short as possible, install foam-on-beer [FOB] devices on the lines to shut off empty kegs, make sure your gas is set and supplied right and train a manager to maintain the system properly.
5) Tell your patrons what’s on tap. Create a printed list or use a chalkboard. Make sure everything is up to date and spelled correctly and note the percentages of alcohol by volume. Plus, don’t be tight with samples: New beers come out every week.
6) Clean up your glassware. Keep your glasses “beer clean,” and the beer will taste and look better. Add half-measure glasses; sometimes a pint is too much. And don’t call it a “pint” unless you’re pouring 16 ounces of beer. People notice.
7) Don’t have the same taps as the bar across the street. A 20% overlap is okay, but more than that and you’re competing on price. Compete on quality and variety, and you can set the price.
8) While you’re at it, keep your own taps varied. Offer light beers, big beers, hoppy beers, Belgian beers, good lagers, session beers, seasonal beers, IPAs... 24 taps of great IPAs are still boring to a lot of people.
9) Get the word out. Social media is great for letting your fans know when new beers come on the market. If your city has a service like Tap Hunter — a Web and mobile technology platform that directs users to beer-centric venues from pubs to breweries, special events and festivals in 10 major cities across the United States — sign up for it. Work with local brewers and your wholesalers on promotions, and tell them about your great draft program. This also is a good way to receive special beers when they come out.
10) Download the Brewers Association’s “Draught Beer Quality Manual,” available at
www.draughtquality.org. Print it, put it in a notebook and keep it handy. It’s free and packed with useful information.
Sharpen your focus and get serious about beer and you’ll have a Happy Brew Year in 2012! NCB