By Phil Neale, managing director, Tabology

It’s not simply beer lovers who are looking forward to getting back out for a pint. Both bar owners and brewers are understandably very keen to see consumers return to the pub for that all important first beer, hopefully with more to follow.

Tabology’s digital beer wall

Consumer research by CGA into the trends likely to have an impact on drinks sales in the on trade in 2021 forecasts that ‘treat occasions’ will be an important driver of sales as customers look to compensate for missed celebrations that would have taken place in pubs and bars. Premium beers and memorable pours will be part of the expectation.

At the same time, the report says that, post-Covid, “elements such as safety, value and good service will be essential to any hospitality offering”. In particular, considerations such as technology solutions for payment, seen as important to safety, have moved from being nice- to-have to an essential for many consumers.

CGA also predicts that ‘social currency’ will be an important factor in the types of venue where consumers opt to celebrate their return to the on-trade. This can extend beyond making drinks from craft beer to cocktails look good on Instagram, to creating a genuine sense of excitement around both the range of beers on offer, as well as the serve.

Self Service Beer

In that spirit, Dorset based Hall & Woodhouse, having seen the popularity of self-serve beer in bars in Europe, decided on pub and bar EPOS specialist Tabology’s PourTab for a self- serve beer trial at The Grasshopper pub, in Poole.

Two self-serve tables of three taps each, with orders placed via a drink ordering app accessed through an iPad, generated a huge positive response from customers.

Andy Thompson, Hall & Woodhouse’s project manager, said: “Guests immediately go to those tables. They are nearly always full, with far more guests sat or standing around the tables than we anticipated.”

Along with creating this buzz around beer dispense, consumer expectations of social distancing and cashless payments also highlight the benefits of investing in self-dispense systems. Research for the organisers of the BrewLDN festival has found that, post-lockdown, 57% of beer drinkers are now more interested in seeking out unique and unusual beers.

Offering increased choice through a self-serve beer system creates a memorable, can’t-get-at-home experience that drives extra sales, as well as a talking point that will drive more customers to the venue. The PourTab app provides an effective showcase for a range of beers, using a touchscreen to display provenance and tasting notes, with the customer simply tapping a contactless card to pour their beer.

Driving Choice

Choice is also at the heart of the beer offer at Brew York, which operates a shop, tap room, and beer hall in its home city, as well as bars in Pocklington and Leeds. Each venue offers a constantly rotating selection of beers, with customers selecting from a choice of between 20 and 40, depending on the venue, which are displayed on a digital menu screen.

Brew York has switched to Tabology’s integrated bar EPOS and mobile ordering solution to help manage the beer menu across its venues. The solution means that the bar EPOS system, on-screen menu, and customer ordering app now all draw on a single source of information – the Brew York listings on the Untappd beer app.

Wayne Smith, managing director of Brew York, explains: “Our team now just has to focus on making sure our Untappd listing is correct and up to date, and the rest of it takes care of itself in our bars. We just type in the beer name and all the information and imagery is pulled through from Untappd. We can manage it centrally and push the information out to all our venues.”

Tabology has also created a fully-customisable digital menu screen that means the beer menus displayed in Brew York’s venues fully reflect the overall branding. “That look and feel is an important part of the business, so it’s great to have a menu that is fully configurable and can be easily updated,” says Wayne.

The importance of beer to the on-trade was highlighted by the CGA figure showing that beer sales, while still down on pre-covid norms, were the best performing drinks category during the re-opening last summer. “Beer’s relatively better showing highlights the struggle of recreating the draught beer experience at home, which has clearly left consumers thirsting for that first pint,” said CGA’s director of client services, Jonny Jones.

Whether managing an increased choice of beers, providing notes on flavour and style, to offering a full self-service experience, by using their EPOS system to drive innovative and exciting beer experiences, operators have the opportunity to meet customer expectations and boost their sales as hospitality re-opens. That has to be worth a celebratory pint.

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