What Does the Future of the Brewing Industry Look Like After the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Coronavirus is still here and very much at the forefront of everyone’s minds (just turn on the news).
Brewery owners continue to grapple with the best steps going forward but have experienced at least some reprieve thanks to summer weather. Patrons have enjoyed their beer to-go, or outside where social distancing is a bit easier. But as the summer winds down and precautions continue, many brewery owners wonder about the future of the brewing industry.
Brewery owners have been put to the test over the last six months. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it’s been a bumpy ride. From safer-at-home guidelines to mask mandates, breweries have continued to roll with the punches and find creative ways to adapt.
To comply with many of the restrictions on bar service and indoor activities, brewery owners set up curbside pickup, drive-through options, and more. They created brews to honor the frontline workers and industry members who had been affected by the layoffs. Some breweries created batches of hand sanitizer and set up outdoor beer gardens. They did what brewery owners always do—they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and got creative.
It looks like COVID-19 may see us out for the rest of 2020. Breweries will continue to adapt and work to stay afloat. As we move forward during and after the pandemic, what practices should brewery owners take away to rebuild a brighter future for the brewing industry?
1. Online Presence is Crucial
The hospitality businesses that have best adjusted to pandemic life are those that have a strong online presence. The day of the “drop by on an impulse” customer is on hold. When actions are limited, customers carefully plan out their path and do their research before their visit. It’s critical that all businesses, especially food and beverage operations, have a robust online presence.
Don’t neglect your social media, either. Customers who follow and like your brewery will continue to engage with you, even after the pandemic. Social media offers you an online presence for free (of course, there’s paid advertising too). If you haven’t already, create a hashtag and a handle and get your business on Instagram and Facebook. Even if you’re currently doing “takeout only,” you can still create a buzz and get customers excited to come back.
Vary your content as well. People have plenty of time for the internet these days, so sharing exciting tidbits from your brewery tour, behind-the-scenes insights, and trivia will keep your online presence fresh and interesting. Keep customers engaged so they don’t forget about your delicious beverages. One thing’s for sure—the future of the brewing industry will definitely include a strong online presence.
2. Your Community is Vital to Your Success
The biggest lesson of the pandemic is that we’re all in this together. Our sense of community and support for one another has been vital to our survival and success. This may mean partnering with other businesses to share a parking space and convert it into a beer garden. It may mean connecting with restaurants in the area to offer six-packs to-go. Whatever you do, partner up with others in your area to ensure your future success.
Your community presence also goes for the broader community beyond your neighborhood. Be sure to stay in contact with your local brewer’s association, affinity groups, and even health department office. The government has played a significant role in guidance throughout the pandemic. Be sure your voice is heard, and your business needs are considered.
Unfortunately, right now, many small businesses are struggling. Everyone has to advocate for their wellbeing. Stay connected with community organizations that support local small businesses, brewers, and beer lovers—that way, you’ll be the first to hear about loans, grants, and support offered to help ease the strain on your business. The community will play an important role in the future of the brewing industry and the success of small businesses.
3. Flexibility is Important to the Future of the Brewing Industry
Another great lesson of the pandemic is the importance of flexibility. If you are nimble, you will roll with the punches and adapt to new circumstances. Flexibility means creatively installing plexiglass over your bar, setting up socially distant picnic tables outside your brewery, and moving your trivia night to a virtual activity.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw many brewers step up in different ways, like fundraising with unique brews to support the industry, making hand sanitizer, and setting up drive-through pickup. As the pandemic goes on, and even when it has passed, we will need to continue to stay adaptable and willing to change with the times to ensure the future of the brewing industry is viable.
Beer is an old beverage, and the brewing industry has been around for centuries. Those who are flexible and quick to adapt will continue to survive. Adaptation could include changing your business model, offering non-alcoholic beverages (like the popular kombucha or craft sodas), or considering your retail options. When you look at your future, take a broad view.
4. Outdoor Options are Essential
Having an outdoor space has been another critical factor in the survival of many breweries. Those who have a beer garden, patio seating, or even an area on the sidewalk were able to offer some service when other establishments had to stay closed. The underlying lesson here is that outdoor space is essential and will likely continue to be a critical component for the future of the brewing industry well into the next year.
Patrons are slowly easing back into the idea of going out, but many aren’t ready to step inside a tavern or visit a brewery yet. Setting up an outdoor space allows you to keep serving, especially when business is otherwise limited.
As the Midwestern winter months set in, consider patio heaters and other options to keep your outdoor space open. How will you create a comfortable and inviting outdoor space to ensure that when and if customers can visit, there’s somewhere safe for them to enjoy their tasty beer? Now is the time to plan for next season.
5. Creativity will Keep You Going
The underlying theme to all of these guidelines is creativity. If you think outside the box, your business is likely to do better in unprecedented times. None of us have lived through a pandemic before. There’s no handbook. We must think differently and consider our options, because what’s worked in the past, likely won’t work right now and the brewing industry may see more challenges in the future.
How do you get creative with your approach? Explore what other businesses, especially breweries, are doing across the United States and abroad. Stay up on the latest research and information from authorities like the CDC and the state health department. Follow along online and reach out to other brewery owners that you know.
The creative approach doesn’t always mean coming up with the wildest, most novel idea. It can simply mean looking at what’s working for other breweries and applying it to steer your approach. Don’t get too set in your current business model or ways of operating. The virus has underscored the need to be adaptable and quick to change.
6. Keep Your Operations Tight
It is obvious, but if you were operating on a deficit before the pandemic, things have not gotten better in the last few months. For those owners who were conservative in their spending, deliberate in their planning, and careful with their business budget, the pandemic has still been painful, but their chances of surviving the economic crunch look much better.
The economic devastation has laid bare the reality of running a dream business on a month-to-month budget. Going forward, it won’t be feasible to take significant business risks for a while. This means necessary updates might be a yes, but cosmetic changes to your establishment may need to go on the back burner for a while. Paying for a bookkeeper, on the other hand, could be a wise investment, especially if you’re not well-versed in financial operations.
As we start to recover, there are likely to be setbacks. Operating on a tight budget will be necessary for survival in the next year. The good news is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Customers in the Midwest continue to love and support breweries and beer culture. We know there will still be a future for the brewing industry because it is a beloved part of our identity. When we return to a semblance of normalcy, patrons will be back and business will get better. In the meantime, tread water and tighten up as much as possible.
Reliable Water Services is Here for You
Hot water is critical to health, sanitation, and safety in general, but it’s especially vital to the industries we serve—and the majority of those industries are considered essential businesses. As our customers remain operational during these unprecedented times, so does Reliable Water Services.
Making sure our customers have hot water has always been our main priority, and now more than ever, we are here for you. We will continue to provide 24/7 water heater services to our customers, ensuring you have the hot water your business relies on. Our office team is practicing social distancing by working remotely or staying 6 feet apart while in the office. Meanwhile, our service technicians and installing contractors are following extra safety guidelines to ensure they can service your building safely without putting themselves or your staff members at risk.
Our team at RWS has always viewed the relationship with each of our customers as a partnership. Through this partnership, we will work together and get through these unique and challenging times. As always, should you need service contact us 24/7 at 1-800-356-1444. Stay safe, and be well!