Tap rooms and tasting rooms are where sales are made, relationships are formed and bonds are born. If you want a successful brewery, cidery, winery, distillery or meadery, you need to know how to take action to either make a great one-time sale to a customer just passing through or forge a relationship that can result in years of loyalty.

The American Cider Association recently hosted “5 Actionable Strategies to Create a More Profitable Tap Room” and while those steps may seem like common sense, they often bear repeating.

Andrew Coplon, the founder of Secret Hopper and Craft Beer Professionals, helps breweries nationwide create more memorable and profitable taproom experiences using data-based insights gathered from thousands of visits. He kicked off the presentation by stating, “Your goal is to create a memorable and profitable experience.”

Coplon also provided some sobering (pun intended) statistics to pay attention to if you run a tap room:

  • 45% of customers don’t order a second drink – so make sure you and your staff encourage that, as it could lead to an extra $6 per person
  • Guests will spend 15% more per visit if your staff engage with the customers for a ‘wow’ experience
  • Only 9% of customers purchase things to go without encouragement; if they are encouraged, that number increases to 49%

Director of Hospitality for Artifact Cider Project Megan MacLean drove those points home. “It’s offering everyone a second round, asking everyone if they want anything to go,” she said. “Make sure the culture is welcoming. Make sure people want to stick around for a second drink.”

Artifact has a tap room and production cellar in Florence, MA, and another tap room in Cambridge, MA. MacLean said they focus on brand education so that their staff is really well versed on what their selling and they’re excited about what they’re selling. “The passion does carry through into sales,” she said.

Flights are money makers – and gateways to more sales.

She also noted Artifact has seen a lot of success with different sizes of draft pours as well as the smaller individual flight pours. As long as a tap room has a good system in place for flights, that’s the money maker, as they’re often the most expensive “item” on the menu. The more flights a member of the staff sells, the better their tips will be too.

Coplon mentioned that through his data gathering, he’s found a customer’s tab is 25% higher when they are encouraged to start with flight

The encouragement is key. MacLean said in her team members, she looks for personality and if they can really work as part of a team. “Don’t focus on experience, focus on passion,” she suggested. “You can train them on the product and the verbiage. You can’t train an innate sense of hospitality.”

Anecdotal evidence is good, but hard facts are better. That’s what Kary Shumway, CPA, with Kary’s Financial Training, drove home when talking about looking at KPI (key performance indicators) for tap rooms.

“Measure things that make a material difference,” he said. “There’s so much data coming from good POS systems. Figure out what matters to you.”

Make sure you have a good system for pouring flights, and consider offering flight pours as an additional way to make a sale.

Shumway said you should ask a couple clarifying questions to determine what KPI to look at. Is there a problem you’re trying to solve? Or an opportunity you’re trying to take advantage of?

He said he’s often asked what his favorite KPI are, and he said they’re the tried-and-true ones. “What are drivers of sales? Look at where you’re been historically,” he said. “Finding out what tends to work helps when you’re doing your planning for 2023.”

Shumway said to look at number of customers coming in. He also said to study the average ticket total, as there are always ways to bring that up. Margins are also super important.

Coplon added he also keeps an eye on average tip percentage to see which individuals are truly engaging with your customers.

“The goal is to always be better,” Shumway said.

by Courtney Llewellyn