In today’s difficult economic times, it is even more important that small businesses like breweries are able to connect with their customers. If a brewery cannot sell directly to customers, they will have a difficult time surviving while restaurants and bars are closed.

Many small breweries are suffering under COVID-19 influenced regulations, and they will have to be creative to find ways in which they can preserve their businesses. Companies like Melvin Brewing are finding new ways to connect with their customer base and to share their quality products with the public.

Drinking Habits Have Changed

In quarantine, many people are buying beer and other alcoholic beverages to make up for the missed trips to brewpubs and taprooms. Many beer drinkers believe that stocking up on their favorite brews is part of their essential shopping. In most states, beverage companies have been classified as essential businesses, so the market is still there.

However, the social aspect has been taken away from the beer-drinking experience. The pleasures of sharing a drink together have been somewhat replaced by Zoom happy hours and one-on-one chats, but many people are missing the convivial feeling of a true brewpub or taproom.

Different Methods of Making Sales

In today’s shaky business environment, it is likely that breweries are not ready to invest money in canning or bottling processes. Beer makers who do not have the capability to produce canned or bottled products can package growlers or refillable containers for use at home.

Breweries can also produce promotional merchandise like T-shirts, hats, and glassware to keep their name alive. Family Business Beer Company, a small Texas brewery, has been selling merchandise during the shutdown. This is a relatively low-priced investment and can help to keep the brewery in customers’ minds while the taprooms are closed.

Companies like Boston’s Harpoon Brewery are making changes to their distribution system to better meet with today’s challenges. They have added pick-up systems to their closed taprooms in an effort to give customers the products they want in a safe and convenient fashion.

Connecting with Customers

Many bars and restaurants, as well as breweries, have begun offering weekly virtual happy hours and trivia. Breweries and bars can offer prizes that can be picked up at a later date, including merchandise and gift certificates. This will make customers excited to get back to the brewpub in the future.

Melvin Brewing has begun running Zoom meetings with its customers, allowing them to participate in Q&A sessions about its newest offerings. They have been able to introduce their new barrel-aged Imperial stout, Vladimir Gluten, to their fans and customers using this method. A personal, one-on-one connection with the brewmaster is a treat for fans, and the brewmaster will enjoy sharing their special information with the public.

The brewery has also been very active on Instagram, sharing photos of their newest creations with their fans. Instagram is a useful way to connect with Millennials as well as older age groups. Instagram is a good way to get people interested in trying a particular brew and a way to share the diverse artwork on the cans and bottles.

Other Ways to Engage with Customers

Taking the newest technology into account, there can be a deeper connection between the brewery and the customer. Virtual customer engagement is key to brewery success in the new economy.

Programs like Virtual Taproom facilitate two-way discussions between the brewery staff and the customers at home. This is a more intimate experience than a large Zoom meeting where everyone is there to listen to shared information and may have difficulty asking individual questions.

Virtual tastings are another way in which breweries can walk their customers through the experience of trying a new beer. Either a bartender or a brewmaster can handle this call, and their perspectives will be different.

When customers are fully engaged, they are likely to come back to the taproom after the restrictions have been lifted. They will feel as if they have built a personal connection with the staff, and when they return, they will feel like valued regulars. This loyalty can make a huge difference in the reopening phase.

Moving Past the Quarantine

Brewpubs and taprooms will need to put many health and safety precautions into play before they are able to reopen. These precautions, like reduced capacity, personal protective equipment, and disposable drinkware, may take away some of the atmosphere of customers’ favorite restaurants but safety is always the most important concern.

It is difficult now to imagine a “normal” restaurant and bar operation happening again. When brewers like Melvin Brewing adapt their business practices to the needs of today’s pandemic and the slowly reopening economy, they will be able to preserve their companies and serve their customers well.