In this exclusive Q&A, we get to learn about Growler USA from its founder and CEO Dan White.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What is your professional background, and what gave you the idea to start a craft beer franchise?
Dan White (DW): I have been in business my whole life. My first experience in small business ownership was a tropical pet shop. This ended up becoming a chain that I sold at age 22. Then, I moved to New Jersey and bought the local video store, which I ended up growing to 28 locations, and Blockbuster eventually acquired it.
More recently, I founded the Rapid Refill Ink franchise, which as CEO I grew from one to 100 stores in just 10 months. I was also CEO of CyberShamrock Enterprises, LLC, for about 10 years.
Now, the entrepreneur in me sees the immense potential in craft beer. I strongly identify with the passion prevalent in the craft beer industry. Young, smart entrepreneurs are doing something they enjoy, and in my experience, people doing something they love behave very differently and are more successful than people who are just working for money.
FC: What is the impetus behind the Growler USA name?
DW: Little known fact: Beer made America. In the 19th century, as the country grew and people migrated west, they would stop in towns to rest their horses and replenish supplies. They found the water often made them sick, whereas the beer did not, so the local pub became the center of all activity.
The vessels in which they carried their beer were called “growlers” because of the noise made by the escaping CO2. The 21st century American craft beer movement has re-popularized the growler. Our name is an homage to this movement, its history, and the important role it continues to play for our country.
FC: Describe the Growler USA franchise concept. How does it differ from other craft beer franchises?
DW: Because of the immense popularity and skyrocketing growth of the product, many franchise concepts use “craft beer” as an attention getter in their advertising, tagline, or elevator pitch. Growler USA, conversely, is built with craft beer at its core.
We are the only franchise 100 percent dedicated to American craft beer, and the only place in the world with the True to the Brew™ system, which is the best in the world at ensuring the product is delivered in exactly the way intended by its artisan. Where other bar and restaurant concepts check the box by including craft beer as an option, then move to macro beer and hard liquor, Growler USA doubles down on local brews and hand-crafted beverages.
Another differentiator is that all staff must complete the first level of the Cicerone Certification Program to become a Cicerone Certified Beer Server.
Growler USA locations also use sophisticated, user-friendly technology to track tap inventory, engender customer loyalty, and deliver real-time inventory and cost-control data.
Growler USA also sets itself apart in that it was built from its outset to be a franchise, and an easy addition to multi-unit portfolios, with its smaller footprint and experienced franchise leadership team.
FC: Besides craft beer, what other types of craft beverages do Growler USA pubs serve?
DW: In addition to craft beer, Growler USA pubs offer hard cider, draught wine, and non-alcoholic hand-crafted beverages such as root beer; healthy, probiotic kombucha tea; and cold pressed coffee.
FC: What is True to the Brew?
DW: It’s our philosophy—that we support the American craft beer movement and the local entrepreneurs who drive it—and our systems for implementing that philosophy. True to the Brew guarantees the beer we serve tastes the way brewmasters intend.
It embraces every aspect of a beverage’s character with innovative systems for proper care, dispensing, and enjoyment. From the all-stainless steel components to the location-specific blends of gasses and independently-controlled tap lines with the most stringent cleaning regimens in the industry, each craft beverage is conditioned, held, and dispensed as fresh and spirited as the brewer intended.
Our Executive Chef creates recipes to guarantee flavors, aromas, and appearances complement beverage offerings at every location.
True to the Brew means each style of beer is served in the proper glassware, that we make decisions based on how they impact our craft brewing partners, that we support state and federal initiatives to level the playing field for the craft brewer.
True to the Brew is our soul, bared for all.
FC: What’s the Growler USA food menu like?
DW: Growler USA kitchens are equipped with leading food preparation technology, which keeps food quality high while minimizing labor needs and kitchen footprint.
Our number one selling product right now is the seared ahi tuna, and our most popular salad is the smoked salmon salad with cherry tomatoes and a maple soy dressing. Other items include our Bavarian Pretzel Logs and Beer Brat Sliders, in addition to a variety of other salads, sandwiches, and entrees.
FC: There has been a sharp rise in craft beer’s popularity in recent years. Are you worried about it being a fad?
DW: Absolutely not. Craft beer is the fastest growing retail product in America, and the industry has experienced double-digit annual market share growth since 1998. There are more microbreweries operating in the U.S. than at any time in history, offering over 90,000 types of beer. I have been involved in many different businesses in many different industries. For craft beer, I do not foresee an apex or paradigm shift – its growth and sustainability is unprecedented.
The popularity of local and organic foods rises steadily as more information comes to light about how “macro” food is processed and sold. This “farm to table” trend is irreversible, as is the growing interest in craft beer and hand-crafted beverages.
In late June 2016, the Brewers Association (BA) released figures showing slower-than-expected growth for craft beer. Analysis of the data shows that the slowdown was experienced almost entirely by the top two largest “craft” brewers, and reflective of a change in definition of “craft” by the BA to exclude breweries that sold out to multinational concerns.
This is where Growler USA wins, and why True to the Brew is so important: The local brewers, to which Growler USA is so committed, continue to grow and flourish at a spectacular rate.
FC: What’s next for Growler USA?
DW: There are Growler USA pubs currently open in Eugene, Oregon; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Austin, Texas. This summer, franchise pubs will open in Honolulu, Houston, Phoenix, and Seattle. We have signed franchise agreements expanding the Growler USA footprint to nearly 40 locations in 18 states, including pub debuts in metro areas of Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, Omaha, Tallahassee, and several other cities across the country.
I expect to hit triple expansion digits by the end of 2017.
FC: What characteristics do you look for in franchisees?
DW: We are seeking single and multi-unit franchise prospects. No prior food or restaurant experience is needed. Individuals coming out of the corporate world, those with entrepreneurial backgrounds and sufficient capital to invest make great franchisee candidates.
We are a young brand, forging new territory. Our ideal franchise owners want to contribute to the culture and development of a national brand while engaging directly with the local communities they serve.
And if you really love craft beer, we’re the only people to whom you should be talking.
FC: What is the typical investment to open a Growler USA microbrew pub?
DW: The total investment to open a Growler USA pub ranges from $396,000 to $591,000. Growler USA locations require 2,000 to 2,500 square feet of retail space, including back-of-house operations.