How To Start A Profitable Brewery Taproom

You started with a dream, now how do you make it profitable? Look no further, below is your ultimate guide for starting a profitable brewery taproom.

Level Up with Arryved Optimizing Your Taproom

Starting your own brewery is a task for artisans, dreamers, and, depending on who you ask, crazy people. 

All jokes aside, it’s a lot of hard work to open a brewery: Starting a brewery business requires substantial funding, planning, and elbow grease. But, that makes the fruits of your labor that much sweeter… or sour, malty, hoppy, etc. 

Below you’ll find vetted brewing resources, expert industry advice, and specific steps to starting a profitable brewery taproom. 

Calling All Breweries In Planning: Steps To Starting A Craft Brewery

If your homebrewing brother and you finally decided to quit your desk jobs and pursue your brewing careers, first of all, congrats! These resources will make all the difference when you’re in the early stages of planning and opening a brewery:

First, Talk To Craft Brewing Industry Professionals

Community is core to the beer world. Plus, it’s much easier to plan your own brewery when you have advice from other people who were in your exact shoes. 

Membership Organizations & Beer-specific Forums

Access to brilliant beer minds is right at the tip of your fingertips online. Here are some of the best brewery organizations and forums you need to join:

  • Beer is for Everyone: A grassroots project aimed at building and fostering diverse bodies, spaces, and voices in the industry.
  • Brewers Association: An organization for brewers, by brewers, with 10,000+ members on a mission to promote and protect American Craft Brewers. In addition to brewing community connections, access forum boards about everything from Ingredients to Sustainability. 
  • Craft Beer Professionals: Learn directly from thought leaders in the industry in this Facebook group dedicated to the growth and betterment of US craft beer. 
  • Local & State Brewing Guilds: Did you know all 50 states have a brewers guild or association to protect and promote local brewers? These nonprofits provide advocacy, education, and business resources, and they are must-joins for budding brewery owners. 
  • Pink Boots Society: Through seminar programs and scholarships, Pink Boost helps women and non-binary folks advance in brewing careers. Plus, their growing Facebook group gives access to a rich community of womxn beer professionals
  • ProBrewer: Empowering the beer industry through the dissemination of comprehensive, current, and relevant information, this forum is a great place for reliable advice and to post job openings.
  • StartABrewery: Industry veterans have consolidated their breadth of brewery knowledge in one place. Access a ton of relevant resources, regardless of what stage your brewery’s in. 

Next, Download The Ultimate Brewery In Planning Guide

Talking with brewing industry vets is a great way to gather information and advice. But to handle things like necessary licensing, insurance, banking, and more, you need to work with experts in each field. 

The Ultimate Brewery In Planning Guide has a complete list of brewing business management resources, a comprehensive launch checklist, and more, so you have everything you need to make opening your own brewery as stress-free as possible. 

Walls Up & Equipment Bought? Let’s Talk How To Build A Profitable Brewery Taproom

If your brewery is past the planning stage and on to the almost-opening-taproom-doors stage, then the following is for you! 

There are 3 key things to building a profitable brewery taproom:

  1. Happy, satisfied guests
  2. Exceptional and valued staff
  3. A distinctly delicious & consistent product offering 

Let’s dive into garnering all of the above!

1. How To Curate The Ideal Taproom Experience For Guests

Ensuring every guest that walks through your taproom’s door has a memorable experience is about understanding your customer base, marketing to them effectively, and flexing with the feedback you gather as you go.

Who Are Your Customers?

That question may sound silly, but are your customers young families? Enthusiastic beer lovers? Answers to this question inform everything from your menu offerings to taproom seating.

For example, if you intend to serve families, you likely need to have a food menu in addition to beer. If you’re serving beer gurus, load that menu up with your hoppiest IPAs!

The same goes for your taproom ambience. Will big picnic tables everywhere suffice? Does your taproom dare venture into bean bag territory?

All’s to say: Get to know the neighborhood around your brewery and consider the likely clientele that will come in. The more curated your offerings are to guests, the happier they’ll leave and the more likely they’ll be back!

How Are Your Guests Effectively Marketed To?

A big sign out front isn’t enough to get the volume of guests in the door that you need to reach profitability. For that, you need to consider how to market to your target audience!

Generate excitement through thoughtful programming. Events get locals talking, and the more Uniquely You you can be, the better. We know money is tight at this stage, so here a couple low cost event ideas:

Collaborate with other businesses: Partnering with another like-minded business is a great way to access more funding for your event and reach their existing customer base in order to grow your own. It’s beneficial on both businesses’ sides, and a ton of fun, too!

Invite a nonprofit to your taproom: Talk about earning kudos in your community! Local nonprofits are trying to gain visibility as well and would greatly appreciate the invite to do so at your new brewery. 

There are also tons of other ways to reach your guests apart from events:

  • Social media: Everyone’s on it, so you should be too. Social media is a great way to create buzz around your brand and interact with guests. Important: Don’t doubt the power of a hashtag! #realtalk
  • Email: This may sound archaic, but how else are people tracking their online retail orders? Throw your hat in the mix by setting up an email list early. You won’t regret it when you need to market your next event. 
  • In the wild: We mentioned opening a brewery requires some elbow grease, didn’t we? Early days of starting a brewery means getting creative: Flyers on local bulletin boards and phone poles, posts on NextDoor, or handing out postcard invites to your Grand Opening outside local grocery stores are all effective marketing strategies. 
How Are You Gathering & Responding To Customer Feedback?

Guests providing feedback is precious and should not be taken advantage of. In fact, encourage feedback, especially in the beginning of your brewery opening. 

Here’s how you can be proactive about receiving feedback:

  • Comment cards: A comment card with every check is a low-effort way to hear what your customers think. People are typically more honest in the privacy of written feedback, too.
  • Table talk: Get face time with guests yourself by stopping by tables in the taproom to ask how everything is. Guests will be delighted to meet the mastermind behind it all and appreciate your desire to check in on them.
  • Secret shopper: Go full Scooby-Doo and invest in a secret shopper to get an unbiased report of your taproom experience. You’d rather hear any not-so-great news from them than a real guest!

All of these steps are crucial to ensuring every guest your taproom hosts is satisfied!

2. How To Create & Manage A Successful Taproom Team

Hiring, training, and retaining an efficient brewery taproom team is no small feat. Staff interactions have a huge impact on the guest experience, so it’s well worth your time and money to invest in the best fits.

You must find the right people, educate well, and compensate fairly. Read on for staffing tips!

Identify & Hire Staff That Want To Grow With Your Brewery

Your taproom staff needs to wear a lot of different hats: sales, service, educator, entertainment—the list goes on! With the right hiring process, you can quickly identify folks that will excel at juggling all of the necessary roles. 

These 3 traits stand out when it comes to a good team member. Spoiler alert: None of them have to do with the most brewery experience!

  1. Ambition: Trainability goes much further than experience. With no egos and just eagerness to learn, you have a hire that’s ready to grow with your brewery.
  2. Personality: You can’t train someone to have a dazzling personality. In a people-focused environment like your budding brewery, you need staff that can think on their feet, make guests smile, and roll with the punches.
  3. Trustworthiness: For your own peace of mind and the well-being of your brewery, hire people you trust will treat your business as they would their own. 

Once you think you’ve identified a good candidate, check out 5 suggested interview questions to further narrow down your search. 

Thoroughly Train On Both Process & Culture

Training your taproom team goes far beyond showing them the right way to pour a beer. Your staff is more likely to exceed expectations if it’s clear what they are, so don’t skip comprehensive training on both processes and workplace culture.

Process training leads to high performance, a better guest experience, and therefore profitability! Ensure each staff member has an understanding of the following:

  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOP): Every task you want done should be documented in an SOP. This goes for Opening Shift, Closing Shift, and everything in between. 
  • Employee Handbook: Just because you’re running a fun-loving brewery doesn’t mean your staff shouldn’t have a formal document they can refer back to when they have questions. Our friends at StartABrewery can’t recommend this enough!
  • Cross training: Help staff help each other. Shadowing is key to staff gaining a holistic view of your business and understanding how to best work together as a team.

Culture training is an underrated step in onboarding new staff. Your staff won’t interact the way you envisioned them to magically, and a little guidance goes a long way. 

Start by sharing your brand’s story and the ethos core to your business. Underlining the passion you have for your new brewery lights a fire under their butts, and inspires them to share your story with guests. 

Your workplace culture should absolutely include DEI initiatives and mental health awareness, too. Both diversity on your team and a company-wide understanding of empathy goes a long way in curating a team that cares for each other and works well together.

Check out The Ultimate Brewery In Planning Guide for a full list of diversity experts specializing in the beer industry as well as people management resources that help create safe workplace environments.

Fair Compensation Helps Retain Your Beloved Team

You can expect labor costs to be your largest expense as a new brewery owner. (And good people are worth every cent!) 

When it comes to your hourly pay rate, it’s a good idea to ask the surrounding brewing community what they’re paying. One of the many wonderful aspects of this industry is that owners are happy to help newer craft spots get their footing, and there’s something to gain for everyone from compensation conversations. 

Make sure your hourly pay is competitive—groceries are expensive, and good staff are hard to keep if they can make significantly more at a different brewery down the road. In fact, according to Craft Brewing Professionals’ 2022 Employee Satisfaction Report, the top factor impacting future happiness of brewery staff was reported as base pay raises.

Now, we’re talking about profitable taprooms here, so there are of course other creative ways that you can compensate staff to make them feel valued. The following are examples of effective compensation strategies that go beyond a paycheck.

Benefits: Standard health care insurance is too expensive for most breweries to offer their staff, but there are still a lot of meaningful benefits you can offer employees that won’t break the bank:

  • Supplemental income: STD (short-term disability insurance) and LTD (long-term disability insurance) offer a safety net if an employee develops an injury or sickness that prevents them from working. 
  • Family leave: FAMLI (Family and Medical Leave Insurance) is starting to be required state by state. This allows employees paid leave for the same reasons permitted under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, such as having a baby. Private plan options are typically better and cheaper than state-run programs.
  • Employee Assistance Programs: These programs are the most common in hospitality. They help staff with legal fees, financial advice, therapy, and more. 

Education: If you hire well, your staff are ready and eager to learn more about the brewing industry. That means education and career growth opportunities are definitely considered valuable perks. Plus, then you have even more expertise on your team!

Here are some fun options:

  • Webinars: Softwares your brewery uses will regularly host free webinars where staff can learn about and master certain areas of the business. Encourage your staff to attend them, and they’ll be able to share learnings with the whole team! More on your brewery tech stack to come—stay tuned.
  • A cut of profits: If you’d like staff to push certain menu items—a new beer release, food, or merchandise—turn it into a competition and offer a percentage of the profit pie to the winners! 
  • Certifications: New-to-brew staff will drool over an opportunity to get Cicerone certified. If you can afford to, having Cicerones on your service team is definitely mutually beneficial for both them and your business. 
An Effective Tip Model Creates A Positive Team Mentality

No, we didn’t forget about tips! Tips make up a significant portion of your employees’ total salary, so picking a tip distribution model is a really important decision to make. When done right, a tip model can create an all-in-this-together mentality and reflect positively on your guest experience. 

This is what you should consider when determining your taproom’s tipping model:

  • Service model: Counter service vs. table service require very different tasks from your staff. Plus, when you consider a hybrid service model, a guest may be interacting with several different service team members on one tab. In that case, a tip pooling model makes the most sense. 
  • Laws: You definitely don’t want to skip this consideration—there have been real lawsuits over illegal tipping! Find out what the local laws are regarding which positions are allowed to participate in tip collections and legal distribution methods.
  • Staff opinions: As your brewery moves beyond your Grand Opening, check in with staff and get their feedback regarding tips. They surely have an opinion, and it’s important to be proactive about gathering their thoughts because tips really do impact their compensation. 

3. How To Build A Profit-Friendly Taproom Menu

If you’ve worked up an appetite, you’re in for a treat: Now it’s time to talk about optimizing your menu

Beer! Experimenting & Pour Sizes

You’re the expert when it comes to your beer. Sure, styles that aren’t normally your cup of tea may be added to suit the customer base you’ve identified. But our best advice when it comes to beer is this: Do your thing and don’t be afraid to experiment. Regularly releasing something new to compliment your core list gets regulars and newcomers excited, and curious to come back to see what else you’ve got. 

Here’s more quantifiable advice we have for you: There are many benefits to offering variant pour sizing on your menu. A profitable taproom goes beyond The Pint to offer the following:

  • Samples: Not everyone is hip with the beer world, and may need a beer taster before committing to a whole glass. Samples can be used to sway fence sitters to the IPA dark side, or as a friendly way to dazzle guests. 
  • Flights: What better way to welcome a newbie to your taproom than a sampling of several brews? Flights are priced higher than a single glass, so it’s also a great way to boost tab size
  • Half-pours: High ABV + high cost beers = good reasons to offer smaller pours. 8 or 10 ounce glasses are good for slow drinkers, too, so they don’t have to suffer through warm suds at the bottom of a pint.
  • Glassware: If you’re thinking offering different pour sizes requires specialized glassware, think again! Consider printing ounce breaks on glasses so your 12 ouncers work for smaller pours too.
Food Options Inspire Longer Stays & Bigger Tab Sizes

All that beer drinkin’ makes guests hungry! When there’s food available, guests stick around longer and therefore order more beer. 

But, when you’ve just opened your own brewery, a kitchen may not be in the cards right away. Luckily, there are other low effort ways to make sure your guests are fed

  • Invite food trucks to your parking lot: Give those mobile food slingers a call! Food trucks are a great way to offer a rotating variety of grub onsite. The Rayback in Boulder, CO has had incredible success with their food truck park model.
  • Collaborate with other businesses: Lean on your small business neighbors and set up some sort of partnership. The pierogi shop next door would appreciate the love, and perhaps they’ll send their customers your way, too. With the right POS system, you can even set up off-site printing so your neighbors receive order tickets directly from brewery guests. 
  • Start small: A simple chips and salsa option goes a long way and is quick for staff to assemble behind the bar. Or, again, consider other local businesses you can support. The Empourium Brewing Company, for example, offers gourmet bags of Denver-local Kettle Head Popcorn to guests. It’s the perfect salty snack to inspire another round!
Guests Love Merchandise & So Does Your Bottom Line

Branded t-shirts may seem like a necessary evil at first, but having merchandise is a significant opportunity when it comes to profitability.

For starters, merchandise boosts tab size! And with large margins up for grabs, you’ll find yourself eagerly stocking up on hoodies, beanies, koozies, and more. 

Not only that, but guests walking around in your gear is free advertising for your brewery! Salty Turtle Beer Co., a hotspot for North Carolina tourists, attracts newcomers by word of mouth in part because of their exceptional merchandising. The owner, Daniel, fills merchandise orders on a weekly basis, even sending Salty Turtle hats to Alaska! What a great way to capture off-premise sales.

The same business benefits are there for packaged beer, too. If a table can’t get enough of your Lager, they likely want to take a 6-pack home! 

How To Price Bottled & Draft Beer

Pricing your beer appropriately is so important to a brewery’s profitability that we leave it up to the experts: Work with an accountant to pinpoint price points that set your business up for success

Remember: Be realistic about comps and losses and keep that healthy profit margin in mind. 

Technology Tools That Streamline Operations

There’s a whole lot to focus on with all of the above. Luckily the 21st century offers new brewery owners plenty of savvy technology to handle tedious tasks so you can focus on your craft and your people.

1. Point Of Sale System

A point of sale (POS) is where money is traded for goods—the OG POS being a cash register! Nowadays, POS is so savvy that it’s a comprehensive system that goes far beyond payment processing. Modern POS systems use a variety of devices synced to the same cloud, so most devices, like smartphones, can act as payment terminals and card readers. 

Because POS systems are so core to your business and your taproom’s profitability, you want to make sure that you use a POS built specifically for breweries. The right POS should make your staff’s workloads lighter, your guests more satisfied, and your bottom line bigger, offering features such as:

Your POS should also integrate with other smart software, making your entire system even more helpful!

2. Inventory Management

How your brewery business handles inventory depletions and how that data works with other systems will save you the most time on a daily basis. An inventory management integration helps you identify key insights that would otherwise require hours of manual data entry and analysis. 

Yellow Dog Software is a set-it-and-forget-it tool that helps you plan future production, know when to move products out of storage, and keep track of existing goods. Automating this flow of data maintains error-free inventory counts and COGS numbers, which are vital to making both sales and financial business decisions. 

3. Business Management

You can create a centralized hub for all critical business information by using a business management software with your POS. 

Ekos empowers craft breweries by helping them save time, automate taproom and ecommerce inventory depletion, and gain better visibility with real-time tracking of tax-paid inventory. 

4. Accounting & Reporting

Make smarter business decisions by contextualizing your sales with the help of accounting and reporting software. Integrating with your POS eliminates the headache of spreadsheeting all of your sales data. Plus, you can glean insights such as:

  • Labor costs and patterns: To optimize staffing schedules
  • Daily task logbooks: To increase productivity and organization
  • Purchasing forecast: To eliminate wasted ingredients

Both QuickBooks and Shogo are great accounting resources for breweries. 

5. Kitchen Display System 

If you do plan to have a kitchen in your brewery, a Kitchen Display System (KDS) optimizes speed of service, order accuracy, and the guest experience. 

When Captain Lawrence Brewing Company outgrew their old school approach of verbal queues and a single expeditor printer, they needed a system to streamline kitchen operations which were fielding 41% of sales. An integration with Fresh KDS did just the trick, making their team faster in the kitchen and ultimately improving the guest experience

6. Keg-based Tracking & Draft Quality Management

This integration is specific to businesses with robust beverage programs because it’s all about managing liquid inventory, perfecting the quality of draft pours, and automating tedious bar processes. 

BarTrack saves breweries time, maximizes taproom revenue, and improves beverage quality with its smart draft system. In fact, Grist Brewing was able to use Arryved POS and BarTrack together to save $20k per month by significantly reducing their pour costs. Talk about a return on investment!

How To Make Sure You’re On Track To Profitability

All of these efforts are for naught if you can’t quantify your successes. The answer to ensuring you’re on track to building a profitable brewery taproom is in the numbers: DATA!

Of course, there are many helpful reports your POS system collects. But let’s focus on 3 specific reports as they pertain to your taproom profitability roadmap.

1. Average Tab Size Report Ensures Satisfied Guests

You definitely want to know how long each table stays, exactly what they’re ordering, and how many people were there. The Average Tab Size report provides all of this information, informing the effectiveness of your service model and how much guests are enjoying themselves. Longer stays and bigger tabs mean you’re heading in the right direction!

Now, you have a baseline in tab size and you can start strategizing how to maximize it.

2. Hour By Hour Report Ensures Efficient Staff

Track the rate of orders coming in with an Hour By Hour report. You’ll quickly identify traffic trends during certain days and times, which informs when you need more or less staff. 

This report helps support staff happiness because you don’t run the risk of overwhelmed servers. Plus, it lends itself to a better guest experience because you have the right number of people on staff to service them!

3. Sales By Category Report Ensures Quality Products

Get a summary of sales broken down by category, item type, quantity, and size with a Sales By Category report. This shows what products guests can’t get enough of, and therefore what your back of house team should make more of. 

Some POS systems, like Arryved, let you filter by item size, so you can see liquid inventory moving by pour size: tasters, pints, growlers, etc. If you find a bunch of tasters of one brew, but no pints, perhaps that beer isn’t right for your clientele or there’s something off with the keg/tap line. 

It’s absolutely crucial to regularly check reports to determine your wins and inform business decisions moving forward. Your brewery taproom profitability quite literally depends on it!

Check 1 Major New Brewery Checklist Item Off Your List: Your POS System

Arryved POS is the most trusted POS for breweries because the system inherently understands the business of craft beer. Built in an actual taproom, Arryved offers beer-specific features such as flight tools and card on file because our engineers, sales, and support team have been in your exact shoes before. 

Request a free, custom demo today and learn about why breweries across the nation are singing Arryved’s praises!

Ready for a better POS?