Taprooms and breweries are in uncharted waters right now. The eventual reopening of public gathering places is a tricky subject with plenty of questions about how customers will react once the doors swing open.
Eagle Park Brewing has a sizable following of fans and a pair of taprooms — a bustling East Side location (823 E. Hamilton St.) that’s been open since 2018, and a sprawling brewery in Muskego (S64 W15680 Commerce Center Parkway) that brewed its first batch in late March and recently started offering beer pickup. Managing the eventual reopening of both and customer expectations are no small task. So, Eagle Park posted a survey on their social channels and let the general public give them some ideas about concerns during the reopening process.
“Another brewery from Atlanta (Monday Night Brewing) that we follow on social media put a similar survey out to a group of around 700 people,” said Jake Schinker, a co-owner of Eagle Park. “We realized how helpful that information can be but also decided that a more local and larger sample of our customer base would be needed. Thanks to Google Forms, setting up something like this is very easy now. I had our survey published just hours after seeing the other brewery’s results.”
The Results Are In
The response was impressive, with more than 2,100 people weighing in, according to the publicly released results. That’s a solid sample size.
“We have worked hard to build a large, dedicated following on social media with our customers for situations just like this,” added Schinker. “When you have a transparent and friendly dialogue with your customers on a regular basis, they are happy to be open and honest with their feedback when you need it.”
The questions were well conceived by the Eagle Park crew and there are more than few interesting highlights in the responses.
- Beer drinkers are apparently optimistic. Nearly 40% of respondents guess that their next trip to a brewery to drink onsite will be in June.
- Beer drinkers are also loyal. About 83% said they expected to visit a taproom with the same frequency, or more, than normal within three months after bars, taproom and restaurants reopen.
- The top three concerns when going back to a taproom were the regular sanitation of surfaces, adequately spaced seating and reduced overall capacity.
- Almost 80% said that they would use a brewery drive-thru at least once a month or more for to-go sales after reopening. To-go sales have provided valuable revenue streams for local breweries and might end up being a lasting byproduct of the shutdown.
The news wasn’t nearly as positive for Cass Borgardt, a sales rep for Eagle Park and youngest brother of co-owners Jackson and Max. Respondents were asked to grade his Cass’ mustache on a 10-point scale of “1 to Burt Reynolds,” and the most common response, from 23% of the tally, was 1. Hey, at least 13% gave him a Reynoldsian 10.
Learning from the Takeaways
The survey wasn’t done just for fun. Expect Eagle Park to put into practice plenty of the items learned from the general public.
“(Guiding business practices) is exactly it,” said Schinker. “Even if the law says we can reopen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it makes our customers feel comfortable or safe. If we don’t have that second part of the equation, no one benefits.”