Plato once said, “He was a wise man who invented beer.” Wise also is the operator who pays special attention to his or her beer program, raising guest satisfaction, driving traffic and, ultimately, increasing sales. The overall goal for any successful beverage promotion is to sell more beverages, so don’t get caught up in selling just one type or brand of beer; instead, try to boost an entire category. Look for greater profit margins, and stay away from promotions based solely on discounts: A campaign with quality, variety and creativity will highlight the product.
Let’s look at how a variety of beer-promotion ideas, such as customer education and staff-motivation techniques, can drive guest traffic, frequency and spending.
1 First Things First
The first step in launching a successful beer promotion is to perform an honest assessment of your operation’s identity and capabilities as well as your guests’ preferences. Take time to review your bar’s business goals when choosing which types of beers to promote. Consider seasonality issues and your overall sales mix. Whether you offer five beers or 50, be sure to include variety and a balance of styles with a nod to regional preferences. For example, if you can carry only five beers, don’t just offer five stouts or five lagers. There should be something for every mood, as well as unique offerings your guests may never have tried before.
2 Clubs and Guilds
A “mug club” or “beer guild” is a great way to enlist your beer-loving faithful. These types of promotions typically require a registration or entry fee and include a custom beer mug, T-shirt and club access. Club benefits usually include rewards — logo glassware, hats, T-shirts, growlers, club cash, free beer, etc. — that accrue with an increasing number of visits. Take advantage of another great opportunity by extending VIP invites to club members for special events, such as beer dinners, tapping parties, etc. Offer exclusive weekly or monthly meetings to club members, and consider starting a “beer-appreciation society” in your area. Utilize social media outlets to promote the organization or create a beer guild on Meetup.com or other social-networking sites, and invite existing local beer associations to join.
A tried-and-true cousin of the mug club is the “beer club”: Guests receive cards that are stamped/punched when certain draft or bottle selections are tried. After sampling designated quantities, members are rewarded with giveaways, such as T-shirts, food and beverage discounts, name recognition, completion certificates, etc. Similarly, a “beers-of-the-world” promotion focuses on brews from different regions of the globe. Create an “around-the-world” event for which guests receive beer cards/visas that are stamped each time they “visit” a region. More event ideas for beer clubs or guilds include:
- Tapping parties for new rotations or limited-release brews.
- Tap-takeover nights in which a particular brewer or producer takes over an establishment’s taps for an evening and conducts a question-and-answer session or other educational presentation.
- Blind beer-tasting challenges with prizes.
- Special beer days with a specific producer (e.g., Dogfish Head).
- Regional focus nights (e.g., German, Belgium, American, West Coast, East Coast, Colorado, California, etc.).
- Style nights (e.g., Lagers, Pilsners, Wheats, Belgians, Pale Ales, etc.).
3 Educational Opportunities
Brew enthusiasts typically are quite passionate and eager to learn more about beer. Educational events are a great way to increase awareness and sales. Well-known as promotional events, beer dinners are a fun and practical way for guests to experience a special beer with each course.
Ideally, a few courses also would be made with beer. Add some star power and invite a local brewer or brew executive to host the event. Increase guest interaction by asking the host to explain each beer during a question-and-answer session. These all-inclusive events require preregistration and usually sell out fast.
Featuring a local brewer or beer executive in a weekly or monthly class also can draw a crowd to your establishment. Offer a tasting session and have the host walk attendees through the nuances of beer styles and brewing techniques. Promote this type of event during a slow period and sell tickets for each class. Talk to your beer distributor and ask to be introduced to local brewers; just make sure your interactions are in compliance with local regulations. Give attendees a feeling of accomplishment: Issue class diplomas or certificates of completion (create them in-house or find stock certificates at an office-supply store). This can turn into a great word-of-mouth tool to help promote future classes. Be sure to post notices of events and “graduations” on your Website and social-media pages.
4 Staff Training
A new promotion can be successful only when you have an educated and excited staff ready to put it into practice! Group beers by category and educate servers on the differences between ales (full-bodied and flavorful) and lagers (light, clean and refreshing) as well as styles (pale ales, stouts, hefeweizens, etc). Teach staff members to inquire whether guests are looking for something “light and refreshing,” “hoppy,” “eccentric” or “bold.” Outline which heading each selection falls under.
Many beers have an interesting history or story to tell, so research the selections and educate your staff. Well-executed storytelling can influence purchasing decisions significantly. Remind staff members that higher priced beers lead to higher check averages and higher tips.
Schedule frequent tastings so staff members are aware of the offerings and what makes each unique. Train servers to suggest their favorite beers and give reasons why those selections are preferred. Incentives are a great way to generate excitement among staff members and help prevent servers from simply reciting your beer list by rote. Offer fun giveaways during various stages of the promotion to keep staff motivated. These action items take time and require constant reinforcement, but the benefits are huge.
5 Have FUN!
Don’t miss the most important element of a successful beer promotion: FUN! Build excitement around a promotion before it begins, and be sure there are fun elements throughout the promotion for guests and staff members. Cheers to successful and fun beer promotions! NCB
Beer Promos We Love
Choosing the right brew for your bar is important, but even the best selection falls flat if you don’t promote it. Major brands and regional brews benefit from sporting-event, holiday and quirky program connections. Sales of seasonal beers and handcrafted favorites can get a spark from timely or local-focused promos, so run summer beer dinners or style flights to get guests interested. The key ingredients for any successful beer promotional program are creativity and supplier support. Following are some of our favorite beer promos that will have these bars’ guests ordering one more round:
Brew with a View
Cityscape Bar, Chicago
Every month, Cityscape hosts its “Brew with a View” sampling event. Guests receive complimentary beers and small bites, including wings and fresh vegetables, while enjoying the views of downtown’s River North neighborhood. Involving The Boston Beer Co., the event features beers from the Imperial Series Samuel Adams line, including Wee Heavy, Imperial Stout, Imperial White and Double Bock. The event is free, but reservations are limited.
Chapter One: the modern local, Santa Ana, Calif.
Chapter One: the modern local takes beer seriously. With its emphasis on local products and seasonal offerings, this gastro pub consistently satisfies guests’ tastes. The pub’s beer menu features a beer-flight promotion that includes 12 microbrews with accompanying tasting notes; guests can choose four to create their flights. The beers, which range from Allagash White to Plum Riot and Poppyfield Pale Ale, are served in 4 to 5 ounce glasses and vary from $2 to $3 per beer.
Big Night Out
The Melting Pot
Based on the success of its Big Night Out food-and- wine pairings, The Melting Pot is expanding the program to include American craft beer and dinner pairings at its 142 locations. The Big Night Out beer menu features tasting notes on each beer as well as a short synopsis on why the beverage pairs well with the food selection. The beer pairings include Cheese Fondue with Samuel Adams Boston Lager; a Wisconsin Wedge Salad with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale; Seasoned Black Angus Sirloin, Old Bay Shrimp, Memphis-style BBQ Pork Tenderloin and Wild Mushroom Sacchetti with Stone IPA; and PB&J Chocolate Fondue paired with Rogue Chocolate Stout for dessert. Pricing varies per location.
Rams Head Restaurants
At its four Maryland locations, Rams Head Restaurants celebrated the release of Old Dominion Brewing Co.’s summer beer, Beach House Golden Pilsner, with a tapping party on May 5 from 4 to 6 p.m. The beer was served in limited-edition glasses and available for $4 on the release day; patrons who purchased the glass received $1 refills throughout the event.
Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery
Because Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery brews its own beers for its 34 locations, promotions run rampant. Some of its most popular campaigns include beer-tapping parties that feature complimentary 10-ounce tastes for each customer present during the first hour, where legal. Also, each spring, Rock Bottom releases its Fire Chief Ale and donates a minimum of 10% of sales to local fire-related charities.