Make Your List; Check It Twice


Our expert checks in with more tips on building a profitable beer list

As a bar manager or restaurateur, you should know your numbers. In fact, you should know your targets, margins and profits — perhaps better than you know your children’s birthdays. Almost all established, busy dining room managers are tuned into how to make money from the wines they stock, thanks to an extensive, creative and well-thought-out wine list. The profitable brands are listed at the top, the bestsellers get highlighted and the interesting/unique brands are complemented by suggested food pairings.

OK, so you’ve done a great job on your wine menu, and you’re proud of it. Now look at your beer menu (draught and bottle). Does it have the respect it deserves? If not, here are a few easy suggestions to help drive beer sales.*

Segment Your Beer List in Detail

The days of listing beers solely under domestic, premium and import are coming to an end. By simply grouping all brands together in these three buckets, and giving them the same price-point, you’re leaving money on the table and underplaying the role beer plays in achieving a healthy bottom line.

There are more beers available in Canada than ever before and customers need to be educated as to their differences. Try creating a menu that’s divided into beer styles (lagers, pilsners, ales, stouts, wheat beers and fruit beers); this will allow you to have various price points across the board. Or, with import beers, increasingly popular among Canadians, you can divide by country of origin as well. This is a great way to educate your customers on the different beers you serve, whether they’re brewed in Canada, America, Germany or Japan.

Create More Than Three Tiers of Prices

Does your wine list have three price bands? So why should your beer list? Don’t group everything into three of four price categories.

There are two important factors to consider here:

•    Know your margins: Once you know what margins you need to make — ensure that all your beers hit this number.
•    Know your market: Establish what beers your competitors are selling and what they’re charging and work from there. Just because the mainstream soccer pub down the road sells 16-oz. pints of imported lager for $5, it doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.

Now that you understand what you’re working with, just like your wine list, you can create multiple price bands on your list. For instance, you can break it down by light beers, big domestic brands, specialty lagers, craft ales, wheat and weisse beers, stouts and abbey beers/higher alcohol by volume (ABV per cent) beers.

Provide Tasting Notes

Alexander Keith’s IPA may be your biggest seller, and its profile may be boosted by lots of TV ads, but you should still include tasting notes beside it on the menu. Tasting notes encourage trial and educate customers. They let your patrons know what to expect when they order a beer that they may not have tried before. They also give you another chance to promote a certain dish.

Be creative in your descriptions, too. Don’t simply say, ‘Sapporo is the oldest brand from Japan.’ You wouldn’t say ‘Wolf Blass sells well in Australia.’ Describe how the beer tastes, the flavours it imparts and what foods it pairs well with.

Highlight a Monthly Beer

Highlighting a beer of the month is a great way to add excitement to your list and allow experimentation with new styles of beers that wouldn’t normally sell. Simply list it on the menu as ‘Guest Beer’ or ‘Ask your server,’ and/or get your chef to create a special food pairing event around it.

If it proves popular, you can always keep it on as a permanent fixture at the expense of a slow mover.

Offer New and Exciting Beer Styles

Look over your list — how many lagers do you have? How many light beers? Do you really need four wheat beers? Look at different styles of beer available in the market and get some variety on the list.

With so many quality imports and craft beers now accessible in Canada, there’s a lot of room for creativity. Fruit beers, porters and stouts, hoppy Indian Pale Ales, Dunkel-Weisses — all of these styles can liven up the beer menu and allow you to charge a premium, too. It also provides a great point of differentiation to your establishment from that soccer pub down the street.

* For a look a really great beer list, check out the Beer Bistro’s website.

Adin Wener is the on-premise channel manager for Sleeman Breweries Ltd. in Ontario.


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