Interest in taproom experiences has traditionally been reserved for trips to wineries and vineyards in the countryside. While the buzz around a beverage boom has been brewing for some time, it has only recently gained significant traction. Millennials have been instrumental in pushing these excursions toward more accessible locations that allow operators to reach a wider following while invigorating their local economy. In 2019, craft brewer sales grew at a rate of 4% by volume, reaching 13.6% of the U.S. beer market by volume. Craft production grew the most for taprooms, solidifying the significance of this trend as a viable business strategy.
This move has not only benefited operators of this model but has also created an opportunity for sales growth in respective equipment categories on the FES side. Manufacturers can greatly benefit from this model through increased quoting of beverage products and kitchen equipment needed for these operations. AQ’s catalog lists thousands of products that are essential for upstarting beverage-driven businesses. To explore this further, we put together a list of essential products that can be used in these settings:
Products pictured: 1. Libbey 196 Glass, Beer 2. Enomatic Wine Serving System ELITE4DT 3. Trendler Arlington Wood BAR30 UPH Indoor Bar Stool 4. Krowne BEERKIT6 Dispensing Kit 5. Cal-Mil 22010-99 Wine Taster Board 6. Tarrison TS-KR18366Z Keg Storage Rack 7. Enofrigo A1WLUI3P226/421 Wine Refrigerator
Designing with Space in Mind
While beverages are the main draw for tasting rooms, having a versatile kitchen space is oftentimes part of this strategy as many customers expect the option of pairing food items with their choice of drink. These offerings tend to be snackable items that are sharable with large groups, making these kitchen spaces more likely to be designed with a catering concept in mind. On the front-end, the space layout requires an open concept that differs from the traditional sit-down restaurant design. Additionally, bar stools are essential in keeping the idea of a walkable indoor space in place. Providing plenty of seating options is also necessary for places with outdoor areas in order to accommodate large parties.
Like breweries, wine taprooms are growing in popularity across the country. In Austin, Wanderlust Wine Company opened its doors in 2020, on the heels of the pandemic outbreak. They currently have 56 wine varieties available at their downtown location. We sat down with Founder Sammy Lam to discuss his experience with launching a beverage-driven business during a uniquely challenging time.
AQ: What’s the background behind this concept coming to life?
SL: The idea of wine on tap was in its early stages at around 2011. Industry people wanted to increase the caliber of wine that was being kegged to attract more consumers. It took a while for it to take off until large companies got involved. With their backing, the keg aspect of the business grew while reducing the carbon footprint of the wine through reduced waste. It’s also beneficial in keeping the wine from getting spoiled in transport as kegs provide stability via their sealing ability. Through these efforts, the “Tank to Glass” model really gained traction. I call it the wine industry’s answer to restaurants’ farm-to-table concept.
AQ: How would you describe the challenge of opening your business during the pandemic?
SL: Wanderlust Wines had a soft launch around the time most businesses shut down last year and had to adapt our strategy quickly to keep momentum up. Some aspects of our initial equipment budget had to be put on hold, but we are getting back on track as local mandates are lifted.
AQ: What are some ways you adapted to keep your brand out there?
SL: We designed and sold masks, hosted virtual wine tastings, and provided kits for residential complexes to support the local community. With time, we’ve been able to shift to in-person, socially distanced events and are hoping to see more foot traffic as more people start going out.
AQ: What has been the overall reception of the “wine on tap” experience that you’ve gotten from consumers?
SL: People are excited. We’ve seen the most interest from young professionals who are trying wine for the first time and are what we’d call “curious wine drinkers” who are seeking novel experiences. The self-pour setup allows them to make their own wine selections and has helped us stay compliant with distancing guidelines.
AQ: What’s your business outlook for the rest of 2021?
SL: Our focus right now is on expanding our core business with the purpose of sharing the wine tasting experience with our growing community. We’re making the most of the current climate and are learning how to maximize profits with these conditions in mind. I’m staying optimistic as we slowly transition back to normalcy. It can only get better.
Lam's sentiments are seemingly shared throughout the industry as more localities begin lifting restrictions around the country. 2021 is already expected to be a good year for sales of alcoholic beverages accompanied by a bounceback in tech-driven strategies to support it. With this in mind, we can anticipate that this industry will flourish with consumers eager to spend money on new experiences.
Related Links: 6 Dining Trends That Will Outlast the Pandemic
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