Retaining Loyal Customers

By: David Wachs, CEO of Handwrytten

Nearly every industry has been impacted by rising prices. While the price of craft beer, hard seltzer, and cider has not risen nearly as quickly as gasoline or groceries, prices have gone up. In addition to ongoing shipping delays and labor shortages, rising prices for grain and fertilizer after Russia’s war against Ukraine is intensifying price increases. Restaurant prices have had the largest gains since the 1980s, also reflecting higher costs for food and workers. As consumers become more discretionary with their spending, they have been paying more attention to prices across brands and have even been willing to ditch brands they have been loyal to for years to spend less whether they are enjoying a beverage at home or at a restaurant.

  Retaining loyal customers and recapturing their purchasing power once their budget can afford it or prices return to lower levels is reliant on brands having open and transparent communication with customers during inflation. While no one enjoys paying more for goods and services, it is something everyone is being impacted by, creating a universal understanding and acceptance that prices must go up. However, that does not mean that customers will be amenable to drastic or sudden price jumps, increases that seem out of alignment with competitors, or higher prices that appear to last longer than necessary.

  Most marketing and sales experts would agree that customer retention is more cost-effective for a business than new customer acquisition. As consumers and businesses watch their discretionary spending and cut back on perceived extras, savvy companies will invest more effort into maintaining positive relationships to protect their bottom lines. However, receiving an email, text message or phone call may be the last thing a customer wants. 

  They might also be the last thing a customer pays attention to. The amount of promotional email the average person receives on a daily basis can be overwhelming. Not to mention that many email services now allow users to filter emails considered to be promotional into folders where they may never be seen, let alone opened and read. Text messages from unknown numbers typically stir feelings of suspicion. An unexpected text message might even be viewed as a smishing scam trying to steal personal information. A handwritten note is entirely different, it invokes curiosity versus fear or annoyance.  

  Nothing says “pay attention” like a personalized handwritten note. No one flips past or does not see a handwritten envelope in their mailbox. These stand out from everything else that was delivered. Recipients wonder what could be inside and while envelopes that look like bills or advertisements and graphic postcards are set to the side, handwritten envelopes are usually opened immediately. The attention-grabbing nature of a handwritten envelope provides an instant advantage that even the biggest and most prevalent direct mail marketers cannot overcome.  

  Spending hours writing notes by hand can be prohibitive, especially for businesses that have been struggling to hire, so consider hiring a robot to pick up a pen and do the writing instead. Handwritten envelopes have been found to have a 300% greater open rate than standard envelopes. And handwritten marketing has response rates 7-21x greater than printed mail, with a return on investment 3-7x greater than print. Some companies have even found that retention rates are 50% higher for customers who receive a handwritten thank you note.  

  The value of sending a handwritten note is enhanced by integrations with CRM systems that automate the process of when to send a note to a customer and what message to include. For example, a brewer can automate notes to send to customers on the anniversary of their joining a loyalty program, when there are special deals or limited time offerings, events taking place at local tasting rooms, or on other special occasions like customers’ birthdays. 

  A handwritten note could even be used to explain to customers why price increases are happening. While an end consumer might have heard that the cost of fertilizer has gone up, that there is an aluminum can shortage, and that labor costs are rising, that does not mean the will think of these things when they are standing in the refrigerated section at the grocery store or ordering from a menu at a restaurant. In that decision-making moment, brewers do not want to be a faceless corporation that is raising prices to take advantage of a consumer. A more advantageous situation would be to be the brewer who sent a handwritten note thanking that customer for remaining loyal to the brand, when possible, despite price increases that were necessary for x, y and z reasons. Reminding customers of the people behind the production scenes of their favorite beverage and explaining the challenges being face humanize the situation and remind customers that everyone is in this together.

  Not all of the information a brewer may want to communicate to customers could be explained in one card, but that tool could be the gateway inviting a customer to visit a landing page that breaks down the need for price increases. Instead of just skirting the issue with a message from the founder, dive into the issue. Profile employees who go to great lengths to get to work on a daily basis and highlight the increased cost for them to put gasoline in their vehicles. Explain the challenges being faced by farmers who have had to pay more for diesel to run farm equipment, on top of fertilizer costs that rose 80% in 2021 and another 30% or more in 2022. Provide insights into the costs of operating the brewery and how higher energy bills might be impacting the bottom line. Knowing they why and how behind price increases will certainly not help retain or win over every customer but making the effort could be the difference-maker for some people. And if others cannot afford to continue buying while prices remain high, the good intentions of a brewer’s transparency could be what brings that customer back sooner or wins them over from another brand once prices are reduced. Especially if they feel a brand that they were fans of in the past took advantage of the situation and turned inflation into “greed-flation”.

  In addition to providing insight to customers about why price increases are happening, invite and give them the opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions. Ensure that customers have multiple avenues to contact a customer service representative at the company and that feedback and answers are provided in a timely manner. Allowing customers to provide feedback makes them feel more invested in the brand and can help build stronger relationships that can withstand difficult times.

  By offering customers opportunities to provide feedback via the company website, email, or social media channels, brands can have more control over their ability to monitor and respond to the feedback they are receiving compared to customers leaving feedback and reviews on public forums or other social channels that are more difficult to track and can damage reputation. Responding to customer feedback is just as important as asking them to provide it.

   Customers will feel more valued, appreciated, and heard by a company that thanks them for supporting the brand. And if feedback is negative, a brand might be able to win over a new customer while impressing those that are already loyal by listening and maybe even implementing change based on customers’ opinions. This makes customers feel that their feedback did not go to waste and was important. Building a feedback loop with customers creates more of a community, can help with customer retention, and is what brands that last the tests of time get right. Imagine getting a thank you note from a brand because of a review left on a website or commentary posted on a social media channel. Most customers would be amazed that a brand would care enough to go to that effort and would remember it.

  There is no quick fix to help businesses recover from pandemic complications and now inflation. How deeply inflation will impact consumer spending habits remains to be seen. Identifying ways to recruit and retain employees as costs increase and labor shortages persist will take creativity and new approaches. As brewers develop solutions and evolve to thrive in the post-pandemic era, the need for effective communications will not diminish. After two years of a seemingly never-ending stream of new problems, making the most of upcoming opportunities will be critical to making 2022 as successful as possible.

Customizing Beverages the Easy Way

By: Angelo Coletta, CEO – Zakeke

Enabling customers to customize their purchases is a quick and easy way to expand into new markets and boost profits. Some distilleries and craft brewers are beginning to take advantage of this innovative approach to scale their businesses. For example, Silent Pool Distillers increased their orders fivefold in 2020 in part with the help of product customization.

  Possibilities abound for other distillers and craft brewers to do the same. Moreover, it’s easier to enable customization than most business owners think. Today’s product customizers offer automated processes that reduce the required amount of attention and manual labor to little or nothing.

What is Product Customization?

  Product customization allows customers to change the visual appearance of products according to their own individual needs and desires. Sellers empower consumers to build their own unique products, perhaps by adding their names or those of others. Depending on the specific product and customization service, customers may also be able to add photographs or longer messages of their own writing. In a sense, the product becomes a canvas for them to create upon.

  Some of the beer, wine, and spirits industry’s biggest names allow their bottles to be customized, offering proof of concept. Tito’s Vodka and Hennessy VS Cognac bottles can be etched, and a large selection of bottles can be engraved, including Don Julio tequila, Woodford Reserve bourbon, and Dom Perignon champagne. Other makers, such as Maker’s Mark, Jameson, and Jack Daniel’s, offer bespoke labels. Silent Pool Distillers does this for four of their distinctive gins.

  A wide range of items can be customized, including purses, jewelry, keychains, apparel, towels, and bedding. There are even services that customize things you wouldn’t expect, like USB drives, coffee sleeves, drinking straws, bobbleheads, and — believe it or not — cookies or cakes.

Why Enable Product Customization

  The answer is simple: product customization improves the bottom line. According to a 2019 Tech Clarity survey of 285 companies that offer customization, 71 percent listed increased sales as one of its benefits. More than 50 percent pointed to differentiation and higher margins. Thirty-five percent nodded toward customization’s “cool factor,” and 34 percent said they experienced higher close rates. Forty-two percent indicated that offering customization had become a necessity in their industry to stay competitive.

  Product customization elevates profitability for a number of reasons. First, customers are willing to pay more for customized products. According to Bain & Company, they will reach into their wallets to the tune of 20 percent more than the uncustomized version. This means manufacturers who customize can set higher prices. Meanwhile, they don’t incur new costs, since automated processes minimize the work required. While customers may only purchase a single customized item or a small lot, these sales are a painless way for the business to expand, and they do add up.

  Secondly, product customization encourages customer loyalty. The same Bain & Company report also found that, “customers who had customized a product online engaged more with the company. They visited its website more frequently, stayed on the page longer and were more loyal to the brand.”

  Happy customers can result in repeat business and referrals to their friends and family. The ability to customize sets a business apart, distinguishing it from competitors in the eyes of consumers.

  If that wasn’t already enough, Bain reported lower rates of return for customized products than for their mass-produced counterparts. When customers take ownership of the look and feel of their purchase, they tend to be more satisfied with the outcome and less likely to change their minds.

  All of this adds up to increased sales and a better business.

Why Customers Love Customization

  Customization appeals to customers for many reasons. Part of the draw is that it makes customers feel special. They are willing to invest their time and effort into creating a unique product that is tailored to their own tastes and exacting requirements. Since they are the ones who determine what the final product looks like, it is sure to please them.

  Another reason is that customization provides customers with a sense of control, that all-too-scarce commodity in today’s hectic, stressful, and sometimes overwhelming world. They are in the driver’s seat throughout the process. This is one element of their lives that they can impose their will upon and be confident of receiving gratification.

  It can also be just plain fun. For instance, Silent Pool Distillery’s user-friendly website steps prospective customers through the creation process. After clicking on the option to personalize their gin, they are taken to a new web page with four varieties that may be customized: Original Juniper, English Garden, Fresh Grapefruit, and Spiced Pepper. When customers click on the name of the flavor they want to purchase, a new page comes up with the product’s specifications.

  Beneath the “Add to Cart” button, a “Customize” option takes customers to an interactive interface where they design their bottle’s label. A large button with an upward-pointing arrow invites them to upload photographs of themselves, their loved ones, pets, or places special to them. Alternatively, they may choose from a library of 140 million stock photos arranged by helpful categories like “Business & Finance,” “Sport & Extreme,” or “Travel and Vacations.”

  Next to the upload arrow is a button that allows clients to add text to the label, giving it a special name or writing warm messages to recipients. Customers can change the font size, make the text bold, position it anywhere from top to bottom, center the words, or align them to the left or right. They can even bend the letters along a curve of their own making. Magnifying glass icons allow them to zoom in to view fine details or zoom out to gauge the overall look.

  If a given component starts to mess up the label, then the customer can delete it. If the whole design ends up being a disaster, they can reset the label with the click of a button and start over.

  The result is a unique, bespoke bottle of high-quality, sustainable gin that’s perfect for gift-giving on birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, as well as for celebrations, bachelor and bachelorette parties, showers, and weddings.

  Throughout the process, customers delight in the knowledge that they are putting together a one-of-a-kind present. Surprise is guaranteed: No matter how hard the recipient might try to guess what’s coming, they will never be able to guess what this gift is going to look like. Connection also seems assured — people tend to react positively to seeing their own name on an item, which often translates to feeling good about the person who gave it to them.

No Hassle Customization for Sellers

  Savvy distillers and craft brewers are understandably wary about adding a new feature to their already complex businesses. The last thing sellers want is to labor over a single item. Luckily, those days are over. Today’s customization services integrate with business’s existing websites and simplify the customization process itself.

  Take the case of Silent Pool Distillers. The distillery got their start offline, producing artisanal spirits with local ingredients in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a nationally protected landscape in the United Kingdom. To take advantage of online sales, they built an online storefront on the e-commerce platform BigCommerce. Thus, the distillery was well positioned when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, closing pubs and restaurants in droves. The spurt in online shopping boosted their sales to new levels.

  When the business sought a way to start customizing their products, they wanted a service that would integrate with BigCommerce and not force them to reinvent their online shop. They chose Zakeke, a visual commerce platform that works seamlessly with not only BigCommerce, but also many other ecommerce platforms, including Shopify, Etsy, Wix and WooCommerce. It can also employ an application programming interface (API) for integration if needed.

  Silent Pool Distillers installed Zakeke’s software and configured its easy-to-use “plug and play” system. In the context of information technology, “plug and play” means software that does not require users to understand programming or make any adjustments. Instead, it is designed to work well immediately from the moment it is brought to life.

  After this initial setup, the distillery’s preexisting online shop gave customers access to Zakeke’s cloud-based platform for designing their own labels for certain products. Since the process is automated, this personalization happens without requiring attention from the seller. Once an order is placed, all employees at Silent Pool Distillers need to do is download the customer’s file, print it out, and attach it to an appropriate bottle.

  By equipping the Silent Pool Distillery to offer bespoke labels on their bottles, Zakeke boosted their sales while allowing the distillers to remain focused on what they do best: making high-quality spirits.

The Power of Personalization

  Today’s customers increasingly expect the ability to personalize their products. A 2020 report by Dassault Systèmes and CITE Research found that 83 percent of consumers “expect products or services to adapt [to their individual specifications] in a matter of moments or hours.”

  The future belongs to businesses who can meet this challenge. Local distilleries and craft breweries stand to gain by incorporating customization, just like the big names in the industry. Branching out in this direction enabled Silent Pool Distillers to capture a valuable new market segment and increase sales even during the dark days of the pandemic.

  The power of personalization helps retailers please long-standing customers and attract new ones. That’s why distilleries and craft brewers of all kinds should consider adding product customization.

The Role of Virtual Tastings in a Post-Pandemic World

 By: Alyssa L. Ochs

The COVID-19 pandemic affected all aspects of life in 2020, from how we received medical care to how we dined at restaurants, shopped at stores and even enjoyed our favorite craft beers and spirits. In past years, craft beverage enthusiasts planned entire road trips and even flew to other countries to experience what the best brewers and distillers of the world had to offer. But during the COVID era, producers were forced to switch gears and consider offering virtual tastings as one of the many ways to stay in business due to restrictions and shutdowns.

We heard a lot about virtual beer, wine and spirit tastings during the height of the pandemic, but those conversations have dwindled as business picked back up as usual. Yet there still may be a place for virtual tasting experiences in today’s craft beverage industry, just as long as producers can evolve with the times and reestablish the relevance of this service among the mix of in-person offerings and events.

What Are Virtual Tastings?

  Virtual tastings are a relatively new concept, and many people don’t consider trying them because they don’t understand what they are. Virtual tastings are immersive, alcohol-themed experiences you can enjoy from the comfort of your home. Many of them require breweries and distilleries to ship boxes to households with sample-size portions, materials to read and opportunities for online engagement.

  During the COVID-19 shutdowns, some beverage producers turned to virtual tastings as a way to keep their customer base engaged and stay afloat as profits declined. But even during times of normal business operations, virtual tastings can be used to celebrate birthdays at home and corporate events in an office. Beyond the confines of a physical tasting room, there are also opportunities for virtual tastings at team-building activities, couples’ date nights and social gatherings to help local groups get to know each other.

Types of Virtual Tastings

  Some breweries and distilleries have created virtual tasting packages with beverage and food pairings to entice customers’ attention, particularly when in-person tastings were not an option. Recently, we have seen cooking kits emerge with alcoholic beverage samples and opportunities to participate in live online events.

  Other virtual tastings experiences involve sending a few bottles or cans of products to consumers with exclusive online access to an hour-long video call with a brewery or distillery representative. There have also been question-and-answer sessions offered with brewers and distillers, beverage judging sheets provided so consumers can rate and pick their favorites and seasonal experiences that highlight fall and winter brews, for example. To further capitalize on virtual tasting experiences, producers can offer the option of purchasing branded merchandise, such as hoodies and beanies, as part of a shipped package for an additional, discounted cost.

Benefits of Virtual Tastings

  During the pandemic times, the benefits of virtual tastings were evident because of the lack of other tasting options allowed and available. Virtual tastings enabled beverage fans to support struggling producers during difficult times while still feeling like part of the beer and spirits community.

  But even now, there are some significant benefits of virtual tastings that are worth considering for the months and years ahead. If marketed well, these socially distanced offerings can help breweries and distilleries reach new customers outside their home region who may not ever travel to the actual tasting room. During the winter cold and flu season, when COVID-19 cases tend to increase, virtual tastings appeal to some consumers as a safer and healthier alternative. If a tasting package includes printed materials that are informational and fun to read, there are opportunities here to help consumers better understand a beverage brand and its products. Since these packages can be designed around different interests and price points, they can offer something for everyone, from the casual drinker to the true connoisseur.

Challenges of Virtual Tastings

  Yet many challenges come with putting together virtual tasting packages, first and foremost, their relevance and value. Beverage producers must make these types of delivery/online tastings worth the cost and add value consumers wouldn’t necessarily get by visiting the establishment in person. There has been declining demand for these services lately and less internal dedication to marketing them since people are willing to travel more and crave a return to normalcy in the outside world.

  Meanwhile, some breweries and distilleries have been unsure of what to charge for virtual tastings. The average cost for this service is between $50 and $200, depending on how much product is shipped and other perks offered. For the virtual tasting industry to be sustainable, more effort will need to be directed to packaging and shipping beverages, which is a significant pivot from the previous experience of many beverage operations. There also need to be staff members who are tech-savvy and trained in how to plan and lead online events, as well as handle the inevitable technology glitches that so commonly occur during video calls and group chats.

Creative Ideas for Virtual Tastings

  If virtual beer and spirit tastings will survive as a side gig in the craft beverage industry, now is the time to get creative with offerings, pricing and perks. If this is something that a brewery or distillery owner is interested in getting involved with, it might be worth hiring a company or consultant specializing in virtual experiences instead of handling all aspects internally. At a minimum, it is worth researching examples of successful virtual tastings and perhaps even reaching out for a discussion or collaboration. Denver Microbrew Tour, City Brew Tours and Common Space Brewery are a few of the many groups that have excelled in this space. Other examples to learn from include Brews Less Traveled, Sierra Nevada Brewery, Fullsteam Brewery and the Sommelier Company.

  One idea to consider for future virtual tastings is to make the experience customizable for certain types of products, such as whiskey, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Promotions for the service can be centered on the benefits of receiving miniature versions of spirits so that consumers can try samples before committing to full-bottle purchases. Celebrity promoters and social media influencers may be able to help revive the virtual tasting industry if breweries and distilleries make the right connections. Also, the virtual tasting experience can be enhanced by social media participation and through educational lessons about mixology and beer-brewing.

The Outlook for Future Virtual Tastings

  At least for now, it seems that most craft beverage producers, including Fullsteam Brewery, have stopped offering virtual tastings since the lifting of COVID restrictions. With people feeling increasingly comfortable going out in public and preferring in-person experiences to virtual ones, there are significant challenges for the virtual tasting industry right now, but not insurmountable ones.

  Winter is an ideal season to revive virtual offerings because of the predicted increases in COVID-19 and flu cases. This is also an ideal time of the year for virtual options for holiday gift ideas, because of cold weather that keeps some people indoors and potentially more difficult travel with snowy conditions.

  While we don’t anticipate virtual tastings ever replacing the actual experience of drinking onsite, they could be offered as an add-on opportunity for consumers to get even more involved with their favorite beverage companies. During the holiday season, these types of tastings can take the guesswork out of planning gatherings at home with a fun activity as the party theme. As the weather warms up, forward-thinking producers may be able to expand virtual tastings to virtual festival events and online education about beer and spirits. This could lead to more formal training in the craft beverage industry and perhaps even address the staffing shortages still so prevalent in so many places around the country. Yet, in the short term, these shortages may also prevent breweries and distilleries from having the labor resources to dedicate to the tech side of beverage marketing in the first place.

  If you are interested in getting more involved in the world of virtual craft beverage tastings, you should know that this market is far from saturated, and there are openings for growth. Emerging, niche companies could assist with the production and execution of virtual experiences as a service to breweries and distilleries that do not have the time, expertise or staffing to do so themselves. But for now, these types of tastings will primarily be carried out by individual breweries and distilleries that are large enough, have ample staff and enough time and resources to expand their offerings to an online audience. If successful, those offerings could be models for an expanded online industry in the future.

  As a small sampling for inspiration, here are some resources to check out and virtual tasting ideas to consider:

•    The Drunken Grape has a team of sommeliers and offers interactive tastings, niche event planning and execution for private parties, wine and beer dinners, and weddings/corporate/charitable events.

•    Book a beer expert for your event through City Brew Tours.

•    Bourbon & Banter offers whiskey tastings for corporate events.

•    Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery is still hosting virtual experiences upon request.

The Return of In-Person Beer and Cider Festivals

By: Becky Garrison

As Ann Obenchain, marketing director of the Brewers Association, keenly observed, “The past two years have been tumultuous for the craft brewing community, and COVID-19 has had ripple effects in many aspects of life.” Once COVID hit in March 2020, the Brewers Association placed the health and wellbeing of their industry peers at the forefront of all decision-making for their events. This led to the cancellation of all in-person events and festivals, including The Great American Beer Festival (GABF), Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), SAVOR: An American Craft Beer and Food Pairing Experience, Homebrew Con and the World Beer Cup (WBC).

  Early on in the pandemic, their Homebrew Con went virtual for 2020. In addition, the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) launched an online version, bringing five weeks of conference talks available and free through May 2020 while everyone was in lockdown. Also, they hosted a virtual hill climb for brewers to meet with elected officials and staff. However, other festivals, such as GABF and SAVOR, could not be retooled for a virtual experience.

  With the return of GABF in Denver (October 6-8, 2022), Obenchain notes they must be ready for anything, given they host events across the country. “Each location has different safety requirements, which are subject to change at any time. Our team has learned to be nimble and flexible in providing event attendees with the best experience possible at any moment.”

  Among the offerings for the 40th Anniversary of GABF are hangouts for entertainment, live music, games, a brewers’ studio to meet with industry experts and brewers, a designated driver lounge and PAIRED, a ticketed event pairing food from award-winning chefs and beer that includes unlimited tastings of unique beers not found in the festival hall.

Cider Summit Returns to the National Stage

  Pre-COVID, Alan Shapiro spearheaded regional Cider Summit festivals in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, as well as a national cider summit in Chicago that coincided with CiderCon. All these events were canceled effective March 2020.

  In 2020 and 2021, they experimented with giving festival-goers an at-home festival courtesy of their “festival-to-go tasting kits.” These kits featured a range of two-to-three packages at different price points and cider selections ranging from modern to artisanal, with some packages including international ciders.

  The tasting kits were tailor-made for each specific festival and released in the same month as the in-person festival for that region. For example, the kits released in June featured Oregon cideries. Then they highlighted Washington ciders in September and California ciders in April.  According to Shapiro, the Chicago tasting kit was a bit harder to navigate, given this festival’s initial national focus. “We had had ciders from all parts of the country or as best as we could,” he observed.

  They distributed these kits via their partnership with Seattle-based Press Then Press, an online retailer of rare, independent, local and craft ciders. Consumers living within a particular festival’s geographic area could pick up their kit or arrange for local delivery. Nationwide shipping was available for those living outside of these areas. 

  Included in these tasting kits were promotional items and an invitation to a virtual tasting with several of the cidermakers whose wares were included in these kits. Shapiro estimates that about 20 to 30 percent of those purchasing the tasting kits tuned in to the virtual tasting. Over time, they developed a loyal and passionate following, especially as they got better at producing virtual events.

  Shapiro hoped he could return to in-person events in 2021 and announced the dates for the Seattle Cider Summit held in September. Even though this festival would be outdoors, they chose to cancel it due to an uptick in COVID cases and the ensuing governmental restrictions.  

  The Portland Cider Summit, held June 10-11, 2022, marked their return to in-person events. Audience anticipation was high, with a much stronger selling of pre-sale tickets than in prior years, though the monsoon-like rains that pummeled the city lessened the expected attendance. Also, the number of participating cideries was down from around 50 to 43, a dip Shapiro attributes to cideries that are no longer in business, as well as staffing issues.

  They will be hosting the Seattle Cider Summit on September 9-10 at South Lake Park, with plans to launch the San Francisco Cider Summit in 2023. As the Chicago Cider Summit is their one indoor event, they will decide in November 2022 if they can host this in February. Also, they will continue their partnership with Press Then Press to offer tasting kits to those who cannot attend their in-person events. 

The Oregon Brewers Festival Reopens with a Leaner Look 

Editor: As per an announcement on their home page, the Oregon Brewers Festival organizers decided to cancel the 2023 festival. They plan to bring the festival back when the timing is right. See https://oregonbrewfest.com/

  Since its founding in 1988, the Oregon Brewers Festival has emerged as the largest beer festival in Oregon and draws in over 50,000 people from across the United States. Hence, co-founder Art Larrance felt the need to maintain its reputation. So, they focused on quality, not quantity, as they relaunched this festival in 2022 after a two-year absence.

  To ensure a successful beer festival, they reduced the number of taps to 40 beers and two cideries. They also limited the size of the overall festival footprint and scaled back the number of days. In addition, they did not offer the brewers’ parade live music acts, and they had a more limited selection of vendors. They plan to keep the festival at about the same scale in 2023.

  While past festivals have spotlighted international beers or beers from specific states, they chose to focus this year on award-winning Oregon beers. They made this decision to focus on craft breweries with local distribution channels, in large part due to shipping issues. According to Larrance, “I’m glad that we made that decision because while I was looking for 27,000 to 30,000 people, we only had 23,500 people. Had we not scaled down, we would have been spending a lot of money and not broken even.” Also, at the conclusion of the festival, they were able to donate $10,000 to their nonprofit partner, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

  While the beers remained Oregon-specific, preliminary data from the festival survey shows that 36.8 percent of attendees came from outside the Portland Metro Area. In this regard, they were very close to their pre-COVID percentages of local versus out-of-town attendees.

  In addition to a heatwave and concerns about COVID that somewhat reduced attendance, the festival’s location along the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland continues to experience challenges due to the uptick in homeless camps and civil disobedience. These ongoing issues led to a 15 percent occupancy of downtown office buildings, thus significantly reducing the number of local people working downtown who would stop by the festival after work. Typically, they would get about 40 percent of their business from out of town, a number Larrance estimated was down to about 20 percent for this year.

  Despite the lower than projected attendance, brewers and beer lovers appeared ecstatic with the return of OBG. As Dan Malech, co-founder of Stormbreaker Brewing in Portland, Oregon, proclaimed, “It was so good to see so many people enjoying fantastic beer. We’ve been a part of OBF every year since we opened, and we hope to continue every year.” John Harris, owner and brewmaster of Ecliptic Brewing, also based in Portland, Oregon, concurred. “It was great to have OBF back. I’ve always enjoyed all the special beers that brewers make for the fest. The smaller size was a great way to bring the fest back.”

The Return of Local Pacific Northwest Beer Festivals

  Pre-COVID, the Craft Beer & Wine Fest of Vancouver (Washington), featured 60 beer taps, 80 wines and 35 craft vendors, along with live music all weekend and people traveling to the event from afar. While COVID restrictions prevented them from offering an outdoor festival in 2020, Rusty Hoyle, owner of Craft Nation, noted they were the only in-person Pacific Northwest festival of this type in Summer 2022. “We were really busy with the local people who were itching to get out and do stuff.” In keeping in line with consumer demand for personal safety, they offered hand wash stations, an expanded fence line that provided more room for people to be comfortable and new microphone covers for each singer. They plan on continuing these measures at future festivals.

  While many of their prior vendors are no longer in business, Hoyle observed how they are now seeing new craft vendors and also people traveling to this festival from outside the area. Each year, Heathen Brewing of Vancouver, Washington brings a fire truck with seven tap handles that contributes to the festival atmosphere.

  The 2022 festival featured over 100 wines and about 30 craft vendors, a number that Hoyle predicts will increase. Also, they narrowed their beer selection to showcase the breweries that align with their values. “We want them to be a part of this event and talk to our customers, not just drop off their beer. It allows fewer hands to touch the product while giving a better customer experience,” Hoyle opines.

  Among the other events that Hoyle organizes is Gorge Blues & Brews in Stevenson, Washington, which is held in late June with RV and tent camping available. This year’s event pulled in 2,500 people, shattering their prior attendance record by 1,000. The event features world-renowned blues artists on two stages with local craft beer, wine and spirits.

  In February 2022, Larrance launched the inaugural Over the Hills to Hillsbrew, a new local beer festival designed to highlight Washington Country and Portland breweries, along with a few other Oregon-based breweries. He believed that the local people felt cooped up and thought that a beer festival would help lift their spirits. While he anticipated around 5,000 people to attend,  approximately 2,800 came to sample beers from 25 to 30 breweries. This was an inside event held during the winter months when COVID was on the rise, so proof of a COVID vaccination was required. 

  In addition, the Oregon Trails Brew Fest, traditionally held the weekend before the Oregon Brewers Festival, returned in 2022. Hosted by the Oregon City Brewing Company in Oregon City, Oregon since 2019, this all-ages outdoor brews festival is a community-based event with lawn games, live music, 32 breweries, and three cideries. While they had a few more breweries in 2019, their ticket sales remained consistent with their pre-COVID statistics. 

  In the Pacific Northwest, an area with some of the strictest COVID restrictions in the United States, major festivals with a beer component that attract a national crowd, such as Feast Portland, are not slated to return until 2023, and festival plans are still in development. Some local breweries have begun to offer festivals, albeit often in a modified format, while others have chosen for now to focus on rebuilding their businesses.

A Closer Look at Celebrity Brands of Craft Spirits & Beer

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Actors, musicians and other celebrities love craft beer and spirits just like the rest of us. Yet the difference is that they often have the means, resources and connections to make significant investments in the industry. An increasing number of famous individuals have been getting interested in the craft beverage business and putting their names onto labels of products they stand behind or perhaps have even helped create.

  Here’s what the celebrity craft beverage industry looks like right now, major players in this field and what there is to look forward to in the future.

Celebrity Involvement in the Industry

  Celebrities take a step away from their typical work to get involved with craft beverages for various reasons. Some have a true passion for the craft, while others are in it for the money or just looking for more exposure and additional ways to promote themselves. While some celebrities learn about the production process and engage in making beer and spirits themselves, others do little more than attach their name to a brand for cross-promotional purposes.

  Either way, celebrity-brand craft beverages are often unique because of their higher price tags and limited availability. Some celebrities use their beverage-related profits to benefit charities, and others use their star power to launch tasting rooms for VIP guests. However, there are unique challenges that come with producing, marketing and selling celebrity craft beverages that other beer and spirit companies may not encounter. For example, a beverage brand may suffer when an affiliated celebrity declines in popularity or is involved in a scandal. Meanwhile, a celebrity’s popularity may be affected if the beverage he or she promotes isn’t received well by the public. Some craft beverage fans believe that beer and alcohol belong to them personally and not the rich and famous. Therefore, they might be turned off by the concept of celebrity affiliations and avoid these products entirely.

  But for people who are loyal to certain celebrities or just curious to try celebrity-affiliated beverages, these are accessible products that can often be purchased in stores and online. More popular beverages are usually found in liquor specialty stores, such as Binny’s and Total Wine & More. But you might have to search for more obscure and exclusive celebrity-brand beverages online through sites like Cask Cartel and Sip Whiskey.

Examples of Celebrity Beverage Endeavors

  From musicians across all genres to television personalities and film actors, a diverse array of celebrities have been making their mark on the craft beverage industry in recent years. Some of these examples were limited editions that are no longer sold, while others are ongoing efforts that are changing the industry one bottle or can at a time.

  For example, actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd co-founded Crystal Head Vodka as a way to introduce additive-free vodka and bring more creativity to the vodka industry. Along with his business partner, artist John Alexander, Aykroyd envisioned a new kind of vodka without unnatural ingredients and has a true passion for the product.

  Several years ago, pop music star Justin Timberlake entered into a co-branded partnership with Sauza Tequila to create Sauza 901 silver tequila. The name 901 references the area code in Memphis, which is Timberlake’s hometown. Timberlake said that he developed a love for tequila after visiting Jalisco, Mexico and seeing the craftsmanship that went into each bottle of the spirit.

  Iconic hip hop legend Snoop Dogg partnered with his friend and co-founder of Trusted Spirits, Keenan Towns, to establish his own spirits brand. Known as the “King of Gin and Juice” because of his famous song of the same name, Snoop Dogg developed Indoggo Gin, which mixes seven premium botanicals with all-natural strawberry flavoring. In the past, the musician has also had marketing deals with the Corona beer brand, released his own rosé wine and made investments in the cannabis industry.

  Meanwhile, actor William H. Macy co-owns Woody Creek Distillers, which is based in Colorado and operates a distillery and tasting room just west of Aspen. Not only has Macy invested in the brand, but he has also rebranded himself as Willie Creeks, an alter ego who is a musician and offers life lessons that ultimately promote rye whiskey.

  Another celebrity who has been involved in the spirits industry is actor Ryan Reynolds. He teamed up with Aviation Gin in 2018 after falling in love with the spirit and investing in the company. Since then, Reynolds has become a co-owner of Aviation Gin and driven the creative marketing for the brand. In recent years, and staying true to the aviation theme, he and the brand have teamed up with businessman Richard Branson to serve the gin onboard Virgin Atlantic and British Airways flights.

  A financial success story in the celebrity spirits industry brings us to the actor George Clooney. The idea behind Clooney’s tequila brand, Casamigos, came about after he and his friend, Rande Gerber, were in Mexico and wanted to find a smooth tequila they could sip all day without the dreaded next-day hangover. This was back in 2013, but the friends still personally tasted every batch of tequila made four years later. The brand exploded in popularity, mainly through word-of-mouth and having Clooney’s name attached to it. In 2017, they ended up selling the brand to Diageo for $1 billion, which made Clooney the highest-paid actor of the year.

  Thus far, celebrities have been more involved in the spirits industry than in craft beer or wine. But to a lesser extent, those markets are also drawing the attention of the rich and famous.

  The late-1990s and early-2000s pop band Hanson, comprised of three brothers who love craft beer (now that they’re old enough to drink it), launched the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Hanson Brother Beer. They created their own craft beer business in 2013 with their flagship beer, Mmmhops, a 7.5 percent English-style pale ale. Since then, the brothers launched the Hop Jam Beer and Music Festival, collaborated with other breweries to create unique beers and dedicated a portion of their beer-related profits to clean water wells in Africa through a nonprofit organization they created.

  Another celebrity beer collaboration involves The Grateful Dead and Dogfish Head Brewing, based in Milton, Delaware. The psychedelic rock band has been involved with the brewery since 2013 and has worked together since then to create a third version of American Beauty HazyRipple IPA. The band’s “American Beauty” album and famous track “Ripple” inspired the beer, which features the iconic Grateful Dead dancing bear image on the label. However, the band’s involvement with other aspects of the beer production process is limited.

  To show how diverse and widespread the celebrity beverage industry has become, here are some additional examples of celebrities and their affiliated beer and spirit brands:

•    Kenny Chesney – Blue Chair Bay Premium Rum

•    Kendall Jenner – 818 Tequilla

•    Marilyn Manson – Mansinthe

•    Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – Teremana Tequila

•    Mark Wahlberg – Flecha Azul

•    Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson – Effen Vodka

•    Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul – Dos Hombres Mezcal

•    Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs – Cîroc Vodka

•    Channing Tatum – Born and Bred Vodka

•    Drake – Virginia Black Whiskey

•    George Strait Código – 1530 Tequila

•    Bob Dylan – Heaven’s Door Whiskey

Considerations and Looking Ahead

  The celebrity-brand beverage industry continues to be exciting because there’s always something new in the works to look forward to. There is always a strong public fascination with rich and famous people, and that trend is not likely to disappear anytime soon. As an increasing number of celebrities enter this industry, the competition increases and drives the demand for superb product quality that goes beyond just a popularity contest of celebrity status.

  Yet there are significant legal considerations that celebrities must keep in mind as they venture into the beverage industry for the first time. Collaborative efforts between celebrities and spirit-makers can take on various forms. These include development deals that give celebrities greater control over the final product and endorsement deals that offer little more than using a celebrity’s name. Other deals involve simply using a famous person’s image to promote an existing brand all the way up to full ownership, in which a celebrity owns both the brand and the means of production.

  Specific state and federal laws separate the roles of beverage producers, distributors and retailers, which can make it challenging for celebrities to navigate if they want to be involved in more than one part of the business. Other issues that celebrities must consider before diving into the beer and spirit industry are background checks needed to obtain alcohol beverage licenses, the age of their target audience, morals clauses in their contracts and endorsement disclosures required by the Federal Trade Commission.

  Alcohol production is proving to be an enjoyable and profitable side gig for numerous celebrities interested in connecting with their fans in new and unique ways. But to get beyond the initial hype and keep craft beverage customers coming back for more, it is time to embrace the spirit of innovation and achieve long-term growth with products able to stand on their own, even without a familiar name and face behind them.

Enhanced Single-Serve and Ready-to-Drink Markets Need Updated Point-of-Sale Systems   

By: Gerald Dlubala

Whether online ordering for pick up, requesting additional items to-go or purchasing single-serve containers from a local market, these options reflect the alternative and increasingly essential revenue streams for craft beverage producers. Additionally, they have proved to be a popular and effective way for craft producers to get their products into the hands of new and potential consumers. According to data supplied by Arryved, a leader in Point-of-Sale (POS) systems for food and drink businesses, many of the consumers that participate in the online and to-go craft beverage markets are different than those that choose to frequent brewpubs, tasting rooms and taprooms in person.

  The good news for craft beverage producers is that participation in the single-serve, ready-to-drink and to-go markets continues to grow. Consequently, it makes sense to nurture those relationships and make the off-premises consumer experience an event that provides value and enjoyment while enhancing your bottom line. The proper POS system can do that.

Your Business, Your Point-of-Sale System: Arryved

  “Of course, there was a sea of change beginning with the pandemic,” said Nancy Trigg, chief people officer for Arryved. “It seemed like, over the course of one night, the brewpubs, wineries and taprooms all had to scramble and pivot business models to come up with a functioning online and to-go ordering system, as well as a safe and viable delivery or customer pickup option. Point-of-Sale systems had to evolve and quickly match that change in direction. In haste, many businesses simply installed a separate system for this newfound revenue stream. It all seemed good until the businesses realized that, in reality, they were using two separate systems pulling out of a single inventory base, causing supply confusion and accountability problems. Point-of-sale systems, like Arryved, that looked at the situation and responded in a more business-sensitive, proper way were the ones that not only helped their clients survive but also helped them grow their consumer base during the uncertainty and shutdowns.”

  Trigg says that a proper POS system is one of the most crucial tools a craft producer has to understand and analyze for how they are doing business, and she urges owners to approach their businesses with that exact mindset.

  “If you have the proper POS system set up for all of your revenue streams, including on-premises, single-serve purchases and online ordering with customer pickup, you will immediately receive valuable insights into what you are selling, when you are selling it and how your products are being used,” said Trigg. “Are some products more popular at certain times, like lunch or dinner? Are some being consumed more with food? Which beverages are more popular at which times? Are they being sold in smaller pours? Larger pours? Are certain products more popular for carryout over in-house consumption? For flight purchases? So much data related to your specific craft products concerning single-serve and online-ordering revenue streams can be harvested from the right POS system.”

  Trigg told Beverage Master Magazine that the applicable laws about these types of sales will generally stick around because of the great work from the guilds, communities and cities to help food and drink businesses remain afloat during the height of the pandemic. Now, craft beverage producers must have a POS system that integrates these transactions into their daily business practices by highlighting and providing data tailored to their specific products, customer profiles and unique business situations.

  “When craft beverage producers start packaging their products, the inherent level of their risk rises, if only based on the costs of packaging,” said Trigg. “That little extra risk can be just enough to inhibit the creative experimentation that makes up the backbone of what a brewpub, taproom or tasting room is supposed to be. But with the right information derived from an inclusive and detailed POS system, that risk is minimized. Now they can offer the right products to the right consumers at the right time, including single-serves, ready-to-drink varieties or a wide range of to-go flight-type options or mix-and-match packs tailored to specific tastes. Unfortunately, not many POS systems properly provide these types of flight tools or pick-six options within their makeup. Arryved does just that, providing the craft producer meaningful insights into what is and isn’t working, and when.”

  Trigg said that Arryved is a POS system genuinely built to care for an all-inclusive beverage program, including those that, either now or in the future, want the option to offer food sales. In addition, Arryved enhances brewpub or tasting room atmospheres by allowing its customers to order drinks to-go, online or in single-serve, ready-to-drink options.

  “There are always developing options within the single-serve and ready-to-drink markets that craft beverage producers need to stay aware of,” said Trigg. “This includes the growing popularity of flight options and different sizes of mix-and-match take-home packs that the customer can customize. Craft producers need a POS system that recognizes these trends and supports mobile guests just as well as it does with on-premises guests. Arryved supports craft beverage producers in all facets of their revenue streams, while featuring unmatched support for the industry. In addition, we stay engaged in the business sector and always have someone available to speak with directly.”

Ready-to-Drink, Single Serve and To-Go Markets Thriving

  The ability to try and enjoy craft beverage products off-premises was, and still is, a game-changer for many craft brewers, winemakers and distillers. For the past couple of years, these markets have helped many establishments remain open and proved they could be a robust, new revenue stream. Breweries have traditionally offered their products in growlers and crowlers so their consumers could enjoy the beer at home. Additionally, the popularity of individual can seaming devices, like those offered by Oktober Can Seamers, gives craft beverage producers more flexibility in to-go offerings and allows consumers more flexibility in how and where they choose to use the beverage.

  In its primary function, can seamers allow craft beverage producers to get their product out the door and into the hands of consumers for off-premises enjoyment. But Dennis Grumm, CEO and lead engineer for Oktober Can Seamers, told Beverage Master Magazine that many clients realize additional untapped revenue possibilities by canning beer, mixed drinks and specialty cocktails for to-go orders. Brewpubs, distilleries, and wineries can all use a can seamer to offer their beverages, unique brews and house cocktails on a to-go basis. It’s an economical and very effective way to get new customers to try your products while satisfying your current customer base. Distillers have had great success canning their best-known, ready-to-drink cocktails, but canning is also an effective way to offer seasonal or limited-release drinks and cocktails.

  Pouches are another way to get your product in the hands of consumers that would not normally spend time in your place of business or would just like to take your crafted offerings with them on the go. Pouches range from those in the refrigerator for individual pours of wine to the single-serve cocktail and wine pouches that resemble the child-friendly juice pouches. The benefits of using pouches include offering a resealable, portion-controlled package that reduces packaging weight by up to 94 percent and can be shipped and packed using fewer resources.

Enhancing the Single-Serve and Ready-to-Drink Market: O-I Glass

  O-I Glass, based in Perrysburg, Ohio, is looking to elevate the single-serve, to-go and ready-to-drink markets to better reflect the on-premises, brewpub and tasting room experience. Megan Henry is the global marketing communications business partner for O-I Glass. She told Beverage Master Magazine that they are transforming the to-go, single-serve and ready-to-drink markets by offering a new glass packaging alternative called the Drinktainer™ for these markets.

  “In an increasingly common world of to-go packaging, we feel that it’s time for craft beverage producers to elevate that part of their business and the consumer experience,” said Henry. “Growlers and crowlers are great, but they have limitations. As soon as you open them, you’re under a time constraint as to how long that product will be good. Using our wide-mouthed Drinktainer™, you’re promoting a sustainable packaging option with the recyclable glass and RipCap® closure, and you’re allowing the consumer to enjoy your products as if they were in your brewpub, taproom or tasting room.”

  Henry said that capacity and shortage concerns still affect many industry players, but those worries are not an issue with Drinktainer™, which is currently available in inventory.

  “We know that many beer aficionados prefer to consume their beer out of a glass, straight from the tap,” said Henry. “Offering to-go, single-serve options in a recyclable glass container is just a naturally better way to enjoy beer and craft beverages in general. Glass packaging provides great flavor retention in any environment and allows producers to feel more comfortable offering their consumers different types and combinations of products without the fear that alternative packaging, like plastics or pouches, will taint their beer, cocktails or wine. In addition, with the wide mouth (42mm), consumers get the deeper flavor and more robust aroma experience as if they would be drinking from a glass on premises.”

  Sustainability is a significant issue of consideration in every phase of craft beverage production, and the Drinktainer™ is a fully sustainable product, available in clear that is customarily used for beer and in a flint tone that highlights the color combinations of cocktails and other beverages. It’s sealed using a RipCap®, an easily applied and highly secure closure that O-I Glass believes brings a nostalgic feel to the products. Drinktainer™ has been successfully used to offer pick-six trial packs and beer flights, and it requires no other glasses or barware to enjoy as the beverage maker intended.

Find more information on the Drinktainer™ at www.o-i.com

New Brewery, Winery or Distillery Start Up

By: Kris Bohm: Distillery Now Consulting, LLC  

Starting up a new beverage alcohol business is hard. Whether making beer, wine, or spirits, the challenges are daunting and upfront costs are huge. No one takes the leap to start a new business knowing it will fail, but many of them will. Based on industry data, up to 40% of new beverage alcohol businesses fail. To create a successful business, there is a common question that arises during the planning phase of launching a new beverage alcohol business.

What is the difference between a successful business and one that fails?

  This massively important question should be answered early on for a new business. In doing so, key strategies will be defined for the business from the beginning as it ventures forward. In the following paragraphs, you will find not only the answer to this question, but also a further analysis of successful business practices.

Defining Success: Let’s take a moment to define and measure success in a beverage alcohol business. This definition applies whether in a brewery, winery, or a distillery. These measurements of success will allow us to look closer at the internal workings of the business. As you look closer you will find common traits among nearly every business that is successful. For the sake of this article we will narrowly define success using the specific individual metrics of profitability, sustainability and velocity.

Profitability: The first key metric and measurement of success is profitability. A business must either be profitable, or at a minimum near self-sustaining, with revenue covering the cost of operating the business. Achieving profitability is one of the biggest metrics that defines success. Reaching profitability is essential, as every successful business must be self-sustaining after a certain amount of time. If a business is not profitable for too long of time, it is almost certain to fail.

Sustainability: A successful business must be sustainable in the capacity to produce the products it intends to sell. To clarify, we do not mean sustainability from an environmental impact or energy usage standpoint. Sustainability in this model means the ability to sustain and meet demand for products through growth. For a business model to be sustainable the equipment must have the capacity to grow and meet new demand as the company grows. The reason this metric is so essential is that most businesses must grow to reach profitability. If your business cannot sustain growth it most likely can not grow to become profitable.

Velocity: A business needs to have regular sales to provide consistent revenue for the business. Velocity is a measurement of how quickly your business is turning raw materials into finished goods and selling those goods. High velocity of product means there will be more consistent cash flow for the business. As product velocity increases it is followed by increases in revenue and often economies of scale. Both of which help a business become successful.

Tripod Business Model: Most businesses achieve some of these measures of success, but not too many will achieve them all. Among those who do succeed in meeting all three, there is a common thread that these successful businesses share. They will usually have three separate divisions that perform distinct business activities. These three divisions are production, sales, and marketing. This concept we will refer to as the tripod business model. If the top of a tripod is a successful beverage alcohol business as measured by our success metrics, then there almost always exists these three divisions in the business that make up equally important legs that hold up the business. If you remove any of the three legs, it only leaves the business on two unstable legs, and in time the business will fall and is likely to fail. It is easy to take this observation and call it as incorrect, but if one was to look closely at established successful beverage alcohol businesses they would find truth in this observation.

  When a sizable amount of time and resources are heavily invested into sales and marketing, the business has a strong probability that it will flourish. Often the business will flourish so strongly that production will often feel constrained in the resources it needs to meet the demand of the business. This is the correct way to invest time, financial resources and manpower to grow. If too many resources are dedicated to production in most instances production will have far too much capacity and there will not be enough demand for product to keep production running near its capacity.

  Now that we have defined some measures of success and the business practices that support them, let’s look closer at the three practices that hold up a successful beverage alcohol business, through the lens of a distillery.

SALES: Sales is essential and paramount to the success of nearly any business that has a product they sell. It can be the easier path for a new distillery to focus on their production with a plan to only sell spirits through a tasting room or cocktail lounge that is part of the distillery. A business plan like this can work, but it has a low ceiling that will often restrict a distillery from growing to a successful level. Real sales of considerable volume come from a distillery selling products in the same market as its competitors. This means working to sell spirits in liquor stores, bars, restaurants and other venues. In this market there is immense competition. The only way to compete in the larger spirits market is by investing into sales. This means having people working for your business who are full time employees whose job is to pull your spirits through the market and drive sales.

MARKETING: Marketing is the driving force that directly links to the success of sales. Marketing can come in a multitude of forms, some obvious and some not so obvious. Public facing platforms, such as social media, websites, billboards, magazines, newspapers, and influencers are all forms of marketing in action. The more a consumer or target consumer encounters a brand, the higher the chance that the consumer will buy your brand. Without an active marketing plan in place, consumers will quickly lose sight of your brand. A strong marketing plan and the person or people to continually implement, monitor, and drive a marketing plan is paramount to achieving success. Marketing is the key difference that will take a brand to the next level and keep pulling it up from there. Although it can be easy to not put an emphasis on channeling resources to marketing, it would be a mistake to do so. Many businesses have launched with little to no resources committed to marketing. Often these launches feel successful, but by our measurements are in fact not truly successful. Oftentimes the business will get going and be selling some amounts of product but in most instances a lack of marketing will cause a business to plateau quickly.

PRODUCTION: This practice of manufacturing is easy to give too much focus in the business of distilling. Whether you are distilling whiskey from scratch or bottling sourced spirits, the production part of this business is extremely important. While production is absolutely paramount to the business, this does not mean that the bulk of resources the business has should be invested into the production of spirits, nor the labor or equipment to produce the spirits. If the bulk of resources go towards production thus starving sales and marketing, there will invariably be a lack of sales to cover the costs of production. Now the manufacturing of distilled spirits is in no way inexpensive. Considerable resources have to go to production for it to function. We are trying to urge you to consider all resources the business has and properly allocate them to all three practices.

The battle between the practices: If you ask most folks who work in this industry, whether they work in sales, marketing, or production, they will all likely tell you that their business function is the most important to the success of the business. To be fair, all these folks can probably make a reasonably sound argument to support that statement. It is normal that there is some friction between all three practices because they all have unique functions and priorities that often do not align with one another. For a business to be successful, production, sales, and marketing must work together to achieve the goals of the business. When common goals are shared it is much easier for each part of the business to work in harmony.

Is it Time to Order More Brick-and-Mortar Locations for Your Bar or Restaurant?

By: Raj Tulshan, Founder of Loan Mantra

Is commercial real estate making a comeback in the hospitality industry? After several extremely disruptive years of a global pandemic – and the resulting lockdowns, inflation, supply chain disruptions, and staffing shortages – is the future finally brighter for hospitality and real estate? Is it time to invest in more bars and restaurants – and if so, where exactly should you invest and when do you know if it is the right time?

Investing in real estate is a major, long-term commitment requiring careful consideration. Business owners must do their homework before signing a real estate contract, thinking about a host of factors, including the building’s location, the economy, zoning laws, the projected value of the property, and its expected appreciation over the coming years.

  Location is a huge factor. Is the property you’re considering in a good spot that will attract customers? Is the property attractive, in a safe, high-traffic location? Is the community vibrant and growing, with a history of economic stability? Is there easy access with ample parking, or is there a subway or bus stop nearby? What’s the neighborhood like? Is there considerable competition in your space, with tons of other bars and restaurants nearby? Is the neighborhood hungry (pardon the pun) for your type of establishment? Are the demographics right for your type of business? For instance, a heavy metal-themed bar might not flourish in a neighborhood with an older demographic.

  Despite major difficulties in 2020 and 2021, the hospitality and commercial real estate industries are finally in growth phases again, and this growth is likely to continue in 2022. Some things to consider include:

  People are going out again. Demand for in-person goods and services is rising again, as people want to eat at restaurants and go out for some beers. This pent-up demand is good for commercial real estate – and the bars, restaurants, and other businesses that occupy these buildings.

  Hospitality is rebounding. Now that the worst of the pandemic is (hopefully) behind us, business and leisure travel will start increasing again, and people will be dining out more frequently. The growing travel demand means hotels, restaurants, and bars may take on renovation and expansion projects that stalled during COVID. And, increasingly, hospitality business owners will invest in real estate to house their bars and restaurants.

  Secondary markets are growing. The evolution of remote and hybrid work means many employers and employees are moving out of high-rent cities into smaller markets that are more cost-effective. Recently, people have been leaving big, expensive cities like New York in droves, in favor of smaller, more affordable markets like Nashville and Tampa. If you’re thinking of opening a bar – or expanding your brand to new markets – consider these geographies.

  Operators are opting for building ownership. Some restaurant and bar brands are opting to own real estate rather than leasing. When leasing, the building owner is making money, regardless of whether your business is profitable. However, when you own the property, you’ll be building equity regardless of how your business is performing. Many restaurateurs and bar owners are choosing to buy instead of lease because it makes more financial sense over the long term. If you’re the property owner, you won’t have to worry about surprise rent increases. You also won’t need to abide by your landlord’s rules, giving you more freedom with your business and your property.

  Add new revenue streams to boost profitability. With labor shortages impacting the operating hours (and bottom lines) of hospitality businesses, restaurants and bars have realized the importance of having multiple revenue streams to increase profitability, especially if they’re working to cover the cost of their mortgage. Some brands are selling their own beers online or selling branded merchandise at their brick-and-mortar location and online. While people are finally coming back to dine and drink in-person, it’s wise to have additional revenue streams to keep a steady stream of revenue flowing – and so you can cover your mortgage and property taxes if you’re the building owner.

  If you’re financially able to swing it, buying property for your bar or restaurant can be a wise move. As experts predict that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, it looks like the hospitality and commercial real estate industries are poised for a rebound. If you’re thinking about a real estate investment for your hospitality business, be thoughtful and consider the decision carefully before signing the contract.

About the Author:

  Neeraj (Raj) Tulshan is the Founder and Managing Member of Loan Mantra, a financial advisory firm with best-in-class and proprietary fintech, BLUE (“Borrower Lender Underwriting Environment”). Loan Mantra, Powered by BLUE, is next-level finance: a one-stop-shop for business borrowers to secure traditional, SBA or MCA financing from trusted lenders in a secure, collaborative, and transparent platform. Clients turn to Raj because they know he will always pick up the phone and offer unparalleled financial counsel in a remarkably human—even friendly—way.

About Loan Mantra

  Loan Mantra is a financial services company designed to serve small and medium businesses with offices in New Jersey, Charleston, SC and New York. At Loan Mantra your success is our success. This means that our attention, purpose, and intention are all focused on you, our client. We are your ally to overcome obstacles, bringing peace through uncertain times to achieve your highest goals and aspirations. Your friendly, responsive agent will listen respectfully, and service your account actively through one of three locations in the US. We speak your language whether it’s English, Spanish, Hindi, Bengal, Hospitality, Laundry or Manicure, let us help you today. Connect with us at…www.loanmantra.com or 855.700.BLUE (2583)

Optimizing Same Day At Home Beverage Delivery  

By: Anar Mammadov

It’s not easy to make a beverage brand succeed. The marketing must be just right, including packaging, positioning, and placement of ads. Securing distribution is another step; hitting your sales numbers starts with getting your product in stores. Even when those two are achieved, brands still need to find a customer base that will adopt them, sharing their enthusiasm and spreading the word about their products.

  In 2022, beverage brands that want to be successful can add another task to their to-do list: providing same-day delivery. Consumers, responding in large part to the stay-in-place culture that was inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, have come to expect that most any item can be delivered to their door in a matter of hours, if not minutes. This is true of everything from bandages to burgers to big screen TVs. And it definitely includes beverages. When a customer realizes that they don’t have the beer they want for the cookout or decides a nice bottle of wine would go well with tonight’s dinner, they are looking more and more to same-day delivery options.

The Current State of Same-day Delivery

  For beverage brands that want to meet the same-day delivery expectation, there are a handful of delivery services that can help them. Looking at the reviews for those companies, however, reveals they leave quite a bit to be desired for the brand that is concerned about providing service that consistently inspires glowing reviews.

  Forbes recently ran an article rating alcohol delivery services. At the top of its list was Drizly, which is an online platform that allows users to get alcohol delivered from local retailers. Drizly promises delivery in less than 60 minutes and the “biggest selection for on-demand alcohol in the history of ever.”

  Forbes rated Drizly as the “Best Alcohol Delivery Service Overall,” but reviews show it to be hit or miss. According to the consumer review website Trustpilot, Drizly needs to do some work to become a five-star service. While 39 percent of the reviews described Drizly as “excellent,” 46 percent labeled it “bad.” The most frequent complaints from users focused on delivery times and fees that could be improved.

  Minibar is an online alcohol delivery platform that Forbes rated as “Best Quick Alcohol Delivery Service.” According to user reviews submitted to the online review site Influenster, Minibar provides better than four-star service, but still struggles in some areas, such as providing reliable ETA info.

If you are ordering alcohol with a takeout food order, Forbes says DoorDash is your best option. But users are not kind to DoorDash in their ratings on Trustpilot or Reviews.io.

The Issues That Make Same-day Delivery Challenging

  What is keeping these companies from achieving consistently reliable delivery service?  Anar Mammadov, CEO of Senpex, has some ideas. Senpex is a logistics company that provides safe and reliable on-demand pickup and delivery services for a wide range of companies, including beverage companies. Central to the service that Senpex provides is an AI-powered engine that ensures all of the delivery factors are considered and routes are optimized.

  “There are a lot of factors that need to be considered if you are going to provide delivery in a timely, professional way,” explains Anar. “These include the volume of product, which dictates the size of the delivery vehicle needed, as well as traffic and other road conditions. When you have multiple drivers making multiple deliveries, it gets exponentially more difficult to plan. At Senpex, we rely on our route optimization algorithm to make sure that deliveries are possible and profitable.”

  Sen has some experience in making deliveries. Having worked with more than 3,000 corporate clients, Senpex has more than 500,000 successful deliveries and a 98 percent customer satisfaction rate. And thanks to the help of AI, it is able to achieve that for as little as $7 per delivery stop.

  Anar also highlights the need for reliable in-house logistics that simplify the delivery process by bringing inventory, ordering, and fulfillment together. In addition to partnering with companies to provide a delivery team, Senpex also offers its logistics platform as a SaaS solution for companies that want to increase the efficiency of their own delivery teams.

  “Having your own delivery fleet is not enough to meet same-day delivery expectations,” Anar explains. “You need sophisticated logistics that convert delivery details into optimized delivery routes. The platform needs to keep drivers updated in real-time to make sure that deliveries are not delayed. Being able to stay on top of ETAs allows you streamline deliveries and keep customers informed.”

  In its own operations, Senpex has found it essential to have an AI-empowered dispatch management tool that also provides drivers with an app to track and verify the delivery process.

  “Customers have a lot of expectations when it comes to same-day delivery, regardless of what the product is,” Anar explains. “They want safe and transparent delivery, competitive pricing, and instant real-time status updates. And they want it all to be managed by a professional delivery team. Businesses that can’t meet these expectations are risking their reputations.”

Navigating the Risks Associated with Same-day Delivery

  So what does all of this mean for beverage companies who are contemplating providing same-day delivery. The bottom line is that it is risky. There is a huge potential for craft beverage makers to grow their following through alcohol delivery, as the financial services platform Square recently reported. However, a bad delivery process can come across as a bad brand.

  Is there a solution? The answer may be found in a delivery system that provides a brand with more control than what is typically available through a generalized delivery service like DoorDash. Professional delivery services like Senpex exist to take your delivery to the next level.

  In addition to providing you with the tools that you need to do delivery well, a professional delivery service can also help you to scale that aspect of your business. They give you access to a large fleet while only requiring you to pay for the deliveries that you need. As the demand for delivery grows, you have additional drivers at the ready.

  As you explore the possibilities that are available, here are a few things you will want to consider.

Work with Drivers Who Know Your Business

  Delivering alcohol is not like delivering anything else. Several states have laws that regulate it. Before committing to working with a delivery service, make sure that they can provide drivers that comply with all applicable laws. In other words, choose a professional service that vets its drivers. Let them do the HR work for you.

  Also, make sure that the delivery service has the type of vehicles that are needed to facilitate your deliveries. Not only should they have refrigerated vehicles when that is necessary, but they should also have the right size vehicle. Vehicles that are too small will not be able to handle the load. But vehicles that are too big will often cost you more than you need to be paying. Ensuring that the right vehicle is available is one of the functions of route optimization.

Work with Companies Who Understand Delivery Logistics

  Whether you are partnering with a delivery company to utilize their drivers or simply taking advantage of their delivery logistics platform to optimize the efforts of your own delivery team, there are some things you should look for. For example, look for a platform that integrates with your existing ERP system. If you truly want to take advantage of delivery automation, it is better to avoid working with multiple systems.

  Dispatch management functionality should include tools that allow for real-time fleet tracking. This includes automatic status updates, electronic proof of delivery, and secure driver chat through simple and intuitive apps that are native to both iOS and Android.

  One often overlooked element of logistics optimization is deliveries that are managed by regular drivers on regular routes. Regular drivers know what to expect from both the route and the delivery destination, making them more capable of delivering the type of experience that will lead to repeat business. A company with a lot of driver turnover will not be the best option for businesses that want to provide a consistent customer experience.

  Finally, tools that empower route optimization are critical to success. Last mile delivery is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today. It takes the most time, it costs the most money, and it serves as the key point of contact between the customer and the brand. It should be a top priority for any delivery service with which you choose to work.

  Overall, same-day delivery provides another revenue stream that beverage businesses should seriously consider tapping. The market clearly exists, even if the price that consumers are willing to pay has yet to be firmly established. Now is the time to explore the options that are available to create a system that can be profitable and provide a positive customer experience.