Lion's craft riches swayed Dixon

Michael Dixon at The Vincent in Albert Park

Michael Dixon at The Vincent in Albert Park

Australia’s largest non-gaming pub group, Dixon Hospitality, has converted all its newly acquired venues into a flexible new tap contract with Lion.

Four years after acquiring its first pub, the Wayside Inn in Melbourne, Dixon Hospitality now encompasses 37 different venues including the Beer DeLuxe chain, which is set for ambitious expansion.

The group is headed up by Michael Dixon and his father Bruce Dixon, the former chief executive of facility services company Spotless Group, with a small group of private shareholders.

With ahospitality background, Michael Dixon is also a winemaker by trade, but he told Australian Brews News that he quickly took a keen interest in beer after entering the pub game.

“Beer takes up 70 per cent of all beverage sales, at a minimum, so it’s fairly crucial you know your beers and you know what your customers want,” he said.

Dixon said the Wayside Inn was already heavily craft beer-focused and once in control, he listened to feedback from its patrons about what they wanted.

The verandah at Wayside Inn, Dixon's first venue

The verandah at Wayside Inn, Dixon’s first venue

“It’s certainly something that we found was a massively growing market. The consumer was pretty adamant that they didn’t want 100 per cent of just your stock standard CUB or Lion products – they can get them in any pub you go to,” he said.

Lion’s range unrivalled
Dixon said his company inherited a Lion tap contract when it acquired the 17 venues in the Open Door Pub Co late last year and it was an easy decision to continue with it.

“Lion actually have about 60 beers in their range – a lot of them very, very craft beer focused,” he said.

“CUB only has a handful of products that everyone’s had before. With Lion, they’ve got the whole Little Creatures range, the James Squire range, Kosciuszko and then it goes on and on.

“They also understand that pubs are individual – if we want to have only a couple of Lion products on and keep the rest very much ‘craft’, they’re obviously accommodating to that as well.

“Every hotel we buy in the future, it’s basically like a new contract,” Dixon said.

He said the group rejigged the agreement at the end of last year, with the outcome “a different and unique contract that worked for both parties”.

He said pubs’ pre-existing tap contracts usually become null and void when they change hands, so the Beer DeLuxe venues could easily be integrated into the Lion deal.

“Beer DeLuxe certainly had a CUB contract but it was only a few taps in each one. I was able to switch that over to Lion and then just put Lion’s craft beer straight through, so it worked very well,” Dixon said.

Beers on rotation
Out of 24 taps in each Beer DeLuxe venue, Dixon said at least 20 would typically be occupied by independently owned craft beers.

Beers from brewers such as 4 Pines, Stone & Wood and Young Henrys are available across multiple Dixon venues but the group also works with smaller local brewers in each market.

“We never want to have pubs that stay the same. We like to give our regulars a chance every fortnight to try a new beer on tap,” Dixon said.

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