A growler beer program can help position your convenience store as a destination for beer, but growler programs aren’t right for every c-store.
The first step would be to determine if a growler program is even legal at c-stores in the areas where you operate, and if they are, what other rules are required. For example, your area may only allow for plastic jugs rather than glass growlers or have other specific rules and requirements that might make the program too challenging to implement at certain stores.
If the legal aspects look good, consider your customer base. Are you already selling a lot of beer? Does your customer base enjoy local, craft and seasonal brews? Spacing is another consideration. Growler programs can fit in a range of spaces. Some retailers add as few as three heads, while others have as many as 20. One retailer noted that his 14-tap station cost him $8,000 to set up and measured about the size of an ice cream case. You may also need a cleaning station to clean return growlers before refilling them.
How will you source the product? Are there local breweries you can partner with? You’ll want to make sure you have a revolving array of seasonal and limited-time offerings to keep the growler program fresh and interesting and enough inventory that taps don’t go dry. Some retailers use a number of distributors to ensure they’ve got a revolving door of products and backup brews on hand. If a specific brew isn’t selling, you won’t want that taking up valuable tap space – you’ll want to switch it out to something more appealing as soon as possible.
Do you have enough employees for the program? In these days of labor shortages, it’s important to ask yourself if you have the manpower for the program. Employees will need to be trained to properly to fill the growlers, so there isn’t too much foam and so product isn’t spilling and creating waste. Employees will also need to be knowledgeable about the beers on-tap and to help customers with their selection. Employees will also need to pour the beer into the growler for customers and clean any return growlers.
While some retailers worry that a growler program could hurt their beer cave sales, most retailers offering growler stations note that it helps overall beer sales for their stores by positioning their convenience store as a beer destination. Still, selection is key. Before embarking on a growler program, make sure you know what types of beer your customer base is buying and keep up with changing trends so that you have the best selections on tap.