Is Your Focus on the Right Things During a Soft Opening?

It is said that you don’t always get a chance to make a first impression again. Yet when opening a new taproom for your brewery, you sort of do. Gathering thoughts from what was learned in opening their original taprooms, brewery owners and managers shared insights with Brewer as to what sticking points having some soft openings can help solve.

Soft openings highlight your problem areas, explained Mother Road Taproom Manager Dylan Prater.

“You begin to see how prepared you are for those operational aspects,” Prater said. “I believe it is important to be transparent with your guests about those issues that arise and to take total ownership over them.”

After starting off small, Bent Paddle’s second location grew exponentially, explained Taproom Manager Pepin Young. First, he said, if you have a great space, think about rebuilding it instead. “If your location’s not great, that’s really when you want to talk about what you can do to find a location that’s going to fit you best,” he added. He said owners should spend a lot of time traveling to other places and not just look for what places are doing right, but look for some places where something isn’t working.

“Then just make sure you’re not making the same missteps,” he said.

READ MORE: Does Your Taproom Create Multiple Revenue Streams?

After two and a half years of success with two Brooklyn taprooms, TALEA Beer Co. announced more taproom expansion with two new Manhattan taprooms to open by the end of 2023. Founders Tara Darland and LeAnn Hankinson explained that little things, like making controls easy to access and manipulate, such as dimmable switches in an easy-to-reach area where you can see the lights you are dimming are important to think about.

“It’s crucial to give the staff the opportunity to get to know the space and to understand how much product you will use on a busy night,” they said. “For example, how many backstocked glasses do you need? What’s a typical replenishment period for hand towels?”

The same goes for things such as having dark surfaces along a delivery path where hand trucks could tend to leave a lot of marks.

“(Don’t) over-designing the back bar or storage areas,” they said. “You need to open and see the natural flow of things before putting every napkin box and glass in place.”

Prater cautioned that the biggest snag of soft openings is that you focus so much on the operational issues that the guest experience can detract.

“It is important to still focus on the guest interactions,” he said, “allow them a window into the errors that may be detracting from their experience.

“Listen to the guests.”

Photo courtesy TALEA Beer Co.

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