There’s no feeling like pulling in to your favorite brewery, grabbing the best brew in the house, and spending time with your crew. The atmosphere, the people, the music all draw you in. As a patron, we expect to feel welcomed and excited when we head out for the night. As a brewery owner, it’s on you to create a sense of community and belonging for your patrons. Only you will know what your customers will appreciate most, whether it’s live bands, trivia, non-alcoholic options, a family-friendly atmosphere, or something else entirely. Read on to find inspiration for your taproom.
Who Are You?
You got into this business because of your passion: whether that’s for brewing, connecting with customers, or bringing your community together. Before deciding what special elements will bring your business to life, decide what’s important to you.
When you envision your taproom, what do you have in mind? Your space could be focused on the outdoors with live folk music and food trucks, it could be more upscale with sparkling chandeliers and gourmet food, or somewhere in between. Whatever that vision is for you, define it and stick to it. The vibe you create as an owner will attract people who are looking for that experience.
Come One, Come All
Before determining your event schedule, you need to consider who you’re trying to attract. For example, if you want to be a family-friendly spot, will you offer activities for children while their parents listen to a concert? If dogs are allowed in your space, will you provide water bowls and treats?
Thinking about your ideal customer will give you clarity when it comes to deciding what kinds of accommodations you’ll provide. Here are a few questions to consider:
- What is the average age of your patrons?
- Do they have children, dogs, etc.?
- How much does your typical customer spend in one visit?
- Do customers sit and stay for a while or do they have a drink and go? How long do you want them to stay?
- What motivates your patrons to come to you instead of your competitors?
- Do your patrons want food?
- How much do your patrons care about beer? Are they beer nerds who love specialized, unique beers or do they prefer something more basic and approachable?
Another consideration about your ideal customer is how consistently they will return to your space. For example, some taprooms are perfectly located in tourist destinations. Therefore, their ideal customers might be visitors who come once or twice a year. So, developing a marketing plan to reach tourists or creating an atmosphere perfect for travelers could be an integral part of your strategy. On the flip side, if your taproom attracts mostly locals, figure out how you can keep customers coming back week after week.
After you’ve answered these questions, it should be obvious where you are excelling already and where you could use some work. If you find that customers come for one drink and then head out the door for dinner, maybe you should consider adding some food options or bringing in food trucks. If your average customer sits for a long time with their family, kid-friendly activities, stroller accessibility, or more non-alcoholic beverage options are probably in order.
Making adjustments for your customers is a simple way to make a good experience into a great one. These are the details they will rave about to their friends and family, who will, hopefully, become the newest members of your community.
Partnerships are key to creating community in your taproom. Without them, you can get stuck doing the same old activities the same old way. Who wants their business to be stuck? Consider how you can team up with local businesses, makers, and artists in a mutually beneficial way.
Partnerships allow you to bring something to your space that you wouldn’t be able to do on your own. For example, Free Range Brewing has partnerships with young local artists that allows them to display and sell their art in their brewery, giving the co-owners the opportunity to bring in something they’re passionate about: great local art. In turn, the brewery is expanding its reach by bringing in more customers who may be supporters of the artists. Plus, partnering with multiple artists means they get some pretty sweet t-shirts, too.
This also goes for partnering with other local beverage makers. This summer, Buskey Cider and Cape Charles Brewing Company, both located in Richmond, Virginia, released the Hop Across the Bay Cider. Buskey Cider supplied the apples and Cape Charles provided the hops. Teaming up on a product like this is a perfect way to cross-promote and gain new customers.
If you want to create a community, you have to care about your community. Some brewers demonstrate their commitment to helping out through donating time and money to charitable organizations.
Big Dog’s Brewing Company, which calls Las Vegas home, has a number of giving initiatives in place for the local leukemia and lymphoma society, a food bank in Southern Nevada, and the local public radio affiliate. The brewery also donates a portion of the proceeds from a specific lager to the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. It also hosts several food and beer festivals each year to support other charitable organizations.
Committing time and money to charitable organizations in your area is a fantastic way to do good with your influence and show your patrons that you care. Plus, this is another time when cross-promotion can prove extremely valuable!
Keep in mind: partnerships take time and energy to maintain. Be sure to work with your partners and have clear communication to understand how you can both benefit from whatever the result of your relationship may be. Questions to consider before jumping in to a partnership:
- Does this partnership help me reach a new audience?
- What are the financial terms of this partnership?
- How will we maintain our relationship?
- How frequently will we work together and for how long?
Whatever the answers to these questions, and others related to the logistics of your relationship, it’s up to you (and your partners) to decide what’s equitable.
The Fun Stuff
Music, trivia, run clubs, and yoga classes are all popular choices when it comes to event planning at breweries, but that doesn’t mean all of these will work for you. Now that you’ve considered the atmosphere you’re going for, your ideal customer, and what kinds of partnerships you’d like to create, you can start to plan events that are the right fit for the community you’re building.
Remember: events can be one of the most fun and rewarding things you can do as a business owner. But they’re also time-consuming to plan. So, before getting in over your head, this could be a good time to budget for adding an event planner and/or partnership coordinator to your team. This dedicated team member can save you hours of work and make sure that all of the marketing, coordinating, and setup related to event planning stays top of mind. Plus, they can make sure that your partnerships remain happy and healthy.
Timing is a key element when planning events. For example, you probably don’t want to host a fitness class on a Tuesday at noon or a concert for Thursday morning. If you have an idea, do some research. When are other taprooms hosting this kind of event? Do they have a good turnout? If not, what alternative times could your business host this event? Consider who you want to be there. If your target audience for a comedy show is young professionals, the event should take place at a time when they can commute from work to get there. Make it easy on your patrons.
Another consideration is space. Everyone wants to support their favorite local musician, but not everyone has the space or technical capabilities to do so. Make sure you have the space and bandwidth for taking on a certain type of event and its expected turnout. If not, this could be a prime opportunity for a new partnership with a business that has the right space to accommodate your event.
Talk with your event planner to communicate a budget for whatever the event is. If you want to host a band, chances are, they’d like to be paid. If you’re hosting a charity event, you’ll need to make space for a potential loss.
Don’t forget about the fun. Taprooms everywhere are taking on event planning to develop more community for their patrons and seeing those efforts come to fruition. Seeing smiling faces around your taproom and feeling the serotonin genuine connections can provide is priceless, and it can help ensure your business’s longevity by building customer loyalty.
Promoting Your Community
It would be a shame if all of the time you spent developing your ideal customer profile, making partnerships happen, and planning events went to waste. So, don’t forget to utilize your social media channels! These can be prime real estate for promoting events, bragging on loyal customers, and giving recognition to your chosen charitable organizations.
When used correctly, social media has the power to bring in the type of customers you hope to attract. But strategy is essential. Posting willy nilly and not researching your customers can be detrimental to your mission and put more hard work to waste. Be consistent, showcase your brand, and engage.
Consistency is key to being your customer’s go-to taproom. If you have weekly events, strong relationships, and a door that never stops opening to new faces, you’re golden. In the same way, if each of these things is promoted on your social media, customers will notice, and you will become the source for events each week. Make this part of your branding strategy, and be sure to appeal to your target customers. If it’s young people, short, witty posts that are well-designed are sure to help you out. If families are more your speed, make that known. Ask customers if you can share photos of their family having fun on your patio or doing a kid-friendly activity.
Promoting what and who is important to you is just another way to brand yourself when customers are deciding where to spend their time and money. Burial Beer does a stellar job of promoting their beers, their people, and their events with style. Sticking to a consistent, dark aesthetic with art coming left and right allows Burial to further develop their brand and draw in new customers who place value on the same things Burial does.
Community is a loaded word. Sit down, decide what it means to you, and bring that vision to your taproom. It’s the reason your first-time customers become lifelong customers and why your customers’ friends and family will come to your taproom instead of your competitor’s.