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March 21, 2015 Staff

How to Connect with Local Breweries in Florida

br6It’s become quite clear by now the amazing symbiotic relationship that’s developed between food trucks and breweries. Both offer products that complement each other without either business having to deal with the time, money, and legal hassle of trying to offer it themselves. Good, local street food eaten alongside an amazing small-batch craft beer? That’s the dream right there.

And because of that it easily helps bring in more business for both members; breweries have more people that seek out the truck, and stay longer in the taproom while they eat (thus giving more opportunities to order another glass), while the food truck owners are privy to a parking spot guaranteed to have traffic, without any other truck or nearby food source competing for attention. It’s safe to say that as a new Food Truck owner, one definitely needs to count brewery visits as part of their weekly schedule and start getting those relationships built.

br1Especially in Florida, one of if not THE main food truck state in the US, filled and still growing with new trucks and breweries, being able to develop spots and relationships is key to survival. Plenty of breweries are looking for more truck partners, but conversely others are likely already filled with contracts of sorts, and getting in can be tough. So learning what’s important and how to approach them can be vital in your business pursuits.

To help with this, we’ve interviewed a bevy of Florida Breweries to ask what THEY love and look for in the matter.

br4Question: Tell us a bit about you and your brewery first.

Samantha: My name is Samantha and I am the tavern manager here at Barley Mow Brewing Company. We opened on November 8th, 2011, here in lovely Largo, Florida. We are a small tavern/tasting room with a good sized outdoor patio, where you can sit at the bar and see where we brew all of our in house draughts. At the tavern we work with a 2 barrel system, but have recently expanded. We bought a warehouse, also here in Largo, and converted it into a huge 30 barrel system brewery for distribution.

br3Will: I am Will Lawson Managing Director/Director of Brewery Ops at Naples Beach Brewery. Naples Beach Brewery opened in 2012 and is the first/only production brewery in Collier County.

Preben: Aardwolf Brewing Company is a brewery and tap room located in Jacksonville, FL. Nestled in the San Marco neighborhood, just across the river from downtown. We have 20 of our own beers on tap that greatly range in taste and style to please even the most discerning of pallets.

John: Funky Buddha Brewery is a craft brewery located in Oakland Park, FL using natural, culinary-inspired ingredients. We’re distributed on draught and in bottle from Key West to Central Florida and the West Coast at over 1400 retail outlets. Our tap room located at the brewery features 25 rotating beers on tap, food trucks nightly, bocce ball, corn hole, tours, and special events. We’re open noon to midnight, seven days a week.

Jeremy: I’m CEO and Founder of JDub’s Brewing Co in Sarasota. It all starts and ends with good beer.  Without good beer, everything else is bullshit.  We made this beer for the community.  For as long as I’m running this brewery, doing right by the people who drink our beers will always be my highest priority.

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Q: What’s been your experience with Food Trucks? How often do you work together with them?

Sbr5amantha: So far its been a great experience working with food trucks. We have them every Thursday evening from 6 to 9 pm.

Preben: We book Food Trucks four nights a week, Wed-Sat. Because our tap room does not offer food, it was very important for us to develop a relationship with the trucks early. Not only do the Food Trucks keep patrons sticking around for another beer to pair with their course, but each truck has a draw that brings in its own cult following.

John: We’ve had a close relationship with the food truck community since we started out here. We decided when we opened not to make a kitchen of our own so we could focus on the beer aspect of what we do, and do that well. Our rotating food truck lineup has brought a food element into the tap room, and our customers really appreciate the variety and quality that the trucks we have provide.

Q: Do you keep it very well varied, or have you stuck with only a bare few trucks that you set up these relationships with?

Samantha: I try to mix it up as much as I can. Get new food trucks while having the few back once a month that I’ve developed great relationships with.

Preben: We vary our Food Trucks quite a bit, trying not to book any particular truck more than two to three times a month, max. There are trucks we tend to be featured more, but that is based on their reliability and ability to pick up shifts when another truck drops out.

John: We’ve developed good relationships with the trucks that we trust. The big part of that is food quality, but it also has to do with reliability and adherence to our guidelines like keeping the area clean and taking care of customers. We have a great cast of reliable trucks that we use regularly. That said, we try to keep the lineup fresh and interesting by inviting in new food trucks every so often. If they work out, we bring them back.

Jeremy: For a long time we had trouble keeping the same trucks here.  We had many come in for a while, didn’t feel they were making enough money, then left abruptly.  Others wanted to be the only “Mexican food” or (fill in the blank) truck.  If it wasn’t all about them or their kind of food, they felt slighted and left.  The trucks we have now are constantly here week in week out, or stick to one or two fixed days per month.  As far as styles go, we have many different styles depending on the week/ night

Q: Any particular favorite trucks and/or moments/stories with trucks you’ve had? Why?

Will: Sizzle Truck is really great. They care about crafting quality food as much as we care about the quality of our beers. Outside of them I recently was at a beer fest in Tampa and had some killer sliders from a truck in that area. I’m talking signature sliders with different creative toppings. Awesome!

Preben: We love it when food trucks incorporate our beer into their menus. Just ask, the bartenders will be more than happy to fill a growler of beer for your upcoming recipes!

Jeremy: I appreciate the approach Mouthole bbq takes.  Basically, it’s “this is who we are and this is the food we make.  If you don’t like it, go away”.  That’s not my approach, but I dig authenticity and people who refuse to put on a “face” to impress others.  And it really works for them.  They have a cult-like following and people line up outside the brewery to get a plate of their bbq.

Q: Now, how can any new Florida Food Truck owners best get your attention and interest in starting a cooperative partnership with you or other breweries?

Will: As more and more food trucks open there should be something internet based where breweries and trucks can connect and potentially schedule working together.

John: We get asked by tons of food trucks to join our lineup, and really what it takes is pretty simple. Make great food. Get along well with others. Be reliable! That’s it. Sometimes it takes a while to get an opening, but if you’re available when we do have one and do a good job, we always invite you back.

Jeremy: Just reach out!  I see most new breweries in Florida going with the food truck option, and speaking for myself, we’re always looking for more trucks serving good food for our patrons.

Q: What are you looking for in a good food truck partner?

Samantha: Of course first off, have great food. Definitely need to be friendly, good people skills. And super important, show up on time.

Jeremy: Dependability.  If you say you’re going to be here, just be here.  Don’t call the day your supposed to show and flake out.  That disappoints my customers.  And disappointing people is not how this company roles

Q: What SHOULDN’T a food truck do when trying to get in business alongside you?

Samantha: I had a food truck show up at the time they were supposed to be serving, so they started 30 mins late. And then they decided to leave 45 mins before they were scheduled to leave. That’s a definite no. They missed out on a big group of people that showed up 15 mins after they left. Just very unprofessional.

Preben: Do not show up at the brewery one night and try to set up! This immediately puts any truck on our do not call list. The second is more of a new truck mistake. Do not tell us how much it will cost the brewery for your truck to set up. Aardwolf does not charge any slotting fees because we feel the situation is mutually beneficial, and expect the same from our trucks.

br2Q: Forming a contract/agreement is always an important part of truck-brewery relationships; anything you’d like to say about this aspect, either for its importance or things to make sure to include?

Preben: We require proof of insurance and check all business licenses. We typically book our trucks in person at the brewery, so when your name goes on the schedule, show up. Other than that, we see this as a symbiotic relationship and we do not require much more out of our trucks.

John: We have guidelines we ask the trucks to follow like cleaning up after yourself, arriving on time, honoring the days you agree to come out, and not cancelling last minute on us. We’re a great place for trucks to do business, so we ask to be professional in return. It’s definitely a symbiotic relationship, so we try to make sure our standards are met.

Q: Is there any last thing you’d like to say to food trucks, or other breweries, on this subject?

Will: Food trucks are a natural fit to work in connection with breweries. I think developing cross promotional ideas once the two have worked together for awhile is a great way for both businesses to benefit. Advertising your business relationship through website/social media is important also.

Preben: For breweries, be sure to check with your cities zoning laws. It is actually illegal for food trucks to set up in light industrial zoned areas in Jacksonville. We had to specifically address this situation during our rezoning. For the trucks, stick to what you know. Having a few solid food choices you can pump out quickly and consistently is far more effective than having a large menu that requires lots of prep and production time.

John: To all the food trucks making great food and partnering with us, thank you! You guys rock.

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A Couple Helpful Links

Important Considerations when Food Trucks Work w/ Breweries: another insight into the situation from the food trucker’s perspective.

How Breweries and Food Trucks are Working Together – fun lil article

With this hopefully you can find luck and some great partnerships with the local Florida breweries. A big thanks again to the many brewery owners that took the time to answer our questions, couldn’t have made this without you! Good day and enjoy the food and drinks.

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