Brass Tap - Executive Q&A

The Brass Tap Thrives As The Franchise Industry’s Bar Next Door with CEO Chris Elliot

Franchising doesn’t have to be synonymous with cookie-cutter chains. In fact, The Brass Tap has succeeded in franchising by being the exact opposite—a lively neighborhood bar that boasts the ambience of the pub next door, but with the added convenience of all the corporate support a franchise system offers. 

In 2012, Chris Elliot, the CEO of FSC Franchise Co., was looking for another business to add to his company’s portfolio.  As the owner of established franchise Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, a brand known for its welcoming atmosphere, extensive menu and commitment to local communities, Elliot has helped guide the 30-year-old restaurant’s nationwide growth by introducing innovative menu changes and a modernized store remodel. But after learning more about the rapidly expanding craft beer industry—which, to date, is a $22 billion market—he became intrigued after discovering The Brass Tap. At that time, the pub had just three locations. Elliot saw great potential in the bar—especially with the nation’s taste for local, craft breweries growing at never-before-seen rates. That’s why, in 2012, FSC Franchise Co., acquired The Brass Tap.

At the heart of the Brass Tap is a broad selection of hundreds of craft beers, with a combination of known and exotic brands in a variety of styles—ensuring that there’s an ideal beer for everyone. After just two years under the FSC Franchise Co., umbrella, The Brass Tap currently has 38 locations. And as the end of 2016 nears, Elliott is planning on that total growing.

 “As we’ve grown, we’ve evolved,” said Elliott. “The primary reason we were interested in adding The Brass Tap to our portfolio was because it was in an emerging category. Craft breweries and beer are growing like crazy.”

When they first acquired The Brass Tap in 2012, they were originally just a craft beer and wine experience--but according to Elliot, there was room to broaden the bar’s reach even more.

“We discovered that we needed to add food, and then eventually we figured out we needed to add more food and liquor,” Elliott said. “Only a small segment of beer drinkers are aficionados, so we needed to expand our concept to get better results.”

Today, the popularity of the craft beer industry is enticing prospective franchisees to back the brand—but it isn’t the only thing. Elliott is offering franchisees the ability the mold their business into a unique community staple. While it’s important for him and the brand to establish a number of uniform, system-wide menu items and beer offerings, franchisees are afforded the opportunity to plug into regional craft breweries and menu items that help provide customers the local vibe they crave. The average unit offers 60 beer taps, 20 of which are corporate standard. That gives owners room to customize their menu however they see fit. The menu is generally standardized across the system, but to accommodate that hometown feel, franchisees are given the freedom to add menu items that townies would want to see. For example, Wisconsin’s Brass Tap location wouldn’t feel quite the same without offering cheese curds, would it?

“A really good bar is a social gathering place,” said Elliott. “If I had to put my finger on [the appeal for franchisees], I would say there’s a palpable passion to capture that feeling and the atmosphere. A really good bar is a social gathering place – a place where people can listen to live music, talk to friends, watch the game, meet after work. There’s a nuance in running a Brass Tap correctly. It’s about setting the right vibe; the music level, the lighting, when people walk in, I want them to say ‘I’m glad I’m here.’”