It can be funny sometimes how things just end up timed perfectly. As I was getting this latest entry in our ongoing series of beer updates ready, I saw that we were given a heads up that Steel Bender Brewyard was going to reopen its kitchen a couple weeks ago. We were just asked to wait until it all became official in case this story ran before that announcement.
The announcement just ran on Facebook today (Monday), so we are proud to echo that here. It is not the full menu, but you can order your food online alongside your beer. That is the latest positive development at Steel Bender, as co-owner Shelby Chant told us about in response to our email questionnaire.
NMDSBC: What pandemic era innovations have worked out for your brewery?
Chant: We made the decision to package all of our draught beer other than Blue Bullet and Amarillo SMaSH. This has helped operationally in a few ways, including reducing crowler use/needs. The customer response has been very positive.
NMDSBC: Has online ordering (should you have it) been a bonus or a headache?
Chant: Online ordering has worked out very well for us. We’re lucky enough that our POS (Toast) has the capability, plus they offered their clients three months free. Took some time between our GM and myself to get it set up, but can’t praise Toast strongly enough. Their customer service, especially right now, has been rockstar level. It depends on the day of the week, but for the most part, right now we’re seeing 50/50 online vs. phone-in/walk-in orders. I’m really pushing online ordering as much as possible right now.
NMDSBC: Have sales remained constant or are they fluctuating week-by-week, day-by-day?
Chant: The psychology behind all of this is fascinating … the week that our local independent liquor stores were closed, our sales shot up. Panicked beer runs. But, on the average, we’re seeing days of stocking up, days of wanting to stay in (when we had the bad weather recently), so it’s fluctuating a bit but somewhat predictably if we’re paying attention to these new factors that are influencing buying behavior.
NMDSBC: Have customers responded positively to any beer/food discounts? Or have you found most people are still unaware?
Chant: Yeah, they’re loving it.
NMDSBC: For packaging breweries, how much of a hit have you taken with liquor stores being shut down?
Chant: Probably a bit early right now. We feel terrible for these guys, though. Again, though, we saw an increase in taproom sales compared to before their closure.
NMDSBC: What are some ideas you have coming up? Please include any special beer releases you would already like to start letting people know about.
Chant: The Village Wit will be available in 12-ounce six-packs soon.
NMDSBC: If the stay-at-home order is extended to mid or late May (which it has been through May 15), or even beyond, is there a point where the current to-go-only model is not going to be feasible for your brewery?
Chant: We’re feeling OK right now. Customers are still buying up beer and cider from the taproom, and we’re making changes and decisions with purpose and as much certainty we can have with the info we have. But, we miss having the public in our public house and we miss having all of our SBB family around. From an emotional standpoint, this is so hard.
A big thanks to Shelby for responding to our questions. We have one more story in this series ready for Tuesday. After that and The Week Ahead in Beer on Wednesday, we will play it by ear as to what we will do to keep everyone informed as time goes on under the current restrictions and regulations.
Keep supporting local!