In recent years, independently produced craft beers have become increasingly popular, and craft beer restaurants and brewpubs are a growing niche market. To help you stand out from the competition and provide the kind of customer service that keeps profits coming in, here are some tips for success in this business.
The best customer service experiences come from knowledgeable waitstaff. Craft beer restaurant servers need to know more than just the differences between a stout and a bock or between a lager and a porter. They should also understand at least the basic characteristics of the various beer styles, such as alcohol by volume (ABV), International Bitterness Units (IBU), and colors, so they can make the best recommendations. If a customer asks for a darker beer, or wants to try one with a more fruity or hoppy flavor, the server should be able to suggest a great match — ultimately winning the customer’s trust and selling more beer.
The waitstaff also needs to be informed about what is currently in stock, to help avoid disappointed patrons. Menus displayed on chalkboards or digital screens are easy to update, but a good point of sale (POS) system will have robust inventory tracking that gives servers the most recent data on availability.
It goes without saying that sticky counters or wet tabletops are a turn-off, but craft beer restaurant cleanliness should also extend to the kegs, taps, and draft systems. Servers should know and follow best sanitation practices, such as never allowing the draft faucet to touch a customer’s glass.
Clean glassware is of paramount importance, not only for sanitary reasons but also because residue from detergent, food particles, or other contaminants can alter or ruin beer’s taste. Bartenders should rinse glasses before filling to ensure they are as clean as possible. The carbonation in beer is actually a good indicator of how clean the glass is: bubbles will collect and cling to particles or other residue on the sides of the glass if those contaminants are present. A smooth glass is a clean glass.
Craft beer restaurant glasses should not only be clean, but also should be the right type to best complement the style of beer being served. As with other alcoholic beverages, the shape of the glass influences the entire sensory experience. For example, tulip glasses help to trap and enhance aroma, while a Weizen vase maintains a frothy foam cap. Beers with higher alcohol content are usually served in smaller glasses.
Whichever type of glass you select for a craft beer, it should never be kept in the freezer prior to use. The “frost” or ice coating on a frozen glass can alter the taste of the beer in unpleasant ways, as it can absorb other flavors from the freezer, and the ice creates foaming issues. Lightly chilled or room-temperature glasses are best for craft beers.
Craft beers are different from beer from commercial breweries: While they should still be kept refrigerated for best product life, they should often be served at slightly warmer temperatures in order to achieve the best flavor experience. Near-freezing temperatures mask flavors and create a cold, bland taste. Recommended serving temperatures for craft beers can range from 40 degrees to as high as 55 degrees, depending on the beer style.
An Understanding of Food and Beer Pairings
Knowledgeable craft beer restaurant waitstaff should be able to recommend beer not only based on customers’ taste preferences but also on optimal pairings with food, from pizza toppings to entrees such as shellfish or game birds. For example, the “dark and roasty” beer group best complements grilled vegetables such as mushrooms and onions, while shellfish pairs with the “fruity and spicy” beer group, and classic cheese pizza goes well with “clean and crisp” beers. A good POS system can assist with such pairings and upselling suggestions to help create the ideal customer experience.
For more information about how to choose the best POS system for the success of your craft beer restaurant, contact Focus POS and put our 20+ years of experience to work for you.