Cider Corner: Approaches Scion Takes to Regular Event Programming

Scion Cider co-founder Elisabeth Osmeloski has a decade and a half of experience planning huge conferences and other large scale events, which one would guess might come in handy when trying to find ways to bring people in the door to your relatively new cidery.

Coming up with weekly events for a small business is an entirely different animal, she said.

“I have that background, but planning events for a 50-seat tasting room with a small outdoor patio is far more difficult than it is to plan for a huge event,” Osmeloski noted.

Scion Cider Bar opened in Salt Lake City, Utah in December 2021, missing the event-heavy fall season that can drive business into a lot of cideries.

“And, of course, as we were opening we went into Omicron, so that first winter was a little rough,” Osmeloski recalled. “We were really excited about what we were doing, so people came anyway.”

Winter 2023 saw a return to something approximating normalcy for the small business, and Osmeloski said Scion has been experimenting with a lot of different events and different tactics to appeal to a diverse audience and customer base.

There are two different types of events you have to consider, Osmeloski said, when coming up with ways to consider engaging with new and existing customers.

“Tier 1 is what we call regular programming, and Tier 2 are our special partnerships and quarterly events,” Osmeloski said.

Tier 1 events include trivia nights, painting nights, bingo nights and live music nights.

“Most cideries and cider taprooms that are smaller and based in cities or suburbs have to have regular programming to drive people in on a regular basis,” she said. “We’ve tread lightly into that space, trying different things.”

One thing you have to do is take note of what other bars in the area are doing and adjust accordingly, she said.

“We looked at bars directly in our neighborhood and bars a couple of blocks away were already doing trivia and bingo nights, so in terms of competing with that, I was very cautious,” Osmeloski said. “I was very conscious of creating different things to get people out versus your usual bingo and trivia night.”

Scion took advantage of what it had available to it and applied unique twists where it could, mixing them with some tried-and-true mainstays. Regular events include a cider education class on Thursdays, a Euchre night, a bingo night and themed painting nights.

“For tonight, for instance, we partnered with a local bitters company that gave a presentation explaining what bitters are and how they could be used in session cocktails,” Osmeloski said. “It gets the word out to a huge new audience. The bitters company has over 10,000 followers on Instagram.”

Creating partnerships with other small businesses can also be helpful. It’s mutually beneficial because it can lead to new customers for both, plus it can reduce overhead costs for your cidery.

Osmeloski said she looks for partners that can broaden their reach and bring in a new audience.

“A great example of regular programming is our Plant and Pour night,” Osmeloski said of the event, which involves learning about different plants and how to pot them. “We partnered with a small plant shop that has more than 10,000 people following it. It’s appealing to both men and women.

“If I had to assemble the project myself, it would be a huge ask for someone who is also running taproom. But [the owner] sells the tickets directly and her shop is just six blocks away. She loads up the van, brings the stuff she needs for 25 seats, and we sell drinks and charcuterie boards.

Having ticketed events midweek can help offset slower nights.

“It’s great for Tuesday nights,” she said. “We’ve had regulars bring different people, like a friend instead of a spouse the second time, and we’ve worked out a deal where the partnering business keeps the proceeds from the ticket sales but tip our staff. It balances out slower nights and if the class doesn’t have a lot of drinkers.”

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