Archive for November, 2019

8 Beer Trends that are Turning into Staples

For a while in the American beer community, it seemed like you had two main choices — light, thin lagers, or heavy, hoppy, bitter IPAs. Everything else was so niche you practically had to go to the brewery to get it.

But these days, that’s no longer the case. Craft beer has exploded over the past 20 years. About 7,500 craft breweries are currently in operation in the U.S., churning out fresh takes on classic beer varieties and coming up with completely new concoctions by the thousands.

All this innovation means beer styles that were a little “out there” a few years ago are now becoming necessities to their fans.

Here is a list of 8 beer trends that are turning into staples — and that you may want to put on your shelves!

1. Coffee Beers

The first examples of these breakfasty beers came out of the coffee-obsessed 1990s. Craft breweries Redhook, Dogfish Head, and New Glarus were pioneers, introducing the masses to the magical coffee stout. Founders’ Breakfast Stout followed, which has since developed a huge following. 

For a while, it seemed that only dark beers like stouts and porters would be kissed by coffee. But now, it’s been added to just about all styles — kolsch, saison, pale ale, lager, and many, many more. 

Coffee pairs well with other flavors like cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla, and fruit, making it ripe for experimentation. What used to be a niche offering is now common on tap walls and in bar refrigerators nationwide.

 2. Sour Beers

It may seem odd to call sour beer a “trend,” since the very first beers were sours. And even in modern times, Belgian sours have been part of the European brewery tradition since at least the 1830s. 

But in the U.S., sour beers weren’t imported until the 1970s. And it would be a few more decades before American breweries would try their hand at this finicky brewing method. 

Unlike most other beer styles, sour beers include some bacteria and wild yeast strains that give them their characteristic pucker and funk. On the bacteria side, lactobacillus turns sugar into lactic acid, and pediococcus adds acidity. Then brettanomyces, the wild yeast, adds earthiness. In some brewing methods, unfermented beer is actually left in the open air, where it can snatch wild microorganisms out of the air. This irregularity can make for interesting, if unpredictable, beer.

Sours experienced a quick explosion in popularity, from 45,000 cases of sour beer sold in 2015 to 245,000 cases in 2016. Growth has continued since then, although at a more reasonable rate. 

3. Autumn/Winter Beers

There was a time when we didn’t think about beer in terms of seasons. Beer was the same in January as it was in July. 

But then we discovered the joy of sweet pumpkin beer, stout Oktoberfest beer, malty Christmas beer…At this point, autumn and winter beers have become a class of their own. 

Blue Moon’s Harvest Pumpkin Wheat Ale was one of the first seasonal pumpkin beers when it was introduced in 1995. Other breweries followed suit over time, introducing their own seasonal sippers. Now, customers will go out of their way to find their favorite brewery’s seasonal option.

People have come to expect at least one fall seasonal on the tap wall at any place that claims to have a decent beer selection. Sample some of the local craft brewery’s options and add one to your list!

4. Session Beers

When IPAs started to gain traction, it seemed like lighter beers were the exclusive domain of the big boys like Budweiser and Miller. People who were serious about beer wanted big hops and high alcohol content.

But there was a big untapped market. Many beer drinkers wanted a beer they could drink throughout the evening — without becoming a slobbering mess — and that had flavor and nuance. 

Session beers provide major taste and lower alcohol. They can be enjoyed across a summer afternoon or through a 3+ hour football game. Popular versions include Founders’ All Day IPA and Anchor Steam. These beers go well with food, so they’re perfect additions to a restaurant’s beer menu!

5. Barrel-Aged

“Barrel-aged” refers not to a type of beer, but to a production method. As the name implies, barrel-aged beers are left to age in oak barrels where they adopt unique flavors from the wood — and the liquid that the barrel used to hold. 

Whiskey, bourbon, and red wine barrels are all used to barrel age beers. The method was first adopted in 1992 by Goose Island Brewery. Brewmaster Greg Hall needed to come up with something one-of-a-kind to commemorate the brewery’s 1,000th batch. He tried aging a stout in old Jim Beam barrels and ended up with the first bourbon barrel-aged beer.

The best beers for barrel-aging have strong flavors that won’t be overpowered by the wood. Porters, barleywines, and stouts are all good candidates. Sours can hold their own in the barrel-aging process as well — that’s two staples in one! 

6. Cider

While cider isn’t beer, it often appears on beer menus. And it’s giving other gluten-free options a run for their money. 

Cider has a long history in America. In fact, cider equipment was brought to the “New World” on the Mayflower! But beer gained a toehold in our hearts, and cider was all but forgotten. Then, in the early 2010s, a slow, quiet cider revolution began.

There are now about 500 craft cideries in the U.S. Cider brewers are experimenting with flavors like blood orange, rosé, and watermelon. And there are new dry versions as well, for those who don’t like sweet drinks. 

Part of cider’s appeal is that it’s naturally gluten-free. So it’s an easy choice for people with gluten intolerance. Cider’s star is on the rise, and many bars and restaurants are adding at least one cider variety to their drink offerings.

7. Nitro

Most beers are carbonated with carbon dioxide, which gives it that crisp, refreshing bite. But some beers are carbonated with more nitrogen than carbon dioxide. The resulting brew is smooth and velvety, with a thick head and bubbles that drop instead of rise. 

Guinness was the only nitro beer widely available in the U.S. for a long time. But now, many breweries are making their own version of this creamy beer. To provide a nitro beer on draft, you’ll need to purchase a nitrogen cylinder, regulator, and faucet. Or, you could just provide a canned version like Left Hand Milk Stout or Firestone Walker’s Nitro Merlin Milk Stout.

8. Local Everything

Most Americans live within 10 miles (on average) of a brewery or brewpub. And boy, do they like their home-grown beers. Sales of the five major American brewers (MillerCoors, Pabst, Heineken, Diageo, and Anheuser-Busch) declined 14% between 2007 and 2016 while sales of craft beers exploded. 

Why are local breweries doing so well? Well, there’s something to be said for supporting a company that’s part of your community. Local breweries often use local products when they are able, funneling money back into the area’s economy and using fewer resources to transport raw materials. In the current climate, shopping local and shrinking our carbon footprint is on a lot of people’s minds.

Craft beer sales account for 24% of the U.S. beer market. That market share continues to rise, even while overall beer sales have stayed relatively flat.

So what’s next?

Other trends to watch in the coming years? You’d have to live under a rock to not notice the proliferation of spiked seltzers over the past year or two. Also, look out for an increase in  low-cal beers, non-alcoholic beers, and “mocktails.” Health is on people’s minds more than ever before, and the result may be some major shifts in the way people indulge in their favorite libation. 

Cheers!


How to Market Your Restaurant’s Space for Events

Turning your restaurant into an event venue for a night can seem daunting. But there are huge benefits to snagging regular large parties and full-venue buyouts.

First, the food will all be pre-ordered for the evening, so you can plan ahead to minimize waste. Second, you’ll have the chance to pack the house on what could otherwise be a slow day. A big party on a Tuesday night? Yes, please!

And finally, there are those beautiful rental fees. Event professionals understand that to reserve all or part of your venue for their party, they’ll have to pay a rental fee. It’s the price they have to pay for disrupting your normal flow of business. And that’s all profit. 

But it can be hard to get your restaurant’s name out there as a great option for an event. If you’re not being proactive, it’s unlikely that events business will just fall in your lap.

So here are the steps you should be taking to market your restaurant’s space for events.

Design a professional event deck 

The first thing you’ll need is an event deck. An event deck is simply a brochure that explains the features and benefits of your space. 

These days, they can be either digital or printed. It can be nice to have a glossy, physical brochure to hand out to event coordinators. But digital can also be a good option so you can save on printing costs and make easy changes. In a perfect world, you’d have both digital and printed versions.

For starters, you’ll need great pictures. Splurge for a photographer here. A professional photographer will be able to make your space shine. When they come, you want the space to look event-ready — table and chairs set just how they would be for a nice event. And the space should be empty of customers. The event planners and their clients need to be able to imagine their party in the room. That’s harder to do when there are people and dirty plates in the picture. 

You’re trying to paint the most complete picture possible. So include images of the dining room, bar, any lounge areas, decks or patios — all of the customer-facing spaces.

Next, you need to put together your content. This is where you’ll give all the important specs of the space. These should include:

  • Square footage
  • Max capacity seated
  • Max capacity standing
  • Any audio/visual equipment you have
  • Furniture details. How many tables and chairs do you have in-house? Do you have any satellite bars or buffet tables? This will help the event planners to figure out what they’ll need to rent.
  • Service styles. Do you have limits for how many guests can get a seated, plated dinner vs. family-style or buffet service? Do you offer passed appetizers?
  • Include a list of preferred vendors, if you have one. This could be DJs, florists, rental companies, and tent-providers (for outdoor spaces). 

Once you have your photos back and your specs compiled, it’s time to put your deck together. If you or someone on staff are skilled with a program like Adobe InDesign, you may be able to do it yourself. But you may get a better result if you hire a graphic designer. Remember, if you spend $500 between a photographer and graphic designer, you could make it all back with one event rental fee.

Reach out to local event companies

The next step is to reach out to the local event companies to make sure they’re aware of your restaurant. 

The event companies are the gatekeepers to all the local event business. If there’s a conference, trade show, seminar, or festival coming to town, the organizers will reach out to an event company to plan welcome parties or VIP dinners. 

So it’s vital to have these folks on your side. Invite them to tour the space. Make sure the owner, general manager, or onsite event coordinator is the one doing the tour. You want to be able to answer their questions in real-time, instead of asking someone else. 

After the tour, treat them like VIPs. Provide samples of some of the best appetizers and snacks that you would provide for events, and make sure to give them a glass of wine or a cocktail. If you get on the event planner’s good side, your job is halfway done.

Skip the middle man

Not all events will go through event planning companies. Some will come directly from the end client. So it’s always a good idea to do a little outreach on your end as well. 

To start, establish your max capacity for an event. There’s no point in reaching out to companies of 400 people if you can only fit 150. So use your capacity to weed out companies that are too large. 

Then, start looking for lists of “best small companies” in your areas. The companies that are on “best places to work” lists are often generous with their celebrations. Start calling these companies, and try to reach the person who handles events. Many small companies won’t have a designated “event coordinator”, so the job will fall to someone in HR or a competent administrator. 

You’re not trying to be pushy. Just let them know that you have a great space not far from their office and you think it might be a good fit for their next company party. Invite them out for a tour and some snacks. 

This is an especially good method around September/October. The holiday party is looming, but the planner may not have thought much about it yet. How fortuitous if the perfect venue just happens to reach out at the perfect time?

Peerspace

Peerspace is an online event rental marketplace. Like Airbnb, venues can create a listing for their space, which users can book for available days.

Now, Peerspace is not restaurant-specific, so it doesn’t account for menus or drinks. The rental is strictly for the space. But if you have a side room that sits vacant often, getting it up on Peerspace may be a great way to get occasional rentals. It could be used for seminars, lectures, or meetings instead of sitting empty.

Social media 

You knew it was coming, right?

These days, every marketing plan has to include social media. There are three big areas to focus on for promoting events on social media. 

1. Reminders

Every now and then, make sure to do a post on your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter about the fact that your space is available for private parties. Post one of those beautiful event deck photos, and include the email address that they should reach out to with questions.

Or, you could take followers on a virtual tour of the space in your Instagram or Facebook stories. Regular reminders that your space is available for events will help to position your restaurant as an event venue in the minds of your followers. 

2. Events in progress

When you have an event-in-progress, make sure to share it! Photos and short videos of your events as they happen will show your followers how fun your space can be! 

Make sure to use event-focused hashtags, like:

  • #[town]events
  • #[town]party
  • #partytime
  • #partyplanner

The idea is to get your pictures in front of other event professionals around town.

3. Facebook ads

Facebook ads let you get very specific with your targeting. You can narrow down your ad audience by age, location, gender, income level, family size, interests, and job titles. 

For event-focused Facebook ads, try targeting executive assistants, HR professionals, administrators, and event planners in your area. Use one of those professional photos and make sure your ad links directly to your online event deck. 
This kind of focused targeting will get your ad in front of the event decision-makers that you need to reach in order to book their parties.

Let’s Party!

If you spend a little time focusing on each one of these steps, you’ll be sure to see an increase in event rentals. Once the events are booked, make sure all hands are on deck to throw the best event possible. There’s no business like repeat business! You want your event clients to get on next year’s calendar before this year’s party has even ended!