Draft beer is one of the greatest profit makers for restaurants and bars, offering a profit margin of approximately 80%. The return on the investment of draft beer far outweighs the cost of regular cleaning and maintenance of the draft equipment.
Let’s look at a case study:
Cost to maintain a 10 faucet draft system:
10 draft lines x $10 per draft line cleaning and maintenance investment = $100
Servings per week from this 10 line system = 1,320 x 2 weeks which is 2,640 servings in 14 days.
Take the $100 investment in cleaning and maintenance and divide by the 2,640 servings. You will see each serving of draft beer will require $.04 to protect the flavor and integrity of the beer on tap.
Yearly profit from keg beer at a retail account:
Number of draft lines = 10
Number of ½ barrels sold each week = 10
Weekly net profit of this system and keg sales = $4,280
52 weeks per year x $4,280 = $222,560 annual profits from keg beer
In this example the cost of cleaning 10 beer lines, cleaned once every two weeks, is $100 per week x 26 cleans/year = $2,600 annually. Proper cleaning as recommended by the Brewers Association consumes only 1.2% of net profits.
Line cleaning is critical to serving a great glass of draft beer, and the cost associated with cleaning should be viewed as an investment with a high return. All draft beer systems whether the beer line run is short, as in direct draw box, or long as found in glycol system, must be cleaned every two weeks. This is mandated by the Brewers Association, an industry group that speaks for the 4,000 breweries in the U.S.
Several reasons are usually given for not cleaning draft beer lines as recommended by the breweries and draft beer professionals. The reasons will vary depending on the state where a business is located. In some states a bar operator has to pay for a line cleaning service. In other states the beer wholesaler is responsible for cleaning the beer lines and the bar operator is concerned about how much beer is wasted and sent down the drain. Lastly, no matter what state you’re in, line cleaning can be destined as an expensive, inconvenience requiring downtime and lost revenue.
A bar operator who is concerned about the cost of line cleaning elects to have draft beer lines cleaned monthly. This doubles the recommended time between cleanings. Beer spoilers: bacteria, yeast and molds can contaminate the beer lines and begin to impart an off-taste into all of the beers on tap. The off flavor will be noticeable in the light lagers and wheat beers with subtle flavor profiles, more robust ales and stouts will mask the off taste for now. However, within a short amount of time the flavor will be detected in all the beers on tap.
Bar patrons will taste the off flavors produced by the beer spoilers and take one of four costly options. He will not order another draft (stop drinking). Maybe complain to receive a refund or exchange for a different beer. Switch to bottle beer, leaving your draft system unused. Or finally the worst case, elect to drink elsewhere.
Draft beer sales and revenue will continue to decrease with each day that passes without an effective line cleaning process. The realized cost of lost sales and customer goodwill is much greater to the operator than the cost to clean equipment in accordance with the Brewers Association line cleaning standards. The real cost of line cleaning – lost sales and revenue.
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