Cover Story Notebook: Capitalizing on Consumer Experience

In an ongoing series, Brewer will take a small note from interviews of some of the cover stories it has run and give a small tidbit that didn’t make the issue, but is still worth diving into.

It’s been written here and in numerous other publications and talked about. But let’s go over it again, alrighty?

No matter how well your beer is made, a consumer will walk away from a visit to your taproom or brewpub if the experience wasn’t to their liking. In a digital age with apps galore that can make someone’s opinion carry more weight than ever before, being able to cater to a consumer’s needs is more paramount than ever.

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant has opened more than a dozen brewpubs, and the management team — started by Kevin Finn, Mark Edelson and Kevin Davies and joined by new CEO Kim Boerema — has adjusted to what needs are most important.

The awards the brewery has racked up for two decades is a nice compliment to the staff on hand, but the face of any brewpub is the bartenders and wait staff.

“We’ve been committed to that since early on,” Davies said to Brewer during a cover story interview for the May/June 2019 issue.

After a server or bartender is trained they take a food test of about 250 questions and must score at least 90% correct (they can take it multiple times).

“We feel it’s important that they really understand and know the products well,” Davies said. “Mark has a really great beer training program on education. So we’ve put a lot into that and a lot on the service side.

“There are standards that servers need to have that we expect in terms of what we want our customers to experience every time a customer walks through the door.”

Boerema said one of the comments that consistently pops up (“Which we’re very proud of,” he said.) is knowledge from the staff.

“What they know about the food products — which you have to these days with allergies and all that — it’s essential that we do that,” he said. “[Consumers] won’t get an answer like: ‘Well I don’t know, I don’t like beer.’

“From our side, it doesn’t matter if you like or don’t like beer. You have to know our products to speak about our products.

“The goal of the brewer is to turn our staff into craft beer drinkers if they aren’t. To open their eyes to the possibilities, and most of the time that’s what happens.”

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