Half Time tapped into the building craft fervor in 2002 in part by adding a novel feature. “We pioneered growler fills in the store,” Jason says.
Although many competitors have since caught up with their own growler stations, the feature is still popular at Half Time. The Mamaroneck store boasts 22 taps, bringing in $5,000 in monthly revenue.
“A lot of people want to taste something fresh,” Jason explains. “And a lot of breweries make their names based on freshness. Our growler programs are unbelievable ways to get fresh beers into customers’ hands.”
Modern drinkers treat growlers the way they would a bottle of wine. “They want to share it at a party,” Jason says. “It creates a romance between the person bringing the growler and the people they share it with.”
“When you go to dinner, you want to taste the wine before you spend $50 on a bottle,” he adds. “Our growler taps act similarly in a retail sense.”
A number of in-store tastings each week also helps expose customers to products before purchase. With the stores’ large size, tastings allow for a more-personal relationship between brewer and drinker, while helping pinpoint what types of beer appeal to each person.
Half Time can’t expect to educate consumers if the store doesn’t maintain knowledgeable staff. “The most important thing is market research,” DeSimone says. “We have to keep up with new beers.”
To keep abreast, staff members utilize the stores’ features. “When we get something that we’ve never had before, we’ll put it on a growler tap and give it a taste,” says Joseph Buddo, Director of Operations in Mamaroneck.
It’s no simple job. The craft beer category is expanding so rapidly that Half Time must make room nearly every week
for new SKUs, Buddo explains. The stores will stock as much as they can. Deciding between SKUs is a matter of reputation and demand.
“We’ll base a lot of it on scores and reviews,” Buddo says. “We’ll look into what has a lot of hype and what’s gotten big on social media. We give a lot of new beers a shot. If they don’t move well, we move them out.”
Half Time also collects customer information for waiting lists on new products, which are ordered when there’s enough interest.
Especially hot right now, Jason says, are sours and barrel-aged beers. Foreign products are also on the rise. “Customers will come back from a country and want to know where they can buy that country’s beers,” he says.
Cider, too, has seen a sizeable uptick. The Mamaroneck location has a cider aisle 100 feet long. “I think hard cider is a gateway to other alcohol,” Jason says. “Whether the drinker is female or just someone who hasn’t hopped into craft beer yet, cider allows everyone to get some great-tasting stuff.”