DRAFT – How Many Taps Should You Have? Part One: 2-4 taps

I get asked this more than I care to admit, so I thought I’d write something down. It’s going to be a long one, so get comfy.

FULL DISCLOSURE: #1: I do a lot of work for a macro-brewery. My company mission is simple, “Increase draught beer sales volume through quality, education, and certification.” I know most people either sit on the “I prefer Micro” or the “I prefer Macro” side of the beer fence, but I truly don’t care what you drink, as long as it is quality beer. Increasing total draught beer volume, not share, is my mission. Your dollar sales will increase with the same share percentage IF the industry volume grows. Want to increase profits, grow industry volume. #2: There is NO scientific data to back my theory below, just 20 years of experience in working in the bar biz, the beer biz, with draught systems, and chatting with many owners, managers, and bartenders from coast to coast. Glad we got that out of the way!

Zipf's Law

Almost all data, from software brand sales to favourite ice cream flavours can be basically charted using the same graph. It looks something like this:

It’s called Zipf’s Law. I was first introduced to it in Seth Godin’s book, The Dip (must read, like all of his stuff is) but he describes it best here. It basically says there is usually a clear number one. The difference between number one and three, four, five…is dramatic. That said, how many draught taps should you have? Four, six, eight, twelve, twenty? Let’s take a look… Two – Four taps: Never install just one tap. It basically costs the same to install and take care of two as it does one. If you put in only 2 lines, you should probably use a direct draw unit. You can pour four brands out of this unit if you use 20L kegs. Most, but not all, popular brands are kegged in 20L and the cost per ounce is higher, so consider these factors before deciding. This unit fits behind the bar and is easily installed. If you pour two lines, then you will need:

  • one craft style brand (note I said “craft-style”, it can be from a micro or macro)
  • one mainstream lager brand

If you chose to add another line, then add a light beer/lower alcohol beer (4%) or a darker craft If you want to add a fourth line, add an import. If your monthly beer sales are at least $3k (5 kegs/month), pour two taps. If your monthly beer sales are at least $6k+ (10 kegs/m) pour four taps. This brand line-up would fit nicely into a small upper-casual/fine dining establishment. You should never have more than 1 mainstream, 1 light, 1 dark, 1 import, or 1 strong (6%+) beer on tap if you have four lines. Pouring Coors Light, Blue Light, Bud Light and Bud is redundant and you are losing sales, guaranteed. Yes, you do need some mainstream brands as not everyone has yet opened their minds to “full-bodied craft-style” beers. Johnny Budweiser will never just start ordering a McAuslan Oatmeal Stout; not for a few years anyhow. He may order a Big Rock Trad, a Rickard’s Red, or any one of the hundred awesome “lighter” craft style transition beers, but don’t push him too far or too quickly beyond his boundaries. See the short footnote at the end for more explanation.