It’s simple for a corner bar to add a couple new beers: pick and price the week’s drafts, write it up on a chalkboard and you’re done. When you’re directing beverage operations for a national corporation it’s not that easy. You’ve got availability issues, POS purchases and marketing focus to consider. Craft beer’s strong margins and surging popularity are attractive, but they historically haven’t been worth the extra effort, costs and brand diffusion.
That’s changing. The Samuel Adams brands have effective national distribution, Redhook and Widmer have piggy-backed onto the Anheuser-Busch InBev distribution network, and Coors has a hit with the craft-like Blue Moon. More and more operators have added these beers to their line-up.
So if you want to differentiate your locations, craft is not enough. You might want to think about the next step: going local. “We have for many years mandated Sam Adams,” says Hard Rock’s Cindy Busi, “and it continues to outperform most of the other craft beers. However, in markets like Denver, they have a strong demand for the local craft beers, which do very well for them.”
Whether your competition is another national chain or a strong local operation, chances are they’re considering adding regional beers to their menu. In the West, it might be craft beers such as Stone or Deschutes. In the East, it could be Yuengling Lager, an Established Growth brand since 2005.
It might even be your own beer. At Baltimore-based, nine-unit Phillips Seafood, they have a house beer brewed for them by local craft brewer, Clipper City. “It’s Phillips Amber ale, and that’s our biggest seller,” confirms corporate beverage director Jennifer Cooke. “Our staff pushes it, and people like to drink local.”
Consider the costs and risks, then consider the profits and loyalty that local and regional crafts could bring you. Maybe it’s time to buy a chalkboard.