Growler USA


Growler USA gives its franchisees the freedom to customize their pubs.

By Alan Dorich

Many pubs boast a wide beer selection, but Growler USA sets the bar with 100 American craft beer taps to choose from. “The variety of beverages that we have is certainly a big draw for folks,” Executive Vice President of Operations Ron Curnutt says.

Growler’s history goes back to 2013, when President Dave Shaw and Dan White visited a growler-only filling station in Eugene, Ore., and approached the owner about franchising the concept. “As things progressed, we ended up buying the company from him,” Curnutt says.

“That started the spark,” he continues, adding that Growler recently made the transition to a full-service pub/restaurant format. “It became clear to us, 12 months ago, that an ever-increasing percentage of our customer base was foodies.”

Although Growler offered small sandwich items and pretzels, “We needed to be a place where people could sit down and enjoy a pint or twoGrowler Fact Box and a bite to eat,” Curnutt says. Today, its 15 locations have menus with burgers, chicken and waffles, chicken tenders, soups and salads.

Not only did the company upgrade its cooking equipment, but “we’ve brought on chefs,” he adds. “The public is responding extraordinarily well. Now we’re really much more of a complete package.”

Growler’s success has allowed it to begin developing another 15 locations. “We knew we wanted a concept that would play all over the United States,” Curnutt says. “That’s what we’ve become.”

Best of the Best

A longtime veteran of the restaurant industry, Curnutt joined Growler in 2015. He says the company strives to keep itself well positioned in its market, which is experiencing multiple changes.

“There’s breweries popping up left and right,” he says. “The bar for what is now considered quality craft beer in America has risen exponentially in the last five years.”

But Growler keeps up. “Even when the industry itself is growing at such a rapid pace and shifting, we still have the best of the best,” he says. “I don’t see that changing at all as we move forward.”

The Perfect Blend

Growler franchises are wise investments for a variety of reasons. “They’re affordable,” Curnutt says, noting that the company’s locations typically span 2,500 to 3,000 square feet.

They also allow franchisees to fulfill a longtime dream. “Almost all of the people who have come on board have dreamed about having a pub,” he says, adding that Growler franchisees do not need previous hospitality experience.

“We can help you out if you don’t have the background,” he says. “But we do require you hire a general manager and kitchen manager who do.”

Growler also provides franchisees with the necessary training and support, as well as the ability to make changes. “Usually, when you a buy a franchise, it’s very cookie cutter,” Curnutt explains. “People say, ‘Here it is in a box, don’t deviate and good luck.’

“We look at it through a different lens,” he says, adding that this applies to each location’s beer list. “No two locations that are more than 100 miles apart are going to have access to the same selection of beers.

“We give them the latitude to match that up with their marketplace,” he says, noting that the company offers similar leeway with its food menu. “[We] let them have a little creative flair locally to add to that food offering.”

Franchisees also can customize their Growler locations to local tastes. “We get it to the 70 percent mark of all the finishes you’d expect to see in a Growler USA,” he says. “But they’re able to lay over that with their choice of art work.

“It may be a franchise, but it’s locally owned and operated by people who live down the block from you,” he continues. “We like to think it’s the perfect blend between the mom-and-pop location and the franchise locations. That’s resonating very well with our owners.”

Getting Better

Curnutt predicts that Growler USA will keep growing and improving. “When you get 15 stores under your belt, you’ve learned a lot,” he says. “Once you get 30, hopefully you’ve learned a whole lot more.”

Growler USA’s concept, he adds, resonates well with top-tier markets, which he hopes will allow it to grow to 150 pubs. But even as the company tweaks its formula, it will stay true to its roots and model.

“We’ve been through a great many adjustments to get here,” he says. “From here on out, I don’t see a whole lot of doing anything but just getting better. If you’re not trying to get better, you’re just getting worse.”


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