Persevering During A Pandemic

August 4, 2020
Doing what it takes to keep the doors open
 
Even if you’ve never watched a single episode of the CBS television show Survivor, most likely you’re familiar with the concept. A group of very fit, competitive people faced with a barrage of difficult tests battle it out to be the last person standing on a deserted island. Naturally, the sole survivor wins. Minus the desert island, does this sound like your work life right now?
 
Just a few weeks ago, it seemed like we were making progress toward vanquishing the virus. The states and cities grappling with the highest incidents of hospitalizations and deaths, California & New York City, had successfully flattened the curve. Stringent shelter-in-place “red” restrictions were eased. But it was way too soon to declare victory. Infection rates soon began climbing in other parts of the country and it wasn’t long before “green” cities turned red. To lessen the spread of the virus, many states issued strict guidelines limiting how alcoholic beverages could be sold on premise (Please see sidebar for a brief rundown of PA guidelines). The requirements of social distancing, the added costs of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning (on top of capacity restrictions) make it nearly impossible for full-service bars & restaurants to keep the doors open, let alone turn a profit.
 
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone. But for those whose livelihoods depend upon customers gathering in hyper-social settings – bars, restaurants, hotels, clubs and catering venues – adapting to the needs of safety-conscious customers and ever-changing government restrictions is daunting to say the least. But there are ways to mitigate financial damage and be a survivor.
 
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
 
Trying to please everyone is a costly business strategy (Be honest now, how many IPAs do you carry?). Even before the pandemic, customers overwhelmed by too many choices tended to spend less. And now the pandemic consumer is even less likely to try new things. “During the shutdown, 69% of consumers reported buying brands they know and trust,” says Tim Stammen, On-Premise Sales Manager for Origlio Beverage. “In these uncertain times, consumers aren’t shopping. They are buying brands they know, which will deliver a reliable, comforting and quality experience. Right now, it’s wise to do away with slow moving products. Stick to a select, limited assortment of the fastest-selling known brands in your market. It’s easier on the consumer and your staff, who in many cases are preparing orders to-go.”
 
What’s selling right now? Obviously, hard seltzers like White Claw and Truly are safe bets. But when placing your beer order, think great brands and category leaders. “Mature brands have experienced a rebirth,” says consultant Bump Williams. “Tried-and-true classics in all category segments are growing in a way we haven’t seen in years. National crafts like Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, Lagunitas and Blue Moon – buoyed by the introduction of Light Sky, are responsible for much of the increased beer sales. In fact, during the pandemic, these category leaders accounted for 56% of that growth during the shutdown.” 
 
In the Philadelphia metro market, other trusted brands experiencing growth are super premiums such as Yuengling FLIGHT (+16.7%). Mexican imports, such as Corona, Modelo and Dos Equis are up (+11.2%) despite the out-of-stock situation caused by government-mandated brewery closings.
 
Not to be forgotten are the local brands, which are as valuable as ever for craft drinkers. Most importantly, local brands appeal to younger legal age drinkers (ages 21 to 34 years) who are the consumers most likely to venture into bars and restaurants.
 
Get Reacquainted with Your Sales Rep
 
Now is the perfect time to meet with your Origlio Sales Representative, who is equipped with insightful information about the consumer and your situation. Your sales rep can do so much more than place an order. Lean on your rep for their expert knowledge of industry trends and top-selling beers. And they can also make sure you don’t miss out on available programs designed to maximize profits.
 
Coming Back Strong and Safe
 
As consumers slowly start to return to on-premise accounts, above all else, they’re looking to feel safe. It’s imperative to follow state and national guidelines and implement all social distancing measures to ensure your consumers know that you are making their safety a priority (Guidelines can be found online at governor.pa.gov/covid-19/restaurant-industry-guidance). Also, a strong digital and social media presence will communicate your commitment to safety. Adding photos and language detailing what consumers can expect upon visiting your business is very reassuring. And if you offer delivery and to-go services, you should know that nearly 60% of consumers say they use websites and social media to “pre-shop” meal & alcohol bundles before placing orders.
 
We May Not Be in the Same Boat, But We’re All in the Same Storm
 
As we went to press with this fall edition of Heady Times, it became obvious that the only constant in our lives right now is uncertainty. That is why we chose such an unusual graphic for the front cover. While we normally focus on a brand or prominent family of products, going the “business as usual” route just didn’t feel right when we are painfully aware of the challenges the pandemic presents to our valued customers, especially those in the on-premise. Please know that we are aware of the unprecedented challenges you are facing, and we stand ready to chip away at those challenges as best we can.
 
On a lighter, hopeful note, the National Restaurant Association reports that the number one activity people miss is going out to eat with friends and family. We look forward to a time when customers can gather at their favorite spots without fear of infection, but until then please know that you can count on us to support you as best we can during our battle against COVID-19.
 
 
Supplier Support
 
Suppliers like Boston Beer and Yuengling were quick on the jump when it came to creating programs to support the on-premise during the pandemic. Yuengling partnered with the Philadelphia Phillies and All-Star Aaron Nola to launch Cheers PA, a new initiative to raise funds for Pennsylvania bar and restaurant workers impacted by COVID-19.
 
Boston Beer’s Restaurant Strong program supports 20 states across the US (including PA) and has provided over $4 million in donations to bars and restaurants to date. And the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, of which Boston Beer is a founding partner, has donated over $20 million to help during the shutdown.
 
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