Problem retaining brewers at a brew pub. Please help!

Discussion in 'Brewing & Beer Knowledge' started by GhostOfGaspar, Feb 13, 2019 at 2:42 PM.

  1. GhostOfGaspar

    GhostOfGaspar

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2013
    Location:
    home
    Howdy, y’all!

    I’m looking for a little help, or thoughts, or guidance with something I have been tasked with at work. This will be a longer post, so I appreciate in advance the effort and time you might take to read and reply.

    I am not a brewer, but I am the “beer guy” on the corporate end of a company that owns a beer bar; they brew on site with a 2bbl system. We have a new brewer, after running through 3 previously. The first was garbage, who had garbage recipes and essentially should not have been hired in the first place, but the two most recent brewers were pretty good. They formulated some good recipes, and collectively created 6 “house beers” that are constantly available, as well as several one-offs, where they essentially have autonomy to be creative and do what they want. The problem was that both of them were hired off by larger, commercial breweries; which is a step up from a small brew pub.

    The new brewer is talented, young, eager and also ambitious. He has produced some really nice beers recently, and the High Mucky-Mucks in the company are concerned about losing him to a brewery, similar to our last two.

    The have charged me with figuring out how to keep him happy and to grow the brewery, presumably because I “speak the language” or have a long beard. I’m not really sure about what exactly is it I’m supposed to do, but I’m putting together an Action Plan, or presumed Wish List of things that I, and potentially our talented brewer, might see as improvements to the current system, and things that would keep him involved and willing to work with the brand for the foreseeable future.

    Money aside, as I cannot control that, nor do I have the authority to discuss that with him, here is what I’ve come up with:


    - Enable and encourage the brewer’s creativity, and supply him with the necessary materials to accomplish his goals. This may take form in specialty ingredients and materials, barrels for aging, etc.

    - Make a further and more distinct separation between the bar and the brewery, in terms of branding. Allow the brewery to become, at LEAST from a marketing standpoint, its own entity.

    - Involve the brewer in the brand and make him feel as though he is a vital part of its growth (as he may well be). We have 3 other locations with breweries, one of which is actually pretty successful apart from the brand; pay for him to travel to those locations in a learning/collaborative function.

    - Encourage specialty package sales. This could be accomplished either through a crowler machine, or one of the local mobile canning operations that are available.

    - Promote the brewery as its own entity at local festivals, of which there are plenty.

    - Utilize the relationships with our other local breweries that we, as a bar brand, have fostered over the years to allow our brewer to make collaborations. The area in which we are located is rife with excellent breweries, and the “support local” sentiment is strong here.


    What would you want, as a brewer at a small brew pub, to help encourage the longevity of your tenure?

    Thanks in advance for any replies, and apologies if this post seems unclear or scattered. I’m still in the primary stages of presenting this to my myriad bosses and the brewer himself.
     
  2. dimensionx

    dimensionx

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2013
    Location:
    Frisco
    Well then you're fucked dude, get the authority or resign yourself to a life of mediocre beers.

    I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that you are paying the brewer under market rate which means you either hire brewers that aren't qualified or skilled, or brewers who are young and eager to break into the industry. You won't keep a young and ambitious brewer around by offering creative control with no equity and low pay. Anyone can have full creative control home brewing, pay the man. Even with all the neat little ideas you listed this job will always be a stepping stone to one that pays better.

    Anyway you can ask us, but it would probably be a better idea to ask the brewers that have left. If they aren't willing to be honest about why they left, then you probably have some corporate culture issues that you should plate out before it infects the house yeast.
     
  3. GhostOfGaspar

    GhostOfGaspar

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2013
    Location:
    home
    Appreciate the response.
    I agree that obviously the bottom line is pay. I don't know what the kid is being paid currently, but you are probably correct in your assessment that it is certainly "entry level" pay. I'm not 100% of the circumstances under which one of the previous brewers left, though my understanding is that he moved for family (who knows if that is the case) but the garbage brewer was fired for being garbage. The most recent was working simultaneously with us and another local brewery, while that brewery was building another production facility. When the facility was completed, he went there full-time; but this was known to be a temporary thing from the get-go, and he was really there to create some good recipes (which he did).

    And to be frank, I don't really give a shit if the kid stays or leaves personally. It has no effect on my bottom dollar, I'm just being used as an intermediary. Just want to come up with something better than the obvious, "Money talks" to present to the uppers. I hate playing the games, but we all have to do what we have to do. I guess maybe I'm just looking for more "neat little ideas" to round out the presentation.
     
    dimensionx and Photekut like this.
  4. rcubed

    rcubed

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2013
    Location:
    San Diego, California
    Money helps, or a piece of the company. The craft beer industry has done the latter for many high profile brewers.
     
    Sage, jmgrub and GhostOfGaspar like this.
  5. hunterpgh

    hunterpgh

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2016
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Maybe don't refer to previous employees as "garbage"? How about "inexperienced" or "not a good fit"? Maybe the new brewer would stick around to get practice implementing the ideas you suggested, but then he/she may be worth even more money. You don't see many businesses offering employees more money before they ask for it but usually when an employee decides to move on it's too late. Probably best to make sure the salary is at least competitive.
     
    vav, jmgrub and GhostOfGaspar like this.
  6. kbuzz

    kbuzz

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2013
    Location:
    Charlotte
    Ask him for his input. When I have a feeling one of my employees is dissatisfied, I ask for their input. Not all things are possible (pay as an example in your case) and I make that clear up front. But I think providing an environment to give input can only help. Rather than going in with a list of things, let him put the list together.

    EDIT: just saw this in your other post. Sounds like you're not necessarily trying to solve the problem by means of direct interaction.
     
    rrryanc, vav, jmgrub and 1 other person like this.
  7. wuntrikpony

    wuntrikpony

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2014
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    [​IMG]
     
  8. hunterpgh

    hunterpgh

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2016
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Hard to find that kind of loyalty these days
     
    Sage, domtronzero, kevanb and 3 others like this.
  9. wuntrikpony

    wuntrikpony

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2014
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    If GhostOfGaspar is serious about employee retention, there really is only one solution.
     
  10. GhostOfGaspar

    GhostOfGaspar

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2013
    Location:
    home
    Fair. I should have been more delicate. The quality of his beer and his work ethic did not meet company standards. The opinions expressed in this thread are those of Gaspar's alone, and do not necessarily reflect the parent company.

    Agree with the salary being competitive. I know what the ballpark figure for brewers around this area is, but as of now, I don't know what they are paying him specifically.

    Yeah, his input is obviously needed. I believe that right now, they (higher-ups) are trying to put together a game plan on what his expectations may be, what they can do to accommodate those requests, and how to move forward. I'm being sourced here as maybe a "role playing brewer of talent" (which I am not, but am the most qualified to be the guinea pig). My belief is that they will take the ideas and suggestions that I put together, and use them for a gameplan of metting with the kid and keeping him happy.
     
    vav and hunterpgh like this.
  11. jmgrub

    jmgrub 50 character limit? WTF Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Location:
    Kailua-Kona, HI
    I was going to say the same. Spin the brewery operation off into a different company and give him a piece of the upside on top of his current pay. If you can't give more cash, seems like the best alternative.

    Also, forgive me if this was addressed in your initial post or somebody else has already mentioned it, but give him some opportunities to travel for fun "professional development" events on the company's dime - beer fests, craft brewers conference etc.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019 at 3:54 PM
  12. jivex5k

    jivex5k VEdKb0lHVnlaMjVsY1hKeElIQm9ZV2M= Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2015
    Location:
    South Florida
    You could play Tom Jones over some speakers in the brewery. Or have one day a week designated as silly hat day.


    Or, you know, a better salary.
     
    YungCoolship, vav and abawol01 like this.
  13. reverseapachemaster

    reverseapachemaster

    Joined:
    May 21, 2015
    Location:
    Denver
    From my very limited experience dealing with the brewing labor market money is most likely what gets people to stay. Brewers aren't paid very well and the easiest way to improve salary is to stay on the move to better titles and bigger or more prominent breweries. If you can't improve pay then your next option is to improve the prominence of the brewery (e.g. make more in demand beer) but even then you'll still eventually lose your pastry stout master to Angry Chair or some other pastry shack.
     
    vav, jmgrub and GhostOfGaspar like this.
  14. GhostOfGaspar

    GhostOfGaspar

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2013
    Location:
    home
    Yeah, I'm hoping that they do the right thing and just pay the kid, as you could have him brewing out of a urinal if you pay him right. Again, I don't make those decisions, but of course that will be #1 on the list. I do like the idea giving him a piece of the brewery, whether that's a portion of the company as an entity, or a portion of sales of his product in the brew pub. Also, when I was first hired, I got sent to a bunch of beer fests all over on the company dime, and that helped keep me with them for the first couple of years, when I had other opportunities. Thanks for the suggestion, jmgrub.
     
  15. GhostOfGaspar

    GhostOfGaspar

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2013
    Location:
    home
    oh fuck.

    [​IMG]

    I.... I'm sorry... that's never happened to me before. Maybe... maybe I was just too excited...
     
  16. jmgrub

    jmgrub 50 character limit? WTF Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Location:
    Kailua-Kona, HI
    Would be hilarious if he was a member here and read this thread. Some serious leverage.
     
  17. vav

    vav because the trump thread deserves a pulitzer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 11, 2014
    Location:
    Chicago
    Everyone said what i would have, but brewers are also pretty transient, but less so than line cooks. Freedom and Paycheck may not be enough to hold him there regardless, so your action plan looks pretty good. Asking for his input is also the right move, although he may ask for money, not realizing exactly what you're offering, so tell him that: everything's great, we wanna keep you around, how do we do that? what are your goals in brewing? do you want to oversee a larger operation someday? etc. Maybe a career path to keep him around would be to oversee the all the breweries, and allow him to guide the brand overall.

    However...

    ...if that's indicative of the attitudes of your fellow folks up above, that's a problem. You're only ever going to get your costs so far down with a 2bbl system that seems to be stuck between being an afterthought and a focal point, so the long-term investment in a brewer maybe not be the best strategy: In other words, your other option might be just act as an incubator for up and coming talent, and let'em leave after a few years.
     
  18. kbuzz

    kbuzz

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2013
    Location:
    Charlotte
    Thinking more about this. If him moving on is an inevitability, then maybe the second piece of your proposal might be succession planning. Hire him an apprentice (or two?) so that there is a more seamless transition in the future.
     
    Hanzo, exitmusic00, Sage and 5 others like this.
  19. GhostOfGaspar

    GhostOfGaspar

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2013
    Location:
    home
    That's good input. Thanks!

    No, that's just me. I think that the kid has talent, and if I were him, I'd want to pursue it in the most pragmatic way possible, whether that is in his current position, or moving on to better and bigger things. Maybe it came across as harsh, which isn't exactly how I meant it. Probably would have been better stated in saying that I don't have a monetary or vested interest in him staying. But the higher-ups obviously want the kid around, hence tasking me with this exploratory or hypothetical project or whatever you want to call it. Could have chosen my words better there.

    I also like this idea, though again, I'm not sure about the funds available for that second hire. But it's definitely something I'll put into the presentation. Thanks!
     
  20. kbuzz

    kbuzz

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2013
    Location:
    Charlotte
    Somehow, someway this is going to boil down to money. Almost everything mentioned, even in your own ideas, requires a monetary investment.

    If they've determined this kid has value, then you need to invest in him somehow. Alternatively, if they determine that turnover is inevitable, but there is value in seamless transition between brewers, then invest in a succession plan.

    Cheap solutions yield cheap results. Just the reality. They'll have to invest somehow. It's just a matter of determining highest ROI.