The Casual Pint Franchising Inc.
The Casual Pint supports its craft beer-loving franchisees
as it grows its unique concept throughout the country.
By Janice Hoppe-Spiers
The Casual Pint prides itself on being the place “where beer lovers meet.” Its mission is to “share the craft beer experience in neighborhoods one pint, one growler and one person at a time,” and do so in a comfortable and casual atmosphere where people can come to relax and enjoy a beer.
The Knoxville, Tenn.-based company is a craft beer “market” as opposed to a bar. The name, Casual Pint Craft Beer Market, tells customers exactly what they are walking into. Casual conveys the informal, relaxed and safe environment. Pint, the sentiment of an old English pub, is a welcoming place where friends meet and beer is served in pint glasses. Beer Market is a retail spot to purchase beer by the bottle, growler or keg to take home.
“When I first got started I had a hard time explaining my vision to the architects and contractors,” President and CEO Nathan Robinette says. “At the time, craft beer was new in eastern Tennessee so I referred to the space as ‘the coffee shop of beer that will have an English pub flair and sell craft beer instead of coffee.’ The bar is all wood and the colors inside are very warm and inviting, the store is clean and well kept and the beertenders are very knowledgeable.”
Robinette is an entrepreneur at heart, so after following in his father’s footsteps and spending years as a grocery retail manager, he decided to follow his passion into the craft beer industry. “The Casual Pint was my creation and I had my father, Jon Robinette’s, financial backing,” he explains. “I’m definitely the beer guy in the relationship and enjoy craft beer and visiting the breweries. My dad was in retail for almost 40 years, so we were both familiar with the business side.”
After a year-and-a-half of development, The Casual Pint opened in Knoxville’s Bearden neighborhood. In addition to serving pints and selling six packs, growlers and kegs, 16 locations offer a small selection of food including wings, beer cheese, pretzels, flatbreads and wraps. “Our food is high quality and prepared on-site,” Nathan Robinette adds. “It’s not meant to be a meal, but are sharable plates to enjoy over a pint with your spouse or friend.”
Thirty-five to 55-year-old white-collar males used to be the core demographic for craft beer when The Casual Pint first opened. Today, they are still important and consistent consumers, but the market has expanded.
The Casual Pint is seeing an increase in female clientele because of its comfortable and inviting atmosphere. “They aren’t coming into a dingy, dirty and dark bar, but a well-lit store that’s nice and clean,” Robinette says. “There are also so many flavors and varieties today that you can find something for everyone.”
The millennial consumer, ages 25 to 35, is typically a wine and spirits consumer, but Robinette says the age group has become a huge demographic for the craft beer industry because it is popular and trendy. “There are so many different flavors and varieties to keep them interested,” he adds.
Craft beer is the theme that gets people to walk through the doors of The Casual Pint and the atmosphere and selection are what keep them coming back.“Our tap wall is ever-changing,” Robinette says. “We have 22 to 36 taps and once the keg empties we clean the lines and put a new beer on right behind it. There’s always something new and different, but we also have the most popular styles, such as a lighter brew, cider, IPA, stout or porter. If we don’t have something, they can grab a single bottle and sit down and have that.”
Growing the Brand
The craft beer industry is large, profitable and growing. To expand its brand throughout the country, The Casual Pint began franchising in 2013 and has 22 locations today in six states. With 50 more locations sold in 10 states, the company will be expanding to new markets in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and Florida.
Franchisees who have a passion for craft beer with a basic familiarity with the market will find The Casual Pint an attractive option. “The initial investment is less than $500,000, which helps in the beginning,” Robinette explains. “Our stores are 2,200 to 2,500 square feet in strip centers and a simple footprint so the overhead is not unbearable.”
Although some franchisees might be willing to write a check to get into the business, Robinette says he’s selective when it comes to new owners. “We like our owners to have some sort of familiarity and passion for craft beer,” he explains. “Some of them are novices and some are experienced and brewing their own beer at home. In addition, we want people who are marketing-minded, event-minded and sales-driven. If they have those two things we can work on the rest.”
Trained to Succeed
The Casual Pint’s training consists of three phases. New franchisees will be assisted first with site selection, forming their business model and obtaining a beer permit. The second step is classroom training for one week in Knoxville and training at its headquarter store for two to three weeks.
The final step of training is preparing for the grand opening at the franchisee’s store where the shelves are stocked, the POS is installed, employees are trained and the owner gets any last-minute training. “After the store opens, we go back in two weeks for additional training, but to make sure the owner is still vertical and that there is beer on the shelf and taps in place,” Robinette says.
Each location features local brews selected based on the franchisees’ discretion. “We start local and want to be a good business partner with local breweries and distributors,” Robinette says. “We have some national brands in all the stores, but start local and expand regionally. We don’t dictate what goes on the franchisees’ walls and it’s up to them what they put on the shelves.”
Throughout the franchisees’ first year, The Casual Pint holds two conference calls per month and visits stores every quarter to review the business and financials. “We are very involved in the first year and continuously throughout the rest of the operation because it’s critical to have them start off in good shape,” Robinette says. “My primary focus is making sure our owners are well supported and running a good operation. We are only as successful as our owners, so that’s our daily focus.”