Build Your Business Fast and Get it Right.

By: Kris Bohm of Distillery Now Consulting

Building a business fast and getting it right is hard to do. Many breweries and distilleries start with a far-flung idea that often takes months or years to initiate the process of bringing the idea to life. The thousands of steps needed to bring a big idea to life will take you down a path that is not obvious and certainly not direct. Going from concept to operation is a massive challenge, but with the right help and guidance it can be done quickly. There are many ways to fast track building a new business. Many of these fast methods are fraught with traps and mistakes that are expensive. The sure-fire way to build a business fast and to do it right is to work with those who have done it before. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest learning lessons from building multiple distilleries i’ve seen and help set you on the path to building your business fast and getting it right.

  Talk to any business owner of a brewery or distillery, and I guarantee you that the owner will have some stories about how they did not do some things right the first time. Whether the equipment they bought was too small, or the location was not ideal, there are always lessons to be learned from a first time start up business. One lesson that is particularly painful and hard to fix is poor location selection to start the business. Many challenges such as location selection and selecting the perfect equipment for that location can have long term problems that only an individual with direct experience can foresee. Another factor that is often forgotten in a new business is planning for growth. These are just a few factors critical to starting right and starting quickly. Let’s go over some real world examples of these situations and share some lessons learned the hard way.

  Selecting the optimal location can make a massive difference in the speed your business can get up and running. Finding a building that is zoned correctly is a huge step forward in starting the business. In many instances a business is planned to be started in a building that is not zoned for manufacturing aka light industrial use. To get a building rezoned or to get a zoning exemption can take months if not years and can be a costly endeavor. Seeking out a building that is zoned correctly to start with will help avoid this problem entirely. At first glance, hunting for the correctly zoned property can be so specific that it can feel like a hindrance to starting the business, but taking the extra time needed to find the right property with the correct zoning can save an immense amount of time to start up. In one instance it took a distillery an entire year to get a property and building rezoned and in this case the zoning had to be approved before construction was allowed to start.

  A major cost in building a distillery or brewery is bringing all the proper utilities to the building. The cost of adding sprinklers can be astronomical. Bringing fire water for a hydrant and or sprinklers to a building then installing fire sprinklers is not only costly, but can add months to the timeline of a construction project. The other primary utilities that are needed for a business to function are another factor that is important to consider. Manufacturing equipment often has large electrical demands for motors and requires 3 phase power. Seeking a building that has enough electricity to service the business is another factor that will help to fast track the construction and reduce construction cost. The 3 other critical utilities are sewer, water and gas. All 3 of these utilities have critical use in the business and when possible, finding a building with properly sized utilities in place can save hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction. Buildings that were previously used for manufacturing are often the best option that can potentially have all utilities needed. We recently helped a distillery open up in which the previous building tenant was a water bottling plant. This building already had all necessary utilities in place and floor drains. As a result this distillery was built out extremely quickly. The construction cost of this distillery was also quite low as there was minimal construction related to utilities.

  One challenge many businesses face as they start to grow is the room to grow. It is essential in selecting a location to seek a place with room to grow. Room to grow can mean many different things. Opportunity to grow can be as simple as a location with an empty lot or adjacent buildings that could be added to the operation. When a business outgrows the space it operates in, daily operations can become painful to manage. It can be hard to plan for growth when so much time and energy is being given to just getting started. Considering long term growth during location selection can be so valuable when it comes time to grow.

  When the ideal building is found to build your business, the location is often less than ideal in consideration to foot traffic into a tasting room. Oftentimes the perfect building is tucked far away into an industrial neighborhood that no one would ever stumble upon. This can be challenging for the business as a tasting room or cocktail lounge is often an important revenue center. As foot traffic is non-existent in most industrial neighborhoods, bringing visitors to an onsite tasting room can be difficult. One creative solution that solves this problem is the satellite tasting room. In some states an offsite tasting room is allowed with a distillers permit. A satellite tasting room is often a small tasting room or cocktail lounge that is located in a downtown or Main St setting. A downtown location like this is a great way to introduce people to your brand. A downtown location is also often an impossible place to build a manufacturing business. The satellite tasting room creates the opportunity to expand your business in a tourist area or location with strong foot traffic, to support the manufacturing operation with revenue.

  With such an extensive list of qualifications for the ideal location, it can seem a bit like chasing a unicorn to find the perfect building. It is unlikely you will find a building that checks every single box on my list. A location can certainly be found that checks most of the boxes if you hunt hard enough. For every key feature you find in a potential building these things can save you months of build time and large amounts of money. Finding the ideal space will take lots of diligent hunting. Further it takes the resolve to say no to a space if it is less than ideal. Saying no can be hard, as many spaces can be tempting to say yes and take the steps forward to start construction. It is actually quite common that the first or even second potential location selected for a business does not work out. In some cases I’ve seen several potential locations not end up working for a location.This is not to say that you must have all of these utilities in place for a location to work, but if the building does have it all you will be up and running really fast.

  When starting a manufacturing business, the right location can sometimes mean the difference between success and failure. Take the time to find the right place before you take the big leap to build the business. If you are unsure whether or not a location is right, then hire an experienced consultant or professional to help you consider your options. That professional could save you from making a costly mistake. Building it fast and getting it right can be done but must be done with care.

Proactive, Protective Measures to Avoid Liquor Liability

By: David DeLorenzo

There is a plethora of things business owners in the hospitality industry need to oversee and manage. Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol have the added challenge of serving their customers while also avoiding the liabilities associated with a guest’s alcohol consumption — and the choices they make upon leaving an establishment.

  One of the biggest dangers bar and restaurant owners should steer far clear of is becoming part of a lawsuit related to drunk driving. It cannot be overstated that establishments serving alcohol need to be extremely diligent about their protocols and also vigilant about their insurance policies. They should ensure they not only have proper coverage to protect their business and staff in the event of an alcohol-related lawsuit, they should also stay on top of the ever-changing liquor laws. This is for the safety and protection of all parties. 

  First and foremost, bar and restaurant owners should have good insurance. They also need to be aware of what their policies cover — and what they don’t. Though understanding the ins and outs of insurance may not seem like something that a hospitality business owner has time for, it is vital to the success of their business. Ideally, a bar or restaurant owner should work with an insurance agency that specializes in their industry and is well versed in the laws that impact it. They should also work with an agent who keeps current on the ever-changing laws that pertain to things like liquor policies. Keep in mind unexpected changes such as the ability to sell cocktails and other alcoholic beverages to go during COVID as well as marijuana usage and weapons exclusions, too, which are impacting today’s businesses in new ways.

  It’s always recommended business owners have their policies reviewed at least once a year. This way, they can be notified of changes or new exclusions or endorsements and take stock of whether they need to modify or add to their current policies to better protect themselves. This is also a good time to make note of any changes to the company that need to be reflected and protected in their policies. The “better safe than sorry” adage is not too cliché for this scenario. Just one incident can put a company out of business if they are not properly covered. Just as with auto insurance, some people may not understand they didn’t have the right coverage until an accident — and then it’s too late. This is where an agent that specializes in the hospitality industry can best guide and protect the business, staff and customers alike.

  Beyond air-tight insurance coverage, there are many things bar and restaurant owners can take into their own hands to ensure the safety and protection of staff and customers. Bar and restaurant owners should ensure they have the current certificates for serving alcohol in their state.

  Education is crucial. Employees must understand how liquor law works, how they can notice intoxication and know what steps that need to be taken in order to avoid overserving of alcohol.

This begins with safety training for all staff as well as training staff on how to properly identify an intoxicated person before they even enter the bar. Is it also vital that staff understands how to detect whether a customer is becoming intoxicated during their service.

  It is illegal for an establishment to allow an intoxicated person onto their premises — so safety begins at the door. It is important that a bar have door security to do ID checks to ensure first that guests are indeed of age and also that they are not intoxicated before they even step inside. In addition to door security, bars may want to invest in security personnel for their exterior or parking lot areas as well.

  Upon entry, it is also essential that staff understands how much is too much when it comes to serving their patrons. Training staff on the obvious symptoms of intoxication can help prevent a lawsuit. Signs to watch for can include slurring speech, becoming loud, the pace of their drinking, red eyes or flushed face. It is also important to note that it is illegal to serve an intoxicated person whether or not they are driving.

  Obviously no bar or restaurant owner wants to turn away customers or have to cut them off during their service. However, these measures need to be seen as non-negotiable safety protocols for staff and customers. It could be a matter of life or death if an intoxicated person decides to leave, get in their car and drive away. They are then not only putting their own lives in danger but putting others’ lives at risk.

  Another strategy bar and restaurant owners can employ to help protect themselves is the use of surveillance cameras in and around their property. This can be a lifesaver. Video surveillance can provide timestamped evidence of an incident, such as a fall in the kitchen or a server-customer interaction that can help prove vital in a court of law. Surveillance cameras are a wise investment and are there for safety and protection of all parties.

  It’s also crucial to think about specials bars and restaurants are offering. While happy hour drink specials are a great way to bring in much-needed customers to help boost sales, this can be a risky move — especially reverse happy hour specials that are offered at the end of the night or right before the restaurant is closing. It’s also a good idea to avoid “last call.” These measures can be construed in a lawsuit as encouraging patrons to order more drinks before alcohol will no longer be served or to order more alcoholic beverages because they are being offered at a discounted price.

  It is also key to stay up to date on liquor laws. Knowledge of any changes should be a red alert to check with the company’s insurance agent to see how that might impact current coverage. Staying in communication with their insurance agent can also help bar and restaurant owners ensure they are properly covered as laws and policies change.

  I understand that is a lot to keep up with, especially while trying to operate a bar or restaurant in today’s unstable climate. That is why I created my Connector and Protector Hospitality Series on YouTube. It features videos and interviews with experts on topics such as liquor liability and more to help guide bar and restaurant owners. It is a goal of mine to help my clients and everyone in the hospitality industry be successful — and safe.

  The bottom line is that no one wants an accident to happen to their customers or their staff. Putting simple protocols in place to avoid an incident may seem tedious. However, they can be lifesaving and could save a business if it is hit with a liquor liability lawsuit. Taking proactive and protective measures is for the benefit of all.

  Out of his passion to serve the restaurant and hospitality industry, David DeLorenzo created the Bar and Restaurant Insurance niche division of his father’s company The Ambassador Group, which he purchased in 2009. For more than 20 years, he has been dedicated to helping protect and connect the hospitality industry in Arizona. For more information visit

Contract Packaging Agreements

Purpose in Brand Owner and Manufacturer Relationship and a Look at Some Key Provisions

By: Brad Berkman and Louis J. Terminello, Greenspoon Marder

Brewers and brand owners both, do not underestimate the importance of a well drafted “contract bottling agreement.” First, for the uninitiated let’s briefly explore what in fact, a contract package arrangement is and brand development within the context of that arrangement.

  Breaking into the realm of manufacturing alcoholic beverages can be a very expensive endeavor. Startup costs for opening a brewery, distillery or a winery can be immense. Even startup costs at the “craft” level are significant. Land and facilities must be bought or leased, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems need designing and buildout, and of course, manufacturing equipment such as tanks, stills, bottling lines, and pumps must be purchased and installed, among many other things. The costs can be very high. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, likely even more, will come out of pocket before the first bag of grain is poured into a mash tank, distilled, and bottled, labeled, and a corked brand comes rolling down the bottling line. Of course, merely producing an alcoholic beverage brand is just the beginning. The idea is to sell bottles, boxes, pallets, and container loads of happiness in the bottle. This of course requires tremendous expenditures on brand marketing, sales, and promotional initiatives. Happiness in the bottle can quickly turn into weeping in one’s glass if poor planning is exercised.

  Enter the contract package arrangement. A business deal that benefits the independent brand owner and marketer and the skilled brewer, distiller, or wine maker. It is the foundation of a symbiotic relationship that cuts costs for both parties and goes a long way in increasing the likelihood for the economic success of each. In the simplest terms, in a contract package relationship, a brand owner will “contract” with an existing manufacturer to produce and bottle and alcoholic beverage for the owner. All production and labor are contributed by the producer, paid for by the brand owners, ultimately leading to a finished product owned and ready for sale in the market by the brand owner.

  For manufacturers, contract packaging, in addition to bottling their own labels, can be a significant and badly needed additional stream of revenue. For the brand owner, the significant cost savings from avoiding building out a plant are immense and allows for valuable financial resources to be directed to advertising and marketing activities. After all, a bottle is not going to come off the retailer’s shelf by itself.

  With the above in mind, this article will examine some of the key provisions that must be addressed in any well drafted contract packaging agreement that are likely concerns of both parties to any agreement of this sort. When crafted properly, the agreement will ensure that the rights, duties and obligations of both parties are clearly defined, ideally leading to an unambiguous business relationship. It is important to note that every deal is different, and the terms of a well drafted agreement will be deal specific. The below provides general but important guidance on some essential terms.

A few Key Provisions:

  Intellectual Property Rights and Licensing

The brand owner almost always has spent significant treasure in developing a brand name and identity. The first step in protecting brand ownership commences in fact prior to entering into a contract packaging agreement. The brand owner should make every effort to trademark the brand name and logo in the appropriate trademark categories prior to bottling and sale in the marketplace.

  Building brand equity or value is a labor intensive and costly exercise. Trademarking the brand name is an absolute requirement to ensure brand value remains with the owner. As for the contract packing agreement, the brand owner will grand a limited, non-exclusive license to the manufacture to produce and bottle the product for the duration of the agreement. At termination of the relationship, the limited license shall cease to exist, and the manufacturer will generally have no future rights to the brand name.

Formulation, Ownership

  Product formulation must be addressed in these agreements as well. Both the manufacturer and brand owner must agree prior to production, the formulation specifications and method of manufacture of the liquid in the bottle. A well-crafted agreement should address deviations from the agreed upon formula. If a dispute arises between the parties in regard to formulation and product quality or integrity, a means for determining fault should be incorporated into the agreement. It is highly recommended that third party laboratories are identified in the agreement where the finished product can be sent for testing and ultimately assignment of responsibility.

  Compensation to the injured party for out-of-spec liquid should be codified as well.  The contract should also address formula ownership and use of the liquid. Common place vodkas, as example, are drastically different from unique formulations with unique ingredients. Assignment of ownership of the formula should be addressed in any contract packaging agreement in a similar fashion as usage of the brand name as described above.

Raw Materials, Packaging

  Every beverage product produced requires raw materials and packaging materials. Grains, malt, yeast, and other ingredients are required as well as bottles, labels, stoppers, and cases. These items can be secured by the manufacturer as part of the contract arrangement, or they can be secured by the brand owner and delivered to the producer’s plant (producer is used interchangeably with manufacturer). The acquisition of these items is very important for many reasons including the quality of the materials used and the costs involved.

  Ultimately, the costs of these materials will determine the price of the finished product on the shelf. The parties to any agreement should establish roles and responsibilities for obtaining these items to ensure adequate supplies of the same at the right cost point. Storage of inventory of both raw materials and packing and how to deal with defective materials should be sorted through by the parties with the costs assigned accordingly.

Production Quantities

  Production amounts are an essential element of negotiations and memorializing them in an agreement is vital. Both the manufacturer and brand owner need to align their expectations on this issue. Either party will quickly cry breach of an agreement if the manufacturer cannot produce the quantities the brand owner requires and conversely, the manufacturer will do the same if the brand owner does not contract and purchase the quantities bargained for. 

  Realistic volume expectations need to be established for both parties to the agreement. As an offering of sage advice, if there is not a meeting of the minds on this issue by the parties, it is best to walk away from any arrangement. Further, it is advisable to incorporate reasonable and realistic annual volume growth expectations, year over year, in a multi-year agreement.

Payment Terms

  It goes without saying that payment terms may be the most important part of a contract packaging agreement. Clearly both parties need to know when they will make and receive payment and the timing of the same. In some instances, manufacturers may be willing to provide favorable credit terms, (most likely offered to a long-standing brand owner partner who has well established credit).

  In many instances manufacturers may require all monies to be paid prior to production. In other instances, they may require one-half of the production amount prior to commencing manufacturer, the remainder due at pick up of the finished product. Once again, this essential term must be negotiated and memorialized in a well drafted contract package agreement.

Quality Control and Product Recall

  This provision was briefly mentioned above but is worth restating here. Ideally, production moves along without a hitch and product quality and integrity remains excellent. Of course, that is not always the case. There are times when product formulation is off or foreign objects make their way into the bottle. The parties to a production agreement must memorialize issues such as the right to inspect finished product prior to leaving manufacturers warehouse, the procedures and allocation of costs if in fact product must be recalled.

  As a final thought, contract packing agreements must be beverage law compliant.  Additional terms in the agreement must comport with and be legal under alcohol beverage law and the parties to the agreement must be licensed accordingly.

  The above is very much a sketch of some important issues that must be addressed in a well-crafted contract package agreement. There are many other areas that must be negotiated between the parties and included. A word to the wise, it is always beneficial to both parties to consult with attorneys who are experts in this area. Ideally, the agreement should provide a business framework that makes for a productive relationship between manufacturer and brand owner and anticipate problems that may arise and incorporates mechanisms and procedures for addressing reasonably foreseeable issues.

Innovative Strategies to Secure Funding for Beverage Companies

By: Jay Avigdor, President & CEO — Velocity Capital Group

Securing funding is crucial in the modern hypercompetitive beverage industry. Without the necessary capital, beverage companies can struggle to fuel growth, invest in research and development, and expand into new markets. Yet, in my experience, many beverage companies frequently tend to overlook some of the most advantageous financing options available to them. Here, I will explain several key innovative strategies to help your beverage company meet (or even exceed) its funding goals.

The Problem with Bank Loans 

  Securing conventional bank loans is notoriously difficult for beverage companies because loan officers at banks often consider beverage companies a risky investment, and they aren’t entirely wrong. Like most fresh ventures, the vast majority of new beverage companies do fail.

  According to CEO and senior Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) advisor Manoli Kulutbanis, only about 20% of food and beverage brands manage to achieve $1 million in sales. For Coke’s Venturing & Emerging Brands Team, a threshold of $10 million in revenue is necessary to prove a beverage concept, and only 3% of beverage businesses reach it.

  Bank loans also require an intense vetting process, which involves a hefty amount of paperwork. Beverage companies are asked to supply a long financial track record, and the review process itself can take months — a timeline that is often all too slow to help businesses when they need it most.

Given these difficulties, beverage companies are often encouraged to seek other sources of funding. The good news is that there is a wealth of options.

Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans

  The US Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loans to companies of all kinds, including those in the beverage industry. Since the US government helps protect lenders from some of the risks associated with providing businesses with financing, these loans can be easier to secure than conventional bank loans.

  The SBA offers many different types of loans, starting with “microloans” of $50,000 or less that help fledgling enterprises get off the ground. These funds can be used for anything from buying machinery and other equipment to purchasing supplies and furniture, and can also be used as working capital.

  Additionally, if you need to purchase a major asset, the SBA 504 loan program provides long-term loans that provide fixed interest rates on amounts up to $5 million. Another program is the 7(a) loan, which gives up to $5 million for a variety of other purposes, including buying real estate, purchasing equipment or supplies, refinancing debt, and facilitating changes in ownership.

  While these loans can be a good way to raise funds, it’s important to keep in mind that they do not establish a long-term relationship. Rather, SBA loans are considered one-off financial agreements.

Angel Investors & Venture Capitalists

  A few lucky beverage companies have benefited from the largesse of angel investors: people who give capital upfront, usually in exchange for a minority stake in the company or as a loan. A notable example is Liquid Death, the punk-rock-themed Virginia water company with a dark sense of humor, which received nearly $2 million this way.

  Venture capital (VC) works slightly differently. While VC firms will grant capital upfront, just like angel investors, they use other people’s money or an organization’s funds rather than their own.     Angel investors are wealthy individuals in their own right, whereas venture capitalists are professional financial analysts who identify promising companies to invest in.

  It’s difficult to overstate how challenging it can be to secure capital through these means. As Harvard Business Review puts it: “Venture capital financing is the exception, not the norm, among start-ups. Historically, only a tiny percentage (fewer than 1%) of U.S. companies have raised capital from VCs.”

  Given these long odds, conducting research is vital before approaching angel investors and venture capitalists. These individuals expect a personal touch, so consider partnering with an experienced advisor who not only knows the relevant investors in your sector, but can also coach you on how to pitch to them best.

  Each pitch needs to be carefully crafted with the specific recipients in mind. Make sure not only to cover all the relevant elements of your business plan, but also to frame your venture in the form of a compelling narrative. You should also address any potential concerns upfront, and be prepared to answer tough questions.

  Given the high stakes involved, you also don’t want to walk into a meeting with potential investors, only to end up tripping over your words. An advisor can help you practice your pitch and ensure an effective delivery before you take your shot. That way, you can go into pitch sessions with confidence, knowing you’re prepared.

  Many websites have compiled lists of angel investors and venture capitalists, including those who support the beverage industry, such as Signal and CrowdCreate. Due to the extensive work involved in every pitch, it’s best to start with those investors whose preferences match your business most perfectly.

The Power of the People

  If your beverage already enjoys a following, con sider tapping into the power of crowdfunding. Cannabrew, for example — the CBD craft brewery — shattered its approximately $250,000 goal in less than a single day. The company has announced it will use the funds for outreach to liquor stores and supermarkets to expand access to its products.

  Similarly, when soft drink company Square Root wanted to expand from glass bottles to cans, it smashed its crowdfunding target by more than 200%, raising the equivalent of $715,000.

  When the crowd believes in your product, this funding method can bring in a welcome infusion of cash, but be aware that these campaigns require a significant amount of work. According to crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, preparing to launch one effectively requires sending out at least 10,000 emails, and that’s just one of their recommended tasks.

  Crowdfunding campaigns also need to be used strategically to be successful. Projects should be visually appealing and delineate concrete, easily understandable goals and measurable outcomes. That’s because crowdfunding campaigns often fail if the initiator asks for too much or their content fails to inspire people.

Merchant Cash Advances

  The best funding is reliable funding when you need it. Securing this type of capital requires good relationships with the right strategic partners, such as companies that give merchant cash advances.

  In my experience, many people misunderstand how merchant cash advances work. When you get an infusion of capital from a merchant cash advance, it isn’t a loan. Instead, the company buys a portion of your future sales, and you don’t part with any of your equity.

  Since these companies rely on your future sales for their own revenue, they also tend to be highly invested in your future success. For this reason, businesses like mine aren’t interested in giving startups an advance if doing so would dig them into a hole, like when they routinely struggle to make payroll.

  On the other hand, when a beverage company gets an unexpectedly big or time-sensitive order and needs to temporarily surge operations to fulfill it, that’s a good reason for a merchant cash advance. These advances are also good for buying new equipment, renovating or repairing facilities, adding a tasting room, or getting over a temporary cash-flow issue.

  Another great thing about merchant cash advances is that they are usually easy to secure. All a beverage company would need to provide, for instance, would be their last three months of bank statements demonstrating a minimum of $20,000 in revenue each month, as well as a FICO Score equal to or greater than 500. This means even new startups can hope to acquire infusions of capital this way.

  Merchant cash advances are also fast, so if you’d like to receive money on the same day you apply, a merchant cash advance is the way to go. This means beverage companies — which often have to wait long periods before receiving payment from customers — can use a merchant cash advance to fulfill their accounts receivable in good time.

Take a Long-term Approach

  By far, the best approach to successfully funding your company is to cultivate long-term, dependable relationships with partners who will help you when you need it. However, in my experience, building these connections entails a paradox. Lenders, investors, and other sources of funding are usually eager to fund businesses when they are healthy and profitable (i.e. when they don’t need the funding), but businesses often apply for funding when they are feeling some kind of financial strain.

  That’s why it’s important to develop your business’s funding strategies over the long term. Applying for capital when your business is strong and they want to partner with you gets your foot in the proverbial door. That way, if you encounter unforeseen difficulties later, you’ll be able to fall back on your established connection with those important investors and financial institutions. Funders often consider your previous track record with them when considering a new request for funding.

Sweet Success

  Whether you are a craft brewer, vineyard, distiller, or other beverage company, attracting investment will enable you to leverage opportunities and fuel your growth in this competitive industry. If you approach this process wisely, take a long-term perspective, and cultivate relationships with the right strategic partners, then the widest possible audience will enjoy your drinks, and both you and them will be able to relish the sweet taste of your success.

  Jay Avigdor is the President & CEO of Velocity Capital Group, a direct funding platform located in Greater New York that funds small businesses nationwide, servicing over 15,000 clients since its founding in 2018. A noted funding expert with a 13-year career, Avigdor has developed an extensive network of over 40,000 relationships with clients and brokers, contributing to an impressive $850 million in sales. His innovative technological approach is setting new trends in the industry by merging finance with technology through automation, thus allowing a quicker and smoother process for merchants and brokers serviced. Avigdor is a graduate of Touro University and currently lives in Cedarhurst, New York.

Can You Reinvent the Beverage Marketing Wheel?

By: Hanifa Anne Sekandi

A lot of people believe that marketing a brand is an arduous task. Yes, it requires work. But if you hate this part of building a business, you may find yourself in the marketing denial loop. What is this?

  It is when brands do extraordinarily little marketing and expect big results. It is when brands put in less than what they desire to receive. This mindset leads to a sense of disillusionment and disappointment. We are sure you have encountered individuals who say running a brand is hard. The truth is, creating and growing a brand requires work. But the work should not be regarded as hard. It is important to eliminate this mindset. Embrace a simple, thought-out marketing plan and strategy whether you are a new brand, a mid-range brand or one of the big guys. Understanding how to market your brand should never be approached begrudgingly or negatively. Last Beverage Master issue, we focused on the “why,” as in why is your brand so unique? Why should consumers purchase your beverage rather than Bob’s beverage? Why is your brand making this beverage? Is there a story? The “why” is your first building block, and this will lead you to the most important phase of your simple marketing strategy — who is this for? 

  Nowadays, you do not have to look too far to see the dos and don’ts of marketing. You are in a time where the triumphs and tribulations of top-tier brands are well documented. As of late, major marketing blunders have been put to the forefront. The common mistake among all these brands, not just those in the alcoholic beverage industry, is that they forget the most important marketing building block: the “who,” and I’m not referring to the classic and iconic English rock band. In this case, the “who” refers to your audience, the consumer. Understanding their buying decisions and why they select your brand or your competitor’s brand when purchasing beer and liquor should be at the forefront of your marketing strategy. 

Who is Your Consumer?

  All your marketing initiatives are built from understanding who your consumer is. A concept that seems obvious and basic, yet both new and old brands make it complicated. Since you and your beverage experts are creating the beverage, tasting it and perfecting it, start here. What would appealto you? What would make you run out and purchase your alcoholic beverage over a top-shelf or legacy beverage? Also, what do you wish some of your favorite beverage brands did? How does your brand fill this missing element? A large list is not needed. You are not going to be loved by everyone. Focus on three key features your “who” (consumer) would look for. Look at their lifestyle and how you can highlight that your beverage compliments their personal ethos. Remember, people attach feeling to their purchases. This is why the “why” story is such an essential first step in brand development. It lets you clearly map out how to appeal to and reach the “who.” 

  There are many ways to find your audience. The above is a simple and effective method. If you cannot sell this magical beverage to yourself or your team, then you will not sell it to anyone else. For those who have an existing brand and are struggling with your brand in a marketing landscape, which has become quite cutthroat with the advent of social media platforms, taking a trip back to where you started and your initial goals will help you zero in on your consumer base. Do not be greedy. Do not strive to be all things to everyone. If your brand has been performing relatively well and you are looking for more brand visibility to boost sales.

  Simple changes, more times than not, are needed. Creatively amplifying your existing message can increase your reach and growth. You do not need to burn the building down and start again, so you target a new demographic to buy your beverage. What about the people who have kept you afloat? Your loyal consumer bases? Some brands conduct surveys. Ask the people who have already purchased your drink what you can do better. Or what is on their wish list? Conduct a poll. This will give you some great ideas or help you re-strategize and expand your existing marketing methods.   

Should You Reinvent the Wheel?

  If you are a new brand, the alcoholic beverage world is truly your oyster. You can be outlandish and try something new. You have leeway to reinvent the wheel. Why? Aside from making a quality beverage, there is no sense in trying to copy the marketing strategy of a legacy top-tier brand. Their consumer is loyal. This does not mean that they will not become a fan of your brand. It is like football; people love the team they love, but when it is the Superbowl and their team has not made the cut, they will root for the team they like second best. Some people drink the beer their granddad drank and pass the love of this beverage on to their kids. It is a staple beer at all family events and their go-to beverage when dining out. Whatever the hook was that appealed to their granddad was passed on to them, and so on. Consider this a legacy brand. Legacy brands must strive to expand the wheel, but they should not reinvent it or break it unless they want to lose a loyal consumer base. Ignoring your “who” so you can reach a new consumer is sloppy marketing and a hasty marketing method often spurred on by newer brands going viral on social media. 

  You might be wondering how you would know who your consumer is. What other methods can you use to understand them better to build a formidable marketing strategy? This may sound contradictory to what was stated above. Start by identifying three brands that you are comparable to, your competitors. Study them, but do not copy them.

  Moreover, analyze them and look for what you do not like first. What would you do better, and what is missing? Make this list small. Next, look at the elements you like and what you would do better from a consumer’s perspective. For example, some beverage brands have made different-size offerings for their beverages. This is a simple yet effective difference that sets you apart and boosts sales. Who does not love those single-serve wines or a small-can imperial stout? Your consumer’s needs are not hard to understand if you start with yourself, assuming you are making a product you believe in, and then look for like-minded individuals with the same sensibility. Stay faithful to your plan, even when no one is looking, because someone looking for what you are offering will eventually turn into a large, loyal consumer base that will tell their like-minded friends to purchase your beverages too.

Enforcing Your Trademarks: How Far Should You Go?

By: Brian D. Kaider, Esq.

You’ve secured federal registration for your trademarks and you’ve been building your brand recognition.  Per your trademark attorney’s recommendation, you’ve had quarterly searches conducted to find similar marks.  Lo and behold, a new entry to the market is using your trademark.  Now what?  Stop and take a breath; let the initial surprise or anger settle. There is a lot to consider before taking any action.

Take Stock of the Situation

  First, take a look at your own trademark.  Is it the name of your company or of one of your products?  Is it a national brand or one that is distributed in a small geographic area?  In what classes of goods and services is it registered (e.g., class 033 for vodka, class 040 for “rectification of distilled spirits for others,” etc.)?

  Then look at the competitor’s mark.  Is the mark identical to yours or similar?  How similar?  Is it broadly distributed?  Is it used for the same goods and services as your mark?  If not, how similar are the goods and services?  Are your products marketed through the same trade channels?  Are consumers likely to encounter both your products and theirs?  Have they attempted to register their trademark and, if so, where are they in that process?

  No one question will be determinative in any given case, but on balance, they will help develop a sense of how much effort should be expended to enforce your rights.  As discussed below, there are numerous paths, each with its own set of risks and potential rewards.  An international brand that is known throughout the industry, like Jack Daniel’s®, must be far more protective of its marks than a small brewery in Oregon that has a registered trademark for an IPA product only distributed in the Pacific Northwest.

First Contact

  As the owner of a registered trademark, it is your duty to “police” your mark; that is, to monitor unauthorized use of your mark by others and to enforce your right to exclusivity of that mark.  When large corporations learn of potential infringement, their immediate response is generally to have their attorneys send a cease and desist (C&D) letter.  For smaller companies, a personal attempt to contact the owner of the infringing business is often effective.  Sometimes the other party simply did not know about your mark.  If you found their use of the mark before they spent considerable time and money developing it as a brand, they may be willing to simply let it go.

  When making these calls, it is important to maintain a demeanor that is both friendly and firm.  There is no need to accuse the other side of wrong-doing or of violating your trademark knowingly.  However, you should simply let them know that you do have a registration for the mark and that their use is likely to cause confusion in the market as to the source of your respective goods.  If you give them a reasonable amount of time to work through any inventory bearing the infringing mark and to rebrand, this can often be the end of the matter.

Cease and Desist Letter

  If the friendly approach doesn’t work, the next step is generally a cease and desist letter.  This is most effective if drafted and sent by an attorney.  The tone of these letters tends to be more matter-of-fact.  They identify your trademark(s); explain that you have spent a considerable amount of time, effort, and money to build your brand around the mark; identify the other party’s infringing use; state that the use is unauthorized and likely to cause economic harm and loss of goodwill in your brand; and demand that they stop using the mark within a given time frame.

  While these letters can sometimes be effective, especially against smaller companies, they have become so commonplace that often they are simply ignored by more savvy companies who may wait to see if further steps are taken before deciding whether to rebrand.  Accordingly, you should carefully weigh all of your options and decide in advance whether you will escalate the matter if your C&D letter is ignored.

Letter of Protest / Trademark Opposition

  If the other side has attempted to register their mark, there are two ways to try to prevent the registration.  First, you can file a “letter of protest” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  The letter simply informs the trademark examiner of the existence of your trademark and the reasons why you feel that registration of the other party’s mark would damage your mark.  The benefit of this approach is that it is quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive as it generally only takes a few hours for an attorney to prepare and file the letter.  Often filing the letter will prompt the USPTO to issue an office action refusing the registration in light of your trademark, forcing the other side to argue why registration should be allowed.  The downside to the letter of protest is that once it is filed, you have no further opportunity to engage in the process.  If the other side responds to an office action with arguments as to why registration should be permitted, you cannot respond to those arguments. 

  Whether you have filed a letter of protest or not, if the USPTO’s trademark examiner determines that the mark is registerable, it will publish the mark in the Official Gazette.  This publication opens a 30-day window for anyone who believes they will be harmed by registration of the mark to file an opposition to the application.  

  This process should not be entered into lightly.  In some cases, simply filing the opposition will be enough to get the other side to give up its mark.  But, if they choose to fight the opposition, you will find yourself in a litigious process that takes time, effort, and money to complete.  As in civil litigation, the parties to an opposition file motions and briefs, request documents from the other side, take depositions, serve interrogatories that must be answered, and present their evidence to the Trademark Trials and Appeals Board for its consideration. 

  If the opposition goes all the way to the trial stage, it will generally take at least 18 months from when the notice is filed to when the last brief is due and will cost each side in the tens of thousands of dollars.  As with civil litigation, most oppositions do not reach the trial stage, because the parties are able to come to terms and settle the dispute on their own.  But, this often does not occur until sometime in the discovery phase, after both sides have spent a considerable amount on legal fees.

  It is important to note that the object of an opposition proceeding is to prevent registration of the other side’s trademark and, if you are successful, that is your sole remedy.  There are no monetary damages awarded, nor can you recover your legal fees from the other side.  Moreover, while they will lose their ability to register their trademark, it does not necessarily mean the other side will stop using the mark on their goods or services.  In that case, you would have to file a trademark infringement litigation (see below) to get them to stop using the mark, entirely.  In practical terms, succeeding in an opposition will often be enough to get the other side to abandon their mark, because if you were to follow through with a civil litigation, they could be on the hook for treble damages for willful infringement.

Trademark Cancellation

  If you discover the other side’s trademark application after the 30-day opposition window has expired, your only option to challenge the mark at the USPTO is to wait until the trademark actually registers and then to file a trademark cancellation proceeding.  Though there are some differences between cancellation and opposition proceedings, particularly if the challenged mark has been registered for more than five years, they are similar in most procedural respects. 

Trademark Infringement Litigation

  As one might expect, filing a trademark infringement case in federal court is the nuclear option.  Depending upon the jurisdiction, the time frame for completing a litigation may be faster or slower than an opposition or cancellation proceeding at the USPTO.  But, whereas those procedures will likely cost the parties tens of thousands of dollars, a civil litigation will likely reach six figures, or more. 

  The reason for this higher cost is that there are more issues to consider in these cases.  If you are successful in a civil litigation, you may not only obtain injunctive relief, foreclosing the defendant from all future use of the mark, but also may obtain monetary damages associated with the defendant’s past use of the mark, as well as attorney’s fees expended in the proceeding.  Moreover, if the defendant is found to have willfully infringed your trademark, they may be required to pay treble damages. 

  These issues, which are not even addressed in an opposition/cancellation, add breadth to the scope of discovery taken, which increases the cost.  Further, whereas most opposition/cancellation proceedings are decided without an oral hearing, a civil litigation generally requires live testimony and argument in front of a judge or jury.  These proceedings require a great deal of attorney preparation, dramatically increasing legal fees.


  As the owner of a valid trademark registration, you are obligated to police your mark and failure to do so can result in a dramatic diminishment of your rights or even outright abandonment of your registration.  But, that does not mean you have to file a civil litigation against every minor infringement.  Determining the appropriate path in any given situation requires a careful evaluation of all the circumstances and balancing the risks of action versus inaction.  It is critical to engage a knowledgeable trademark attorney, who will properly assess these risks, your likelihood of success, and the most effective course of action in your case.  

  Brian Kaider is a principal of KaiderLaw, an intellectual property law firm with extensive experience in the craft beverage industry.  He has represented clients from the smallest of start-up breweries to Fortune 500 corporations in the navigation of regulatory requirements, drafting and negotiating contracts, prosecuting trademark and patent applications, and complex commercial litigation. 

Five Essential Key Performance Indicators for Taproom Managers

 By: Kary Shumway and Andrew Coplon from

Taproom managers wear many hats that correspond to a countless number of responsibilities. From hiring to firing, to training and retaining, it is the goal of taproom managers to equally maximize the experience of their guests as it is their staff. One of their most valuable tools to create a successful taproom is data. By understanding data, taproom managers can monitor, maximize, and maintain world-class experiences that customers crave and their team is proud to be a part of, leading to more memorable and profitable taprooms.

5 Essential KPIs for Taproom Managers that can Help You See Greater Guccess

  KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are the most important numbers to measure in your business. Think of KPIs like the gauges on the dashboard of your car. The speedometer measures how fast you’re driving, the fuel gauge shows how much is in the tank, and the check engine light tells you if you’re overdue for maintenance.

  Those are important things to know to keep your car running smoothly and legally. Likewise, KPIs for your taproom business need to track the same critically important measurements.

#1: Tip Percentage

  What it is: Tip percentage is the tip amount divided by the total tab (i.e. a $10 tip on a $40 tab equals 25%).

  Why it’s important: Tip percentage corresponds directly to staff member engagement with guests. From Secret Hopper data, we see that when staff offer a low level of engagement, the average tip percentage is 23%. When staff offer a high level of engagement, the average tip percentage is 27%. If Andrew’s average tip percentage is 17% and Kary’s is 27%, it can be deduced that Kary is going above and beyond to build relationships with his guests.

  Where to find this data: Your POS system. If your employees have their own login, it’ll be easy to see their individual tip percentages. If your setup has your team sharing a login, monitor trends over time. For example, if you typically have 3 taproom servers in the taproom and when Andrew’s behind the bar you see a lower average tip percentage, you’ll be able to discover that he’s the weak link.

  How you can use it: Reward and recognize team members who consistently receive a high tip percentage. Make them feel appreciated. When you discover a team member who receives a lower than average tip percentage, use this as a training opportunity. Speak to this employee and discuss what can be done to offer greater support. Even for employees that may treat their position as “just a job,” money can be a motivator. The more employees take the time to build relationships with taproom guests, the higher their tip will be, making them a little bit more money and a little bit happier. As a manager, having happier and better compensated staff will make your life easier.

#2: To-Go Sales

  What it is: To-go sales represent additional purchases on a tab for consumption outside the brewery. Think crowlers, growlers, bottles, and cans.

  Why it’s important: Encouraging beer to-go is an actionable strategy you can train your team to authentically implement that generates immediate returns. On taproom visits when staff do not suggest beer to-go, the guest only makes the purchase 9% of the time on their own. When taproom staff encourage the guest to take beer to-go, the guest makes the added purchase 49% of the time, resulting in tabs nearly $15 higher.

  This metric is not only important as a tool to motivate taproom staff to increase their tabs, but also a valuable KPI for managers/owners to monitor and reward your team.

  Where to find this data: Your POS! Ask your provider the easiest way to filter transactions that include to-go purchases. Consult this data regularly and see who on your team is demonstrating upsell skills.

  How you can use it: Engagement is a common thread in these top 2 KPIs, and you are likely to see those with the highest tip percentages also selling the most to-go beer. Makes sense, right? Your most engaged team members are developing deep relationships with your guests, and are more likely to also suggest taking beer home. Hold frequent to-go beer competitions to see who can sell the most over X period of time, whether a Saturday afternoon, an entire month, or based on hours worked. Moreover, don’t just consistently reward the same top sellers. Consider using this to-go data to recognize your most improved staff on suggesting beer to-go. Whether we’re talking about brand new employees or 10-year taproom veterans, regularly monitor this KPI to make sure they’re using it to their advantage. After all, what server doesn’t want to get tipped a little more when their tab also includes beer to-go? As a taproom manager, monitoring this KPI will help you better maximize the amount of to-go beer sales and increase overall in-house revenue.

#3: Number of Customers

  What it is: The number of customers represents what you might expect – the foot traffic into your taproom. This is how many people come in during a given day, week, month, or year.

  Why it’s important: Clearly, the more people who come in, the more sales you can generate. We often create taproom sales projections using just two numbers to start: 1) Customers x 2) Average Spend Per Customer (which we’ll cover next).

  These two data points are the key drivers of revenue through your taproom. The more you can increase one or both of these KPIs the more you can boost your taproom sales.

  Where to find this data: Here again, your point of sale system will track this data. It may be useful to create your own trackers (hello, spreadsheets!) so that you can easily access historical information and make use of week over week and month over month comparisons.

  How you can use it: Set up a simple spreadsheet to track the total number of customer visits by week and by month. Pull information from the prior year (or years) so that you can see what the trends look like.

•   Are the number of customers increasing or decreasing month over month?

•   Are there patterns that emerge when you look at the historical data?

•   Are there weeks or months that have unusually high volumes of customers?

•   Why did that happen?

•   Can you duplicate this, or do more of the things that brought people in?

  The goal of tracking the number of customers is simple: bring more customers in to spend more money so that you can increase sales. However, tracking the numbers isn’t enough. Review the trends and use the data to brainstorm ways to increase traffic.

#4: Average Spend per Customer

  What it is: The average spend per customer is a measurement of (you guessed it) how much folks spend when they come into your taproom.  You may see this KPI also shown as average spend per check. Whichever measurement you use, this is an important one to track so that you can understand spending patterns, habits and identify ways to improve on each.

  Why it’s important: When customers come into your taproom they want to buy from you. Unlike some retail stores, where people go in to browse and just look around, folks are coming into your taproom to buy. They want a beer, some food, and maybe some merchandise. The more you have to offer, and the easier it is to buy it, the more your customers will spend. And the more they spend, the more financially viable and successful your business will be.

  Where to find this data: We’re starting to sound like a broken record here, but your point of sale system is the place where you’ll find average spend per customer (or check) data.

  How you can use it: The old saying goes that your best customer is the customer you already have. These are the people that have already purchased from you and love what you have to offer. Why not work to offer them more when they come to your taproom?

  As with most KPIs, it is useful to take the measurements over time, analyze the trends, and make comparisons. A key best practice is to benchmark against your past performance and work to improve the number. 

#5: Revenue per Barrel (BBL)

  What it is: Revenue per barrel, or sales per barrel, is a measurement of how effectively you are monetizing a barrel of beer.

  To do the calculation, take the total number of dollars sold through the taproom in a given time period and divide by the total number of barrels transferred to the taproom.

  For example, in the month of January taproom sales were $100,000, and there were 100 barrels of beer transferred and depleted during January. $100,000 divided by 100 barrels = $1,000 per barrel.

  Why it’s important: The revenue per barrel KPI shows how many dollars each barrel of beer is making us, and will provide clues as to how we can make more.

  Furthermore, one of the key tenets of business and financial management is the safeguarding of assets. The revenue per barrel KPI can help with this.

  What this means is that we need to have checks and balances to make sure that our assets are well taken care of and that we are getting a proper return on our investments. The revenue per barrel KPI can help identify beer loss when the number dips below expectations.

  To continue the example above, let’s say you’ve been measuring revenue per barrel for years and it tends to be around $1,000 per barrel. Fairly common. Then one month it dips to $800 per barrel and stays at this level for several months. What happened? The KPI won’t answer this question, but it will force you to go and figure it out.

  Where to find this data: Again, for this KPI you’ll need to know total taproom sales in a given period and total barrels transferred to the taproom. The POS will have the sales data and your production software (or accounting software) will have the total barrels transferred.

  How you can use it: As with the KPIs discussed above, set up a tracking system to show month over month revenue per barrel numbers. Look back for 12-24 months and see what the trends look like. Is the KPI increasing? Decreasing? Staying about the same?  You can use this data to inform pricing decisions, product mix, and pour sizes.

  Understanding KPIs provides you the ability to find out where your taproom stands, spot areas of opportunity, and the tools to monitor consistency and quality. Moreover, don’t just treat the data as numbers, use it to reward and recognize your team for a job well done. As a taproom manager, these KPIs are vital assets in your toolkit to see greater taproom success.

How Beverage Business Owners Can Achieve Financial Freedom

By: Raj Tulshan, Founder of Loan Mantra

They say money can’t buy happiness, but it can help create peace of mind by alleviating stress in professional life – especially if you’re a business owner! Professional financial freedom means taking control of your finances and amassing enough cash and savings to manage daily operations, handle emergencies, drive growth, expand and maybe even sell the business one day.

  For beverage business owners, knowing that payroll can be met, a second location of your bar or location could be opened, staff and vendors can be paid – and there is still enough money set aside for any emergencies can provide stability. We’re all familiar with certain strip malls or vacant locations where different businesses seem to come and go, unsuccessfully. In contrast, towns and cities are identified by the bars, pubs and restaurants that are landmarks, meeting spots and seen as a local staple in their areas.

  Financial freedom offers a variety of benefits that go beyond financial control. A recent study by Harvard Business School found that having more money reduces intense stress, brings greater control, and leads to higher life satisfaction. Other benefits of financial freedom include improved mental health, better relationships, more opportunities, an elevated lifestyle and greater independence.

  The path to financial freedom. We all want financial freedom so how do you get there?

  Become a business owner. Simply becoming a business owner provides an essential freedom that can’t be explained unless you are one. As countless entrepreneurs attest, many people prefer to work for themselves rather than for someone else because they have more control over their future – and their finances. A Baylor University professor found that despite the challenges of business ownership – including long hours and high stress levels – entrepreneurs report consistently higher rates of happiness vs. people who work for others.

  Create a budget. Develop and stick to a budget. Outline operating income, receipts, expenses, loans, rent/mortgage, insurance, utilities, payroll, supplies, equipment, etc. Carefully track spending to account for every dollar. Negotiate where possible, switch vendors or gain better rates for your phone and cable services. Determine which of your products are the best (and worst) sellers and adjust stock accordingly.

  In addition to tracking budget, there are common questions each business owner should ask themselves to manage their financial health. For instance, do you have outstanding accounts? Do your clients pay on time? Have you spoken with your top clients in the past 90 days? Do you have your documentation prepared in case you need to apply for a loan? Loan Mantra’s financial health checklist is a great tool to monitor ongoing questions that will not only help you track your budget, but your continued success.

  Make it “to go” and be in the know. A report released in June 2023 by the National Restaurant Association found that more than half of millennials (62%) and Gen Z adults (52%) would pick a restaurant for takeout if alcohol beverage options were included. Currently only ¼ of adults order alcohol beverages online due to availability or state legislation, but that is changing leaving room for opportunity. It’s also important to know the upcoming industry trends. For example, that same report states that it reaffirms the associations predictions that local experiences would be this year’s hottest trends – 79% of beer drinkers would participate in a tasting event at a restaurant.

  Establish authentic customer relationships. According to the US Chamber of Commerce nearly everyone has been affected by Covid Fatigue over the past couple of years leaving people emotionally drained and physically worn out. As a result, consumers want their shopping and dining experiences to be easy, convenient and satisfying. Satisfied customers are repeat customers. In addition, customers are looking for a deeper emotional connection and a personalized experience.

  Use digital media. For brands to build and maintain customer loyalty, the digital experience matters but it must not make things more complicated for the consumer. Whether a customer is ordering online or on-site it must be intuitive and easy. People find the new hottest brew, bar or pub on social media so having a presence online is a must. Post images of the business with indoor/outdoor dining space, food and drinks. Post happy hours, specials, trivia nights, special tastings, etc. and publicize them. Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews. Allow customers to order food or make reservations online. Make services like DoorDash or OpenTable available.

  Be frugal. Consider how business magnate, investor, and philanthropist Warren Buffett purchased a $31,500 home in 1958 and still hasn’t moved out of it, even though his net worth is currently $104 billion. He can obviously afford a bigger, more expensive house, but he’s famously frugal. Conversely, controversial rapper and designer Kanye West is known for his extravagant lifestyle. He lives in a $20 million mansion – and rented Madison Square Garden for a stunt with his clothing line – despite being $53 million in debt. In a bizarre move, he asked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for $1 billion on Twitter.

  This is clearly an extreme example, but it shows how financially responsible Buffet amassed a tremendous fortune and achieved financial freedom, whereas financially irresponsible West spent money he didn’t have, wound up in massive debt, and begged a tech guru for a financial handout on social media. While you’re likely not in the same tax bracket as mega-successful billionaire entrepreneurs, you can learn a few lessons from them. Don’t spend more than you have. And keep your endgame in mind. It may be easier to save money when keeping your eyes on the prize.

  Invest.  Go for a long, slow simmer vs. a quick sear. Most investments are like an Italian grandma’s Sunday sauce – they need to simmer for a long time to be any good. Know that you’ll be in it for the long haul. This won’t be a quick sear type of situation, where your money will be tied up only for a short time. While there’s always some risk and market fluctuations involved in investments, putting some of your available funds toward stocks, bonds, mutual funds, Roth IRAs, 401(k)s and other investment opportunities can help grow your wealth and put you on the path to professional financial freedom. Talk to a financial expert about how to build an investment portfolio and choose the investments that will best fit your specific goals.

  Focus. Focus on factors you control. Over the past few years, we’ve seen headlines about banks collapsing, an impending recession, plummeting stocks, and other doomsday stories about how our financial futures are in crisis. Don’t panic. Everything that’s happening today is just part of the normal economic cycle. There will always be recessions, wars, and fluctuating interest rates. Take a deep breath. Unemployment is down. Banks are protected. There’s been recession chatter for years, and it hasn’t happened. Prices and the stock market will fluctuate over time, which is out of your control. Focus on what you can control on your path to professional financial freedom: creating a budget, saving money, and investing.

  Have an emergency plan.  Create an emergency plan, ensuring that you have enough savings to cover daily and unexpected business expenses. Without adequate funding in place for emergency expenses (the air conditioning breaks, the plumbing isn’t working, the roof leaks), as well as for the inevitable periods of higher spends (e.g. extra products and staffing around the holidays, etc.), you’ll get stuck in a cycle of borrowing to fund necessary operating expenses or to repair what has been damaged, rather than using capital to look ahead to the future.

  Find financial partners.  Who is your banker, attorney and loan officer? Does the banker have a vested interest in your community? What are the financials? Does the bank have good leadership? Do you have an attorney in case you need legal advice, or someone should make a claim against your business? What about a loan officer or provider? If you need assistance with funding to cover the business in a pinch, to handle an expansion or to keep you aware of current government subsidies that you might take advantage of.

  Having the right partners in place before you need them can mean the difference between a quick phone call and financial mayhem. Find a financial team that will be trustworthy, provide insight and are available when needed.

  You should have complete confidence in their knowledge, experience and capabilities. Talk to them about your business financial status and goals and create a financial plan to help you achieve financial freedom and long-term financial health.

  “For business owners, becoming financially free is a desirable – and achievable – goal,” Tulshan explained. “It takes dedication, determination, and consistency, but follow these tips and you will be well on your way to financial independence.”

About the Author

  Neeraj (Raj) Tulshan is the founder and managing partner of Loan Mantra, a one-stop FinTech platform that democratizes the loan process by providing corporate sized services and access to new entrepreneurs, small and medium sized businesses.

Software Options Available for Breweries and Distilleries

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

As the craft beverage industry continues to grow, many tech companies are focusing on the needs of breweries and distilleries around the country. There are many benefits to incorporating software into a beverage production business, including reducing human errors, automating repetitive tasks, getting staff organized, harnessing the power of data and ensuring quality control. Software is available for accounting, inventory, packaging, purchasing and scheduling. Breweries and distilleries also use software for sales, quality control and legal compliance. Mobile app software is an option in this industry, as well as all-in-one management software that takes a comprehensive approach and handles various functions. Meanwhile, some producers embrace a more manual process and rely basic spreadsheets and paper recordkeeping.

  So, what are today’s breweries and distilleries using for software, and how are those products working for them? Representatives from two breweries and two distilleries weighed in on this topic and told Beverage Master Magazine about their experiences with software. 

BOSQUE BREWING CO. Albuquerque, New Mexico

  One brewery that Beverage Master connected with on the topic of software is Bosque Brewing Co., which has multiple New Mexico locations in Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. With a history dating back to 2012, it is one of the largest brewing companies in the state and has grown from a small startup producing 350 barrels the first year to more than 10,000 barrels annually.

Bosque’s production manager Tim Woodward told Beverage Master Magazine that his brewery uses Ekos for inventory and production management. He also uses a few self-built spreadsheets for forecasting, sales and analysis. The brewery handles accounting with separate software not directly tied to Ekos functionality.

  “Bosque has been using Ekos since 2015,” Woodward said. “At the time, it was very affordable and relatively simple to use. The tools in Ekos addressed what we needed most: inventory management. We are able to track inventory, manage orders, invoice sold product, track costs, review pertinent data and oversee production steps with relative ease.”

  But while fully functional, Woodward said he often runs into little “Ekos glitches” that can be frustrating, such as the services being laggy.

  “Cleaner, more functional report systems with intuitive interfaces would be wonderful,” Woodward said. “I pull a lot of data from Ekos on a daily basis, and sometimes manipulating the report parameters to pull accurate data can be cumbersome. Ekos has done a wonderful job developing product planning calendar with drag and drop features, which is very lovely. They have other modules, such as order hub and keg asset tracking, which we do not use or have not found to work with our particular business model but are helpful pieces. Another offering which would be nice is perhaps a more robust server system to support software operation.”

ALVARIUM BEER CO. New Britain, Connecticut

  Nick Palermo, the head brewer of Alvarium Beer Co., told Beverage Master about the software programs his team uses in New Britain, Connecticut. Alvarium launched New Britain’s first microbrewery, founded on the principle of creating an inclusive and communal taproom while revitalizing a historical city.

  On the brewhouse side of things, Alvarium Beer Co. uses Beersmith to fine-tune recipes and DIY templates on Google Sheets for its calendar and brewing schedule, individual brew sheets and inventory of raw materials and packing materials. Alvarium uses Google Drive to store nearly everything related to production, from brew logs to SOP’s, manuals, inventory and supplier contact information.

  “Beersmith is one of the founding tools that many brewers have used in a homebrew or production setting, allowing quick integration and easy ways to edit recipes with something that is fairly familiar and quick to learn,” Palermo said. “We ended up choosing to use Google Sheets and Drive because of the ability for company-wide visibility and editing capabilities.”

  “We are an increasingly growing brewery in Connecticut, and such quick growth over the last couple of years has led to use needing to be able to combat the ebbs and flows of this industry,” he said. “Whether we need to make a quick change to the schedule, edit a recipe from home or have different departments be able to access information without complication, we found our method has been working really well as we expand.”

  “I’d say the biggest challenge we face with our method is the need to manually enter all of our data and make changes in the templates as we see fit,” Palermo said when asked about challenges with Alvarium’s current software. “Lack of auto-entered data does take up a little more time when it comes to keeping track with inventory and can lead to some mistakes.”

  In the future, Palermo would like to see more flexible software plans for different brewery sizes and needs, with costs to match. He said that having a method to integrate software programs more easily into companies with a system in place or smaller staffing structures would also be helpful.

  Cherokee Robbins, the director of sales for Alvarium, told Beverage Master Magazine about software this brewery uses for other purposes.

  Robbins said that Alvarium uses Google Business software, such as Gmail and Google Drive for recordkeeping, Google Sheets for reporting and inventory and Google Docs and Google Calendar for events, appointments and employee schedules. She says these pieces of software are user-friendly, easy to access and meet requirements for digital storage. Alvarium uses Untapped for Business to store information about brewed beers, to allow customers to view beers and check in and to use the menu board to list available products. Robbins said this software is user-friendly and great for keeping track of customer reviews, archiving past beers and helping other businesses find products.

  Alvarium uses Square POS in the taproom for on-premise and online transactions. The team likes this software because it is easy to add, customize and categorize items with an online store that is set up as an extension for customers to shop. However, she has noticed that sometimes items can “disappear” in Square POS, or if they are intentionally hidden, customers can still find them online and order something that is no longer available. After experimenting with various email marketing platforms, the brewery uses Mailchimp for analytics and to monitor communications with its customer base. However, sometimes these emails have ended up in spam folders even after the team has certified and legitimized its domains.

  After interviewing approximately nine different CRM/ERP-related software companies, InSitu hit the four major categories of importance for Alvarium’s sales and distribution team: QBE integration for accounting, inventory management, mileage tracking and logistics for sales routes and customer relations.

“This is a relatively newer software for us, as we started using this in February of this year,” Robbins said. “There is much to learn with all of its functions, but there are times when we may have delayed connectivity issues with its integration to our QBE. Our account representative has been great with staying in communication and finding resolutions for us when we need help, so that is a huge plus. Sometimes support teams with software can be hard to get in touch with when you need something fixed right away.”

  Other types of software the Alvarium team uses include Adobe Illustrator for signage and labels, Canva for business cards and marketing and QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise for accounting and payroll. It uses Prolific as its delivery-routing software to optimize routes for delivery drivers with self-distribution, Eezycloud’s remote desktop for multiple users to access QBE and Workable and Glassdoor for job postings and recruiting.

  When asked what she would like to see in future brewery software offerings, Robbins said, “It would be ideal if all of the platforms we use can be lumped into one software for a brewery our size, especially because we have a hybrid business model with the taproom, self-distribution and now working with a wholesaler. I know there are options like Encompass or Lily Pad available, but those can be pricey and are geared more towards larger distribution networks. I have also heard of a few software platforms that other breweries have worked on creating themselves in the past few years that fit close to what we ideally would need, but there seems to be an important element missing such as integration to QBE, delivery routing software logistics or the CRM portion for our sales force.”

MUDDY RIVER DISTILLERY Belmont, North Carolina

  Caroline Delaney, co-owner and CFO of Muddy River Distillery, told Beverage Master Magazine how her company approaches software in Belmont, North Carolina. Muddy River is the oldest rum distillery in the Carolinas and launched in 2011 with 500 square feet of space in an old textile mill before growing its production from 35 bottles per day to more than 1,200.

  Delaney said that her distillery uses QuickBooks for accounting and payroll and Square for POS and retail sales. She noted that QuickBooks is straightforward for day-to-day accounting, and Square has the lowest credit card processing rates without a monthly fee. She was familiar with QuickBooks from previous companies and says while it can be limiting, the next step up in accounting software is much more expensive, and most offerings require contracts.

  Yet running sales reports with multiple customers, states and distributors can be tricky and lengthy, she said, plus QuickBooks raised its payroll fees this year.

  “It seems like once you are signed up with Whiskey Systems or similar systems, they have all your data and it would be hard to switch back or to another software,” she said. “And the monthly fees are quite a bit higher than POS systems, so that will add up. Since we were pretty limited here in North Carolina, we weren’t able to sell unlimited bottles and cocktails until late 2019. We are under construction on a building where we will actually have a bar and event space, so I am looking into changing payroll and POS systems.”

  Delaney shared that Muddy River Distillery does not use distilling software for federal reports but that her husband, Robbie, developed his own system for that purpose and is still using it with the distillery’s production manager. 

  “I know he has spoken to some of the companies, but has not made the switch because of the monthly fees and not wanting to get into a system and get stuck with them,” she said.

STILL 630 St. Louis, Missouri

  Another spirits producer that shared details about its software usage with us is Still 630, which makes award-winning, handcrafted spirits in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. David Weglarz, the owner and distiller of Still 630, uses as many organic, local ingredients as possible in his spirits, with an old-world double distillation method that captures all the flavors while consistently embracing the adventure of experimentation. 

  Weglarz told Beverage Master Magazine that he uses Google software for his distillery’s spreadsheets and recordkeeping. He chose this option and still likes it because it is free and not localized to just one computer that could be damaged.

  “It allows us to edit simultaneously from different locations, and since it’s not based on one physical computer, it’s more safely guarded against a catastrophic loss,” he said.

  However, Weglarz acknowledged that Google Docs and spreadsheets are not specifically built for distilleries, so challenges have inevitably occurred while using this strategy.

  “It’s just an excel-type format so I had to build my own spreadsheets to make it work correctly,” he said. “But I did that, and now I have my own personal distillery software. It’s certainly not as fancy and sleek as the pre-packaged software solutions, but it works and the price (free) is right!”

  In the future, Weglarz would like to see more cost-effective software options offered in the distillery industry. He says that his distillery is priced out at the moment, something many craft beverage producers can likely relate to.

Conclusions and Opportunities

  Based on our conversations with craft beverage producers across the U.S., a few things stand out about what is working for software and where improvements can be made. In general, craft beverage producers are pleased with user-friendly software that offers multiple applications, features analytics to optimize processes and gives multiple users access to shared data. Affordability is paramount for craft beverage producers, and if software seems too costly, they often settle for free solutions that require more manual entry and monitoring despite the extra labor and risks.

  There is a need and demand for software for small breweries and distilleries with limited budgets and modest distribution networks. Many current solutions cater to large operations and are financially out of reach for smaller and emerging businesses. Integration is important to brewers and distillers, yet many of these businesses feel that they understand their needs better than what any software provider could provide and prefer to take a DIY approach, creating their own internal systems to get the job done internally. Therefore, there are significant opportunities for software companies to focus on the basics and adjust their offerings with tiered options to connect with breweries and distilleries in mutually beneficial ways.

How to Scorecard Brewery Taproom Performance

By: Kary Shumway and Andrew Coplon from

In sports you need a scoreboard to understand if your team is winning or losing. The same holds true for measuring the financial and operational results of your taproom. You need a scorecard to keep track.

  In this article we’ll walk through the steps to create scorecards for your taproom so that you can measure and improve outcomes.  It’s not difficult, and it can transform your taproom financial results.

Let’s start with some basics: What is the point of the scorecard?

  The purpose of a scorecard is to show the goal or goals you most want to accomplish. It can be as flexible as you like. It can present financial or non-financial numbers. It is designed to capture and quantify your most important numbers.

The scorecard should:

1.  Keep the goals front and center every day

2.  Be only one page (or one number) so that it’s easy to see how you’re doing at a glance

3.  Use numbers (key metrics) to communicate

     the goal

First: Measure the Most Important Thing(s)

  Deep inside, we all know what the most important thing really is. Whether it is in our taproom business or in our life, we know what it is. The problem is that we forget.

  The most important thing is remembering the most important thing. The scorecard helps you identify what is most important and remember it every day.

  It is a simple tactic, but very effective if you follow it. The scorecard provides focus on how you’re doing towards what’s most important.

How to Figure Out the Most Important Thing

  If you are struggling to figure out what is most important, try a few focusing questions:

●   What keeps you up at night?

●   What is the biggest opportunity to take advantage of?

●   What is the biggest problem you need to fix?

  Here’s Kary’s story…cash keeps him up at night.  More specifically, running out of cash!

  So, Kary designed a one-page scorecard to monitor our business cash position every day. It shows the bank balances, borrowing balances, upcoming spending and expected receipts. It shows borrowing ability and future cash needed to fund growth. 

  The cash scorecard helps Kary sleep better at night because he’s focusing on the most important thing.

  Figure out what your One Thing is, measure it, and put it on a scorecard. 

The Process to Communicate & Educate

  The scorecard alone won’t achieve the goal. You need to take action to get things done. Often, you need action by your managers and employees – your team. 

  The process below is an effective way to communicate anything you like, and it works well with the taproom scorecard:

1.   Know the Score. To know the score, you have to SHOW the score.  Don’t play hide and seek with your scorecard or bury it in a desk drawer. Share it with those that can help you win.

2.   Educate your Team. Teach your managers and employees how the scorecard works and how they can make a difference. People want to contribute, teach them how.

3.   Set a Goal to Improve. Use your past performance + set a goal to do better.

4.   Monitor the score, track Progress. Provide regular updates or people lose interest.

5.   Celebrate the win. Free beer works well when you hit the goal!

  Taken together, the 5 steps presented above are an effective method to make sure you get the most out of your taproom scorecard and achieve your goals.

Use Process and Outcome Metrics

  We are a results-oriented society. We like to get stuff done.

  However, it is useful to focus on the Process of getting stuff done in addition to the results or the Outcome. The idea here is to use “Process and Outcome Metrics” on the scorecard.

  Process means the action taken, or steps that need to be followed. We can’t always control the outcome, but we can control actions, effort, following a prescribed routine.

  For example: Teach your taproom staff to ask for the sale and offer an item to upsell.

  Teach them to ask for the customer’s email so you can tell them about new beers or special releases. Send out marketing emails and make social media posts on a regular basis. These are things you do to drive sales, increase profits, or achieve the most important thing.

  Outcome means the actual results. The Outcome is a by-product of actions. If you’re not getting the results you want, experiment with the actions.

Consider measuring both Process and Outcome goals on your scorecard. We all measure the result, but sometimes we need to measure (and reward) the process to get there. 

Scorecard Templates

  There are different scorecards for different needs.  For example, if you want to increase taproom sales, the scorecard will show key metrics to achieve that goal.  If you want to improve the customer experience and satisfaction, you can create metrics to support that goal as well.

Below, are three types of taproom scorecards:

1.  Sales Focused Scorecard

2.  Engagement Scorecard

3.  Motivation Scorecard

#1 The Sales Focused Scorecard:  As the name implies, the Sales Focused Scorecard is laser focused on key metrics to support sales.

Typical Key Metrics to support sales:

●   Total Sales $ / by day / week / month

●   Sales by category / product / service

●   Sales per BBL

●   Customers per day / week / month

●   Average ring per customer

The Chart below shows an example of the Sales Focused Scoreboard:

  The Actual Month LY (last year) column presents the results from the same month last year. The Trend Month TY (this year) column presents where we are currently, and how sales are trending. The Goal Month TY shows what we want to achieve this month.

  In summary, the scorecard shows the type of metric to measure. It shows where we’ve been (past results), where are now (current results), and where we want to be (the goal).

#2 The Engagement Score:  This scorecard combines similar elements of the Sales Scorecard, but takes a greater focus on how well your staff is building relationships with your guests. Your ability to understand the below engagement metrics can result in improvements on your sales metrics.

Typical Key Metrics to monitor engagement:

●   Tip percentage

●   Flight sales

●   Tab size

●   To go beer sales

  Your team members’ average tip amount correlates directly with their level of engagement. We see the staff member that offers a high level of engagement receive an average tip of 27.1% vs a staff member that offers a low level of engagement only seeing an average tip of 24%.

  While flight sales may not be an obvious sign of engagement, flights are an opportunity for a staff member to educate a guest further about your beers, and brewery. When staff suggest a flight, guests spend an average of 20% more, and also a tip a point higher.

  Additionally, because a staff member providing a higher level of engagement is seeking to build a deeper relationship with their guests, they are by default more likely to include more upsell opportunities in their interactions (i.e. suggested additional beverages, to go beers). This results in not only higher tabs, but also more meaningful connections. These guests are more likely to recommend your brewery to others and return sooner.

#3 The Motivation Scorecard:  This is a staff-specific scorecard. As a manager or brewery owner, the more successful you are at understanding your team’s needs, the better you will be able to motivate them.

When you are able to create successful

strategies to motivate your staff, you will see:

●    Greater passion from your staff

●    Greater teamwork

●    Higher tabs

●    Higher retention

●    Your job becomes easier

●    Greater taproom success

  But what metrics can you monitor to gauge how well you are motivating your team?

Typical Key Metrics to support motivation:

●   Frequency of rewards

●   Frequency of recognition

●   Frequency of team meetings and trainings

●   Growth opportunities

●   Length of employment

  While offering your team fair base pay is where to begin, it is also important to regularly reward your staff for a job well done. Motivation isn’t a one-time to go beer sales content. Motivation is finding a plethora of metrics, many from the lists above, that you can use to track and reward your team’s performance. The number and frequency of reward opportunities will correspond with how well your team is motivated.

  Through conversations with your staff, you will learn that some people are motivated by rewards, while others may be motivated by recognition. Your repertoire should include both physical rewards and recognizing team members who hit specific goals.

  While it is important to regularly reward and recognize your team for desired behaviors, hosting regular meetings and trainings is vital to provide them with the skills for success. These are opportunities for you as a manager or owner to connect with your team. The more your team feels connected, the more motivated they will be to work together for organizational goals.

  Increases in your team’s average duration of employment at your brewery correlates directly to the quality of their experience, and thus how well you are motivating them. Length of employment can also represent you offering staff the opportunity to grow with your company. This could come in the form of offering staff educational/certification opportunities, or providing them the ability to climb in rank at your brewery.

Wrap Up and Action Items

  The taproom scorecard is a powerful tool to help you increase the sales and profitability of your taproom. It measures the most important thing, the most important goal(s), and keeps it in front of your team every day.

  To get started with your taproom scorecard, determine your most important thing. Maybe it’s growing sales, profitability, or customer satisfaction. Whatever is most important, get it on the scorecard, and set a goal to achieve it.

  Engage your team in the game of reaching the goal. To know the score (and win the game) you need to SHOW the score. Don’t play hide and seek with your sweet scorecard. Share it with your team so that they can help reach the taproom goals.

  You’ve got the intel, and you’ve got the taproom, get out there and build an awesome scorecard today.