Cheers June 2015

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 40 of 51 41 June 2015 • acro brands still rule when it comes to light beer. But this lead has somewhat receded with the rise of craft, which has diversifi ed the category with a wide range of fl avorful brews. The three leading light domestic lagers continued to sell signifi cant volumes in 2014. According to the Beverage Information and Insights Group, the research unit of Cheers' parent company, Bud Light moved 522,661 cases last year, while Coors Light and Miller Lite sold 244,917 and 166,901 cases, respectively. Still, Bud Light sales were down 1.3% from 2013, Coors Light slipped 3.5% , and Miller Lite fell 1.6%. "For a whole decade, light beer has been big breweries' only saving grace," explains Stephen Beaumont, co-author of The World Atlas of Beer and the new Pocket Beer Guide 2015. "But lately, it's only one or two of them who have seen some growth. Everyone else is shrinking." The opposite is true for craft: Microbreweries are enjoying a boom period. And they're increasingly expanding into lighter options such as pilsners, witbiers, Kölschs, and session beers. "We've defi nitely seen a signifi cant shift in the beer consumer marketplace," Beaumont says. The craft beer market is still a small percentage of the overall beer market, he notes. "But it's growing so rapidly that nobody can have accurate numbers. Nothing else is growing at that pace." MACRO MATTERS Whenever Yard House unveils a new location, it opens with "the big three: Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite," explains the beer-centric restaurant chain's beverage manager Greg Howard. With 110 to 120 tap handles per franchise, Yard House easily has room for macro lights. This sheer volume and variety also allows the business to see where big breweries fi t into the larger beer category. "Because there's so much diversity in craft beer, there's no one craft brewery that has cornered the market on any one style," Howard says. "So every microbrewery ends up competing for the same customer." The light beer companies are not fi ghting for the same guest, however, he notes. "The people who drink a light beer tend to only drink that one light beer [brand]. Because of that, two of the three big three macro light beers actually took a step up in our sales last year," Howard adds. "Suffi ce to say, all three are in our top-10, highest-selling beers." Yard House does not try to sway macro drinkers from what they already enjoy. "I think there is still brand loyalty. And we do train about this," says Howard. For instance, if a customer comes in and asks for a Bud Light, "we don't try to change their opinion," Howard notes. "It's the guest who comes in and says 'I think I want to try this' that might need some guidance towards what their taste appears to be." That some macro drinkers are set in their ways also affects decisions at Plank, a restaurant, beer garden and entertainment concept that opened in Oakland, CA, this past October. Although the business primarily focuses on craft beer—at all times it has 50 microbrews on tap, each $8 for a 20-oz. pour— Plank nevertheless stocks macro lights in bottles. "We wanted to still have some level of variety outside of craft beer," says Bennie Thomas, Plank's director of sales and marketing, "because some people are just so used to macro." But it's a decreasing emphasis. "While we do want to please everybody, with each menu we print we seem to take away a little bit more of the macro," says lagers continued to sell signifi cant volumes in 2014. M "Because there's so much diversity in craft beer, there's no one craft brewery that has cornered the market on any one style. So every microbrewery ends up competing for the same customer." — Greg Howard, beverage manager, Yard House By Kyle Swartz Yard House has found that light-beer drinkers typically tend to stick to the same brand.

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