Sitting in front of a draft system with unfamiliar beers is the adult equivalent of being a kid in a candy store.
Many popular restaurants, bars, and even breweries attract attention for how many beers they have on their draft system, and how diverse the selection is. Keeping up with local and global brew trends can easily make or break a business’ allure. Expanding and rotating the beers on draft keeps customers coming back for more.
Not every customer wants to commit to 16 ounces of something new. Many want to try a sample for taste before making a choice. It makes sense, right?
Recently a friend went out for dinner at a Worcester County establishment and was curious about a beer they offered on the draft list. After asking the server for a sample she was given a 3-ounce (or less) pour. At the end of the meal she saw that they had charged her for the sample. It was just a few dollars, so the cost was not alarming, it was the fact that the charge was there at all that was surprising.
Sure, you wouldn’t be allowed to sample the food menu for free, but a lot more goes into preparing a small sample of food than pouring a small sample of beer. Thinking back, I have never worked in a bar or restaurant that charged guests for samples. Should I be considering this when customers ask to sample something new from the draft list? What is the limit on offering a small sample to curious customers?
Whenever asked for a sample of a new beer, I have always thought it was good service to oblige. A small pour, usually one-to-three ounces. Certainly not enough that someone could sip on the sample for their meal, or be happy with just that for their entire experience. Apparently, I am not alone.
“We feel that offering samples builds good customer relations,” said John Rinaldo, owner of The Muse at 536 Main Street in Worcester. “I have a pretty liberal policy at the Muse. We encourage our customers to try any of the beers on our tap list at no charge.” The Muse offers 12 draft options, which rotate weekly.
Jamie Chapman, Taproom Manager at Wormtown Brewery, wholeheartedly agrees. “Allowing guests to try a taste goes a long way,” according to Chapman.
Unlike many restaurants, Wormtown Brewery offers flights, which some might think would change their perspective on offering samples. At Wormtown, the main attraction is the beer, and it is especially for that reason that they have no problem if customers are curious to try one of their beers.
Chapman assures everyone that trying their beer will not be a problem.
“At Wormtown Brewery we are very proud of the beer we produce, and for that reason we want everyone to be able to try it. You are welcome to come see us and try a taste of any beer on draft. If we have 10 beers on draft that day, and you want to try all 10, we won’t stop you. Actually, we encourage it!”
Bartenders and servers can help customers narrow in on their choices by getting familiar with the flavors on tap. Knowing basic information such as what style beer they offer, as well any characteristics of the aroma and taste can appeal to a guest’s senses without needing a sample. For example, if the coffee aroma is the most impactful scent, but it has a cinnamon taste, a customer looking for something with citrus can easily rule this one out without needing a taste.
It’s true of all alcohol, but most notably beer and wine. At an establishment with a vast wine selection, such as Bocado Tapas Wine Bar, guests often come in unfamiliar with their wine list and looking for guidance (and samples).
“We are there to guide our guests through the experience,” said Veronica Reichardt, a bartender at Bocado in Worcester. “We have wine training each month to learn about what is in all of the wines that we offer on our menu.”
While Bocado does not have a policy regarding wine samples, the servers are happy to offer a small sample to inquisitive or hesitant patrons.
Confident and knowledgeable, they staff at Bocado doesn’t lead customers astray.
”Most guests usually go with the suggestion of the bartenders,” according to Reichardt.
Establishing credibility and creating a comfortable experience are crucial to building a strong reputation as a bartender/server, and an establishment. Providing a small sample to curious patrons is one way to satisfy customers that seems successful amongst many popular area restaurants and bars.