How to Start a Local Alcohol Delivery Program

Make it easy for customers to get your products.

Photo: Ben Premeaux via Blue Blaze Brewing

Abruptly changing your business model is no easy feat, but that’s the reality many in the craft beverage industry are currently facing. With governments closing bars and restaurants to dine-in customers, business owners have been forced to innovate.

Many have turned to curbside or drive-through sales: if you can’t sell drafts in the taproom, you can sell cans, bottles, and crowlers for customers to consume at home. But for those who would rather not leave the house, the appeal of delivery is high. While customers are working from home or socially distancing, they can place an order from their favorite brewery, cidery, or winery and wait for it to arrive on their doorstep.

If you’ve never offered direct-to-consumer product delivery before, you may not know where to start. Use the steps below to start a local delivery program ASAP.

Local Alcohol Delivery in 5 Steps

1. Make sure it’s legal.

You’re likely very familiar with your local and state laws surrounding alcohol delivery — but if you’re unsure of the particulars, now is the time to check. Several U.S. states that typically don’t allow local beer and wine delivery have issued emergency declarations to temporarily lift these bans, but the type of license your company carries can affect your ability to deliver. Look to your state brewers guild, recent news from your legislature, and state alcohol regulatory agency for the most up-to-date information. And keep in mind: shipping alcohol over state lines is treated differently under the law in most states, and many of those restrictions remain in place.

Note: If you're in the U.S. and cannot sell to customers at all during your local shutdown, consider applying for an economic injury disaster loan from the Small Business Administration to help ease your financial burden.

2. Set up an online ordering system.

While curbside to-go sales are easier to manage, deliveries are a whole different ballgame. You’ll want to keep track of these orders to plan deliveries and having someone take orders over the phone and  prioritize them manually is not an efficient system. Systems like Square, Craftpeak, and GoTab can quickly get online ordering sites set up with your available products and pickup/delivery options so you have a streamlined way to take and process orders.

3. Decide if you’ll use your own staff or a third-party service for deliveries.

Many craft manufacturing businesses have opted to use their own staff for direct-to-consumer deliveries. However, if you already have a partnership with a third-party app like Grubhub, Postmates, or Uber Eats, you may prefer to continue using those services for deliveries and keep your staff on hand for curbside orders and production-related activities. No matter your decision, keep in mind that offering deliveries presents the opportunity for customer dissatisfaction with the product or service, so have a plan for handling complaints.

4. Ensure staff know your new process.

Have a huddle with the staff who will be involved with any pickup or delivery sales and assign responsibilities. Make sure everyone understands and agrees on the process — from who checks for new orders and grabs products to fill them to who makes deliveries — so everyone is on the same page.

5. Tell your customers!

Social media is the fastest way to get the word out these days, especially if you know a lot of your fans follow you already. Keep your Instagram stories updated with any changes and make a post in your feed that lets customers know your new process. Include the link for online ordering in your Instagram bio and post it on Twitter and Facebook, but also don’t forget your website. Take a stab at sharing the news with local media outlets, too — a little publicity can go a long way.

Remember to evaluate and reassess to see what’s working and what needs adjusting — you can always take a day off to make some tweaks to your process and give your hardworking staff a brief break before getting back to it the next day.

Options for Online Ordering & Delivery Sites

If you’re looking for online ordering functionality, here is information on a few providers:  

  • Square: Square allows users to create their own sites using pre-built templates in as little as 30 - 45 minutes. Free version allows selling of unlimited products, Instagram and Pinterest integration, and automatic inventory, order, and item sync for Square POS users.
  • Craftpeak: Craftpeak is passionate about helping breweries sell their beer online. Their online stores and reporting tools can be launched quickly, and are designed to help breweries manage a variety of pickup, local delivery, and shipping fulfillment options.
  • GoTab: GoTab provides a web-based service that allows customers to schedule direct delivery and curbside pickup with no app to install — simply link to it on your site or display a QR code outside your facility.

Looking for information about how to start a curbside pickup or “drive-through” program? Head this way.

Becca