In the world of craft beer and cider, there’s a lot of talk about the importance of managing the “front of the house” — from delivering stellar service in the taproom to creating a unique, memorable brand. But what goes on behind the scenes is arguably just as — if not more — important to growing your business.
Technology can help streamline processes in every area of your business, which is critical if you want to scale. Plus, tech solutions can provide valuable insights that you just can’t easily obtain otherwise — from sales metrics to inventory forecasts and Cost of Goods Sold reports. When you have good data, you can efficiently make educated decisions. That’s what business management is all about.
Ekos recently conducted an analysis of nearly 1,500 breweries and cideries to investigate how these businesses build their tech stack. This blog uses insights from that analysis to illustrate how to manage both your front-of-house and back-of-house operations with the help of strategic software investments.
The Tech Advantage
Consider the advantages offered by technology solutions over manual methods of record-keeping. Spreadsheets, whiteboards, and notebooks are prone to human error and easily lost or erased. Even with digital note-taking or spreadsheets, broken links and missing data are common problems, so it can be hard to connect the dots and get value out of the information you’re collecting.
Software allows for open communication in real time and automates operations to allow your team to function more efficiently. With the increased traceability and reduction in human error, you can make decisions proactively with the insight you gain from your efforts.
Point-of-Sale (POS) Solutions
If your brewery or cidery has a taproom or tasting room, this one is a given. But different POS solutions offer slightly different features, and being picky with your choice can have big benefits. For example, finding a POS system that connects to both your inventory management and accounting software can save you hours per month in reconciliation time. And if you have hopes of setting up an online store for taproom preorders or product delivery, you should choose a solution that easily allows you to do so (either within the same product or by easily connecting to another software). A few other factors to consider include costs, PCI compliance, ability to accept EMV chip cards and NFC payments, and any other specific features that are important to your business model.
As circumstances have changed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, many brewery and cidery owners recognize the need to take orders from customers who aren’t physically in the taproom or tasting room. Many consumers have begun seeking out ways to purchase alcohol online, and this channel only seems to be growing. Sure, you could take orders over the phone and write them down or manually put them into your POS system, but who’s managing that and how does your team communicate about them? It’s easy for orders to get lost when you rely on manual processes, and you alienate consumers who would prefer online ordering to calling in.
Ecommerce is a smart move for many reasons, including:
- Increasing your reach: In a competitive market like craft alcohol, your goal is to reach potential customers via every possible avenue.
- Matching consumer demand: According to Rabobank’s 2020 Alcohol E-Commerce Playbook, the online alcohol market saw a 60% jump in year-over-year sales in 2019. That means alcohol producers can provide a better customer experience by matching the demand of the market with options to purchase products online.
- Protecting your business: You can never be too prepared for unexpected events. Invest in tools like online ordering now to help diversify your sales channels and proactively prepare for future challenges.
Whether your business offers a curbside/drive-through pickup program, local delivery, direct-to-consumer shipping, or a combination of these options, you’ll want to choose a vendor that can meet your needs. If you have plans to expand your capabilities in the future, it’s smart to choose a vendor with varied service offerings so you don’t have to switch providers down the line. Once you’ve chosen a vendor, be sure to properly advertise your ordering options to potential customers on your website and on social media.
Want to see which POS and ecommerce vendors most breweries and cideries choose? Sign up to receive our tech stack analysis.
Inventory & Production Management
It’s easy to keep an eye on inventory and production manually when your team and production volume are small, but the lack of automated processes becomes a massive headache as you grow. Inventory and production software tailored for breweries and cideries will help you:
- Track and view your inventory in real time
- Transfer between tanks, to storage areas, or to the packaging line
- Monitor finished goods inventory to confidently fulfill orders
- Track what’s in your barrels and tanks
- Set reorder points so you don’t run out of raw ingredients or packaging materials
- Plan your processes in advance and execute on the go
- Communicate better with digital task management
- Manage product recipes and track historical processes to maintain high quality product
- Collect compliance data for tax reporting
Inventory and production management software helps you drive efficiencies, manage growth, and improve internal communication. Plus, if you choose software that includes sales management capabilities and accounting software integrations, you end up with end-to-end business management software that covers all your front-of-house and back-of-house needs.
If your business is up and running, you likely already have accounting software — it’s a must-have. But make sure you can connect your accounting software to your inventory and production management system. That data sync will save your bookkeeper countless hours on reconciliation every month, reducing double-entry accounting and helping you scale.
A proper integration will create journal entries in your accounting system when you post an invoice, transfer inventory to tax paid locations, or record product loss/destruction. This streamlines communication between departments by automatically recording every movement in your inventory/production system in your books.
Staying in contact with your team isn’t difficult when there’s only a few of you. But once you have more than two or three other people on your team and you begin building out departments, finding a more organized way to communicate and share data is vital.
If you’re using something like text messages or white boards, consider whether that’s the most efficient process (spoiler: it’s not). Instant messaging systems allow you to group your chats into “channels” for more organized communication, and it’s easier to save and search through old conversations if you need to retrieve information. Additionally, a task management solution can be helpful for keeping everyone accountable. Some production management systems have task management features built in.
Sales & Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems
Do you need a full-blown CRM? Maybe not, but make sure you identify the key functionality your sales team requires and find an appropriate solution. For example, if you manage tons of customers via self-distribution, you’ll want a way to keep track of customer information, recent orders, invoices, and deliveries.
Sales management technology can also help:
- Identify patterns in performance and profitability of sales by product
- Forecast future sales orders
- Scale your team with the ability to track and assign team activities
- Create sales orders and invoices on the go
- Manage deliveries by creating better routing for your distribution team
- Reserve items to ensure orders are fulfilled as expected
Leading brewery and cidery management software solutions, like Ekos, have this functionality built in, so you don’t have to invest in a separate CRM unless you want to.