The Story of Growler USA: Franchise Review and Fees

Back in 2014, a group of entrepreneurs and friends decided to embark on a new business – one that was based off data and business opportunities. As a group, we had previous success starting other businesses, so we created a list of requirements for what this new business would be.

Learn more about Growler USA.

Those requirements were that a) we would not compete with internet-based businesses; b) we would look for brick & mortar opportunities that were consumer facing; c) we would focus on businesses with high profit margins; and d) we would look for strong future growth trends.

That data set drew us to purchase a small craft beer retail store in Eugene, Oregon.  After a couple years of operation, that original concept involved into what is known today as Growler USA.

Today’s Growler USA is national restaurant franchise with a focus on American-made Craft Beer and a chef-driven menu. Our locations have up to 100 taps which allows them to offer a wide variety of beer, while still focusing on local brewery offerings.

Financial Snapshot

  • Founded: January 2014
  • Franchising Since: February 2016
  • Number of Existing Locations: 25
  • Total Initial Investment: Like any business, the investment ranges greatly depending on how large the space is, what region of the country it’s located in, and whether it’s a new or existing building. The “all-in” costs which include everything (i.e. legal fees, franchise fees, deposits, working capital, FF&E, and construction costs) can range from under $600,000 to over 800,000.
  • Initial Franchise Fee: $45,000
  • Ongoing Royalty Fee: 6%
  • Ad Royalty Fee: 2%
  • Net Worth Minimum: $750,000
  • Agreement Length: 10 years

Our Mission

Our mission is to help people start a business and more importantly to be successful in a business in which they can also have fun, make money, and enjoy what they are doing on a day-to-day basis.

The exterior of a Growler USA location.

Tell us about your menu and customer offerings.

The Growler USA brand is focused on providing a craft experience – whether that be our craft beer offerings or our scratch-made kitchen. In fact, we just launched a new menu at the beginning of 2019! This new menu iteration includes the bestselling items from our previous menu as well as some new and inspired pub fare.

Our Corporate Chef on staff, Devon Hill, creates all our menu items from scratch – using her past experience, industry trends, and lots of R&D to land on the perfect menu offering.

Some of our core menu items include Fish ‘N Chips, Beer Tenders, Growler Nachos, and our signature Brewben sandwich. In addition to those favorites, we also have a selection of vegetarian, gluten free, and lighter offerings available. 

A few popular menu items at Growler USA.

What makes this opportunity unique?

Growler USA is in an interesting position as we can help solve the bottleneck between craft breweries and consumers. The sheer number of taps that we have allows us to expose beer enthusiasts to the best craft beer available even if they can’t get it at their local liquor store.

If you’re not a beer connoisseur, no problem! Our Cicerone certified beer tenders love helping people find their new favorite beer and introducing them to the various styles and varieties available.

Help others discover their new favorite beer!

Further, our True to the Brew™ ideology ensures that each brewer’s vision for their product is honored. With every fiber of our being and every detail of our operation, we take great care to see that intent carried out from the moment we receive the keg to that first sip.

We do that by having a unique keg handling and dispensing system, constant temperature control, and proper glassware for each style of beer. Each beer is served the way the brewer intended to be and that’s True to the Brew™.

What does the future of the business look like?

We’re extremely happy and comfortable that we have chosen a consumer trend that continues its strong growth – which is the consumption of craft beer.

The 2018 Brewer’s Association numbers indicate that craft beer volume grew by 4%, while the dollar value for the craft beer industry gained 7 percent over the year prior, with a notable $27.6 billion in sales. This continued growth and consumer enthusiasm for new and exciting beers gives us confidence the trend will continue. 

However, we understand the many challenges that currently affect the restaurant industry, especially how to handle delivery.  Companies like Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash, etc are creating a new challenge for restaurants.

That challenge is how to respond to the consumers’ needs of delivered foods while maintaining the high standards that we have for food quality.

Our Corporate Chef, Culinary Trainer, and experienced kitchen staff are all working hard to ensure the high quality of food is met whether guests are enjoying it at the restaurant or in their homes.

What does a typical day look like for a franchisee?

This is where we are especially proud of our mission and business model. We believe that all our franchisees love what they do. They love being involved with people, they loved being involved with their community, and they appreciate that their pub gives them the platform to do exactly those things.

A typical Growler USA Franchisees’ day involves dealing with people – whether that is talking with local brewery and distribution reps, interacting with their food vendors, or simply conversing and enjoying time with their guests. The key to a successful franchisees’ day is working with people. 

Challenge for Franchisees

In today’s world of low employment, hiring, training, and retaining employees is a constant challenge for any business. We believe that we do a great job at Growler USA because our employees love what they do.

They deal with happy customers, make good tips, and deliver a quality product and experience. It’s that job satisfaction component that helps us find and retain the best employees possible.

What training programs are in place to help franchisees succeed?

Beer and wings at the Katy, Texas, location of Growler USA.

When a new franchisee comes on board with Growler USA, they immediately start working with the training and support team to prepare them for the opening of their pub.

The process starts with the owner coming to Centennial, CO for a 2 day orientation to inform them on the build out process as well as what to expect for training. Then, as construction continues, the trainers will work with the owner and their management team to start the E-learning process, so they are prepared for the two week intensive training at our corporate training facility in Centennial, CO.

After they have completed that training program, they return to their location to prepare for the 8 day on-site training program that will prepare them for their soft opening.

After a location has opened, they will have recurring calls with the training team to ensure that best practices are being followed. The locations will also continue to receive quarterly support visits rotating between a front of house and back of house trainer.

Could Growler USA help you tap into profits as a franchisee?

Along with that, the trainers have recurring monthly calls with each location to go over profit and loss statements in detail, as well as monthly system wide calls to discuss new initiatives, customer service, and cost savings initiatives.

Continuous efforts from the home office support team are directed to keep training & supporting materials current, with the aim to be consistent with what’s occurring in the brand as well as the world.

Extensive supporting materials are available to all operators in a company intra-web library, and online webinars can be scheduled for a single location or as a group class.

In addition to building relationships with the operators from the beginning of their Growler USA journey, getting to know their needs through training, soft opening, grand opening and ongoing support, we make sure to ask for feedback from the field on what they need and what can be improved. 

What are the characteristics of successful franchisees?

First and foremost, they have to enjoy working and talking with people. Secondly, they have to be invested in building their business – whether that is focusing on the guest experience or cost saving procedures. 

Successful franchisees are willing to look at the numbers and make data-driven decisions on very rudimentary things like food and beverage costs. If a franchisee can do these things, they can be successful.

Good beer comes in many different sizes and styles.

Our franchisees come from a wide and varied background from IT Professionals and Rocket Scientists to Engineers and Doctors. Our extensive training program and ongoing support are a crucial part of the franchise and allow us to help franchisees from any background run a successful business. Our most successful franchisees consistently participate in support calls as well­­ as local and system wide marketing initiatives.

Finally, successful franchisees create a positive culture in their pub as well as actively participate in being a part of their community. The Growler USA brand is adaptable to local markets and we encourage each location to be intimately involved with their community. 

Final comments?

Now, let’s go have a beer! 😊

Learn More about Growler USA.

About Support Staff

Brett Lindenberg is the founder of Food Truck Empire and Food Empire Pro. Brett's mission is help to entrepreneurs start and grow profitable food businesses. Since 2014, Brett has interviewed over 100 entrepreneurs on the Food Empire Pro podcast and written hundreds of blog posts on all aspects of food business. Brett has been quoted in media outlets like Entrepreneur Magazine, CNBC, and The Washington Post.