Operations

Want To Offer Brewery Tour Services? Think About These 3 Steps

Brent Abruzese
Posted on April 29, 2019

Brewery tours are popular with people of drinking age from all walks of life, and using chauffuered transportation ensures nobody gets a DUI.

Brewery tours are popular with people of drinking age from all walks of life, and using chauffuered transportation ensures nobody gets a DUI.

Like many other operators, when rideshare services began shrinking the overall pool of potential clients in my market, I knew we had to shift strategies. With this knowledge, we bought our first Sprinter limo van to add to our fleet of sedans and SUVs. We knew a heavier emphasis on our retail business was what we needed to help curb lost revenue.

At first, I’d pegged the new vehicle to handle the obvious channels it was built for — proms, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. But one idea for a service that stood out to me (because I love craft beer) was brew tours. Our market is a fantastic place to start because there’s already a well-established craft brewing scene at the Jersey Shore, with new breweries popping up all the time. Since it seemed like a natural fit, we quickly added it to our repertoire.

After providing around eight tours to date, while we certainly aren’t seasoned veterans, we’ve learned a lot. Most important, we’ve learned while brew tours can be a great way to bring in new revenue to your company and help grow the craft beer scene in your neighborhood, they should not be run like your traditional retail services. Here are some key points:

No. 1

Breweries are NOT Bars: While they may turn their tasting rooms into their best “bar” imitation with TVs and bar stools, the true purpose of these rooms is to sample their beer. Not to get wasted. Properly qualifying your clients beforehand and setting expectations for them is the right move. If your client is celebrating a bachelor party and they do not want limitations on how much they can drink, a brewery tour probably isn’t a good idea. Sending overserved clients into a brewery will anger the brewmasters and may result in being banned permanently from their establishments. Instead, inform these clients you would suggest a bar crawl type service. While we never condone overserving, and we always hope clients will exercise responsible drinking, traditional bars are better places for these types of clients.

One of the stops on the tour is Red Tank Brewing Company.

One of the stops on the tour is Red Tank Brewing Company.

No. 2

Develop good restrictions to keep group members, brewery staff, and drivers safe. Strict policies like “no pre-gaming” and “no open toe shoes” are good ways to make sure your group will be safe and in line with the breweries’ policies. While most companies already have some form of terms and conditions, brew tours differ. Breweries are places of work and the brewery conducted tours often involve going up and down stairs as well as exposure to areas where hot liquids can spatter from equipment. It’s important your clients are aware of such details beforehand so they can dress appropriately. Giving them advance notice of brewery tour requirements (check your local laws; may not be applicable in your state) is also good practice, so your clients know what to expect.

Brent Abruzese, owner of Black Rock Limousine and Red Bank Limo in Red Bank, N.

Brent Abruzese, owner of Black Rock Limousine and Red Bank Limo in Red Bank, N.

No. 3

Build strong relationships with the breweries. Relations with the breweries are vital. In our area, breweries contact each other frequently to discuss business matters and you definitely don’t want them to be talking about how you are negligent in sending people in to their places of business in bad shape. This can result in your brewery tour service being shut down before it starts. Consider that while you are offering this as a service, these breweries are their livelihoods. Respecting their staff and place of business helps build long-term mutually beneficial relationships with them.   

DO LIST

  • Monitor your groups closely. If someone appears overserved, act fast. Tell your customers in advance brew tours are for sampling, not overindulging. Remember, it is your relationship with the brewery on the line. We’ve even shortened our tour lengths and limited consumption in transit to avoid these situations.
  • Check hours of availability and special events. Breweries often operate under different hours and may not be open when you get there. Don’t risk upsetting your clients. Simply check the schedule or create a spreadsheet of hours in a Google Doc for you and your team to review before tours. Don’t forget, they may also be operating special events when you visit. If so, make sure it’s OK for you to bring in a group.
  • Package in comped food as an added value, not comped flights. We’ve partnered with a local burrito joint to offer a food package we include in certain tours. At first I just thought this was a good way to round out the tours as a “package.” Later, I realized free food at the right time would help folks with lower tolerances avoid becoming outright drunk, and hopefully make for an easier to manage group. Some tours offer free flights, which is something we would suggest avoiding for obvious reasons.

DON’T LIST

  • Allow group members into breweries with outside beer. If you allow your groups to purchase beer from other breweries, it should remain in the vehicle between stops. This is a big faux pas and will make the brewery operators uncomfortable.
  • Promote overindulgence. The time and place for excessive drinking (if there ever even is a time) is not on a brewery tour. If, for example, clients want to bring along hard alcohol to drink during their ride, they should be taking a pub crawl, not a brew tour.
  • Use vehicles over 15 passengers. Bringing 30-plus people in unexpectedly to a brewery on a busy Saturday can overwhelm staff. Often, 30 people would even push a tasting room past its legal capacity. In our experience, we’ve found 15 or fewer is easy to handle from both an operating standpoint for the driver as well as the brewery.

Brent Abruzese is the owner of Black Rock Limousine and Red Bank Limo in Red Bank, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]

Related Topics: alcoholic beverages, charter and tour, charter and tour operators, New Jersey operators, regional tours, specialized tours, tourism

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