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Operating a tasting room during the 2020 pandemic has been a lesson in adaptability.

Some folks have dreamt of a craft beverage concept for years and are now faced with new rules about food service with alcohol consumption. These evolving regulations have taprooms and craft destinations rethinking their offerings beyond the pint. Now that some states are requiring food service, we have several creative—and easy to implement—suggestions on how to add food to your taproom menu. 

 

Why Add Food?

Expanding your taproom menu to include food is no small feat—but totally doable, and totally worth it. But first, let’s touch on the top four reasons food will benefit your business’ growth and guest experience.  

  • Higher tabs, better margins. Our data shows that guests stick around longer and order more beverages when food is available. That could include enjoying a full dining experience or light snacks to keep the rounds coming (while getting deeply invested in a game of shuffleboard). 
  • Partnerships pool resources! Forming alliances between tasting rooms and restaurants is mutually beneficial. It helps advertise your brand to a new market while doing the same for your neighbors. Collaboration among craft makers establishes great relationships within the community. 
  • Future-proof your business. Requirements for on-site food offerings have proven a trend rolling across the US. If the regulation hasn’t hit you yet, you’d be smart to put some contingency plans in place should things change. Simply put, adding food to your space allows places to keep serving. 
  • Full bellies = Happy Guests. Introducing food to your taproom menu engages guests in a new way, elevating their experience and allowing your top notch service and hospitality to shine.

Over at Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, CO, their full service restaurant includes 30 of their own taps and speciality in-house smoked BBQ. Taking orders table-side with handheld devices gives them an opportunity to float around the taproom and talk with guests about all they have to offer. Jocelyn Scheidenhelm, the General Manager at Avery told us about their guest experience.

Having food enables us to talk with guests about food and beer pairing which is such a fun topic. It’s a great way to connect with folks just learning about craft beer or the people who want to nerd out with our staff.”

Image from Avery Brewing Company

How Do You Add Food To Your Taproom Menu?

Whether it be a full service brewpub or purely craft cocktails with a local food truck, there are many ways to incorporate food into the mix. 

Minimal Food Offerings

Serving food might not have been in your original plan but there are creative ways of adding tasty bites to smaller or already-maxed spaces. A minimalist solution might be just the ticket for you. 

A minimalist kitchen could be as simple as a panini press for some fresh hot sandwiches, or a toaster oven for your famous pizza rolls. The idea is to keep the ingredient list small and the kitchen gadgets to a minimum, like a gourmet version of your dorm room. 

Benefits of having a minimalist kitchen: 
  • With smaller ingredient lists and less prep work you can start up a kitchen in just days.
  • No need to take up too much space with deep fryers or commercial grills— simply make sure to have a big enough fridge for all the ingredients to stay fresh.
  • The ease of prepping snacks means delicious food with minimal labor. 

Gabrielle Blanco, one of the co-owners of Buckstin Brewing Company out of Nederland, TX told us all about the ease and benefit of their food-truck inspired kitchen. Their secret—they make it simple without sacrificing quality!

I think our biggest advantage right now is our kitchen! I know that many people are afraid of doing a full kitchen especially if they’ve never worked in one before, but I designed our kitchen off of a food truck layout and every ingredient on our menu is on at least 3 items. We bake everything, no fryer or grill. ”

Image from Buckstin Brewing Company

There’s no need to complicate the process, especially when the drinks are so good! Grab a toaster oven and get baking!

 

Food Trucks

Maybe folks are drawn to smaller tasting rooms and a chance to chat with the creator. For those smaller destinations, you can’t blame them for not wanting to focus on forks and knives. And that’s where food trucks come in.

Benefits of having a food truck:
  • Offering a variety of rotating food options appeals to many tastes.
  • Hands-off way for brewery staff to offer food.
  • Mutually beneficial marketing opportunity for you and your neighbors. 

Food trucks, or for those with the space, a food truck medley, provides an awesome experience for patrons filled with a variety of different a-la-carte meal options. One day that famous grass-fed burger truck parks outside, next day tacos, next day wood fire pizza—the possibilities are endless! Craft-lovers come to check out the drinks and are captivated by the ambiance and variety of mobile cuisines parked out front. 

The Rayback Collective does just this with their food truck “park”. Patrons create their own adventure with different food options while always being steps away from staff who bring them drinks through a mobile floating service

Image from The Rayback Collective

Some locations, like Denver Beer Company, have a permanent food truck partner IN their taproom which the locals have come to crave. Not only do they stop by for the beer, they must have a burger, too. 

Pro tip: Partner with local food trucks within the same POS for seamless service for your guests!

Image from The Mighty Burger

Or expand your selection and acquire your own food truck so guests can seamlessly wander around the space without having to open multiple tabs. Austin Beerworks out of Austin, TX does just this and their beer/food combos are a deal! 

Image from Austin Beerworks

Local Partnerships

There are many wonderful characteristics of the craft world, but one of the best aspects are the partnerships. Craft makers thrive when working together with other creators who share a mission of creating community and culture through what they do. 

Benefits of partnering local:
  • Serve food without the need for a kitchen or space for a food truck.
  • Support other local businesses.
  • Expand guest outreach by appealing to different markets.

Image from Bent Paddle Brewing Company

“Bring your own food” is a popular option at Bent Paddle Brewing Company in Duluth, MN where there are a plethora of great restaurants and food trucks all within a few blocks. Some restaurants even deliver right to the patio!

Florida bars and restaurants get inventive with their partnerships during state orders to serve food on site. Minimalist food offering meets local market partnership at Bar@548 in St. Petersburg where they’re serving pre-made appetizers and desserts from other local establishments proving you do not need a kitchen to serve food.

“At Bar@548 in St. Petersburg, there is a prep area but no kitchen, and owner Michael Kellem said his staff is currently selling composed charcuterie platters, a local smoked fish spread, hummus and pita bread, brownies, muffins and cheesecakes.”

 

Full Service Kitchen

For those who went into the biz to provide and delight with more than just a hangout spot, a full service restaurant was probably in the plan from inception. Though not the easiest to simply add to your existing business in a moment’s notice, providing a fully planned out menu allows for expertly pairing drinks with meals and utilizing your beverages within dishes. 

At Gypsy Circus Cider, co-owner Stephanie Carson tells us about how their ciders are carefully woven into the menu at their partner restaurant, The Bohemian

“We just launched food last fall and God bless [the Arryved] staff for sticking with me as I navigated that whole thing. Our sauces, barbeque and Thai peanut sauce for the salads, are all made with our ciders so we’re trying to help people by pairing food with cider…there’s always something there to elevate folks and bring them along with us in our journey.”

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