British Beer Companyhas become a New England favorite and has expanded to 13 different locations. Here, owner Gary Simon tells us the story of his business and how community outreach has made it all that it is today.Founded 15 years ago on the premise of creating a public place to relax, socialize, and sample delicious food and beverages,
What inspired the founding of British Beer Company? How did it get started?
The idea of the British Beer Company pubs began with our co-founder Harry's vision of a true British pub experience here in the US. The origin of the public house was a house that was open to the public, where spirits could be purchased and business conducted, and has expanded in Britain to a gathering place where people meet to hang out and relax. Harry and I wanted to create an atmosphere where our guests did not feel rushed through a meal or beverage and could chat and catch up on the news of the day. We started 15 years ago with a “1/2 pint pub” modeled on a true British pub experience, expanding to 13 locations with full pub menus. Each pub is unique and has its own pub personality just like pubs do in Great Britain.
What has been the greatest challenge gaining footing in the bar/restaurant world?
One of our challenges has been adapting to the change in the public’s taste in menu items. Public tastes concerning casual dining have progressed over the years from a simple good burger to more varied desires, including gluten-free nutritional requirements, a demand for fresh and local ingredients and healthier choices overall. We still serve an amazing burger along with many other traditional pub choices and fresh and local [items]. Each pub crafts a specials menu daily based on what is available in that pub’s market. This can be challenging in managing costs, waste and delivering the highest quality meals to our guests at an affordable price.
How do you market your chain of bars and restaurants? What do you find is most effective in attracting and keeping customers?
The best marketing is always our customers. If they have a great time, then they tell their friends. There is no magic in that formula. We offer our guests unique experiences in each pub as well as pub-wide promotions for them to tell their friends about on social media. For example, we recently ran a contest based on the royal baby’s birthday to win a trip to London.
We also partner with charities in each pub’s community to host fundraisers on a regular basis. We are currently supporting a local Cape Cod, Massachusetts Olympic Snowboarder, Mike Trapp, in his quest to reach the 2014 Olympics. In addition, we form a strong inter-employee community by supporting our employees. One of our general managers is battling cancer and we raised $40,000 for him and his family through a golf event. Community outreach is key.
What was the best advice in regard to managing your business that anyone ever gave you?
The best advice we ever got was don't change who you are to try to satisfy everyone. You lose your identity and what makes you special. We try to stay true to the ideas that we founded the British Beer Company [on]: make people comfortable, give them a great product and treat them like they are guests in your home.
If you had to choose your proudest moment in your time managing a business, what would it be?
That's a tough one. Every time we open a pub in a new community, we know that this will become a place that people will be coming to for many years. We now have second generations enjoying some of our original pubs. That's pretty cool.
What are your three keys to success?
Be true to your original ideas. Treat people like guests. Offer a great product for a fair price. I will sneak in a fourth – [bring in] the best rock n’ roll bands in New England with no cover charge! That way, everyone can afford to come out and hear music.