Tips to Dial-In Self-Distro Deliveries

If your brewery is delivering beer to accounts on your own, dialing in a “perfect route” on a certain day seems unattainable. Yes, it takes time, effort, and relationship building, but breweries like Wolf’s Ridge and Yellow Springs have found ways to tweak their work to make it easier for delivery drivers and customers looking to purchase a keg or packaging.

Shawn Combs, the Sales Manager for Yellow Springs Brewery admits the Dayton, Ohio-area brand started off all over the place in getting product to beer buyers.

“It was a little inefficient, but we dialed it in,” he said to people in attendance at the 2022 Ohio Craft Brewers Association’s annual conference in January.

So Combs said that they decided that as a strategy, the brewery would take its furthest away areas and try to get them delivered early in the week.

“Then if we had to recover anywhere, we were recovering closer to home,” he said. “By the time we get to Thursday or Friday, we’re delivering stuff that is pretty close to the brewery.

“If you have customers who just won’t take a Wednesday delivery if they’re out of the territory, it’s not the most efficient thing. But if it’s the right customer, you’ll do it for them.”

READ MORE: Experiences From Self Distribution

Wolf’s Ridge is based in Columbus, the center of the state, but delivers to most areas on their own, and negotiating that much territory takes effort to plan, explained Sales Manager Eric Butler and Adam Hickernell, Head of Distribution.

“I think our key differentiator is service. What can we do better?” Butler said. “For us, it’s always: Yes is the answer, what’s the question? So if they [a buyer] want a fixed delivery date? We work hard to make that happen.”

There’s some give and take too, Hickernell added, and using Cleveland as an example, said when the brewery first started accounts there it was largely the “Wild West.”

“But we wanted to get into the market,” he said. “Slowly over time, and having really personal relationships with a specific rep [at each spot], it helps facilitate some of that give-and-take.

“I find that having these intimate relationships with our individual reps and drivers, has helped maybe give us a little bit of leniency with some of that​,​ so that the structure over time starts to fall into place a little more than just when you first enter the market.​”

​Hickernell said that the best way to make tweaks is to work with your delivery drivers. They may be your best source of info in altering and adjusting schedules.

“Derek, our driver for the Cleveland area, he’s showing up at, you know, 5 a.m. four days a week,” Hickernell said. “Josh, who’s running distro, has already got his invoices and everything laid out for the day, and he’s making that trek there and back and hitting all the spots. Sometimes Derek will say to Josh, ‘It’d be really helpful if this one account really adds a lot to this day,’ and adjust them to another time.

“​That will initiate that conversation and sort of slowly continue to smooth those things out over time so that our process just has a flow.​”​

And Butler added that sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

“Sometimes you just ask,” he said when talking to an account rep. “Say, ‘I know you guys take deliveries on Wednesdays, but we send our own driver on Thursday.’

“Because you’re not the big distributor order, they’re not putting away a pallet of beer. It might be like seven cases. Usually, people are happy to help you.”

Photo courtesy Yellow Springs Brewery

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