Tapping into Craft Beer


From local pubs to high-end resorts, craft beer positively impacts price points.

Even if you’ve never been to Rhodes North Tavern in Sloatsburg, New York, you probably know a place like it: a bustling local restaurant and bar that serves a hodgepodge of well-made comfort foods and has live music on the weekends.

You might not expect craft beer to find an eager audience among the young families, baby boomers, and working people who frequent the place, but that’s exactly what happened about 18 months ago, when Rhodes decided to extend its on-tap offerings to include craft beers.

“People were asking for craft beers, and we knew it was time to give it a try,” says Jenny Rhodes, who manages the restaurant and tends the bar. Of the 22 beers on tap, about half of them are now from craft breweries.

“Bar sales overall are definitely up since we added craft beers,” Rhodes says. “They’ve become a big part of our business.”

What’s happening at this family-owned tavern demonstrates how demand for craft beer is reshaping the beverage landscape at restaurants large and small.

“2012 saw craft beer sales grow 10 percent in bars and restaurants, with 7 percent of that coming in sales volume, and the other 3 percent from increasing prices,” says Peter Reidhead, vice president of strategy and insights for GuestMetrics, a service that collects guest check data every night from thousands of restaurants and bars across the nation. “A portion of these gains have been at the expense of imports and mainstream American beers,” he says, “all of which saw their sales slip in the same period.”

Rising sales of craft beers should make restaurateurs happy, because craft beer drinkers tend to spend more money than people who drink Budweiser, Miller, and Coors.

According to GuestMetrics, the average guest check that includes food and a mainstream American beer is about $73.00, while a craft beer drinker’s food and beverage check rings in at $86.00. Only a part of this $13.00 incremental spending is due to the price differences between the beers.

“Craft beer drinkers tend to spend more on other stuff,” says Reidhead. “They provide revenue to the restaurant at a faster rate than their premium American beer and light beer drinking counterparts.”

GuestMetrics has created an interesting yardstick—money spent per minute—by taking the average dollar amount of a guest check that contains both beer and food, and then dividing that number by how long that check is open.

The average mainstream beer drinker spends $0.80 per minute at a restaurant, while the craft beer drinker spends $1.00 per minute. That’s right: Craft beer drinkers spend at a 25 percent higher rate.

While import drinkers spend the most—Heineken drinkers spend $1.25 per minute and Stella Artois brings in $1.05—this segment is shrinking as craft beer continues to gobble up market share.



We're seeing this growth in Michigan as well. From hotel bars to independent gastropubs to locally-owned chains, everyone is getting behind the craft beer industry here in the "Great Beer State" (Michigan ranks #5 in the nation for the number of craft breweries). We've got beer dinners, tap take-overs, sampling boards and more becoming a focal point of many eateries. I know of several hundred restaurants that serve at least 6 Michigan craft beers on a regular basis - and that number is growing all the time...especially in cities like Grand Rapids which was just named BEER CITY USA by Examiner.com! www.MiBeer.com


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