With hard seltzers being one of the most popular drinks of the summer, it's no wonder that restaurants are looking to put them on draft. Not only does this allow customers to order their favorite hard seltzer by the glass, but it also provides an opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In this blog post, FICKS will discuss all you need to know about seltzer carbonation and beer taps so that you can start offering hard seltzers on draft in your bar or restaurant!
You might be asking yourself, is hard seltzer on draft really going to be a thing like cans have become in bars and grocery stores? Well, the data it's already happening. FICKS Hard Seltzer bar and restaurant sales are +250% this year, with hard seltzer in kegs accounting for half those sales. In fact, hard seltzer in general now accounts for 1.3% of sales at bars and restaurants. If you're sitting there with multiple cider or light beer taps, there's a huge opportunity here for you.
So why hard seltzers on draft? For one, it's a great way to offer customers a variety of flavors and brands. More than ever people are looking to try new things as the reemerge to enjoy their local bars, restaurants and nightlife. They've been trying every new type of drink they can get their hands on while confined at home, from kombuchas to hard seltzer to less heavy options like hard seltzer. They don't want to see the same flavorless draft beers on tap that they abandoned for these more flavorful beverages! And with so many different brands of hard seltzer available, there's a chance to offer your consumers what they want in terms of variety with low bandwidth.
Hard seltzer also provides a lower sugar alternative for gluten free drinkers - a major reason cider taps became popular in the 2010's. These gluten free guests sprinted from cider to hard seltzer when the category emerged, and are looking for this to be reflected on draft at their local bars rather than continuing to drink high sugar ciders.
So how do you put hard seltzer on draft? The process is actually quite simple, and we'll outline the steps below. But first, let's quickly review the science of carbonation and beer taps!
Beer taps work by using gravity to pull beer from a keg in a cool room (or fridge) up through a line and into the tap at the bar. This is why you generally see kegs stored lower than the level of the bar top - so that gravity can do its thing. When CO₂ is added to beer it makes it carbonated or "fizzy." This happens when CO₂ dissolves into the liquid under pressure, forming bubbles that are released when that pressure is removed (i.e. when you open a can or pour from a tap). The level of carbonation in beer is measured by the amount of CO₂ that is dissolved in the liquid - this is called "carbonation levels" or "carbonation volume."
The most common way to hard seltzer on draft is through a direct connection system, where hard seltzer runs from the keg directly to the tap. This is similar to how beer taps work, but there are a few key differences. First, hard seltzers generally have higher carbonation levels than beer - around three volumes of CO₂. This means that you'll need longer lines and potentially regulate the flow for a slower pour. However, from our experience with FICKS Hard Seltzer in California bars and restaurants, there's been zero need for a flow regulator and all bars have been able to bring the taps on easily to start pouring the bubbly goodness.
Keeping the kegs a little colder than usual can be helpful in ensuring this extra carbonation doesn't result in a total foam explosion. With your typical beer set up and a little calibration, you should be able to pour any hard seltzer without much foam, but let's be honest who doesn't love a good hard seltzer head?
So what we're trying to say is - don't fear the install, and know that customers will love it!
We'll leave you with a few tips on how to make hard seltzer successful at your bar or restaurant, based on our success FICKS Hard Seltzer has created for California bars and restaurants.
Make Sure It's a Colorful Hard Seltzer
Visualization is a big part of what people choose to drink. If it doesn't look good, they're not going to drink it. This is especially important for hard seltzers because they, well, just look like water most of the time. This isn't very exciting compared to the typical vodka soda, and can be tough to charge what you need to make your margins. However, if you find a hard seltzer that pours in color it'll instantly get the attention of customers used to just seeing the typical clear White Claw or Truly.
FICKS Hard Seltzer's Mango pours a bright gold due to our use of mango juice for flavor, and our blackberry hard seltzer pours bright purple, which have worked to instantly grab the attention of bar patrons who often yell out to our California bars, "What's that purple one??".
It's an attention grabbing strategy that'll also show the premium nature of the hard seltzer you have on draft, and allow you to charge more.
Find a Local Hard Seltzer
FICKS is a California made hard seltzer (see our story), and oh do we make sure people know how proud we are of that. But if you're in Texas, New York, Arizona, etc. people want to try what's being made in their home market. Spend some time to find a local hard seltzer so your customers are excited to try a local brand that they maybe had not yet heard of.
If you're serving hard seltzers in cans at your bar, try to find a local one that mentions this on the packaging for people to check out as they sip. You'll notice FICKS' cans mention California Crafted and Born in California on our packaging, and that's been helpful to our California bars and restaurants to quickly educate customers on this local to California brand.
Make Cocktails with Your Hard Seltzers
With their bubbly flavorful liquid, hard seltzers make great ingredients for cocktails. This is a great way to increase the average check at your bar, and hard seltzers on draft make it even easier.
For example, our Mango hard seltzer makes an excellent addition for a bubbly Tropical Margarita. The Blackberry hard seltzer also makes for a delicious berry twist on a Dark & Stormy or Paloma.
Having your hard seltzers pull double duty can make you sell through them even faster, while giving your customers more of that beloved variety.
Offer a Variety of Hard Seltzer Brands
FICKS has been making hard seltzer long enough to remember when stores thought you only needed to have ONE hard seltzer. Oh how that changed. When we first meet with bars and restaurants, we often hear something similar about only needing to have one hard seltzer to meet customer needs. However, the category has evolved so much that this really isn't keeping with the times.
We recommend having at least 2-3 hard seltzer options at your bar and restaurant, either in cans, on tap, or both, to give customers the variety they want out of this growing category. Think about this like IPAs a few years ago. It used to be you'd have one for the IPA drinkers, but now you wouldn't only offer just one or even two. The category has expanded so that bar and restaurant owners need to offer a variety to meet the tastes of all your customers, and hard seltzers will be no different in the coming year.