To be or not to be, that is the Food Question for brewery taprooms.

There’s no doubt that taproom sales will increase if you sell food to go along with your beer. There is, however, quite a bit of doubt as to whether you should do this.

Pouring beer is easy and profitable. Preparing and managing a food business is a different animal altogether.

In my home state of New Hampshire the alcohol regulations state that a taproom cannot pour full pints unless they serve food. There are lots of rules about what kind of food, how it has to be prepared and so on.

Bottom line, you have to become a restaurant to pass the test. Read on…

Erol Moe, one of the founders of Stoneface Brewery in Newington, NH talked about their experience with the “food or no food” conundrum at a recent conference.

Stoneface did not want to serve food, but they recognized their customers wanted to drink more than a few beer samples (which was all the state law would allow). So, they took the plunge and added food to their taproom offerings.

Overnight, their business model became extremely complex. They weren’t in the food business and didn’t want to be. They knew how to manage a brewery and taproom, but didn’t know how to deal with the food business. The learning curve was steep and swift.

Despite the negatives, I asked Erol this question: “If the state law hadn’t required you to have food to serve a full pint, would you still have done it?”

“Absolutely,” he said. “My business became really complicated overnight, but sales went up significantly.”

So, there is the answer. You can increase taproom sales significantly with food.

A middle ground here is using food trucks or partnering with nearby restaurants to provide the food. Many breweries do this now. Wachusett brewery parks a food truck right next to their beer garden. Night Shift brings in a rotating selection of food trucks to provide variety to customers and offer something different on a regular basis.

Another idea is to negotiate a percentage of the food truck sales while not having to deal with food prep and managing that aspect of the business. They provide the truck and food. You provide the hungry customers.

This may be the best of both worlds: Food to keep people around longer, enjoying your beer and increasing taproom sales.

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