Buzzworthy Brands is a weekly Restaurant Business feature highlighting innovative growth brands that operators should keep an eye on. A fresh Buzzworthy Brands profile will be published each Thursday.
The concept: City Works
The details: A nine-unit craft beer bar with more than 90 beers on tap and a full food menu.
The backstory: City Works began in 2011 in Chicago as Old Town Pour House. But as Chicago-based owner Bottleneck Management looked at expanding the brand nationwide, it discovered too many other bars with “pour house” in their names. Most units are 8,000 to 10,000 square feet. The company focuses on local breweries, with 20% to 40% of the beer list made up from brewers near each location.
Why it’s worth watching: City Works continues to grow, with a unit slated to open in Illinois next month, one at Disney Springs near Orlando, Fla., in late 2019 and a Massachusetts outpost planned for early next year. With its large stores, the brand is courting event business and has plans to grow its events team. Recently, it has found success with a revamped and playful brunch service that includes mimosa flights, a reworked bloody mary and a Flapjack Old Fashioned infused with maple syrup.
Here are five growth-minded questions with Angela Zoiss, vice president of marketing for Bottleneck Management:
- City Works is opening big units around the country as many operators are looking to downsize. Is there still a market for the traditional full-service restaurant experience?
There’s so much to compete with. But people still want to go out, take a load off and connect with family and friends. We like to describe our places as upbeat and vibrant … a place to disconnect from the day-to-day grind. People still do want to go out and have that experience. People want to be able to go out, watch a big game or sporting event or debate, but also be able to order a pork chop for dinner or something that isn’t typical bar food. How can we be a blend of the best beer bar you’ve seen but also a really nice, delightful restaurant?
- With so many beers on tap, how do you train employees on all of them?
We created a beer bible for training. It’s hundreds of pages. It breaks down the definitions of styles and what goes into the brewing process. It breaks down the modules over two weeks. We break it down by style. Our menu is a beast. (We asked), “What can we do to make this very clean and easy to read from a design perspective?” Servers ask, “What beer have you ever tried that you enjoyed?” If they say, “I like Blue Moon,” the server can say, “This is the category where you want to start.” We offer a 6-ounce tasting portion. Or, you can build your own flight.
- How do you go about sourcing local beers when you enter a new market?
Every new restaurant is a new challenge for our operators to meet with those distributors. We have tastings and get into what the market looks like. There’s some cross-utilization. The more we cluster around the country, the easier it is. We hope to add a food and beverage director. That would be so helpful for our company moving forward.
- How do you eliminate the veto vote from customers who may not be beer drinkers?
We also have wine on draft. We were a little skeptical at first. We thought of the boxed wine. The more we dug into it, we found that keeping wine on tap ensures consistency and freshness. It’s also more eco-friendly. We usually have eight wines on draft. We serve wine in beakers, in science beakers. As a full beaker or a half beaker. It does well. We’re always looking for those alternatives.
- City Works will open at NBA Experience at Disney Springs in the coming months. How did that deal happen and what does it mean for your brand?
That all came about because they were doing organic searches for “best beer bar,” and we kept cropping up. They came to Chicago and met with the ownership. We’re really excited for that exact opportunity (to introduce the concept to a new audience). We’re embracing Disney. We’re more than happy to partner with them to make sure we’re delighting all of their visitors. Genuine people, genuine hospitality is a natural fit for us. To be on that national stage like that, we’re super excited.