The COVID-19 pandemic has been a devastating blow for the world and created uncertain and unprecedented challenges for small businesses. The craft beer industry, despite several years of steady growth, has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.
Although the pandemic is far from over, the best option for brewers is adaptation when possible. Being flexible in production and creative with B2B and B2C sales models may help keep small businesses afloat throughout this crisis.
For some breweries, especially those that have opened in the last 4-5 years, taprooms and food service options are a consistent source of revenue. The lack of consistent taproom pours, and growler purchases can pose a threat to regular revenue and create a backlog of beer supply. Even with lock downs being lifted in some states, complicated qualifications for reopening and capacity remain a challenge for many craft brewers. Whether customers will return at their previous capacity or even half that is still an unknown, leaving many breweries in a catch-22.
Carefully review the state guidance for your brewery, and encourage mask wearing when possible (indoors, in common spaces, etc. County specific guidance can be more important than state in some events, so consult with your local guidance as well to ensure compliance with city or county capacity and mask requirements if opening is an option. Also, if growlers, curbside pickup or other to-go methods are an option, they may help keep sales afloat in the interim.
Pick-up and Delivery
If canning is an option for your brewery, contactless curbside pickup has been increasingly popular for many business sectors aside from craft beer. Furthermore, support for local businesses has been at an all time high, especially given their employment opportunities for the greater community. Delivery has also been popular in states that permit it. Bringing beer directly to customers is a great way to maintain profits and encourage social distancing.
Offering curbside pick-up for your brewery doesn't have to be complicated. If you don't want to devote precious resources to an online ordering system like Toast Tab, call-in or email ordering may be a less expensive option depending on your employee resources. Also, many website hosts (Squarespace, Shopify, Wordpress, etc.) offer shopping and product ordering functions that include a variety of payment options.
Supply Chain Concerns
Rising costs in raw materials ranging from wheat to aluminum cans has been a major roadblock for many brewers. Beers that would historically be poured on tap are now being canned for consumption at home. A rise in canned cocktails, seltzers and non-alcoholic beverages like Kombucha has also contributed to a shortage in aluminum cans. Amber glass for bottles and growlers has also been in short supply, further complicating the likelihood of selling beer outside of taproom pours. Lastly, even if brewers can get their hands on vessels for their beer, TTB and ABC Board backlog on new product approvals has continued to stall potential sales.
Unfortunately, the manufacturing capacity for cans may not catch up to demand until 2021. Even large companies like Coca-Cola have been affected by the shortages.