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Key Elements of a Brewery Business Plan

customers at a brewery

Whether you’re in the initial phases of starting a brewery or looking for expansion opportunities to grow your brewery’s footprint, a business plan can help you get there. The business plan is a written document that outlines every detail of your brewery business, including goals, products and inventory, organizational structure, sales, accounting, and more.

Before hitting the ground running, it’s important to understand where your business sits currently and create a plan for what you want to achieve over the next few years. A business plan not only allows you and your team to be on the same page but also offers a look behind the curtain for potential investors or loan providers you might be considering for additional funding.

Keep in mind that your business plan shouldn’t be set in stone. As your brewery grows, you may need to tweak and pivot your growth plans — and that’s alright! Think of your brewery’s business plan as a living document that needs to be updated annually to align with your growing company.

What to Include in Your Brewery Business Plan

When crafting your brewery’s business plan, there are a few elements that should always be included. But it’s important to remember that while there are general templates to follow, your business plan is for your brewery, which means you can customize it however you see fit.

A few sections you should consider including in your brewery business plan are: 

Executive Summary

Every business plan should begin with an executive summary to provide a high-level overview of your brewery’s history, mission, team, location(s), growth goals, and financial goals. Remember that this is a summary — you don’t need to go into too much detail in this section because you’ll be digging deeper into these topics throughout the rest of the business plan. 

Company Description & Analysis

What makes your brewery unique in today’s market? What was your motivation behind opening your doors in the first place? What benefits are you trying to provide to your customers? Are you a microbrewery, a taproom brewery, or a regional brewery? Does your brewery or staff have any awards or achievements that help you stand apart from competitors? What milestones have you achieved or major sales goals have you hit? Use this section to share who your brewery is and what the motivations are behind what you do.

Market Analysis

Over the past few years, the craft brewing industry has become more and more saturated. Whether you were the first or the last brewery to join your local market, it’s important to know where you stand among them. It’s helpful to include a market analysis in your brewery business plan to understand what your competitors are doing well and where there might be gaps that you can take advantage of. How many beers are they offering on their menu? How often does their menu rotate? Do they offer monthly beer clubs or memberships? Do they have a customer loyalty program? Are they offering tours of the brewing process? Are their craft beverages in local grocery stores or only for purchase from their taproom? Understanding where your competitors stand allows you to make informed business decisions and successfully navigate a competitive market.

Organizational Structure

Whether you manage a small team of brewers or run a larger scale operation with a team of 20+ individuals, there is likely some form of organizational structure in place. Clearly outline the structure of your team based on the business sectors of your craft brewing business — listing out the leadership team and those that report to them.

Product Inventory

As a product-based business, having a pulse on your inventory is of the utmost importance. Without the right materials in stock, you won’t be able to brew your products or package the beer for consumption. Having a proven process in place for product inventory ensures that your brewery will remain operational, avoiding the potential for a pause in production that could stunt your growth goals.

Create a plan that improves the visibility of inventory for every member of your team. If you’re low on a product, how will your team find out about it? What will be the process to ensure that additional supplies and materials are purchased? Along with being able to track your inventory quickly, a strategic brewery business plan also needs a process for you to accurately forecast inventory orders. While inventory management will help you know when things are low, inventory reorder forecasting will help you determine the most effective timeframe for when purchases need to be made.

Marketing and Sales

When it comes to marketing your business to drive additional revenue, take the time to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your current marketing strategy to drive new business?
  • How do you plan to make a new customer a repeat customer?
  • What will you do to stay top of mind with your existing customers?
  • Where should you be marketing your brewery within the community?
  • How will your brewery distribute your products?
  • Is there a process in place to handle sales orders and invoices?
  • Where will you house important customer order history details?

Think through the above questions so you can fill in any gaps that will help you accomplish your goals quicker.

Funding Request

If the purpose of your business plan is to attract additional funding to help you expand or grow your brewery’s reach, then you will want to include a funding request section. In this section, you would explain how much funding you are requesting and how the funding will be put to use, allowing investors to get complete visibility into where their money is going.

Financial Projections

As a brewery owner, you understand that your success is often defined by the company’s profits and revenue. Gather a few bank statements, income statements, cash flow statements, loan information, and any additional documents that can help demonstrate your brewery’s profitability. Keep in mind that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of running a brewery — and with so much on your plate, using accounting software is vital to keeping accurate records and checking in on how the business is doing.

While these will clearly show where your brewery currently stands, it’s also helpful to include projections of where you expect to be financially in the next five years, ten years, etc. Using these projections, you can create realistic goals, broken down into quarterly sprints, that will help you reach them more successfully.

Appendix

To wrap up your brewery business plan, attach any supporting materials within the appendix. This can be anything related to your business, ranging from awards and certifications to resumes of the leadership team.

Watch this short video from CPA Kary Shumway for his expert advice on creating a brewery business plan. For more detailed guidance — including sample plans, templates, and financial planning worksheets — you can sign up for his Brewery Business Plan course.

Pro Tip: Stick to Your Brewery’s Business Plan with Business Management Software

There are a lot of moving pieces that need to remain in sync if your brewery is going to successfully reach your business goals. From inventory management to sales and accounting, brewery management software allows you to track every aspect of your business more quickly and effectively — keeping you on track.

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all product out there, your brewery management software should be able to help:

  • Track your inventory and prompt you when you’re running low
  • Monitor your inventory with the click of a button to confidently fulfill orders
  • Calculate production costs for upcoming batches using historical cost data
  • Create sales invoices and sync them with your company’s accounting software
  • Report on and track your sales and production metrics in high-level dashboards
  • Provide visibility into business metrics when on the go via any device

Even with the best staff, mistakes can happen that jeopardize sales and hurt your revenue. Utilizing brewery management software equips your team with everything they need to make informed decisions that benefit your brewery.

Read more: How to know when you’re ready to invest in tech »

Why Your Brewery Needs a Brewery Business Plan

Experiencing growth is exciting for any business owner, but it can also leave you with long days and sleepless nights if growing pains are involved. Crafting a solid business plan for your brewery helps equip you with a sensible growth strategy for you and your team from day one. While it’s a great tool to use to ensure you’re on track to meet your goals, your business plan can also be used to show your team and potential investors how profitable and successful your brewery is. 

Growth

As a brewery owner, you want to do everything in your power to keep your business operating smoothly. In order to maintain a successful and profitable business, you need to outline growth goals to work toward. Do you plan to stay in one location or are you looking to expand the number of taprooms over the next few years? Consider how many individuals you currently employ and the number you expect to hire as your sales targets are met. Will you distribute your beer only onsite at your location or will you offer your selection across regional grocery stores and restaurants as well? Determine realistic goals for your brewery and set a timeframe in which you hope to achieve them. This added layer of visibility into your business’s future will hold you more accountable as you work to hit quarterly benchmarks, creating the perfect roadmap for success. 

Investors

Whether you plan to expand production within your current facility or invest in additional locations, the financial feasibility of these strategies will depend on how much revenue you bring in over the next few years. While you have the option to extend the timeframe on your growth goals if sales aren’t hitting the mark, you can also outsource additional funding opportunities to help you grow your brewery. With a solid business plan in place, you’ll have the toolkit needed to demonstrate to loan providers why they should feel comfortable betting on your craft brewing business.

Business Decisions

Owning a brewery is an extremely rewarding opportunity, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be a breeze. Throughout the years, you’re going to need to make tough decisions — and sometimes you need to make them quickly. By taking the time to put together a business plan for your brewery and updating it regularly, you’ll have a pulse on operations and goal tracking at all times. Because of your visibility into every aspect of the business, you’ll be able to make confident and informed decisions that benefit your brewery.

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