Draft Beer Vs. Draft and Bottled

Yard House Restaurant
The Long Beach, California, location is the flagship of Yard House Restaurants, which has nearly three dozen units. The restaurant has one of the nation's largest draft beer selections, says the company's director of beverage, Kip Snider. Yard House has about 250 beer tap handles, with 174 different brands, all draft. The company has smaller units with about 50 taps, and 130 to 160 is the model going forward. About 65 percent of the draft is craft beers, while another 25 to 30 percent is imported. The rest is domestic because every restaurant has to carry beers such as Coors Light, Bud Light and Pabst, says Snider.
Allyn's Cafe
Located in Cincinnati, Ohio's oldest neighborhood, Columbia-Tusculum, Allyn's opened 20 years ago and has become a community institution. The East Side restaurant dishes up a combination of Mexican, Cajun and upscale pub grub, and serves only bottled beer—about 120 domestic, craft and imported varieties. The imports are from about a dozen countries, says owner Allyn Raifstanger. “We also have Around the World in 80 Beers, where customers can drink 80 beers, over any period of time. If they finish they get a reward and their name on a plaque here.”
Why did you choose your type of beer offering?
I think anyone who knows about beer understands that draft is the best tasting, freshest beer. We maintain the correct pressure and temperature for each type of beer, and serve it correctly and in a timely manner. When each keg comes in, we put a label on it with the distributor, the date it arrives, and the [tap] handle number before it goes in the cooler. The rule of thumb is we will keep it no longer than a month after the keg is tapped.
I got the idea of serving many different brands of bottled beer from the years when I was in Washington, D.C., working at the Omni Hotel. We would go over to the (legendary) Brickskeller, which at that time had about 600 different beers by the bottle, from this country, including craft beers, and around the world. I would sit there and try various types of beer, including brands I'd never heard of before. It was great.
What are the pluses and minuses of your beer system?

In addition to being more flavorful, the margins for draft are better than packaged beer. Also, there's the green factor. Just look at the 8.2 million pints we serve; what we alone save in waste from bottles and cans has a huge impact on the environment. It is expensive to install a complex draft system, about $300,000 for ours, and there are the costs of maintenance, and maintaining the temperature and pressure, but it's really worth it. 

The markup is probably a little better for draft, but there are a lot more costs in having that kind of system. It would probably cost $5,000 to $7,000 to get one of those tap systems up and running, and then you would have all the costs of the maintenance, including cleaning the lines and changing out the kegs in a timely manner. As with kegs, our beer doesn't stay here long—probably a month at the most.

Do you expect to make any changes regarding your beer?

We are looking into maybe bringing a handful of bottles that are not available in draft. We do change the beers on the menu. We have a review twice a year, one in March and another in September. That's when we take a hard look at what beers are doing well, which ones to add, and which ones are not doing well and should be removed from the menu.

Probably not. Our building is built on a slab, and we didn't have room for kegs at the beginning. In 1995, we bought the building next door, and it has a basement, and we could put walk-in coolers and draft lines there, but I decided not to do it. We change what we offer seasonally, including Octoberfest varieties and Pumpkin Spice Ale in the fall.