Cider Corner: Are Your Consumers Asking for Food?

Some craft beverage manufacturers get into the business to do just that, make craft beverages. Adding food is not on the radar. Which is fine, but is your consumer base showing that it could be a profitable venture?

Other than opening your own kitchen, adding food trucks is one option along with teaming with local eateries close to you to help promote and collaborate.

Harvest Ridge Winery, the sister company of Rebel Seed Cider, has a Delaware location that is not close to many food establishments, but its newer location in Chester County, Pennsylvania is. Sofia Horvath, the winery/cidery’s Social Media Manager said the company likes to work with local pizza and sandwich places closely.

“They will deliver, we promote that, and have their menus on hand and visible,” she said.

Harvest Ridge and Rebel Seed has also worked with local restaurants for special promotions, like on National Pizza Day, if a consumer brought in a receipt from the pizza place, they would receive a discounted bottle of wine.

“The businesses have been extremely receptive to working with us and cross promotional opportunities,” Horvath said.

There really isn’t anything on St. Vrain’s end that makes it difficult to have food trucks at the cidery. Co-owner Cindy Landi said a new city requirement in Longmont, Colorado is that all trucks have to get an approval letter from the owner of the property in order to park there, but that hasn’t been a big deal to get.

“I’m sure the level of complexity is totally different from the trucks perspective,” she said.

Other than food trucks, St. Vrain has great partnerships with local restaurants.

“Many of the owners are good friends of ours — Longmont has an incredible small business community,” Landi added. “We do ask our customers to support food trucks when they are at the taproom, but we are fine with folks bringing in their own food or having something delivered.

“We actually had a lady in once that just came from the grocery store and she made herself a sandwich at her table while she enjoyed her cider.”

Spoke and Spy Ciderwork’s taproom is in a building with two breweries (Forest City & Stubborn Beauty), and Ronald Sansone said all three facilities have different hours.

“So when we work together to book food trucks we try to get them to overlap the most open hours of the three taprooms,” he explained.

Typically the area has trucks at least once a week, sometimes twice.

“Every food truck brings its own following that adds to our own customer base, that is also in addition to the overflow from the brewery customers, so we do have changing crowds every week and that definitely maximizes profits,” Sansone said.

Does that mean that opening a kitchen is the right thing for some cideries to do?

Both Rebel Seed and St. Vrain said the idea has been kicked around. But the overall amount of choices can outweigh having a set menu.

“The great thing about food trucks is that you have many varied options of cuisine that you wouldn’t necessarily have if you were serving up food yourself,” Horvath said. “Each truck has its own menu and personality that you wouldn’t be able to replicate from one establishment.

“We think our customers like that variety. It would be nice to have the option to cook and serve ourselves, but would definitely be a large financial endeavor to make that happen.”

It can be really difficult when trucks have to cancel at the last minute, which happens often when you’re working with 20 different companies, Landi noted.

“Getting trucks in the winter can be challenging because a lot of them just don’t operate in Colorado winters and during the summer they tend to book bigger events like farmer’s markets and festivals,” she said. “We’ve considered just buying our own truck and having it available when we can’t book someone else.

“I do think for the vibe of our space a food truck adds another fun opportunity for folks to have a large variety of choices versus the same menu all the time.”

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