Can I state the obvious?
We’re living in unprecedented times. As small business owners, that’s a problem. We thrive on certainty. Hitting payroll, ordering supplies, scheduling staff…it’s all a projection of what we expect to happen, and when unexpected circumstances happen, that’s a problem.
When the laws changed in my home state of Georgia in late 2017, breweries quickly realized that taprooms were a fantastic way to generate revenue. While the distribution model remains in place for older operations, almost every new brewery has built its business around a cozy, comfortable, and inviting taproom experience. Even the older guys realized the importance of a great bar and scaled up in-house operations. Some even took advantage of the relaxed laws to add a kitchen.
The COVID-19 pandemic completely dried up that business for several weeks, forcing breweries to furlough staff, slow operations, and shift their business model on a dime.
Today, taprooms are cautiously opening their doors to the public. Even with new sanitation procedures in place and social distancing in full effect, brewery owners may want to start breathing a sigh of relief.
But be warned: it may be a long time before we get back to normal. Atlanta’s Monday Night Brewing recently posted a survey of its most loyal customers, and the results were revealing.
That means nearly 35% of your most loyal fans don’t expect to come back until July. So expect the uncertainty to continue for a while.
What To Do When Reopening
Keep clean, y’all.
Another take-away is what customers expect. As you can see, keeping clean is key.
If you’re planning on opening, take note of what your local/state guidelines are, and understand: Your customers expect these measures to be taken, and your competition is already. Anecdotally, I’m hearing a lot of small businesses that aren’t really forcing employees to wear masks. Customers notice, and they’re letting people know.
Keep What’s Been Working
With so many more people working from home, off-premise consumption has increased. And with many companies allowing employees to work from home more often, that trend will likely continue. If you’ve been managing the crisis by canning more and more, you’ll want to consider riding that wave for a while.
Curbside/to-go orders working for you? Are you one of the lucky states that allows delivery? Keep it up. A smooth, efficient drive-thru service at your brewery gives people another excuse to grab your beers.
Don’t Slack on the Marketing
Yeah, I know I’ve got ulterior motives for this one. But make sure you’re customers are kept in the loop. Change your hours? Make sure every platform you can think of is updated. Now, more than ever, it’s vital to keep your online taplist updated. Take advantage of any online ordering system to pre-sell your beers for pickup. Use Facebook and Instagram to keep people in the loop.
Regular updates (at least 3-4 times a week) show your community that you’re active and still working.
And while you’re at it, think about your public presence. Does your online presence reflect who you are, what your company does, and how you want to be portrayed?
Hang in there. It’s likely never going to get back to normal. Use this time to implement and enforce policies that show you’re doing everything possible to keep customers and your staff safe. Review what you’ve been doing during this crisis, and think about keeping what’s been working. And always make sure that you’re using social media to keep people informed and updated on what you are doing as a brewery. It’s going to be rough, but we’ll be OK. Eventually.
Note: At the time of this survey, I was employed by Monday Night Brewing.
Source for all graphics: Monday Night Brewing