COVID-19: Advice for craft breweries facing taproom closures

brewery taproom

Our team have put together advice for anyone facing the likelihood or reality of a COVID-19 craft brewery taproom closure and production supply chain interruption. This article has been compiled with input of numerous small business owners and business coaches.

In this article:
– Marketing tips for craft breweries facing taproom closures
Important advice for brewery owners

Marketing tips for craft breweries facing taproom closures

1. Communicate with your consumers

Maintain a constant and consistent message with your consumers. Keep them fully informed about the availability of your beer and the status of your taproom. Have a clear and straightforward process to update your website and social media platforms and make sure all information is consistent – your brewery can expect higher use of your website for critical information than they have seen before.

Also ensure that you have a clear plan for both updating and engaging/replying to consumers on social media.

2. Understand your current e-commerce options

Fully explore and understand your website’s e-commerce set-up and your point of sale system’s ability to sell online/over the phone. If you do not have a system set-up, research how quickly you could have something online. Services like Square and Toast have built-in systems to sell online with minimal effort.

3. Offer gift cards for later use in taproom

Ensure that you have gift cards/certificates online and put them front & center on your website. There is a growing online initiative to help small businesses through this period through buying gift cards to use once the COVID-19 situation is under control.

If you are offering gift cards, sell directly to consumer or utilize your Point of Sale system. Ensure that you receive the funds immediately, rather than a gift card service where funds are held in escrow.

Make sure your brewery is mentioned in our list of breweries selling online gift-cards article.

4. Explore membership/mug-club options

Think about starting a mug club/membership program that you can sell upfront/online. A typical $100 12-month membership might include some of the following: $1 off a beer, exclusive membership nights, early access to new beer releases, merchandise.

If you already have a membership set-up, ensure you are pushing the information to your consumers. New members will drive revenue now and drive more visits once your taproom re-opens.

5. Sell over the phone/via email

If you cannot offer online gift card sales, consider selling over the phone/email and delivering by mail or holding at the taproom until you open again. Consumers understand that they can help by purchasing now and collecting in a few weeks.

Offer curbside to-go beer pickup. If you plan to be on premises over the next couple of weeks even if the brewery is closed, then offer a pick-up service for patrons who are social-distancing.

6. Research your options for delivery

Consider options for doorstep pick-up and delivery of any of the physical products or beer that consumers have purchased online/email/over the phone. Consumers are currently still willing to pick up at the door.

Follow @11belowbrewing of Houston on Twitter

Based on your State’s laws you may be able to deliver some of the merchandize and/or liquid purchased by consumers whilst you are dealing with a COVID-19 brewery taproom closure.

7. Once again – communicate with your consumers

Once you decide which offerings you plan to promote and how consumers can buy/support you, utilize your mailing list and social media followings. Ensure that you are clearly communicating your online offerings.

It is also important to ensure that you are telling your brewery’s story online – make sure your “About Us” section is up to date and tells the human story behind your business. Also, make the most of the good-will of craft-beer related media and supporters who want to help you generate revenue even if you are closed.

Follow official CDC updates on COVID-19 here

In the background – important advice for brewery owners

As a business owner there are a number of things you can do to prepare and mitigate the negative impact on your brewery:

1. Maintain constant communication with key stakeholders in your business

This includes your landlord, your CPA and your lawyer. Review any “Force Majeure” clauses in your lease contract. Fully understand the options for emergency SBA small business loans and funding programs if required.

2. Prioritize the welfare of your employees

Understand that your employees (especially tipped employees) are likely to face financial issues before you or your business. If you have the ability to, then support them in any way that you can.

3. Maintain business procedures

Ensure that there isn’t one single employee with key information such as passwords that you may not be able to access if they become sick/quarantined. Collect everything in a single document that you could pass to someone if you are required to be quarantined.

4. Assess supply chain concerns

Research each stage of your supply chain, and understand the things that are key to your business that could be affected for months to come. There is a good Harvard Business Review article that covers this in depth: Prepare Your Supply Chain for Coronavirus.

5. Stay informed

Use all available resources to your advantage, including your state brewer’s guild and the Brewers Association. Talk to other brewery owners and share best case practices. A lot of folks, including the Hopalytics team, will help you out free of charge.

Brewers Association Coronavirus Resource Center

CDC – Center for Disease Control and Prevention

WHO – World Health Organization

6. Call your Representatives

With local, State and Federal positions on bars & restaurants changing daily, it is imperative that the craft brewing industry come together to ensure that we are properly represented. Request that your representatives lobby for small business support packages, financial assistance and temporary waivers to sell all products to-go and directly to the public if your State does not currently allow.

Follow @CollinMcDonnell CEO of Hen House Brewing on Twitter

You can find your local and national elected representatives contact details on this website.

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