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starting a microbrewery?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
My dream is to one day own my own microbrewery/restaurant. I am serious about it, but also realistic, which is why I plan to do this in 10 years from now. I'm almost 30, so I figure opening on my 40th birthday would be a good present to myself. At this point, it's only a dream, I have no experience and don't know where to start other than I've researched brewing equipment and talked to every brewmaster that I can, going to microbrew festivals, etc., but there's still several other aspects to worry about even if I do get that one mastered. I plan to be the brewmaster myself and let other people do everything else. I work for a place that has a great profit sharing plan and my wife is starting her law practice right now, so 10 years from now I don't think there will be a need to gather a bunch of investors, I want to stay away from that as much as possible. So I guess my question is what would a good long term plan be to making this a reality? I have time on my side, but that's not helpful if I don't know what to do in the meantime. I plan to open something similar to Big River in Nashville, or one of the Rock Bottom places that's in several big cities, so basically fairly high quality without getting into fancy country club types of stuff. The brewing equipment and plumbing it all for a nice setup could run $150,000 today, then you have to go to brewmaster school and have an assistant or two, but then there's the whole restaurant thing, where I don't know where to begin. I am assuming that the whole shabang would be an initial approximately $1.5 million based on the estimations of certain chains of restaurants, but substituting the brewing equipment cost for the franchise fees. Anyway, any advice at all would be helpful, just trying to figure out what to do with the next 10 years of my life. :)
post #2 of 13

Getting experience to open a microbrewery restaurant

Hi there. I may be possibly opening a microbrewery restaurant as well. Here's my advice to you.

- Go work in a Rockbottom or Big River to gain experience. Work through all the stations - host, server, bar, kitchen, marketing, manager, brewer, etc. Only by doing this will you know if you REALLY want to open your own. It will also help you establish friends who you trust to help you open a restaurant. This step is 100 times more important than any of the steps listed below. (I've worked at 2 different brewery restaurants in the past 4 years. One was a chain restaurant, and one was independent.)

- Start homebrewing beer. You will understand the different processes and styles of making beer. Alternatively, you will need to find a homebrewer or professional brewer to help you in your venture. I've seen many people start out as 'keg boys' and 'assistants' working for free or low wage to gain the experience, and eventually they go to school to become a professional brewer. (I homebrew beer, and I have a partner in the venture who is a professional brewer).

- Start cooking more. Alternatively, find a professional chef or kitchen manager. (I know plenty of chefs at this point, and I have a culinary school nearby in Pasadena.)

- Read books and magazines on beer, brewing, restaurant trends, etc.

- Visit as many restaurants as you can. Take notes on what you like and what you do not like.

- Anything can happen in ten years, and placing all of your money on one bet is a foolish idea. If you have $10 million, and you are investing only $1.5million to open the restaurant, then that's great. But if you only have the $1.5 million, then you should get investors. (We're at the stage of discussing location and menu, so we haven't gotten a business plan together for investors yet. Should get to that stage in the next three months.)

- Ask yourself over and over WHY you want to do this. For the lifestyle? Because you like making beer? Because you want to provide a pub for the community? Because you have an ego? Because your dad opened a restaurant? Because you want to make 1% return after 5 years? If you can't answer those questions, do not pass GO.

post #3 of 13
The answers to alot of your questions would be somewhat answered by a well thought out business plan. I'm not necessarily pro business plan, but it can organize your time.
Everybody will have their own opinions.
For instance, I would be setting my financial goals for the next ten years geared towards building collateral. I have not used my own monies for expansion, renovations, etc. since I made the mistake of using my own funds to get started.
I also don't think dollars should manage your clock. Set me back quite a few years.
I would also think that becoming an expert at two different occupations is too great a task. I would think it best to become the best brewmaster and leave the restaurant to someone who has become the best at that. Or the other way around. All be it, it takes a creative approach to getting someone involved without forefitting any ownership. I'm definately saying, be totally involved with the other side, just not the muniteiaor the major responsibilities. I can't use the word partn-- because I dispise the concept.
Anyway, I could go on and on. Start now with the two most important relationships of your business career, a CPA with a business developement background an a Business Attorney.
I make myself available for anything that I can help with. Books, forcasts, etc.
Just my 2 cents. Listen to all advice, keep and record pertenant info and discard the rest. Also, as you can tell, spelling is not a requirement for success.:D
post #4 of 13

Get Your Feet Wet First!

By all means, get your feet wet in the business before you dive into it!

Would you go open a garage tomorrow, without ever working on cars tomorrow, just because you have a box of tools?

The brewery / restaurant biz is not something you just wake up and do! The failure rate in this industry for a reason.

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Well, yeah, I completely understand the part about "you don't just wake up and do it", that's why I've been contemplating this for 5 years and even now I realize that to make it work, the earliest it's going to happen is at least 10 years from now. I think that's alot different than trying to make it happen "tomorrow". Personally, I feel as if my idea is one of the more realistic ones in terms of timeline. If it takes 20 years, that's fine too. My experiences has told me that if you don't set some kind of ambitious date for making a goal, it's probably not going to happen at all, so I've just been telling myself my goal is about when I turn 40.

As far as being an expert in two things, that's not my intention at all, I mainly just want to own the place, which I assume is going to mean that I'll have to partially get my feet wet in many areas just so I don't look totally incompetent. I would like to do the brewmaster thing just to have something to do, I wouldn't be doing that part of it for the money, the career just lures me, appeals to me. I do not want to be a food manager or anything like that, I'd hire other people. There's no way one person can do it alone anyway. I have worked in restaurants before but I was never a manager.

As for the investments, yeah there's no way that I would plop down my life's savings in one fell swoop on any one thing, but at the same time, I plan to have my part of it pretty significant without getting too crazy risky. A wise businessman once said that the only time you need a partner is when it's Saturday night and time for dancing. If I do it at all, it's going to be done how I want it. If anybody's going to make any money at all, it's going to be me. I don't want to get involved with a bunch of partners and invest everybody else's money except for my own, I just wouldn't bother if it came to that. Like I said, it's mainly ownership that I'm interested in, I'm not looking to try to work my way up into having a food manager job... brewmaster eventually maybe, but nothing else that is specialized like that. I seriously doubt that Bobby Flay or Emeril are working 80 hours a week working some mediocre job in each of the several restaurants that each of them own.

The biggest problem is experience, there's no microbreweries around here, which is exactly why I want to open one. The town I live in is only about 30,000 people but it sprawls out forever and the area has about 100,000 people, and they live in the country so about the only form of entertainment is going out to eat, so basically every night pretty much every restaurant in town has a 20-60 minute wait, people just flock to this place and eat like crazy. I just can't help but think that offering a nice microbrewery wouldn't be anything short of a big hit because everything else around here is mostly crap like Applebees. Anyway, what I was saying is that the closest microbrewery is an hour and 15 minutes away, and actually they shut down last year, they were trying to offer high dollar brews to broke college kids since it's a college town and it just didn't go over too well, plus they didn't have a restaurant, it was only a bar, and it didn't have pool tables or anything, just expensive beer. I have this evil plan to try to buy their tanks for cheap. :) But anyway, the only other one anywhere near here is an hour and 45 minutes away. I don't want to move there and that's a really long drive. Other than that, I'd have to move to a big city, and that's totally out of the question. So basically, brewmaster school and homebrewing is about my only shot. I could try to get my feet wet in restaurant jobs, but quite honestly, I'd be making about 1/3 of what I am making right now minus benefits and profit sharing if I just up and did that, which would make this dream impossible financially. Because of this, I won't be doing that any time soon, I will continue to do what I am doing and will save my money with the idea that I'll be more like a big investor and corporate officer more than a food manager.

My reasons for wanting this?

1. I've never met a brewmaster that didn't just absolutely love what he does. I've talked to at least a couple dozen. I've met all kinds of people who absolutely hate their career, and those people were involved in everything under the sun except brewing. Obviously, I want a more meaningful way to spend my few hours toiling under God's sun. The microbrew industry has always seemed to me like it was one of the few remaining career paths where people actually truly cared about what they do.

2. I think it would be a hit based on demographics that I outlined above. By "a hit" I mean a great investment with less failure risk, I just think it would be successful. Certain places, it wouldn't fly, but where I live at, it just seems perfect.

3. Breweries have charm and character. I love being in them. I have been to all kinds of them all over the country. I want to bring that kind of place to this area so that people who are in between the white trash and country club status would have a nice clean place to hang out and enjoy a good beer.

4. I will have access to unlimited cheap but awesome beer. :) Enough said.
post #6 of 13
This has nothing to do with your post. Honest. I see you're fairly new here, maybe not, but I just want to let you know that you don't have to feel compelled to address the responses, ideas, advice etc. If you want to, or feel like responding, by all means, do so.
Like I stated, this is a great place to throw something out like you did and just absorb even miniscule things that mayhelp you.
You seem very well informed and passionate about your plans. That's exciting to hear, from other business owners here, at least for me.
I guess all I'm trying to say,notvery well, don't burn out on posting, I'm AOK with trashing everything I post if it doesn't fit. no problem here. You've got 10yrs of this. This doesn't make any sense, does it? See even idiots can run a business:look:
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
panini - I'm just a talkative and a seemingly argumentative person. :) I was just explaining the reasons behind having my ideas and stuff, not trying to seem defensive. If I didn't want people's honest to God opinion, I wouldn't have started this thread, so yeah, please bash away with constructive criticism, I'd love to hear it, really. I'm still going to have the dream no matter what. I've been in enough entreprenural (spelling?) things to know that there is heartache and problems with every business scheme and I fully expect that, I just don't know in what form it will come in, that's what you guys are for. :) I've got a long way to go. As for being burnt out on posting, I've been posting about microbrews for years on other boards, I have a dull internet job so it's just a way to pass the time, I have to be on the internet all day anyway. :) But yeah, I'm a complete newbie in the cooking world, haven't been here long, trying to get into it more.
post #8 of 13
"I have a dull internet job so it's just a way to pass the time, I have to be on the internet all day anyway."
I was watching "The Apprentice"-Martha Edition last night and she said something that I have believed for most of my life- work is only work if you tell yourself it is. Love whatever it is you do and you never have that mentality. I rush home or to the office to do something different than running a restaurant. And why do I get on the internet? Because I LOVE being here....That said.
All everyone here is saying to do is to temper your dream with practical experience. We all share your dream of ownership, I have worked in several microbreweries and understand a few of the aspects of what makes a sucessful operation. A good friend of mine just recently opened their new expanded brewery and are doing OK. Knowing them as they started out in rented spaces with less-than-adequate funding as they built their beer sales to where they could actually afford their brewery has been a long, heartwrenching process. Brewing beer is a lonely job. You spend the majority of time cleaning. You are there in your sealed room hanging with the yeast. You get to lift lots of heavy things. And then there is the technical aspect. And then there is the talent/palate aspect. Then there is the phenomenon I have seen that some people and yeast just can't work together. :beer: But anyway I'm rambling....
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
post #9 of 13
Then I'm excited as heck! The only thing I know about micro-brewery is from the outside looking in. We have a few around. I've been, but hardly paid attention to the inner workings, but now I will.
It may be hard, but I might be able to talk some of the staff into forming a Corndogggy Southern Research Group for you.:beer:
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Most people who absolutely love the internet thinks it's a bunch of fun and games but it's not. When you look at a website or hit a chat room, it's the same difference as ordering a meal out somewhere, you don't have to see what goes on to get to that finished product. It can get pretty ugly. I like my job in it's simplest form. However, I have a hard time learning complicated things really fast, which is a real problem when coding programs for the internet, stuff changes wayyyyyyyy too fast, I can't keep up, so it makes for some mad people, about the only feedback I get is whining from people who hate my work, you can get really burnt out like that. Beer on the other hand, well, I can drink beers that are based on a recipe that came out 500 years ago and it's still going to be awesome. Actually one of the best drinks I've had was the brew that King Midas supposedly drank. If I serve one to somebody, chances are, that they are going to get a smile on their face. BIG, BIG difference in that and what I do. :) I cannot help but think that it would be tons more satisfying.

As for the cleaning aspect of a brewery, yeah I have heard that 50% of a brewmaster's job is cleaning. I suspect that you could offload alot of that off to an assistant but I'm not sure.
post #11 of 13
About your work, you're way to rational, makes way to much sense. I wonder where the catch is.
I don't know anything about the technology, but am amazed at the progress in such a short period of time. My 14 yr old is now building his new computer. It's gibberish when he talks to me. Dual core, liquid cooled, 1600 mg hard drive.He tell me this one will take him to graduation where he will get a laptop for college. He is not a gamer so I have to be supportive since he has earned the monies to buy this one with his other PC. Something with web sites, anamation, Quark, yadda yadda yadda. It's a joke when I ask if he'd like to make a few bucks scooping cookies at the bakery:eek:
I'm just a regular old beer drinker. Not many at all ,and when I do, it'sShiner Bach. I'm too cheap to drop a bundle on a beer that'sdoes not turn out to be good. Here in the South, most barns will not split the elite or different brands.
I am now curious about the the two breweries nearby.:bounce:
post #12 of 13
I would have to say to start with, if you are looking mainly to own the business, then you might want to take some business management classes, the less qualified people you need to rely on the less your overhead is at startup. In the next 10 years I would get good at whatever aspect of the business you feel you enjoy the most, and get a basic knowledge of everything else. You have to be able to keep an eye on everything and everyone, you cant rely on others all the time other wise you are opening yourself up for disaster.

I would talk to your local SBDC, they can give you alot of great business advice, often free of charge, they offer classes on how to start a business. Talk to them, and then I would be looking for work in a brewery/restuarant, work there for awhile, doing whatever you can, listen to everyone, learn from everyone, meet people, setup connections (suppliers,equipment manuf., chefs, brewmasters, etc.)

There is so much to starting this kind of business, I could type for days and still not cover it all. SBDC will better answer alot of the questions, then you can come in here and ask for specific questions later. (Hope to hear them)

Best of Luck!!
post #13 of 13
Mmmm...Rock Bottom. Love that place. Best stout in all of Iowa.
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