Reuben’s Brews, Urban South Survey Customers on Desire to Return to Taprooms

As all 50 states have begun the reopening process, two more craft breweries are asking their customers how willing they are to return to brewery taprooms when on-premise sales return.

Seattle’s Reuben’s Brews and New Orleans’ Urban South Brewery, which also operates a location in Houston, Texas, recently shared the results of their respective surveys. The studies come on the heels of a consumer poll taken in April by Atlanta’s Monday Night Brewing, which found that 75% of Georgians don’t intend on returning to breweries until June at the earliest.

Although both Reuben’s and Urban South have yet to reopen their taprooms, both have sold beer-to-go.

According to Reuben’s Brews’ survey of 1,452 customers, respondents said their two main concerns about returning to Reuben’s tasting room was the behavior of other guests (78%) and social distancing (64%). To a lesser extent, Reuben’s customers said they were concerned about sanitation and cleanliness of the taproom (18%) and staff wearing personal protective equipment (15%). Just 11% of the respondents said they had no concerns about returning to public tasting rooms.

Reuben’s asked consumers if they’d return to the brewery for “larger events” such as beer releases. The majority of respondents (42%) said they would be hesitant to attend “large or well-attended events in the near future,” while 32% of those surveyed said they’re excited to go back to the brewery for an event but are unsure if they would attend the first one after on-premise sales return.

Of those surveyed, 13% said they would attend the first event just as they had in the pre-COVID-19 world, and another 13% said they would return for the first event, but wouldn’t stay long if the event was crowded.

Reuben’s survey also looked at consumers’ purchasing behaviors during the shutdown, and 49% said they had placed an order online for pickup at the taproom and 27% had bought beer from the company’s walk-up window. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they had not purchased beer from Reuben’s locations since March 16, which is when the novel coronavirus began shutting down on-premise sales across the nation.

The vast majority of respondents (79%) said they would continue ordering beer through Reuben’s online ordering system and quick pick-up option if those services continue once the company’s taprooms reopen. Another 14% said they would maybe purchase through those platforms, while just 7% said they would not use those services.

Reuben’s also polled Reuben’s customers on what they missed — and didn’t miss — most about Reuben’s taprooms. Topping the list was the selection of draft beer and taster offerings (77%), followed by the community atmosphere (68%), interaction with Reuben’s staff (31%), special events and beer releases (25%) and public watch parties for sports and movies (16%).

The aspect customers said they would miss the most if it didn’t return was counter service (51%), followed by communal tables (48%), bar seating (31%), standing-room-only areas (26%), self-serve to-go beer (20%) and beer release lines (15%).

Those beer release lines topped the list of tasting room features that customers said they would miss the least (39%), followed by table service (34%), standing-room-only areas (32%), self-serve to-go beer (24%), communal tables (20%) and bar seating (17%).

“Essentially this survey meant we must keep our to-go store,” co-founder Adam Robbings told Brewbound in an email. “We weren’t sure about that beforehand. It also provides some good focus about short-term and longer-term wants and needs — eg. long-term post pandemic, we need to get communal tables back, but not in the short-term obviously!”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to discuss the pending expiration of the state’s stay at home order this afternoon. Reuben’s Brews does not plan to open immediately, even if the state allows it, Robbings said.

“We’re not going to rush to open — we want to make sure everyone is safe as the number one priority,” he added.

View the full survey results here, and listen to Reuben’s Brews founders Adam and Grace Robbings discuss the results with their team on the company’s podcast.

Meanwhile, Urban South Brewery conducted its own reopening survey, receiving responses from more than 1,000 consumers.

Urban South found that more than 30% of its respondents said they would return to the taproom for on-site consumption within the first two weeks of reopening, while more than 20% said they go back within the first month and around 10% said they would go back after a month. The second small portion of those surveyed said they wouldn’t return until the fall.

Asked if they would be willing to bring their family with them, the majority said yes, they would, but it was close with those who said they would not.

Urban South polled its customers on which safety measures they most wanted to see continue. The top four included regular cleaning of surfaces, adequately spaced seating, reduced overall capacity and contactless payment methods. The least picked measure was plexiglass shields at the cash registers.

Urban South’s survey also asked customers about glassware options and how they felt about indoor versus outdoor seating. More than 60% said they would prefer to use a glass cup upon returning, while more than 30% said they preferred plastic cups. Consumers were fairly evenly split on whether they’d prefer indoor or outdoor seating upon returning to the taproom.

E-commerce sales will also remain an important revenue stream for businesses post-shutdown. More than 90% of Urban South’s customers said they’d like online beer sales to continue after the taproom reopens.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to clarify Monday Night Brewing’s survey findings. 

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