The Youthful Migration From Macro To Craft Beer: What’s A Taproom To Do?

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They don’t always drink beer, but when they do…

A recent survey has been interpreted to suggest that the Post Millennial Generation (Generation Z) will be the first to largely reject macro beer brands in preference to craft beer and spirits. While the forerunners of the youngest — and most numerous — generation have already begun to join the ranks of legal American drinkers, the vast majority are yet to reach 21, but year after year more will go off to college and generally live somewhere other than Mom and Dad’s.

 

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Because of the changing demographic makeup of the drinking market, taprooms and craft brewery tasting rooms are increasingly replacing bars as the place to hang out for a couple of rounds, and this is creating a new challenge for the owners and managers of those types of retail establishments. Faces at your neighborhood brewery are looking younger and ensuring that the lips on those faces are old enough to sip an IPA or barrel-aged stout has become a task more involved than just asking for a patron’s birth year.

Breweries are carding, but it’s gotta be tough.

Every taproom manager should know how important it is to make sure the right people are coming through their doors, and the first “line of defense” is checking ID. Each location has its own procedure: some card at the door, some when you order your first round at the bar, and some just at their discretion if you look like you might be younger than 21. Whatever the procedure, chances are it could be improved.

Plenty of taprooms across the country operate with only a handful of staff at a time. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2,605 of the 2,802 breweries operating in the U.S. had 49 employees or fewer. With a short staff, checking IDs can become a laborious, disorganized task. Fortunately for small breweries, technology is keeping up and offering new ways for staff members to be efficient and accurate in how they filter out the babies from the legal beer nerds.

 

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For instance, both smartphone app stores now offer apps that make ID checks something both simple and valuable. An employee these days can just pull out his or her iPhone or Android, open an app and scan the barcode on the back of an ID. There’s very little staff training required and using a mobile app allows plenty of flexibility, no matter how busy a night it is.

The name of the game is CYA.

The obvious benefit of incorporating a mobile ID scanner into a taproom’s day-to-day operations is its ability to save management from the pitfalls of serving minors. As a new generation of craft beer drinkers begin to walk through thousands of taprooms, it can be increasingly difficult to manage who’s coming in with legit IDs and who got their hands on a passable fake.

Today, there are plenty of breweries a stone’s throw away from a college campus. A group of friends of mixed ages can all pile in and order a few rounds. If the doorman got duped by a fake ID or the server didn’t bother to card, somebody’s on the hook for a financial loss or a hit to their reputation. Penalties can range from hundreds of dollars in fines to loss of licensing.

Pull up a stool and learn from customer behavior.

There are other reasons for a brewery to care about who’s coming in and out of their taproom. In order to constantly meet the needs of customers it’s important to understand what it is they want, as well as what they don’t want.

While engaging and converting new customers can be expensive, it’s much cheaper (and potentially easier) to make sure your existing customers keep coming back. Luckily, tracking habits can be a breeze with the right mobile application.

Many of the apps available today feature the ability to pull data reports to see a snapshot of an establishment’s demographics. See who’s coming in, how frequently, and on what days of the week. Identifying the quiet nights can mean saving money on staffing while also learning when to kick off a new weekly promotion.

 

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Customer data is more than just numbers.

After collecting all of this information about who’s visiting, when they’re visiting, when they’re not, and a barrel full of other metrics, what’s management to do?

The answer, of course, depends on a their business goals. Want to increase sales and customers on Tuesdays? Want more customers under 28? Want people hanging around longer on Sundays? Whatever the destination, data is the gas in the car.

There are lots of other actionable trends that appear when comparing customer data to things like POS sales or social media analytics. Data is a major factor in helping one brewery stand out among the other 6,600+ breweries across the country. Tracking customer data is the first step to better marketing, better sales, and better overall taproom experiences.

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Greg spends 9-5 as a content strategist while nights and weekends are for craft beer escapades. A southern New England native, he's been writing about the local beer scene and related current events for over 5 years. Find him and his illustrious beard raising a pint or on beardandbrewed.com.

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