Crafting a Perfect Tasting Room Experience
In terms of a brewery’s brand, the tasting room is probably one of the most important things to get right. It’s the place that your customers get to come in and experience what you’re all about. When done right, it can easily turn these fans of Craft Beer into fans of ‘YOUR’ Craft Beer (regardless of how good your beer is). I have seen people who have stumbled into a tasting room for the first time, come back time and time again with all their friends. It’s your opportunity to turn customers into what we call champions – people that will advocate for you when you don’t even ask for it.
I have honestly lost count of the number of tasting rooms I have visited – in layman’s terms, its a lot! What I do remember is the great experiences I’ve had in the breweries I have fallen in love with because of my experience in their tasting room. Based on this “exhaustive” research I have conducted and the opinions of a bunch of other So-called smart people – I have discovered the four things you need to create an awesome tasting room experience.
The most important part of the tasting room. Even more so than your beer at times. Great people make great times and customers will always come back if they had a great time – it’s science. Although most tasting room staff tend to be tattoo-cladded, tight jean wearing, old-man glasses toting hipsters, they don’t always have to be. What they do have to be is engaging, upbeat and real. You want people working there who are genuinely ecstatic about beer and could talk about it all day.
Each staff member should be able to talk describe each beer on tap, the brewing process, and the components of beer. There are going to be questions about these topics coming their way. Avoid the shame and make sure they are trained up on the things they should know about. I’m not saying they should all be experts, but if they don’t know the difference between ABV and HIV, I’d be worried.
You need at least 4 (you have to fill a flight board at the very least) and there should be some range to what you offer. There will always be people looking for darker beer. There will always be people looking for lighter beer. And of course – there will always be a nerd looking for the most obscure thing you offer. If your menu is too one sided, you run the risk of losing a customer before they get a chance to see how awesome you are. Offer something for everyone.
Make sure you switch up your lineup from time to time too. If there isn’t something new to offer once in a while, the regulars will eventually get bored and they’ll head off elsewhere to find something different. Menu variety can come in the form of a new beer, experimental series, guest taps, casks… The list goes on. Just change it up and keep it fresh for your peeps.
Tasting room food is a very fast growing area in the world of craft beer. You don’t need to have a full kitchen, but you need something to sustain people throughout their alcoholic adventure. If you miss this step – they’ll be walking out your door a lot sooner than they want to. A great complementary food service that many breweries are taking advantage of is the always popular “Food Truck”. Get one of these bad boys to pull up next to your tasting room and you’ll never regret it.
Remember these words: You are not a club, bar or Funky Disco! A tasting room is where people go to taste some great local beer, have some laughs and enjoy themselves. The only time that the music is the focus of attention is when a live act is brought in. The music should be noticed in the background and fit in with the vibe of your brand/room. I cannot stress how important a well-curated playlist is. It sets the mood that people will always remember you as and could be the “X” factor that brings people back over and over!
Obviously, there is more to the equation than these four things. If you have a strong grasp on these, you’re off to a great start!!!