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More thoughts on the brewpub

While I haven’t posted about in some time, the gears are still turning as far as my brewpub is concerned. If you haven’t read about it yet check out the link on the top right of the site or the image over to the right hand side there. Anyway I have been reading a lot of business things. Some related to beer, most not. And after months of reading about and studying business type things, what did I find? Well I need to do a lot more studying and that I am not going to have all of the answers.

In all honesty, opening a business is a big risk. A calculated one, but really who knows how it is going to turn out. Sometimes have a solid product and the smartest people are not enough. A lot of successful businesses have a lot of luck on their side. I don’t want to take anything away from a successful business becasue sometimes smart people or a great product is enough, but luck does play a role in everything in life to some extent. I’m sure by now you are getting an idea in your head that some post college kid is getting the idea that life is tough, not fair, and full of disappointments. You would actually be dead wrong, I love this stuff. Maybe it is the eternal optimist in me, but I get all jazzed by a new idea or possibility. The threat of failure is a moot point becasue as long as some good comes of it, there is no failing at anything.

I was recently reading an article about Five Guys Burgers and Fries. If you have never been to one, you are missing out. Fantastic food, especially the fries, and not a bad price. There were a couple of things that struck me in the article.

Three days before we opened, I was still working as a trader in stocks and bonds and was in a hotel for a meeting in Pittsburgh. I found a book in the nightstand, next to the Bible, about JW Marriott — he had an A&W stand that he converted and built into the Hot Shoppes chain. He said, Anyone can make money in the food business as long as you have a good product, reasonable price, and a clean place. That made sense to me.

We figure our best salesman is our customer. Treat that person right, he’ll walk out the door and sell for you. From the beginning, I wanted people to know that we put all our money into the food. That’s why the décor is so simple — red and white tiles. We don’t spend our money on décor. Or on guys in chicken suits. But we’ll go overboard on food.

The whole food aspect of the brewpub is something that I kind of sort of know about, but really don’t have a lot of experience in. Not only am I going to have to find someone who knows that they are doing, but also someone that I can bring into the business who has the same goals as I do. But the formula of good food + reasonable prices + clean place = success does seem pretty simple. In the brewpub world I would love to keep the food prices on par with any sit-down restaurant and make sure that the food is solid. As solid if not more solid than the beers.

My wife, parents, college roomates, and anyone else who has lived with me might find the next statement shocking, but I really do care about have a clean place when it comes to food. My former co-works or managers at the retirement home I worked at for half a decade could attest that I like things being clean and am not afraid at getting dirty to make the place clean.

The customer really is the biggest advocate. I plan on making sure every customer is satisfied with the product that we gave them. That product is much more than just the food and beer. It is everything from the building, service, and meeting their needs. Without those basics I do not feel that any business can succeed. The article also talked about quality control. I have been to dozens of brewpubs in my life and when I think back on them I think in terms of the quality of their beer, food and service. I’ve gone to more than a few that lacked in all areas. I want to make sure that my brewpub puts out quality everything. We don’t have to put out an awarding winning beer or dish every time but we cannot afford to have any clunkers in there. A quality product builds a following and stands for something.

There was a whole lot I had on my mind and I got just a tiny drop of it out there. I told you all on the original post that this series is serving as more of a creative outlet than anything. Sorry that it is so sporadic, I just haven’t had a chance to empty out the idea bucket in awhile. The idea of what I want the brewpub to be and not be is developing into something more distinct. I wouldn’t call it a philosophy or anything yet, but I do believe there is a right way and wrong way of going about things and I want to ensure that we do it right. Thanks for reading, any comments, questions, or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

5 thoughts on “More thoughts on the brewpub

  1. Yeah, opening a business is a risk…but so is working for someone else. Just last week I was told my position at my job was being cut. Damn. I’ve got a month to find a job. My wife is a stay at home mom, and I have five kids. Not cool…

    To me, the real risk is NOT opening a brewpub!

    I am going to step up my brewery planning. Just curious, what business books are you reading?

  2. First off Nate I am sorry to hear about the job situation. I’m sure you will find something quickly. If note shoot me your address and I’ll send you beers to review. I don’t know if my wife would agree that it is a risk not opening the brewpub. I guess in any choice there is a risk involved, it might not be apparent but the risk is there.

    As far as books I am currently reading a book about Apple and their success and, while not related to business so far, I am reading a book about the value of doing work with your hands. I’ve been reading a lot of business websites and also have been watching a lot of business-like documentaries via Netflix. It is mostlikely not the best way to go but I am just trying to expose myself to different ideas and different areas of business other than just the beer industry. Thanks for the comments and I was serious about the beer.

  3. Like the old saying goes “Location, location, location”. Being in the general are with people that appreciates a certain business type is essential, plus with smaller breweries/brewpub having foot traffic access is really helpful.
    Some article I just saw on google news that is relevant:

    And like you’ve pointed out, it needs balance. We’ve all been to a place with great food/beer/whatever but the service/location is awful or vica versa, and then most people just wont go back. I’d also say it needs to have something that makes it stand out a bit more then other breweries. There are a lot of great beers out there, but starting something new needs to stand out to ensure public interest.

  4. Very kind of you, Nate!

    Mike and I are working hard to get a business plan together, and have even had informal conversations with potential investors. We will not be going the brewpub route though, just a distribution brewery. Perhaps in the future a pub will be added.

  5. Its a tough process, but take heart that many people have been able to successfully do it. I think the basic idea you have is a good place to start. Your happy customers will do some of your advertising, but your unhappy customers will do even MORE advertising! I agree w/ the other nate – not doing it is a bigger risk!

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