Grasping for straws that stir the drink.

Month: October, 2011

Bad business decisions: Part I

This is Part I in a running installment of “Bad Business Decisions.”

Youngstown, Ohio — Here are three key words for any establishments selling craft, import or microbrews.

Give. Courtesy. Samples.

Part of going to a bar or restaurant that serves craft beer as a consumer is the ability to be open-minded; customers, smart ones, don’t go because they want a Coors or Bud. They go because they want to try unique beverages.

Businesses that refuse free courtesy samples aren't making a smart business decision.

At a new establishment in the Mahoning Valley, I witnessed a man sitting at the bar who had spent about $20 on an appetizer, entree and a pint of beer.

He noticed I was drinking a Kentucky Bourbon Ale and wanted to try one himself.

“Can I get a taste of that?” he asked the waiter, pointing at my glass.

The bartender told him there was a rule forbidding courtesy samples.

The customer was clearly peeved because he had spent $20 and wasn’t offered an ounce of free beer (and not 10 minutes earlier, a co-owner had presented me with a free sample.)

It’s perplexing why a business wouldn’t offer a customer a courtesy sample. In this example, there was — at worst — a 50-50 chance of the sample resulting in a $5.50 purchase. Had the customer hated the sample, the business still appeased him for an incredibly minimal cost.

This business strategy isn’t a foreign idea.

Costco, the membership warehouse chain, is probably the most well-known business that employs the courtesy sample strategy on a full-time basis. Its sales rose 14.2 percent during the last year.

Other courtesy sample business plans are notoriously successful and often a commonplace among small businesses.

As a new business, this restaurant may have lost a customer on its first day, and all over a stinkin’ ounce of beer.

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.


At what cost? LeBron brings attention, money to alma mater

Niles, Ohio — LeBron James sells.

He sells jerseys. He sells tickets. He even sells sponsorships to his birthday parties.

James can sell just about anything, anywhere he goes, including at high-school sporting events.


James and University of Akron men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot watched Dambrot’s son, Robbie, play soccer for St. Vincent-St. Mary, James’ alma mater, when the Irish played at Medina last Thursday. When word spread that James was in the house, the paid customers were on their way.

“All of a sudden, every kid in Medina was showing up at our soccer game,” said Medina Athletic Director Jeff Harrison. “He treated our kids well and our attendance was above average.”

After the 2-2 tie, Harrison said James stayed to sign autographs and take pictures. He also tipped some youngsters a dollar each to get him some popcorn.

On Friday, James showed up at his alma mater’s 17-14 football victory over Archbishop Hoban in Akron.

LeBron James brings money wherever he goes. But for a Catholic school, do the monetary benefits of having a professional athlete around outweigh the moral drawbacks?

But are appearances by James something St. Vincent-St. Mary should embrace?

After all, James has been accused of undertipping restaurant staff, soliciting prostitution and definitely has fathered children out of wedlock.

St. Vincent-St. Mary is a well-recognized Catholic high school, which strives to educate and develop young minds in the name of God.

It even says so in the school’s mission statement:

And now, James is practicing with the high school’s football team.

From a business-ethics perspective, would you want LeBron James — not exactly the model Catholic — continuing to hang around young, impressionable minds?

Do the monetary benefits outweigh the moral drawbacks?

Catching Yuengling fever

Note: It’s incredible that the media doesn’t cover the alcohol industry more frequently. Thirty-percent of Americans drink at least once a week.

North Lima — With autumn officially in full swing, Oktoberfest-themed beer may be foremost in the minds of most beer connoisseurs.

But for Ohioans, today represents the start of a new, yearlong beer holiday.

Yuengling season.

D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. — the oldest brewing company in the United States — will introduce Traditional Lager, Light Lager and Original Black & Tan Yuengling beverages into markets throughout Northeast Ohio.

Read the rest of the story here.

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.