If you own a bar, you most likely sell some of your beer selections in cans or bottles. Many bars are expanding their bottle selection to include a wider variety of craft beer. Inventory and popularity also play key roles in deciding what beer to sell on tap versus in bottles. Maintaining the inventory of a large selection of draft beers can often be difficult and may result in lost profits. Not every beverage will be a best seller and stocking your slower moving brands in bottles, will increase their shelf life and allow you to order in smaller quantities. Conversely, you may find that during peak times, like weekends and holidays, selling bottled beer from an iced merchandiser or cooler allows you to more efficiently serve a large number of customers.
How you sell, market and manage beer inventory is unique to your specific establishment, but no matter how your business runs, finding the right balance will improve your profitability. When purchasing bar refrigeration, your mix of bottled selections versus draft beer will obviously affect what products you need, however, it is also important to consider how you will merchandise, promote and store your beer. These choices will impact whether glass doors, pass-thru or multi-function refrigeration will best suit your needs.
There are many ways to inform your customer of the beer options available to them. Depending on your bar, the beer selection may be a display of a few bottles on a shelf, or your offering might be so extensive that you present customers with a beer menu. If you are selling more than 6 or 7 bottled beer choices, a glass door cooler may be a great way to show off your selection. When selecting a glass door cooler, there are two choices; a tall glass door merchandiser or an undercounter glass door back bar cooler.
Glass door merchandisers are an excellent way to show and sell beer. They maximize the vertical selling space, have bright lighting, and can accommodate a large selection of beverages. Merchandising beer, wine or soda in this type of a cooler can be ideal for a sit down/take out restaurant, or they can be used as a premium beer showcase for bars who want to boast “the largest beer selection in town”. Most glass door merchandisers will hold about 40 six packs per door. They are available in multiple colors, lighting packages and with backlit graphics. They are also available in specialty configurations for particular product types, such as wine. The wine merchandiser has thermostatic controls for keeping wine at optimal serving temperatures and graphics for merchandising your offering. Possible disadvantages to upright merchandisers when compared to undercounter back bar coolers are their slower cool-down time, their larger door swing which may disrupt a bar’s workflow, and the need to maintain a larger inventory to keep the “full” look.
Because of the potential issues with upright merchandisers behind a bar, you will most commonly find back bar coolers are used in this location to display beers. The glass door back bar cooler combines the merchandising glass front to allow patrons to see your beer selections with the rapid cool-down benefits of underbar refrigeration. Most back bar refrigerators will hold about 24 six packs per door and can be either built in to the bar or have a stainless steel countertop. Since these units are often in line with the other beer equipment, they are compatible with the décor in most bars. Back bar coolers are very durable and are designed to hold beer and wine. To maximize your bar’s work flow, you can choose either standard swing doors or sliding doors for narrow bars, and pass-thru styles are available as well. While, glass door back bar coolers are a great way to showcase a wide selection of beer, accessing this type of cooler will usually require the bartender to turn their back to the customer. Therefore, it is not recommended to use these for storing your top selling beer choices; your most popular beers should either be on tap or in a horizontal bottle cooler.
Solid door back bar coolers do offer the most versatility of all bar refrigeration. They are used for storage or they can used for individual bottle service. With adjustable, removable shelves, they can hold kegs, cases of beer, individual bottles or cans, and juice or garnish back ups. They have a variety of door styles and configurations and are available in multiple depths and widths to fit in tight spaces. You can even create a small satellite bar using a single tap, double door back bar combo unit. This unit has the option of the second door as solid or glass for bottled beer service.
According to studies, the 5 most popular beer brands account for over fifty percent of all beer sales in the United States. These beers will be the highest movers in most bars and need to be easily accessible. The horizontal bottle cooler is ideal for this task, as it is designed to serve a large volume of a few beer brands as quickly as possible. This front line style cooler is usually located within arms reach of the bartender’s central location. They are constructed as a large refrigerated box that holds about 3 cases of beer per linear foot with a divider every 12” to 18”. The coolers have an easy access slide top lid and an integrated bottle opener with cap catcher. This configuration allows the bartender to serve the most popular beers quickly, while keeping focus on the customers. The horizontal bottle coolers have a fast pull down rate for rapid chilling and most models are designed for storage, so they do not require being emptied daily.
The Ice Pack Out style merchandiser is another excellent way to cool and display beer, but they work best for use only in specific circumstances. One way to utilize these merchandisers is to take the lead from some chain restaurants; they often use the ice pack out to merchandise beer as a centerpiece of their bar. While ice pack outs may have a lower up front cost, they require a large volume of ice, and extensive and frequent cleanings. Where we see the best value of the ice pack out is to temporarily expand your bar service during large volume nights, remote or outside events or promotional sales. They are common for catered bars, outdoor or front door service. They also work well for an additional “beer only” station to alleviate some traffic from the main bar. Since ice pack outs are not refrigerated, they are relatively economical to purchase even if they only get occasional use. Make sure to check local codes prior to using a pack out.
While your greatest concern is providing your customers with a cold beer, it is important to determine how you can most efficiently and effectively accomplish this goal. Selecting the right bar refrigeration for your unique beer offerings and bar layout will help you make major strides toward increasing your profitability and customer satisfaction.