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Matthew Krimmel

Bar Beer Pricing: How to Price Bottle, Draft, and Craft Beer

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The popularity of craft beer is rising. And beer margins have always been a pretty healthy restaurant KPI. Offering your customers a wide variety of options—craft and not—can be a huge win for your bar profitability and your P&l restaurant statement. If you get the pricing right.

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What Is the Average Markup on Beer?

The average markup on beer is about 200% to 300% when considering beer prices for bars. It's similar to restaurant wine markup (see: wine pricing) but there are more profits in the wine industry. But it depends on the type of beer and the type of establishment.

Some bottles and cans of macro brew can be marked up to 500% because they're so cheap wholesale. Alternately, craft beers can be quite expensive to buy wholesale, so bars don't mark them up as high. Ensure your markup is enough to cover lower price times like happy hour.

What Is the Profit Margin on Beer?

The profit margin for bottled beer should be around 75%, while the profit margin for draft beer should be about 80%.

Draft Beer vs Bottled Beer Pricing

The profit margin of beer, as a whole, hovers around 80%. But margins and pour costs are different between draft and bottles.

While that doesn’t change beer price strategy, per se, it does mean draft beer has a few more variables to consider.

Let’s take a look.

How to Price Draft Beer for a Bar

The general cost-per-ounce for beer in kegs is 40 to 45% less than if it comes in cans and bottles. Therefore, the draft beer price in kegs aims for a much higher profit.

But the pricing strategy for draft beer is the same as canned and bottled beer: try to hit a liquor cost of 20% to 30%. Here's a great guide to using liquor cost to set drink prices.

But you may want to markup draft beer a little higher. Because draft beers have higher overhead expenses. Make sure your beer price covers those expenses. Installing and maintaining draft system equipment can be quite costly, from weekly line cleaning to frequent keg changing and accurate beer keg tracking.

Not only that, but you will also need to purchase CO2 and Nitrogen regularly to best serve your beer. You'll also need to account for spillage, spoilage, and over-pouring also known as pour cost. These are all factors to consider when deciding on your beer price.

How to Utilize Draft Beer Keg Size and Glassware

From a consumer perspective, beer drinkers can save almost 80% on macro brews like Budweiser if they buy a keg.

With different beer keg sizing from half kegs to pony keg sizes, the profit potential is always there.

Bars and restaurants can add another layer into the mix: using different-sized glassware.

As you’re targeting pour cost, consider the types of kegs you acquire and the size of drafts you sell. Both of those are levers you can use to control pour cost and achieve your target margin.

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How to Price Bottled Beer

Most successful bar managers shoot for a liquor cost of 20% to 30% on their bottled and canned beer. That means if you're paying $1 wholesale for a beer bottle, it'll have a menu price of $3.35 to $5.

Another method to set beer prices for bars is using a fixed markup number for all canned and bottled beers. This adds an overhead service charge, say either 50¢ or $1, on top of the wholesale multiplier to get the menu price.

When Pricing Craft Beer...

Here are a few things that you should keep in mind when pricing your craft beer:

  • Use the same price for canned, bottled, and draft beer. Whether you sell craft beer in bottles or on draft, have two beers of similar quality and type at the same price per ounce. Even though they are served differently. This helps increase bar and restaurant sales. Calculate your menu prices for your draft beer then price your cans and bottles to match. Here's some more about how to price a menu.
  • Pay attention to your liquor cost. Ask yourself “Given a certain portion size and cost per draft beer, what price will allow you to achieve your target liquor cost?” The typical liquor cost range for craft beer is between 20% and 26%. Which means the craft beer profit margin is 74% to 80%. In reality, the liquor cost can be lower (and the profit margin higher!) for high-end bars and restaurants. They have the status and ability to charge more for their beer. Fast-casual establishments and dive bars often have to compete on prices. Know your bar well and price your craft beer smartly. If you pay to have a cicerone on staff, you'll also want to offset their salary with an increase in beer pricing.
  • Offer a wide variety of prices. Your bar may carry a variety of options for craft beer, from mainstream brands to specialty beers. Naturally, your markup should be different for each, the higher the price, the greater the perceived quality. It's a principle of psychological pricing. Offer a couple of beers that cost 50% to 100% more per bottle than the standard craft beer offerings. Customers favoring small-batch beers may be willing to pay more per bottle for the quality and value in it, particularly if they're part of a bar promotion or LTO (see LTO meaning). Conversely, customers favoring mainstream craft beer are often used to paying $6-8 a bottle. They will turn away from having to pay more and dislike attempts at upselling.

How to Increase Beer Sales

There are many ways to increase beer sales. If you’ve already read about how to price beer and what should beer costs be, you know that this beverage has a good profit margin. Thus, food service establishments and bars should benefit from some of the techniques to sell more beer. Let’s examine some techniques that can help bars and restaurants increase profits by selling more beer.

  1. Offer tempting beer pairings. There are many classical beer and food pairings. The bold oysters and stout and the crispy pale ale with fish and chips are among the best examples. Restaurants that wish to increase beer sales can easily do so by offering food and beer pairings. 
  2. Have a diverse beer selection. People who enjoy drinking beer often wish to try new flavors. That’s why before thinking about how to price beer, bars and restaurants should think about what beer to offer.
  3. Offer beer flights. Flights are a great way for beer enthusiasts to try different beers. They are traditionally served on a tray known as a beer stick or beer paddle. Beers are usually arranged in a specific order based on their strength or color. To improve the experience, you can give clients information about each brew. This can be done via a QR code sticker on the tray.
  4. Organize beer tasting events. You can partner with local breweries to organize beer tasting events at your establishment. Beer lovers are likely to enjoy having a night out while a professional shares the secrets of brewing.
  5. Offer beer cocktails. Although beer is not commonly associated with cocktails, it is an ingredient in various mixed drinks. Examples include Queen Mary (beer with grenadine and maraschino cherries) and U-boot (glass of beer with a bomb shot of vodka).

How to Set Beer Price for Bars: Final Thoughts

Your craft beer prices and your markup strategies depend on the products you offer, your bar’s expenses, and what people will pay. Always strive for a balance between profit and customer satisfaction to price your craft beer intelligently and reasonably.

And that goes for liquor pricing and wine by the glass pricing, too. Don’t be afraid to try a combination of these strategies and figure out which works best for you. Whether you use an a la carte menu, table d hote menu, or prix fixe menu, adjust pricing to cover your beer markup and maintain a good profit margin.

You also need to stay on top of your restaurant balance sheet or your costs could get out of hand and no markup will be enough.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Pricing Beer In Bars

Draft beer vs. Draught beer

Draft beer is common for most American bars and pubs, while draught beer is used for imported beers, especially from England. Draught is a British English variant of the term.

How do you calculate beer prices?

Divide the cost per keg by the number of beers to determine the cost per beer. For example, $85 keg/100 beers= 85 cents per beer. Divide the cost per beer by the sale price per beer. For example, $0.85/$4.00= 0.21 or 21% cost.

How many shots are in a bottle?

Nip/Miniature (1.7 oz=1 shot), quarter pint (3.4 oz=2 shots), half-pint (6.8 oz=3 shots), pint (12.7 oz=4 shots), standard bottle/"fifth" (25.4 oz=16 shots), liter (33.8 oz=22 shots), magnum (50.7 oz=33 shots), half gallon/"handle" (59.2 oz=39 shots), double magnum/jeroboam (101.4 oz=67 shots), rehoboam (152.2 oz=101 shots).

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