Beer Matters: How Miller Brands partners with licensees to drive sales

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Related tags: Pilsner urquell, Beer

Using the correct, branded glassware with a beer in a pub can raise sales by as much as a third. It's a fact - proven by research carried out by...

Using the correct, branded glassware with a beer in a pub can raise sales by as much as a third.

It's a fact - proven by research carried out by Miller Brands UK (MBUK) in 2008. And it's a fact which, when put into practice, is the perfect illustration for both licensee and supplier of how working together will grow sales to the benefit of both.

And that's a fact that MBUK, the latest partner to join The Publican's Beer Matters initiative to grow beer sales in pubs, has placed at the heart of its business.

The brewer, whose portfolio includes the 'original golden beer' Pilsner Urquell, as well as Peroni and Miller Genuine Draft, is working in a variety of innovative ways with stockists to grow sales.

Chief among them is its Master Bartender competition. Responding to research which showed that only six per cent of bartenders had received training from a beer brand - compared to 49 per cent from other drinks categories such as wine and spirits - Miller is growing the competition this year.

The international contest was won by Bristol bar manager Danny Walker at the finals held in the Czech Republic last year.

But any bartender competing in the competition will get a thorough grounding in selling beer - everyone who registers for it is sent modules to test their knowledge on the beer category; how beer is brewed and the history behind Pilsner Urquell and its flavour.

After completing the modules, each bartender is mystery shopped against criteria including delivering the perfect pour and their knowledge and advocacy for the beer.

The top 10 bartenders in this year's contest are due to participate in a national final in September, with the winner going on to represent the UK at the international championship which will be held in Berlin in October.

And the competition is one of the ways in which MBUK is inspiring licensed outlets across the UK to grow their sales - as the three venues on this page illustrate.

The Wolseley, London

Name of licensee:​ Ryan Bishall

Type of outlet:​ Independent café/restaurant

Miller Brands beers stocked:​ Draught Pilsner Urquell

It's not a pub, but beer is booming at the Wolseley, on London's Piccadilly, in the centre of the capital.

Described by licensee Ryan Bishall as a café restaurant in a grand European tradition, the venue has worked hard with Miller to grow sales through sampling and regular staff training since Pilsner Urquell went on sale in the bar last year.

An uplift in sales of 25 per cent a week, equating to a jump from four kegs to five, is the result - while staff have benefited hugely from going in for the Master Bartender competition.

Urban Beach, Bournemouth

Name of licensee:​ Mark Cribb

Type of outlet:​ Freehouse

Miller Brands beers stocked:​ Packaged Peroni Nastro Azzurro, draught Pilsner Urquell

Cribb praises the level of support MBUK has provided to help drive sales of Peroni and Pilsner Urquell in his "funky bar/bistro and boutique hotel".

Unlike other suppliers, MBUK has not scaled back investment in providing glassware, staff training and promotion during the recession, he says. This has led to Pilsner Urquell selling three times the volume of the beer it replaced - Staropramen - since making the switch three months ago. "We had grown frustrated that InBev's cut-backs meant Staropramen was not getting the publicity it needed," he says.

When you're paying around £100 for a keg of premium lager, as Urban Beach is, you need the support from the supplier to justify that expense. MBUK delivers on this.

Urban Beach uses the branded glassware that the company has provided at no additional cost for both Pilsner Urquell and Peroni. Seeing drinkers holding attractive glassware has been effective in persuading customers to order the beers.

"Whether glassware works depends on the 'poncey-ness' of your customers," Cribb says. "And it would be safe to say we are not a pub for the old boys!"

Such is the selling power of the glasses that room has been cleared to stock them behind the bar by rationalising the number of branded glasses Urban Beach uses for other products, especially wine.

MBUK reps have come to the bar to run staff training and also sampling sessions for customers. Members of Cribb's staff also have entered MBUK's Master Bartender programme. Under this, their beer knowledge is put to the test - and, if it's up to scratch, they are entered into an awards scheme that crowns the best bartender in the country.

"The staff appreciate that they are being invested in by a supplier," says Cribb.

The Midnight Bell, Leeds

Name of licensee:​ Peter Vila

Type of outlet:​ Freehouse

Miller Brands beers stocked:​ Draught Peroni Nastro Azzurro and draught Pilsner Urquell

Peroni is "a buzz brand that sells itself", according to Vila, and it has sold itself to the position of being the highest volume beer at the Midnight Bell. This is impressive, considering it sits alongside an extensive range of brews from the pub's owner, Leeds Brewery.

Vila was keen to add more foreign beers to the pub's mix 10 months ago, after becoming manager of the Midnight Bell following a stint with Castle, Mitchells & Butlers' chain of specialist beer pubs. Fresh off a flight back from beer lovers' paradise Prague, he was inspired to introduce Czech brand Pilsner Urquell, as well as Peroni.

While Peroni "flies off the shelves without us having to put in much effort", Pilsner Urquell requires some more proactive up-selling, Vila says, to persuade drinkers to trade up from less premium lagers. It's a good job then that the Midnight Bell has a semi-finalist from MBUK's Master Bartender competition working behind the bar. Sean Murphy reached the semi's thanks to proving his knowledge of beer history and service. "He should have won," adds Vila.

Vila is a big believer in his staff being well trained. "All of us, from me down to the newest member of the team, have skill in service and knowledge about beer," he says. "It provides a great impression if you go into a pub and staff know what they are talking about."

He is also a stickler when it comes to glassware. "I'm extremely anal about branded glassware," Vila admits. "It gives the place an air of professionalism. If you're paying top dollar for a product, as you are with Peroni, customers want the experience to be just right. That's why it pisses me off to see Peroni being served in a Beck's glass."

Related topics: Beer

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