How growlers of beer helped save this Seattle pizza chain

The homegrown pizza chain, which has expanded to 17 eating places since its 1993 founding, misplaced its eating room, bar and catering enterprise, ensuing within the layoffs of 120 workers — a few quarter of its workforce.

“We just very single-mindedly went into the position of, ‘We’ve got to get through to the other side so that people’s jobs are still there, and we can bring those people back,'” Dan Black, Zeeks’ president advised CNN Business.

Fortunately, Zeeks might lean on the remaining legs of its enterprise — take-out and supply. But finally, the largest raise got here from an surprising supply: Its beer faucets.

A short lived loosening in Washington State’s alcohol legal guidelines allowed for curbside pick-up and supply of draft beer and blended drinks. That meant Zeeks, which for the previous two years was allowed to ship bottles and cans of beer, might increase that service to incorporate its acclaimed draft beer lineups.

“People have embraced it in a really big way,” Black mentioned. “And they’ve realized that not only is beer delivery a thing, they’ve realized that Zeeks is the best at it, and so it has really been the main thing that has propelled us through [Covid-19].”

Zeeks sells about 1,500 growlers, or 64-ounce glass jugs, of beer per week throughout its eating places, Black mentioned. Pre-coronavirus, it bought about 150 growlers of beer per week through its eating places’ take-out enterprise.

“We actually almost ran the Northwest completely out of growlers when it hit,” Black mentioned of the vessels that maintain the beer.

Black credit the momentary rules as a lifeline for Pacific Northwest craft breweries. The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders have been devastating to the trade, a collective of small- and medium-sized breweries that rely closely on taproom and off-premise draft gross sales.
Brewers on common noticed a 65% gross sales drop as a result of coronavirus and associated public well being measures, based on an early April survey of 525 US breweries by the Brewers Association, a commerce group. Nearly 60% of these surveyed mentioned their breweries would final fewer than three months if present stay-at-home restrictions remained in place.

Draft gross sales at Reuben’s Brews, a Seattle brewery that produced 170 completely different beers final 12 months, represented about 30%-35% of its total beer gross sales, mentioned Adam Robbings, who co-founded the brewery in 2012 along with his spouse, Grace. Reuben’s had beforehand collaborated with Zeeks on the pizza store’s home beer, Hop Tropic, an American Pale Ale.

So when Washington State ordered the closure of in-house bar and restaurant service on March 16, Reuben’s total income sources had been halved. Its draft enterprise fell to almost zero.

“Hop Tropic was the only beer that we were brewing for draft sales in the first two months of this pandemic,” Robbings mentioned. “Everything else was in [cans and bottles] because that was only the route to market for most craft breweries.”

Expanded beer supply could possibly be an avenue for native eating places to proceed to outlive post-coronavirus, mentioned Black, the Zeeks president, who favors these momentary legal guidelines changing into everlasting.

Not everybody does, although. While the allowances are very talked-about, some carry important public security implications, mentioned Brian Smith, communications director for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. It’s potential some rules keep in place as soon as the general public security provisions are lifted, however not all, he mentioned.

“We made the allowance to help [restaurants and bars] through this period,” Smith mentioned. “Our concern always is about children having access to alcohol.”

For now, the relaxed rules have given Zeeks “a path to the other side,” Black mentioned, including the pizzeria chain has introduced again some workers. Former servers, educated of the beer lineup, now are working in Zeeks’ name middle, he mentioned.

“We’re not exactly popping champagne corks over here,” Black mentioned. “If you’re in the restaurant industry, survival is a win at this point.”

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