Master Cicerone
Certified Sommelier
à la Bière
Bozeman, Montana
Master Cicerone
Consultant à la Bière

Retail Check-in

Your beer program, like every element of running a restaurant, is worth taking seriously.

Each beer on your list — as well as how your staff represents your beer, and how you present it in the glass — is an opportunity to communicate something about your business concept to the public, the industry, and the press.

Let me help you hone your beer message and put your best foot forward!

Q: Do your beer offerings complement your menu and hospitality?

A: Your beer offerings broadcast volumes about your menu, hospitality, and business.

Q: Does a good beer program contribute to customer loyalty, word-of-mouth, and media attention? Could you be losing customers because your beer menu is unflattering to your image?

A: Yes and yes! Your beers should flatter your image and your guests, stimulating their thirst and their wallets. If your beer menu is unflattering to them and to your image, you may be losing sales to contemporary and quality restaurants that take their beer programs seriously.

Q: Do you offer beers simply because a distributor promises they sell well at other restaurants?

A: The important issue is how well the beer will sell at your restaurant, not at your competitors.

Q: : Is your beer menu duplicative or scattershot? What would that look like?

A: Countless restaurant beer menus are duplicative and scattershot. Common unbalanced beer menus offer handful of golden lagers plus one stout or Belgian dark, akin to offering a wine list comprised of four sauvignon blancs and one petite sirah.

Q: What are IPAs, Belgian beers, and sour beers all about? Should you be selling some?

A: Buzz words abound: IPA, Belgian, sour, and farmhouse, to name a few. All the buzzwords mean various things, and it’s important to cut through the culty clutter to know which beers to sell and which to forego.

Q: Are all lagers light? Are all ales bitter and heavy? Is beer only good with burgers and pizza?

A: Yesterday’s buzzwords are today’s misconceptions: not all lagers are light, not all ales bitter and heavy, and beer is good with more than just burgers and pizza. Make sure your business is not relying on outdated assumptions about beer.

Q: Are your beer draft lines cleaned often enough? Can you taste the difference?

A: Draft beer equipment and hose lines are extremely susceptible to bacterial and fungal contamination. These contaminations won’t make anyone sick, but they can tarnish every beer you pour. A proper beer program cleans its beer lines every two weeks, and trains managers and staff to be able to detect off-flavors. Legions of beer drinkers and press can taste when they’re served a dirty beer, and assuming that “no one can tell” is like assuming that no one will notice when you serve stale bread, moldy cheese, or corked wine.

Q: Is it a good idea to stack or chill your beer glassware?

A: Many bars mistreat their beer by serving it into glassware ringed with scuffs from being stacked, and other bars keep their beer glasses chilled. Like any food or beverage, appearance and aroma make up a huge part of the experience and the perception of value. Chilling the glassware keeps beer too cold to allow any aroma to develop, and frost on the glass can turn a beer too foamy. Glassware that’s scuffed can cause excessive foaming and release carbonation and aroma early. Clean, smooth, un-chilled glassware is a basic necessity of a good beer program.

Q: Even if beer is just a small part of your beverage mix, could you be making better margins on your beer sales?

A: When beer is a small part of the beverage mix, many restaurants and bars ignore beer sales and just feature standard beer on their menu. But, even if your beer sales are a small component, it’s worth offering quality beer. Beer inventory costs a fraction of wine and spirits inventory, and when restaurant profit margins are as slim as they are, why not feature the right, tight beer list rather than risk losing a few percentages off your beer margin? A tiny bit of initial investment can continue to provide returns for a long time.

Q: Do your bartenders and servers enjoy beer off the job? (If so, they may already be great ambassadors of beer.)

A: Your service staff is probably already full of good beer ambassadors. Most bartenders and servers enjoy beer off the job, and training them to share their interest in it is a lot less time-intensive than training them on more expensive wines that they may or may not be drinking very often.

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