Brian Kehl | Crain's Nashville

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Brian Kehl

Background:  

While he's a fan of Bavarian culture, most of Brian Kehl's career was focused in the construction business. But as the Great Recession ravaged that sector, he transitioned to the restaurant industry with his first German beer hall, Hofbräu Beer Garden in Panama City Beach. His second restaurant, the Bavarian Bierhaus, opened in mid-June 2017 at Opry Mills Mall in Nashville. 

The Mistake:

They were putting this big Simon mall in Panama City Beach Called Pier Park, and they were looking for tenants.

We hooked up with a really famous brewery out of Munich, Hofbräu München. We contacted them and started this German restaurant. They were confused as to why we wanted to start a German beer hall in Panama City Beach when we weren't German, or in the restaurant industry. We weren't big enough for their franchise, but we started Hofbräu Beer Garden. We've been open nine years now.

So we had this restaurant that was only 3,200 square feet – a lot smaller than what we did here in Nashville. When we decided to come to Nashville, we wanted to be in a market that wasn't so seasonal.

The mistake is that we’ve stayed with one brewery for nine years in Panama City Beach. We’ve only offered beers from the one brewery that we were affiliated with. When I go to Munich, it's not even my favorite. I wanted to tell the whole story of Bavaria – but what we have been doing is telling the story of Bavaria just through the eyes of one brewery in Panama City Beach.

Several of our investors didn't even know what it was when they came in and didn't recognize the brand, but knew it was German. That's when we looked at it and thought that probably no one in America cared that there was only one brewery represented. They want to try the beer that they like.

We're trying to blend the two cultures. If you go to Germany, a lot of times they only serve beer from one brewery. We tried to do it the German way and stay traditional, but we realized that people would come in and be disappointed that we didn't have a certain kind of beer. We tried to keep it so authentic that we hurt ourselves and didn't see our full potential.

 It's giving our customers a lot more  choices, because America is about choices.

The Lesson:

But when I was trying to make the plan for this restaurant, we changed that.

What we did here is, we created these relationships with all these other breweries. And now, there are about seven really famous breweries from Bavaria, and we have all their beers on tap. It's giving our customers a lot more choices, because America is about choices.

Now, in Nashville we have 12 beers on tap and we can rotate them, whereas in Panama City Beach, we only have five beers available. We're looking to change that. We're working on a process right now to rebrand our restaurant in Florida to the Bavarian Beerhaus.

The big difference of what we've done here in Nashville is we're trying to tell the story of all the breweries.

Follow Bavarian Bierhaus on Twitter at: @bierhausnash

Pictured: Brian Kehl | Photo courtesy of Brian Kehl

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