Don't Let Draft Beer Profits Go Down the Drain

Draft beer sales can be one of the highest margin products at your bar – and also one of the hardest to control. Because it is so difficult to check how much your kegs are used, it can easily go unnoticed when these profit margins start to slip. Costs creep in from several areas, which, when left unchecked, will hurt the yield you get from each keg.

We recently conducted a survey of our top bars and restaurants to get an idea of how they are optimizing their draft beer sales. Those participants that fell into the best of breed yielded over 95 percent from each keg. When surveyed, these top five best practices became evident:
  1. Keep the beer at a consistent 34-38 degrees. Beer needs to be maintained within this range to preserve it for as long as possible. When beer heats up, it can turn cloudy and the taste profile can change. If the beer temperature gets too low, the beer can lose carbonation and become flat. Either of these problems can cause spoilage which in turn can waste the remaining contents of a keg.
  2. Keep the beer properly pressurized. A keg’s flow rate should be maintained at one gallon per minute. You can monitor this with gauges that measure the PSI of the carbon dioxide applied to the keg. Each brand of beer has a recommended PSI, so you should periodically check that the each of your kegs is appropriately set. Too much pressure will cause too much foam, which will result in wasted beer and ultimately wasted profits. Setting the pressure too low will result in flat beer that pours slowly from the taps and is unpalatable to the customer.
  3. Reduce unnecessary tubing in the system. For each foot of tubing, you should expect to lose about 1/2 to 1 oz. of beer when cleaning the system and when changing the brand or style of keg. This loss comes from remaining beer in the line of an old keg being wasted or from the beer of a new keg needed to flush out the taste of the prior keg. Many states require regular cleaning of the lines, and it is necessary to maintain sanitary conditions as well as good tasting beer. Costs from unnecessary line can quickly add up.
  4. Reduce rotating taps or price them accordingly. As mentioned, you can expect to lose approximately 1/2 to 1 oz. of beer when changing the brand or style of keg. Rotating taps can be a big crowd pleaser, but consider pricing them higher than your normal drafts in order to compensate for the additional waste in the lines. Make sure to keep regular brands on the same connections to maintain continuity.
  5. Bartender training and supervision is a must. Each staff member that uses the taps must be trained on how to pour a proper beer in order to eliminate foam and other bartending practices, like running the tap before the glass is directly under it. Bartenders must also be supervised to prevent them from giving away free beer to customers or friends. One of the drawbacks of keg systems is that it can be hard to assess how full a keg is at any given time, until after theft has occurred and margins have slid.
By following the above best practices, you can greatly improve your yields from each keg. By reducing waste, you will also improve the profitability of your bar and likely improve the satisfaction of your customers when they taste that cold, carbonated, clean, and properly poured beer.