Don’t let standards fall as footfall rises

The importance of cellar management stressed as the festive season kicks off

Beer quality is directly tied to cellar management, and so high cellar standards are essential

WHILE the coming weeks will provide operators across the country the opportunity to grow their beer volumes, and possibly even attract some new regulars, those outlets that sacrifice quality for convenience are likely to be doing themselves more harm than good in the long run.

Cellar management specialists have warned licensees against complacency in the cellar over the festive season, stressing the impact a poor quality pint can have on a venue’s reputation.

Mark Fewster, product manager at Vianet, said outlets can “easily suffer reputational damage if the customer is not happy with the quality of their experience”.

“When it comes to draught beer performance, the Beer Quality Report suggests the profit uplift to the industry from serving perfect pints every time is £182 million,” said Fewster.

“The task here is for operators to maintain beer quality and boost the likelihood of repeat purchase and avoid losing out to competitors during this crucial trading period.”

Amanda Thomson, director of Avani Solutions, said any pre-existing cellar issues “will be magnified over the festive season”.

“Beer wastage under normal trading conditions can dramatically increase when customers are waiting four-deep at the bar and the focus becomes quantity rather than quality,” said Thomson.

“So the cost implications could be enormous – imagine throwing away 5% of your operating margins, because those are the kind of figures we’re talking about.”

Maintaining standards is important both in terms of reducing wastage and maximising profits, then. And so a thorough maintenance schedule is essential.

“A pub cellar should run like a well-oiled machine,” said Steve Lakin of Innserve.

“A busy bar is no excuse for missing line cleans or skimping on cleaning, and when the turnover of drinks is greater than at any other time of year, having a well-organised cellar routine in place will help avoid confusion and keep things running smoothly at even the busiest times.”

As well as regular line cleans (every seven days is the ‘industry standard’, though equipment is available that allows operators to extend this), Lakin pointed to the importance of maintaining the correct cellar temperature (12ºC) and avoiding using the cellar as storage space.

“At this time of year, it may be tempting to keep extra supplies of snacks or mixers in the cellar,” he said.

“However, the volume of non-beer items stored there places an additional burden on the cooling system, which in turn affects efficiency. And as systems work harder to stay cool, so the amount of energy usage increases.”

The importance of regularly rotating cellar stock so that the oldest kegs are sold first was also stressed by firms.

And, perhaps most important of all, it’s essential that operators ensure their staff are up to speed on the cellar management regime.

“Staff with access to the cellar should be trained to understand your cellar management practices and why they are important,” said Richard Cooper of Clear Brew Glasgow.

“They must understand its impact on what is a critical part of your livelihood.

“Even simple things such as making sure your cellar doors are not left open can make a big difference, as does ensuring all staff keep the cellar tidy and clear of obstructions as they go along.

“Any staff with access to the cellar should clear up after themselves and communicate any issues or problems quickly.”

Ultimately, cost-cutting was said to be behind a lot of poor cellar management.

Cooper said that, while it can be easy to ignore issues if the beer is still pouring, “this attitude can quickly lead to a very poor quality pint”.