Building relationships takes more than beer – it takes you

by Courtney Llewellyn

During his first visit to the Finger Lakes region, Andrew Coplon of Secret Hopper and Craft Beer Professionals had several things stand out in his memory: splendiferous sunsets, savory sandwiches and memorable wine labels. Those notable things are still with him, and he wants to help those with tasting rooms create similar lifelong memories for their customers.

Coplon presented “10 Mind-Blowing Tasting Room Data Points” during the recent virtual FLXBevCon, stating that the industry is “cautiously hopeful but still treading unknown waters in 2021 – but that has not changed the goal of memorable and profitable taproom visits.”

He said dealing with the pandemic forced breweries, wineries and cideries to focus even more on the business side of operations, and studying data can help you succeed. His Secret Hopper data came from more than 1,600 surveys in February and 1,400 in April, with about 6,000 unique visits for overall taproom facts. Better weather, better economic conditions and a better outlook on COVID-19 meant that 56.4% of guests are comfortable having beverages inside tasting rooms again, and 64.6% plan to visit taprooms more frequently once they’re vaccinated.

But what do your guests want? Coplon said they want your tasting room’s current drink menu; an outdoor space to enjoy; and to see how well your business is adhering to health protocols on your social media. “Show people your cleaning protocols and your latest releases, and make your posts informative,” he said. “There’s no such thing as going above and beyond. And brag about how awesome your outdoor space is.”

Menus are important too. They should be easy to read, stylish, list all your beer/wine/spirit names with alcohol content and size options and pricing. You can use a wall menu, a paper menu or upgrade to a QR code. There are benefits to each kind.

  • A wall menu educates guests, prepares guests to order, removes confusion and reduces ordering time.
  • A physical menu works because people like to read, it facilitates conversation and it encourages the ordering of the next drink. (Coplon noted guests given physical menus spend 35% more on their tabs.)
  • A QR code reduces contact and includes all the relevant information.

A disappointing data point Coplon introduced was that 45% of tasting room staff are not asking guests if they would like another drink. The mere suggestion of another drink leads to 16.3% higher tabs – that’s $292 more per 100 tabs. “A guest chooses to visit your taproom – engage, educate and encourage them,” he said.

Similarly, he found 86% of brewery staff are not encouraging guests to join a brewery’s mailing list or loyalty/rewards program. “The wine industry puts greater emphasis on this kind of data – the beer industry needs to follow suit,” Coplon stated. “Stay in touch with semi-frequent emails. Give them a reason to visit. Collect their information!” To create recurring purchases, consider starting mug clubs or subscriptions.

Another way to step up is to encourage product to go. “Our data showed customers were only asked 20% of the time,” Coplon said. “When it’s not suggested, it’s only done 9% of the time.” When it is, however, that jumps to 49%. The average brewery guest spends $41 with nothing to go and $54.47 with something to take with them.

It all comes down to engagement. “To successfully build these relationships, it begins with you … It’s the little things that ultimately make a big difference,” Coplon said. “Being served a beer in a glass instead of a plastic cup made a big difference for me. Every touch point matters. Earn their trust and build a relationship – and if you’re not sure what they want, just ask. Leave your guests craving more.”

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