Forward thinking key for festive beer sales

Operators should plan offer well in advance of the Christmas period, brewers say

• Brewers say operators must ensure beers are served by trained staff in clean branded glassware to achieve the ‘perfect serve’.
• Brewers say operators must ensure beers are served by trained staff in clean branded glassware to achieve the ‘perfect serve’.

PUBLICANS, make your lists and check them twice because preparation is key to strong beer sales over Christmas, brewers have told SLTN.

With an increased number of customers – both regulars and first time visitors – set to descend on bars and restaurants in the coming weeks, operators will get a real chance to boost beer sales.
Brewers said it’s key licensees and bar staff are at the top of their game, both in the cellar and at the bar, if they are to maximise draught beer sales through the high turnover holidays.

Planning and forecasting is absolutely essential to maintaining stock.

Ian Risby, divisional manager at Wells & Young’s, the firm behind the McEwan’s brand, said planning is paramount for publicans this festive season.
“In the busy Christmas period, planning and forecasting is absolutely essential to make sure appropriate stock levels are maintained and sufficient storage is available, especially with regards to cask beer, which requires time and preparation before it is ready to serve,” said Risby.
When planning ahead, publicans should be aware that the challenges of the Christmas period often go beyond the bar itself.
Chris Houlton, managing director at Greene King Brewing and Brands, the parent company of Belhaven, believes attention should be focused on all aspects of the beer supply chain.
“The main threat to draught beer quality is usually slow throughput, but with almost a fifth of annual ale sales coming in the eight weeks leading up to Christmas, that shouldn’t really be a problem at this time of year,” he said.
“As long as operators continue to maintain first class cellar standards the key focus over the busy festive period should be on service.
“That means ordering extra stock and branded glassware in plenty of time and making sure that stock rotation doesn’t slip just because it’s busy.
“It also means service with a smile from friendly, knowledgeable staff, because the skill, care and attention that goes into crafting and storing great quality ale will count for nothing if the service customers receive isn’t up to scratch.”
Petra Wetzel at West brewery in Glasgow agreed that well-trained staff are essential to providing the right experience for customers over Christmas.
“Staff training is so important, we can’t stress that enough – your customers shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between your longest running member of staff and your Christmas temps,” said Wetzel.
“People put a lot of planning into their Christmas events and they expect the same amount of attention to detail from their hosts.”
The importance of well-trained staff was underlined by Andrew Turner, category and trade marketing director at Heineken.
Turner said staff who have the knowledge and confidence to engage in conversation with consumers can influence customers’ choices at the bar.
“Many consumers are receptive to recommendations and bar staff should have the confidence to engage with customers and talk knowledgeably about your portfolio to prompt customers to trade up,” he said.
Having well-trained and knowledgeable staff also allows publicans to focus on getting other aspects of their beer offer right, according to John Gilligan, managing director at Tennent Caledonian.
“We advise publicans to make sure they have a varied range of beer and put some thought into displaying the range clearly behind the bar, highlighting product choices in menus throughout their outlet,” said Gilligan.
“Another basic for this busiest time of year is to take extra care in ensuring lines and glassware are clean and sparkling, giving drinkers the perfect pint every time.”
Promotions and sampling can also be effective tools for promoting beer to customers over the festive season, according to Carling owner Molson Coors.
“One way for operators to promote a range of beers is by introducing a ‘Pint of the Week’ board, encouraging customers to try new offerings,” said a spokesman for Coors.
“Free tasters of any new products can also help encourage customers to buy premium beers and will also make them feel confident in recommending favourites to friends.
“Let staff try the beer too – the better they know the product, the more confident they will be in selling them.”
Publicans don’t have to do all the work to promote their beer offer over Christmas, however; ongoing initiatives from brand owners can also help drive sales at the bar.

Take extra care in ensuring lines and glassware are clean and sparkling.

Iain Newell, on-trade director at AB InBev UK, the firm behind Stella Artois, said the brewer has invited selected outlets to join the Stella Artois Connoisseurs programme.
“The Stella Artois Connoisseurs programme enables these outlets to provide this superior beer experience by giving them the tools required to deliver the experience and then, rewarding them for bringing the Stella Artois pouring ritual to life for the consumer,” he said.