How Sebago Brewing Co. continues to crest the wave

Industry Snapshot

Maine’s breweries got the one-two-punch like all small businesses affected by COVID-19, particularly after Maine’s state mandate prevented bars and tasting rooms from opening until this past July. As we head into November, Maine will have entered Stage 4 of the Plan To Restart Maine’s Economy. Stage 4 anticipates a reopening date for indoor service for bars and tasting rooms of Monday, November 2, 2020. Some breweries are prepared to stay open even though the possibility for losses over the winter months still poses a real threat.

How Sebago handled the COVID setbacks

Sebago took a slow, patient approach to opening, keeping everyone on staff covered by their insurance, so that the employees didn’t have to pay it back. They took their time to look for best practices, and waited to see what other businesses were doing. They didn’t want to open unprepared or have customers come in and not like what they experienced or feel uncomfortable and back away. First, they trained staff how to do things differently in the COVID era, and even did some role-playing to get operations down before opening. For their efforts, they received tons of positive feedback from customers on how spacious and safe their pubs were.

Second, they focused on the well-being on their staff: they scheduled the right amount of managers and staff to handle visitor traffic and also allowed special time off so staff could regroup.

Third, they made a major menu option reduction, as, like most restaurants, they couldn’t carry inventory pre-COVID. To accomplish this, they had to close for almost four months and redesign the menu, which kept the classic menu items, but had to eliminate all discounts and happy hour and half-price apps because of thin margins in order to maximize revenue with limited open times. 

How they continue to look forward

Having high-quality beers and food and providing a safe and inviting atmosphere has been a successful plan.

But, making sure all best practices were in order to make their customers and staff feel safe and have an enjoyable experience is just as high as a priority these days.

Even though Sebago’s revenue is down about 50 percent, so far for 2020, they continue to work with their strengths, and cut out the drag, such as modifying how many days and hours they are open (eliminating Sunday and Monday)  and continue to maintain a streamlined level of revenue. 

Going forward into the fall/winter of 2020,  Kai Adams, VP and co-founder of Sebago urges quality control for Maine brewers. “It’s important to watch for factors that affect flavor quality, because poor quality beers can hurt a brewery who is struggling during this, and also affect Maine’s reputation of high standards of great craft beer.”

Adams also notes that “Packaging will be king this winter and every effort should be made to get that part right.” Sebago Brewing Co. has added a new 12-pack packaging line and labeler to now package short-run beers and he is excited that they continue to innovate to make a lot of fun and exciting beers.

Check out more of our Industry Snapshots on the craft brew, distilling and Maine outdoor industries as we #keepourspiritsupmaine

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