Having the right tools allows business owners to make informed decisions, so you can focus on growing into your full potential. Whichever industry you’re in, chances are that inventory and employee management can be made easier by using data to plan your staff schedules and manage customer relations.
Craft brewing is a rapidly growing industry and small business owners need to be adaptable to survive. We spoke with co-owner Sonja Mills of Port Rexton Brewing in Port Rexton, Newfoundland, and owner Bryan Lockhart of Black Kettle Brewing Company in Vancouver, British Columbia. These breweries on opposite sides of the country serve very different customers.
Set in a rural area on the Bonavista Peninsula, Port Rexton Brewing is largely visited by international and domestic travellers. On the other hand, Black Kettle Brewing Company is in an urban area of North Vancouver visited by residents and workers within a six-block radius. Yet it turns out the challenges they faced in managing business operations were remarkably similar, as indeed they are for many small business owners. Both breweries overcame inventory, employee and customer management challenges using data and insights from their Square Point of Sale app to help guide their decision-making.
1) Inventory Management Decisions
It goes without saying that the primary focus for a brewery is on the craft brews. However, secondary areas such as food service and branded merchandise can strongly support the primary offering. Craft brewers’ expertise tends to be in brewing so it’s useful to tap into sales data to inform inventory decisions for secondary areas of the business.
Food options can greatly enhance customers’ experience at a brewery. Bryan Lockhart had scheduling problems when inviting local food trucks to his brewery, so he decided to introduce his own on-site food truck. To get the food menu just right, he views his food sales by menu item to know which ones are popular and which ones he should take off his menu.
Branded merchandise helps build awareness and a sense of community for breweries. Sonja Mills uses her sales data to shape her selection of branded Port Rexton merchandise. She views which T-shirt styles and sizes are selling best (and then orders more) and which items are moving more slowly and don’t need to be restocked.
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2) Employee Management Decisions
It can be difficult to predict how many employees to schedule at tap rooms (or on the shop floor, at your salon etc) to sufficiently serve customers. By viewing sales reports, business owners have the ability to look at sales by hour, day, week or month to identify trends in customer volume and staff accordingly. Sonja has found it helpful to compare sales at Port Rexton Brewing from the same week the previous year to better anticipate what staffing needs could look like for the week ahead.
Having a digital tool to track employee timecards can also save on payroll. Bryan found that by having employees clock in and out at the point of sale, he was able to accurately pay his employees based on the hours they worked. Bryan realized when his staff used a pen and paper schedule, while innocent, they tended to round down their arrival times and round up their departure times, inflating their hours. In fact, he noticed savings of around 15 hours in a two-week period, which adds up to a significant amount of savings every year.
3) Customer Management Decisions
All businesses benefit from receiving feedback from their customers and acting on it. Digital receipts from Square have a question asking “How was your experience?” Customers simply click a happy/sad face, and they’re invited to leave comments on their experience. Bryan has seen this is an effective way to directly and immediately correct bad customer experiences. If he hears a customer feels they waited too long for service, he can apologize. He is also able to issue a coupon for the customer’s next visit. This is an opportunity to resolve issues privately that would otherwise go unknown by an owner or could be aired by frustrated customers online or through social media.
Both the breweries experiences can be found throughout other small businesses and analysing your data can help you tap into a well of knowledge that helps to make informed and smart business decisions.