"What, we are doing means something to people," says Stefan Melbourne - Events Manager at Track Brewing: In our current economic climate, it is extremely hard for many of us to find money to finance luxuries such as heading out to our favourite bars or breweries and consequently Stefan’s Work is ‘feeling the pinch’ as Track Brewing is a small, unique operation.
In August, it was reported that the average household’s disposable income had dropped by 16.5%. As a result, two in five say they are cutting down on eating out. This is a massive struggle for businesses who often operate in a crowded marketplace, but the most dynamic are securing new ways to meet the challenges of operating a hospitality business in 2023.
What immediately caught my eye when visiting Track Brewing was the large green plants and funky 90s Jazz music coupled with the humongous brewing chambers, the space was looked as much NASA Research Lab as bar. Stefan talked about the importance of being unique: “This is a market with a lot of breweries out there, so it is trying to keep it interesting for the consumer”. With regular events taking place in the Taproom – the team at Track understand how to attract customers. Recently Manchester Collective – one of the most influential new string ensembles in the UK – dropped in.
Stefan continues: “We hold regular beer festivals - it’s our job to keep appealing to people and for them to want to come back".
According to Gartner: “80% of future revenue will come from 20% of your current customers. It is essential for a business to keep a consistent group of loyal consumers who want keep coming back, and one of the ways we do that is with our online shop, it separated us from the crowd when we opened it. We were surprised to realise, hundreds of people wanted to buy our beer". It’s working, the whole place oozes coolness and leaves you wanting to come back.
One fundamental character which any small business must have is ambition and Track has it in bucket loads. Gartner continues: “An exciting project, which we are working on is, creating our festival called Welcome to the neighbourhood, which celebrates Manchester and its brewing heritage". There is a palpable sense of resilience at Track and it’s clear that their innovative vision for the brand is vital for sustainability.
Track Brewing won the 2022 Best Newcomer award from the Manchester Campaign for Real Ale, and the proof was in the pudding so to speak, when I tried Stefan’s recommendation of Sonoma which is “Our heritage as a brewery, and responsible for around 60% of our sales” According to Stefan. It was delightful and for a guy like myself who doesn’t like Ale to enjoy it so much showcases to me how good the company really is.
To contrast with Track’s story, I looked at how a large chain is tackling the cost-of-living crisis. Harrison, a General Manager at Bierkeller confirmed: “We used to have 70-80 staff members, now we have 30-40, which is a huge loss”. As a large company it was necessary to find a way to cut back costs and often staff members are vulnerable. With the rise in prices, Bierkeller have attempted to make food and drink more accessible to the public and especially students, with £2.75 for a single vodka and £3.75 for a double (compared to £10.75 for non-student). According to Business Manager Stuart Walker “We get more than 1,000 people attend on weekends”.
Harrison talked about what helps to bring in customers "The live sport element helps, having so many TV's and licenses to show football from different countries: and that is important to them. The fact they are a German Brand is a selling point." On Saturday's there is an Oompah show which has three acts and a singalong. With games to play games too, the German theme is more centred towards hen parties and stag do's.
Harrison confirmed that now more than ever before, the brand needs to help our community and charities: “About a month ago, we set up about a charity event with Manchester Soul, which we look to do every month. The first one we did, raised £1,012 pounds and the DJ will come down to play 'from the soul' and the crowd will donate." Giving back and involving the community will help immensely in helping people get better and more financially stable, which can only be good.
Bierkeller has a very bold and masculine décor, with lots of wood and pictures of men in moustaches, together with pirate ships - the scene is set in your head. Stuart talked about the prestige of Bierkeller: “The biggest sports bar in Manchester, when people search sports bars, our name is top of the list". It's clear to see why, when I tasted their best drink: the Hofbräu, a German 5.8 % drink which came in an enormous Germanic glass. I felt like I was in Munich at Octoberfest. it was excellent. The atmosphere also was vibrant with people laughing and beers swinging, you get a feel that this is the pinnacle of hospitality and they do it in the right way.
Times ahead may seem daunting and scary but one thing for sure, hospitality businesses are not going to give up and are coming up with new ways to attract customers and to be understanding of the present situation but you can see even their worry and desperation with final words from Stefan painting a picture of the future: "We hope the work we have done the past 8 years, can make us push on and be sustainable, but it's just playing the waiting game. It's out of our hands and that is concerning" Stefan final words perfectly summarise what every person is feeling right now.
Leon Redfern is in his final year of Broadcast Journalism at The University of Salford