Dan White never owned a restaurant and wasn’t a huge fan of beer, but the serial entrepreneur strongly identified with the passion alive in the craft brew industry and realized its immense potential.
“I saw young, smart entrepreneurs doing something they enjoyed and in my experience people doing something they love don’t behave the same way as people who are just doing a job,” said White, who also appreciated the industry’s collaborative nature. “You don’t see that often.”
These and other reasons drove him to create Growler USA, a brew pub franchise committed to the craft beer concept. While it seems as if franchising and craft beer wouldn’t be the most logical fit, White emphasizes that the brand is committed to building mutually beneficial relationships with local and regional brewers in all sites. Each Growler USA location features nearly 100 taps of craft beer, root beer, kombucha tea and coffee.
Technology is integrated into the business model; programs such as TurboChef and TapHunter are used for food preparation and beer monitoring. The chain’s cooler system allows operators to record the exact amount of inventory, what’s being sold and how much beer is left in the keg at any given moment.
Since launching in 2014, Growler USA has more than 30 locations currently in development across more than 10 states, including Colorado, Texas, Washington, California, Florida, Arizona, and Virginia. There are currently Growler USA microbrew pubs open in Charlotte, Austin and Eugene, OR.
While operating a restaurant presented new challenges to White, growing a franchise is in the CEO’s blood.
At eight, White embarked upon a wholesale pet venture that continued through his college years. Next, he built a local business selling exotic fish. He grew that into a chain, then entered the video rental franchise business and later franchised a printer cartridge refilling company.
White has had his hand in all aspects of creating the Growler USA chain including the design and food selection. Though he had no experience in building a restaurant from the ground up, White took it upon himself to shepherd the design process and says the experience offered invaluable lessons.
“I’ve been in tons of restaurants across the world so I took all this life experience together in creating my vision for the bar itself. It was a struggle and I wouldn’t do it any other way. While it wasn’t easy, it was the right thing to do.”
White also had a hand in formulating the menu.
“I’m not a chef, but I do like to eat. I’ve tasted every item and they were carefully chosen to complement the beer offerings. Beer brings people in the door, but the food keeps them coming in.”
White says the franchise’s motto, True to the Brew, is all about enhancing the beer enjoying experience.
“True to the Brew is about bringing the experience to the human level. I’ve embraced the craft brew community. We truly support the companies that started in daddy’s basement and became an industry.”
And while avid interest in the craft brew industry’s profit potential will bring competition, White feels Growler USA is leading the way and uniquely positioned for long-term growth. To that end, and with an eye on further expansion in the restaurant realm, Growler USA recently announced the purchase of the fast-casual Smiling Moose Rocky Mountain Deli, which has 18 units across seven states and plans to reach 100 by 2020. White, who views franchising as a science, is heading up both chains.
“The brand has a strong infrastructure that offers great synergy with our franchise operations team, and I expect it will have a parallel growth path with Growler USA,” White said in a press release. “The Growler USA development team is second to none, and I am confident they will provide the restaurant and franchise industry resources needed to grow Smiling Moose Rocky Mountain Deli more aggressively and provide greater opportunities for new and existing franchisees.”