Does Your Taproom Have Your Personality?

When Ed Collazo and his City Built team built the Grand Rapids, Michigan taproom, they envisioned people to behave one way. It wasn’t that way at first though.

“And that’s okay,” he told Brewer recently. “It’s been interesting to watch play out.”

The pandemic played a role in that — good and bad. Less two-top tables and a longer service line are now the norm while even having different types of clientele showed up. With lockdowns in 2020 and a switch in beer styles, Collazo said the taproom saw new faces. Some stayed after things opened up more while others did not.

“Being a Puerto Rican dude in West Michigan, my whole thought was that people would feel the hospitality of a Puerto Rican guy here,” he explained. “Growing up, I’ve always known my family to be super gregarious and hospitable. I wanted to be a place for people to get loved on when they come in, regardless of what they look like. I think that we’ve done that quite well.

READ MORE: City Built Made Pandemic Changes & Boosted Business Today

“People who look like me in this town might go somewhere else and not get treated well. So we talk to our staff about, hey, they might come in with a chip on their shoulder because they’re expecting you to be a dick. You might have to push through that. So recognize that that’s what you see, they’re just not jerks. And so we made a lot of fans of people because our staff was patient, and truly tried to be hospitable and kind. I think the coolest thing someone said to me is I love your staff, it doesn’t matter who it is. They make me feel like I belong every time I go. And so I think our idea was, this should be your living room away from your living room. And it’s playing out.”

Collazo added that since the pandemic, there is sometimes an employee mentality of ‘we’re not gonna put up your shit’ with tough customers and Collazo said he sees it both ways and will go to bat for his staff if he sees customers overstepping their bounds with employees.

“However, it’s still hospitality,” he said. “We’re trying to find that line between accommodating people, but also we’re not doormats. Sometimes I have to talk to people … and I’m happy to do it. I mean, like, with grace.

“Be willing to have hard conversations and let truth and grace meet somewhere in the middle. It can’t be a hammer, you can ‘glad handle’ a little bit. You can still stick up for your staff without being mean.”

One way to cut down on some tension? City Built found by having a line instead of table service, they can “crush the line quickly.”

“We can take orders and serve beers faster,” Collazo said. “When we’re busy we have beer-only lines, and then there’s a couple of lines where you can get food. That way, we can pace our kitchen and keep up.”

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