Craft beer. It’s a buzzword and a staple of hipsters sporting skinny jeans and a beard. Its allure (and higher cost) is its small scale, uniqueness, difficulty in producing, limited lifespan, and focus on local. In fact it’s the polar opposite of franchising.
And yet, when in search of any and every concept being franchised, we turn to the US and find not one, but two concepts that are tapping in on the craft beer boom.
World of Beer
Scott Zepp, franchisor for World of Beer, started out like most home brewers: Keenly interested in home and local brews and trying it out for himself. He then upped the ante by planning to open a laid-back bar with a massive selection of craft beer.
In 2007 that became a reality with 30 rotating taps and more than 500 bottled brews. It was a smash hit and by 2013 the franchise had 44 locations in 14 states around the US and had sold a few hundred more. Yes, hundred.
How did they make it work? The kitchen is stripped to its bare essentials, being a tap room with snacks, to reduce overheads and keep focus on the beer. The food they serve is also beer-centric, beer-battered shrimp, pizza bases made with IPA, and they also include craft spirits on the menu now, all aimed at broadening the appeal.
In 2013, another craft beer concept; The Brass Tap had also grown to 11 operating franchises and over 40 in development. This too has a li
mited food offering, accounting for only 20% of the menu. “Serving food has its place, but we’ll never be a restaurant. The food is here to support the beer,” says franchisor James Walker.
Making it work
Both brands pay close attention to their beer selections, focusing heavily on local and regional brews to maintain credibility. In fact, at one The Brass Tap location, they have 60 local beers on tap.
“It’s more difficult to deal with local breweries, but it’s worth the effort,” says Walker. “Fostering relationships with breweries and distributors, and educating franchisees on how to do that is crucial to what we do.”
More than beer
World of Beer offers more than a good pint and something to snack on, they support local music acts too. “We’re really about spreading craft beer culture, and live music is part of that,” says Zepp.
Getting buy-in to the concept has been a challenge. Like South Africa, in the US craft beer represents only 6,5% of the value of the $99 billion of beer sold in the US, but it’s one of the fastest-growing segments.
And there’s plenty of room to create converts, but education is a key part of the franchise concepts. “At The Brass Tap, we appeal to beer aficionados and beer geeks, but our service team can take a mass produced beer drinker and educate them. If they ask for recommendations, we’ll teach them.”
Concepts to investigate
1. The Brass Tap
- Est: 2012
- Total investment: $355 000 to $670 000
- Franchise fee: $35 000
- Royalty fee: 4%
- Visit: brasstapbeerbar.com
2. World of Beer
- Est: 2007
- Total investment: $600 000 to $800 000
- Franchise fee: $50 000
- Royalty fee: 5%
- Visit: worldofbeer.com