Temperature, range and visibility key in the coming weeks
The nights are getting lighter and the afternoons will hopefully get warmer, making conditions close to ideal beer garden weather.
And while summer may create opportunities across the trade, brewers contacted by SLTN believe there’s a real opportunity to boost beer sales this season.
Sunny Bhurji of AB InBev, the firm behind Budweiser and Stella Artois, said that summer, like Christmas, is a “key trading period across beer and cider” and that both these categories can expect sales to increase by around 13% compared with other times of year.
“Within summer, it is June and July that typically attracts most of the sales,” said Bhurji.
Brian Calder, chief executive of Tennent Caledonian Breweries, agreed that summer “should be a lucrative season for publicans” and said it’s “crucial that they position themselves to take full advantage of the warmer weather”.
Calder suggested publicans get their venue in order first and foremost to encourage beer sales.
“This means ensuring any available outdoor space is clean, comfortable and welcoming to customers, and that standards of service are the same wherever customers are seated,” he said.
Cellar management also becomes more important than ever during the summer months, said Calder, with cellar temperature vital to providing the perfect serve.
“A beer cellar should consistently be kept at a temperature of 11ºC to 13ºC and kegs should be given a minimum of 24 hours to settle before being served,” he said.
“During particularly warm spells this should be increased to 48 hours.”
The importance of maintaining cellar temperature was also flagged by Dom South, marketing director for Belhaven parent firm Greene King, who said publicans must be sure their cellar has “sufficient cooling” to maintain the ideal temperature this summer.
“The quality of beer served does begin in the cellar, so keeping on top of the cleaning routines for cellars and lines, and rotating kegs and casks properly, as well as packaged beers, is really important at this usually busy time of year,” said South.
While Hugo Mills, director of sales and operations for Molson Coors, echoed the importance of cellar management, he added that operators should work at finding ways to promote beer in their outlets.
“In-outlet promotion and seasonal activity have proved to be a very simple yet effective way of driving footfall,” said Mills.
“The warmer months are a great opportunity to show off brand activity that creates interest and entertainment, whether it’s through a well-designed beer garden or eye catching outdoor furniture.”
To really cash in on demand for beer this summer, it’s not just how you promote but what you promote, according to Andrew Turner of Heineken.
Turner said that with the range of new beers hitting the market in recent years “consumers have more choice than ever before”.
“It’s therefore important to tailor your offering to suit your audience and satisfy their preferred types of drinking occasions,” said Turner.
“Take the time to engage with customers, ask them what brands they want and stock accordingly.
“By speaking to your customers and monitoring purchases, you can successfully tailor your range to suit your market and range your fridges to ensure that you have new and vibrant brands the target consumers want.”
While the raft of new beers highlighted by Turner could lead to a bit of extra work when it comes to choosing a range, Nigel McNally of Kestrel suggested this increased variety could help to grow beer sales overall.
“The boom in craft beers has significantly reignited interest in the product, and the category is seeing both new drinkers coming into the sector, and existing drinkers shifting from traditional lagers to craft beers,” he said.
Craft beer may be the breakout beer story of the last few years, but to make the most of it Kathryn Purchase, director of customer marketing at Carlsberg UK, said publicans must “continually monitor the growing trends” within beer “while rotating their offering on a regular basis”.
“This will help provide ongoing interest in the pub or bar and sate customers’ desire to sample and experiment with new products,” said Purchase.
This summer, the trend may be to ignore the conventional wisdom when it comes to matching beer varieties with the season.
South, of Greene King, suggested that though there is “a tendency to offer golden and pale ales in the summer and darker beers through autumn and winter”, this may not be the way to go “as the popularity of pale ales and IPAs has continued through the winter months”.
With this in mind, South suggested offering “a balanced [beer] range with several different beer styles available throughout the year”.