Maintain good beer standards

Category will continue to prove popular, but quality is essential

Man pouring beer

WHETHER it’s around particular events such as the Six Nations (read more here) and St Patrick’s Day or just as a standard part of an outlet’s drinks offer, beer is likely to continue to be big news for pubs and bars in 2018.

Beer – whether in the form of a craft IPA, saison or porter, cask ale or mainstream lager – remains one of the most popular choices for customers when they’re at the bar.

Yet there’s still an onus on licensees to ensure they’re doing everything they can to make their beer offer the best it can be.

The quality of the beer in the glass – and ensuring a perfect serve every time – is more important than ever, said brewers.

“Reassurance of quality is an ever-increasing consumer need,” said Simon George, managing director at Budweiser Budvar UK.

“Quality, value and taste is vital in making sure drinkers return.”

In fact, the quality of the beer being poured in an outlet is arguably more important than the selection of brands it’s stocking.

Mark Carter, senior drinks category manager at McEwan’s parent firm Marston’s, said: “Build a reputation for serving great quality, it is all well and good having a great selection but if the beer isn’t served in the best quality then you won’t see that increase or returning footfall and sales.

“Remember that your customers are your biggest advocates so don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth or even just a post on their social media channels; that bit of positive feedback can be a key driver for customers to visit.”

The importance of quality over variety was further supported by Mark Fewster, product manager at draught dispense specialist Vianet, who said the company’s research had identified that pubs are “over-ranging by an average of three taps across the board”.

“Wasted taps not only cost pubs around £500 per year in cleaning, wastage and running costs, adding up to approximately £73 million per year across the sector – but risk damaging the customer experience through serving beers with low throughput,” said Fewster.

And while regularly reviewing a beer range to swap out slow sellers is important, constantly encouraging customers to switch to new products can actually be damaging to the category, warned Craig Steven of Orkney Brewery owner Sinclair Breweries.

“If we continually keep moving the drinker on then we may just be moving them off beer altogether,” he said.

“If you keep promoting beer like the latest cocktail then don’t be surprised if drinkers drink cocktails.”

The way a beer range is presented to customers is also hugely important.

Sharon Palmer of AB InBev said it should be made as easy as possible for customers to differentiate between the various products available.

“When it comes to merchandising drinks, we’d suggest differentiating them by style and brand identity, so that customers can easily view and understand the options available to them, and then tailor their choices accordingly – whether it’s to fit in with their usual tastes, their mood of the moment or the social occasion,” said Palmer.

Stewart Brewing co-founder, Jo Stewart, agreed.

She said: “Presentation is hugely important so bottles and canned craft beers should be visible in fridges as this will attract the customers’ attention and encourage them to try or ask bartenders about the beers on offer.

“Listing all cask and keg beers with descriptions on the wall at the bar will allow customers to easily view the range of beers on tap. Bartenders also play an essential role in drawing attention to an outlet’s beer range.”

Aside from aspects such as quality and promotion, there are other steps licensees can take to ensure customers’ beer buying experiences are as straightforward as possible.

Jerry Shedden, on-trade category and trade marketing director at Heineken, said it is worth keeping up with the latest technology.

“Nine in ten payments in pubs, bars and fast-food outlets are now made using contactless payments, so it’s a great idea to ensure your outlet is set up to offer contactless payment options,” said Shedden.