The Keys to Expansion for Fieldwork

While some brewery owners concentrate on getting to a place where they can start canning and distributing to retail locations, Barry Braden of Fieldwork Brewing Company is focused on the authenticity of direct-to-consumer sales.

After opening the original taproom in Berkeley in 2015, the owner and co-founder has since opened five more facilities in Northern California.

Those locations include Napa, Monterey, Sacramento, San Mateo, and San Ramon. Currently Braden is in final negotiations for a new taproom in Marin County.

When Braden opens the new locations, he hires from within for the management teams.

“That allows us to really put our processes in place in each location from the quality and customer service prospective,” he said. “That team lives there for the first couple of months after we open the location and then gradually starts to roll out as we feel comfortable with the staff and the team that’s in place.”

Braden emphasized that for Fieldwork, consistency is key. Customers should have the same experience no matter which taproom they visit. They should be getting correct information about the beers and should be greeted with a smile every time they go in.

“People are looking for neighborhood gathering spots, and the nice thing about brewery taprooms is that they’re very family friendly,” Braden said.

“We’re able to extend out to that demographic, which I think are 25-45-year-olds that have grown up with craft beer and are interested in continuing that relationship with craft beer as they get married and have families.”

Braden said building these neighborhood gatherings through taproom locations gives Fieldwork its brand identity, rather than trying to reach consumers off the shelf. Changing the tap list often keeps customers coming back.

Each taproom receives quantities of beer that are consistent with its sales in that location since some taprooms sell out of certain beers faster than others.

However, every location receives at least some amount of every beer made, and there’s a reason for this. Each brewery location has its own social media page, while there is also a main page.

When consumers see that one taproom is serving a beer they want to try and ask whether another location will get it, Fieldwork has an answer ready. “The answer is yes, we have it on tap now, or no, sorry, it just emptied, or yes, it’s coming on the truck today, so look for it on tap tomorrow.,” Braden said.

The people that follow Fieldwork and its multiple locations are developing a relationship with not only the brewery page, but also the local social media pages for local information.

To find new locations for taprooms, Braden works with his real estate partner, Matt Holmes.

“He’s always on the hunt for what he thinks are attractive locations or landlords that are interested in working with us,” Braden said, “and I just filter through those…a lot of it is gut feel.”

Braden said Fieldwork is debt and loan free, so when deciding on new locations, he considers how much the cost will be to build the brewery and how soon he can expect a return.

“The location that cost us the most was a million dollars, but we did a million dollars in sales in that location in the first 90 days,” he said. Construction is all funded through retained earnings.

The most difficult part about having six locations for Braden is staffing and retention.

“Even though I think we’re a great place to work and have a lot of rewards to offer, there’s still a lot of competition in the service industry to staff these taprooms,” he said.

He’s made mistakes in hiring decisions before, but he thinks the key to success is recovery. He credits his management team to helping when things go awry.

“I trust that they know better than I do about what’s going on day to day,” he said, and in these cases he just acts as an extra body. “Everybody has to stay on their toes.”

Braden has been known to pitch in at locations that needed extra help with everything from bussing tables to taking out the trash to making sure each location doesn’t lose its momentum when understaffed.

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