One new store continues to be in the top 10 percent in daily sales.
More markets equate new sales growth.
That’s a mantra Mr Brews Taphouse continues to prove with its new locations in Melbourne, Florida, and Mesa, Arizona.
These latest additions to the 16-unit brand are breaking sales records. In July, sales at the Mesa store surpassed every location, and its opening week exceeded the previous record by 19.8 percent. Meanwhile, the Melbourne location continues to be in the top 10 percent of all locations in daily sales.
And the success doesn’t stop there. Year-over-year sales for June jumped 48.5 percent over last year and 18 percent above 2019. Dine-in sales grew 44 percent over 2020 as markets across the country returned to full capacity. Still though, takeout and delivery saw considerable gains since 2020, increasing by 15 percent and 63 percent, respectively.
The growth builds upon the Wisconsin-based chain’s atmosphere of fun, great food and its 50-plus variety of craft beers. COO Mark Leach compares Mr Brews’ atmosphere to a “Cheers feel.” But it’s not a bar. It’s a true pub where people gather together, according to the executive.
"It really goes down to those individual restaurants creating an environment that people feel welcomed, and they feel safe to eat," he says.
The chain’s sales acceleration in recent months required the brand to first get through the pandemic. When the virus first impacted restaurants, Mr Brews, like most of the hospitality industry, was completely taken aback.
“I'd love to tell you, after being in the business, as many years as I've had, that there would be a playbook for that,” Leach says. “But I think all of us operators saw that we clearly didn't have one. … The new ambience in restaurants is cleanliness and sanitation. So that's what we tried and continue to model.”
Leach says the restaurant industry leaned into itself, collaborating and sharing resources. Mr Brews implemented a pragmatic and strategic plan to ensure guests and employees felt safe in their environments.
The company learned how to drive customers to its main ordering portal and accelerate carryout and third-party delivery. As dining restrictions lifted, the chain welcomed back its supporting beer vendors and began hosting larger events.
“We're a place where it's fun to go to, and our guests, quite frankly, miss that,” Leach says.
Leach believes the brand has the “best kept secret out there” and expansion opportunities abound, especially as so many restaurants shut down in previous months.
“So with all those underlying fundamentals in the economy and available capital, in coming out of what we just came out of, it is just a great opportunity to capitalize early in a market that's not saturated,” Leach says.
In terms of what type of operator Mr Brews looks for, there’s not one exact fit. Although multi-operators often excel, the company wouldn’t shy away from a single-unit operator. The most important qualities are restaurant experience and passion.
“We look not only for the one-store operator, but we're also looking at multi-unit operators that would be interested in diversifying their portfolio a little bit with a brand that has, in my mind, a lot of staying power,” Leach says.
Thus far in its growth, Mr Brews has prioritized franchise expansion, only having one company restaurant.
The company is targeting growth in the Southeast region, from Wisconsin to Florida and the Carolinas. To aid in its expansion, Leach says Mr. Brews added sophistication to its processes, new technology, and additional support to create an attractive offering for potential franchisees.
For new builds, Leach says drive-thrus are on the table since COVID heightened their popularity. On the product side, Mr Brews is testing a pizza product and a ghost kitchen line of growlers, ‘Growlers to Me.’ So far, the growlers and pizza received high acceptance from guests.
“People buy a franchise for the systems,” Leach says. “So basically, what we did is we honed in our systems, and I am really humbled and proud of what we have to share with our franchise community.”
The answer as to what drove the company’s boost in sales may come down to pent-up demand, Leach says. However, the labor shortage has presented a challenge in recent months.
“That's the million-dollar question for everybody,” says Leach, pondering the solution to the workforce crisis.
Mr Brews formed a taskforce and united franchisees with best practices. The key to staff retention is creating an environment where people want to work, Leach says. He notes that as the summer ends, sales typically go down as people go back to school and fall routines. This slowdown will lessen some of the pressure restaurants face labor-wise.
The COO believes culture will be a major force in addressing the labor shortage head-on and maintaining the favorable sales.
“As we look at our sales increase and breaking sales records, we really create a culture that our teammates feel it's a ‘get to’ not a ‘have to’ work situation,” Leach says. “They enjoy coming to work because of the culture, the safe environment, and that's something that continually needs to be nurtured.”