Bob Dorfman is a restaurant operator who tells it like it is.
"Five Guys is a very good store to operate, but it is also simplistic," says the former operator of 35 units of Five Guys Burgers and Fries across Florida, Ohio, and Texas. "The menu is limited, with eight or nine items, and the build-out is a turnkey operation. There hasn't been a whole lot of development in terms of the menu and the facility. They're pretty easy to build and relatively easy to operate."
He pauses. "A World of Beer," he says, "is a lot more multi-faceted."
Quick-service veteran Dorfman made the jump into the world of bar bites and craft beers this fall with the opening of his first World of Beer unit in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Sept. 22. He traded in what he calls a “cookie-cutter” operation for one that is exclusive to each market, and despite seven years of experience in the restaurant industry with Five Guys, he’s absorbing a new take on operations; fulfilling the community’s needs; and food, beverage, and entertainment offerings.
"Not only am I learning about all of these beers, wines, and spirits—we have over 500 varieties of beers, and World of Beer provides a two-week beer school of training for all employees, which is very intensive—there is the entertainment component, the live music Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night," he says. "Charlottesville, this is where Dave Matthews came from. There is a lot of intense music competition. You have to be on top of your game picking the right bands."
Dorfman operates the 3,800-square-foot business with his son, Marc. Both were interested in the craft beer phenomenon, though Dorfman admits his interest was somewhat superficial. "I knew I wanted to become more of a part of it, more educated," he says. "My learning experience is as I go."
Another aspect was understanding the food program and how it works in conjunction with the beverage side.
"When it started back in 2007, World of Beer had no kitchen and served no food," Dorfman says. "As they expanded into other states, there were requirements to have certain percentages of food sales, and CEO Paul Avery's vision of the brand—which is right—is you can't be all beer. You need to evolve to provide a complementary food component to it. That now has been added, so we need to be sure we have the right menus that complement the beverages."
Dorfman says the kitchen at his location is one of the larger kitchens in the system. The brand allows operators to choose menu items that they feel best fit their market, and Dorfman says corporate has been very flexible with the menu, even suggesting other items to add to feed the needs of Charlottesville. He submitted a few of his own recipes to corporate and earned approval to serve them, such as a fresh crab cake, in a town where people are particular about their quality of seafood, and some local desserts.
The other component that was different than Five Guys was the experience, particularly from a service standpoint. With Five Guys, Dorfman says, the stores were identical in each market, and customers knew what to expect when they walked in. World of Beer, on the other hand, seeks to have each location identify with its neighborhood, and function as a neighborhood tavern.
"In Charlottesville, they are very sensitive to those who support the local economy, very sensitive to local businesses versus national chains," Dorfman explains. "We worked hard to enamor ourselves to the local community, whether it be city hall, the office of economic development, charitable organizations, breweries, wineries—we worked hard to make them aware of the fact that we wanted to be supportive, be a fabric of the community."
To that end, Dorfman's World of Beer represents most of the breweries and wineries that exist in the market. In the week since the restaurant has opened, he says he has found the venue serves a niche that was previously unfulfilled.
"A percentage of this market is made up of University of Virginia students and staff, and we were expecting that to be our primary market," he says. "But a lot of our clientele right now appear to be families, people in their thirties and forties; we seem to be getting a slightly older demographic, and they feel comfortable coming in and spending hours here. There appears not to be as much in this town—as many bars, taverns, and venues as there are—that offers what we offer, and that's been a good surprise for us."
His next location is planned for the upscale development One Loudon in northern Virginia.
By Sonya Chudgar