Spiderman, Marvin the Martian, Ghostface from Scream. What do they all have in common? You can’t fully see their faces, yet somehow, they manage to pump a little joy (or fear!) into our lives. They are able to create emotion without using their mouths. COVID-19 has changed the way we experience beer. No longer can we easily and safely interact with strangers, customers, friends, and family — a huge part of the community created in a taproom. No longer can a bartender flash a quick smile as a welcoming gesture or a subtle way to thank a guest.
While COVID-19 has changed the way we interact, it has not changed the ultimate goal. You are in it to sell beer. You have already dealt with taproom closures, and what did you do? Bootstrap it and learn how to sell online. Find ways to offer curbside and delivery. You made the most you could out of an unfortunate situation. With taprooms beginning to reopen, we are now faced with another challenge.
How do you replace the smile?
As a disclaimer, the smile is near impossible to replace; however, we will discuss methods you can use to recreate the power of a friendly face. So how can we make up for the feelings that the smile creates? We can do this by utilizing your ability to heighten your guests’ five senses.
Let’s start with smell.
I don’t mean picking out the most floral body fragrance you can find. I mean creating the best overall scent in your brewery that is pleasing to the guests. Typically, guests don’t like to walk into an establishment and get punched in the face with bleach from fresh mopped floors. However, with cleanliness and sanitation top priorities, a clean aroma can be desired in non-overwhelming levels.
Even more desirable are the smells straight from your brewhouse. I know I get excited when I get a nice whiff of the mash. Your guests do, too, and this makes them a little bit happier. If you’re a brewpub, the smells from your kitchen dishing out delicious offerings can also benefit your guests’ experience.
This practice actually has a name: scent marketing. According to FragrenceX, a company that specializes in perfume and cologne, scent marketing is the practice of using a pleasant aroma to enhance a company’s brand image, improve customer experience, and increase sales. Make the most of the smells in your brewery, and utilize not just scent marketing, but sensory marketing as a whole.
The sense of smell leads directly into your guests’ sense of taste, which needs no further explanation in its role at your brewery.
In a world before COVID-19, many breweries encouraged guests to touch products prior to buying. It gives people a sense of how their life would be if it were theirs. So with the objective of less contact, how can you utilize touch to benefit your taproom?
What creates a sense of comfort at your brewery? Let’s start with your barstools and seats. Guests like to sit down where they feel comfortable. Give them a seat that hurts, they may not have that second beer. Present them a place to hang out where there’s an inherent joy to just being there and they’re more apt to spend more time.
You can also utilize single use items to play on their sense of touch. Have a staff member come by and safely hand guests hop pellets that are being currently used in the boil. Give your guests a small dash of malt. Let them feel the grains. These touch points, all pun intended, add to their experiences. Be sure to provide guests an easy way to dispose of them after. They’ll appreciate you going the extra mile to make their experience more hands on.
The sense of hearing should always be utilized, and even more so when we’re all wearing masks.
Science teaches us that speech sounds that are hard to hear, like a “p” in “sphere,” are easier to pick up visually. Thus, your mouth’s movement helps others hear you better. Without the visual from the mouth, we must make sure we’re listening extra close. Speaking to a guest in a loud and busy taproom can be difficult, and the ability to read lips can help understand their order. No longer able to do this, please focus even harder on listening. Lowering the music volume just a tad in your taproom may also help with this.
In addition to paying more attention to what your guest says (and this isn’t to say you shouldn’t always pay attention!), also keep your eyes on them. Visual distractions can hurt your ability to hear what your guests are saying. Your sense of sight is vital to show taproom guests that they matter. Give them your undivided attention.
From your guests’ perspective, make sure everything they need to see, is easy to see. This includes general signage of where to order, where the restrooms may be, a clear view of the menu, and a calendar of upcoming events. With human interaction reduced, let visuals tell your story in situations where it can still provide the relevant information. Moreover, we are all experiencing new procedures at not just breweries, but all businesses in general. The more clear you make your guests visit, the more positive the experience will be.
Tomorrow, we will explore some ways mask-wearing beertenders and staff can “replace the smile.”
Andrew Coplon is the Founder of Secret Hopper, a mystery shopping company for craft beer businesses, and Craft Beer Professionals, a community dedicated to the growth and betterment of our industry. Check out all of his CBB articles here.