Building resilience at your brewery

This is a brief guide on building resilience at your brewery. Dan Etiel is marketing manager (and trivia host) at Quiz Meisters. He has specialised in brand management and marketing strategy for over 10 years.

These last 18 months have been rough on people and on business, that’s for sure. However, from the hardship it’s clear that, particularly in the hospitality industry, we’ve built a great deal of resilience. Preparation for that proverbial rainy day, and being able to adapt at the drop of a hat, is crucial.

So how have bars and breweries baked this resilience into their processes? How have they adapted when lockdowns & restrictions are in place, and what has remained when returning to the ‘new normal’ course of work? Those are questions we asked some of our clients – and there have been some really good insights.

At Black Hops, improving online sales channels (website and an app), as well as making takeaway more accessible was a key area of focus.

“This COVID period has been a trying time for all industries, we have been pushing our online presence and takeaway model through the taproom.” – Riley Edwards, Taproom Manager (Black Hops)

On a related note, delivery options have been embraced by many breweries; both in-house and 3rd party services. Whilst some venues added capabilities to direct vehicles and staff toward delivery activities, others have turned to apps like Bopple, Mr. Yum that have DoorDash integration to take care of distribution.

3rd Party services de-risk the service offering, and enable venues to switch delivery options on and off as needed. The trade-off is ownership over the customer experience – so it’s important to choose a partner wisely and ensure it aligns with your brand.

When it comes to the customer experience that breweries do own – the taproom visit – returning to the bar may seem like a flip of a switch for patrons, eager to make the most of life once they are out of lockdown, but for venue staff it’s often not as easy. The Black Hops team made specific mention of this too, “It has also been very important to us as a business to take care of our staff in every aspect of our company during these lockdowns.”

Keeping up communication and training with staff, as well as being transparent about expectations/business decisions helps both morale, and readiness for reopening. Utilising lockdown periods as an opportunity for building and reinforcing employee trust, as well as skills, has served many venues well. Virtual tastings, skills workshops, and all-hands meetings can be beneficial to keeping a sense of camaraderie and to preparation for a return to trade.

When the doors to the taproom do open, understanding staffing requirements and managing labour costs is a high priority for many. You want the right amount of staff on at the right times to minimise wait times, increase turnover, and mitigate poor customer experience. Workforce management software – particularly those apps that integrate with your POS systems – can really help in this endeavour. Many businesses have taken the last few months to review their on-premise tech to optimise for future challenges, baking-in resilience to changing regulations.

Breweries have also taken the time to review the utilisation of their taprooms to encourage repeat visits and increase time on-premise. A prime focus for many has been the events schedule. There’s been a significant increase in breweries offering live performances (music, comedy, theatre), bingo, and trivia nights. It’s clear that many breweries are looking to create branded experiences beyond product sampling. Experiences that can also be pivoted online should physical distance and travel restrictions return. Like our online pub shows that enable pubs to continue running their trivia nights with their loyal audiences using a hybrid delivery model.

It’s great to see breweries investing in experiences that create a sense of community around their brand. We’re stoked to be a part of this growing trend amongst craft venues, as we’ve been putting our own unique twist on trivia for over 15 years now.

So what have we learnt from our brewery whiparound?

Well, it’s clear that building resilience is a process, but a necessary one worth investing in. There are many elements for businesses to tackle, from changes to the customer experience to supply chain, through to staffing issues. It’s clear that the best performing businesses have a continuous-improvement mindset, which relieves the burden of fixing everything all at once, setting and forgetting.

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