Last week in the CBP Facebook group, we posted our article on separating taproom transactions from taproom hospitality using new-school POS technology, and then we asked: How has technology made a difference in your taproom? Conversation in the comments, however, focused squarely on that mobile ordering / payment concept, and opinions were mixed. Our favorite responses are below, but you can check out the full thread here.
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How has technology made a difference in your taproom?
Chris Roberts, Heart of Darkness Craft Brewery: Most of the consumer insight data I have seen shows a clear preference towards self ordering and away from human interaction. Given that I think the challenge is figuring out how to provide the guidance people provide online as that is their preferred method. Personally I prefer it as well because I live as an immigrant in a non English speaking country and I am still learning the local language so online ordering massively cuts down miscommunications and increases my order accuracy.
Ryan Balicki, Copper Hop Brewing: I have noticed when visiting establishments that are order/pay by phone/app, that the staff can be less engaging, and helpful. In a brewery, this can be bad for business, as the staff should be talking about the beer styles, new beers, suggesting beers based on customers “normal selection”. I don’t mind the barcode on the bottom to pay at the end, as this can be nice for both the guest and the server, especially on a busy night, but the ability to order by phone is bad for business at a brewery IMO.
- Tyler Smith @Ryan Balicki especially for us where are only main point of contact is the bar. We aren’t a restaurant 95% of our engagement is orders at the bar.
- Jay Shilling, Dirt Road Brewing: I could see offering this for subsequent orders of “give us another round of the same” but how do you push a new product or expand your customers palates if they just order a beer off their phone? You (well, I) go to a brewery to be exposed to new stuff. If I’m at a dive bar, sure let me run my own tab.
Ryan Wagner: It’s a tough balance to strike – no doubt about it. We moved to a model that relies heavily on QR code mobile ordering. Service times are quicker and order averages are up, but there has certainly been a reduction in the human interaction element. We work hard to build a staff that is as engaging and beer savvy as possible, so finding new and innovative ways to rediscover those guest interactions has been paramount. It’s a brave new world – mobile ordering isn’t going away – but I think it gives us an opportunity to be a bit more agile in the way we find those connections. We’re very much learning as we go.
David Flores, Bridgetown Beerhouse: I think you can use mobile ordering to your advantage. Use that couple minutes you aren’t taking a beer order to chat with a customer about their choice/ answer question. But I also remind people that as a society we have created an unrealistic standard of always being 100% satisfied. We went thru a global pandemic and we never ran out of beer. Seems like we are doing okay and the rest is first world problems.
Mary Cims: My brewery has the option to order in person or via QR and my BF observed that while using the app/phone tab he doesn’t like to see his bill adding up in real time.
Dan Moore, Follow the Light: Arryved did a presentation at NanoCon in December. Initially you’d think losing the human interaction would damage a brewery, but their data doesn’t lie in a bottom line aspect. More tickets is more cash flow. …. Look at how many breweries closed the last 2 years, and why. if you refuse to accept a change in behavior because you believe its all about face to face transaction, be sure to have back up plans. Covid had changed the industry, if you refuse to adapt you may or may not survive when this happens again.
- Ryan Balicki: Dan, adapt yes, lose one of your biggest assets as a community watering hole, no. We use QR codes for menus, it we still come around and take orders. Our staff is part of what makes our space awesome, because they are awesome. Taking the customer/staff interaction away from our brewery, would change who we are at our core. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work for some places. I’m sure in a brewery in Asheville, where the faster you move the line the better, this works great, but in our community, this would be a disservice to our guests.
- Dan Moore: Totally get that too, but remember to look to the future. We have a generation now that is growing up with this type of transaction as normal, and eventually (hopefully) they’re going to be the next paying customer and will have a different view, for better or worse, as to how public transaction takes place. I just caution people to not get a narrow view on how to think about running a taproom.
Kyle Kohlmorgen, Wellspent Brewing: QR Codes = Boomers’ nightmare
- Jillian Farrell: Kyle Kohlmorgen this! I can’t tell you how many people were relived when I would hand them a physical menu even with QR codes on the table. Have had elderly people straight up leave as well when they thought that was the only option.
Sarah Langland, Beer Hound Brewery: I do see this as being an asset for bottom lines. However, it has to be the right balance. The brewery/bar has to change the way they see delivering a great experience. Perhaps the solution is dedicating a staff to the tables. They are responsible for talking with the customers, not just cleaning the empties. Making recommendations based on their feedback or talk about upcoming events/specials. They can be there to assist people who are not familiar with QR or direct them to the bar for a more traditional experience.
Mike Frohlich, Laughing Sun Brewing: We’re going to implement Toast in our taproom next month, which will give the patron the option to close their tab via a QR code rather than standing in line for 15 minutes to close out. Will this hurt or help sales? Not sure. The line will be smaller without these folks in line, so may boost sales, but we also get folks grabbing another beer when they close out. Time will tell.