Founders First pursues venue model

Founders First CEO Mark Haysman says that creating a national network of venues will allow its portfolio of craft brands to grow in local markets, which they are often locked out of due to tap contracts.

“It is very hard to get [into venues], so for us to set up our own is really important and get our brands out there, and build that awareness,” he told Brews News.

“Then the local trade will see these brands performing well and we’d look to see growth in the brands outside of that venue.

“Over time we can get access to those consumers and give them a great experience and they’ll look for the brands outside the venue. It’s about building the brands out in the market, but having a home and an opportunity to trial it in a controlled environment if you like, is we think a smart way to go.”

The craft beer investment firm cemented its plans to become a hospitality and venue business, confirming the acquisition of Potters Hotel, Brewery and Resort in the Hunter Valley yesterday, spending $1.5 million on the long term lease of the site.

It has plans to “rebrand and activate the licensed premises and create a world class, must visit tourist destination in the Hunter Valley” and will invest $2 million in the site to redevelop it under the Foghorn Brewery brand.

It’s part of plans for the business to build a national chain of craft concept venues to support the brand expansion of its breweries.

But Haysman told Brews News that each venue would have unique elements to appeal to the local market.

“When we talk about a chain of craft concept venues, each venue will be slightly different based on the needs of the local market, but making sure we create a wonderful venue that the locals love going to but also becomes a bit of a destination so we can really showcase all of our brands.”

This is what drove the shift from Potters Brewery and Brasserie to becoming an outpost of Foghorn, which Founders First invested in back in 2019.

“What we look at is the strategy for Foghorn, which is taking a stronger position in the greater Hunter and Newcastle region.

“So it makes a lot of sense for us to work on this notion of being locally dominant and having a stronger presence in your local market.

“We’re leveraging off the great team there under Keith to work closely with Shawn to help build out the portfolio and leverage the production capability there at Hunter Valley.”

But the other Founders First portfolio brands will get a look-in too.

“The great thing about Potters is that it’s got the Potters brewpub side, which will rebrand up as Foghorn Brewery, Hunter Valley.

“But then the rest of the venue, which is significant in its own right as well, we will brand up as a Founders venue which will be a showcase for all our brands, across the multiple categories.

“You’ll see Jetty Road in there as well as Foghorn, but also Sauce, Ballistic, Slipstream, Sparkke and our Brogan’s Way gin products too.

“It will be a really great showcase for our product portfolio as we build that business out.”

Founders First said that its partner branded products are expected to be on tap an available for takeaway sale.

The investment and hospitality business has also acquired the lease at a site at Moonee Ponds in Victoria for $1 million, with plans to revamp it.

Haysman explained that it was a great example of what Founders First is looking for when it comes to venue acquisitions.

“We’d like to see [venues with] opportunity in growth, potentially an under-serviced market… where [there is] a good chance to showcase our brands more broadly, and really get that trial of our portfolio through a lot of drinkers’ hands.

“For example with Moonee Ponds it’s in a gentrifying area, with a lot of opportunity, so a gastro-style venue where we can bring all our brands to life will make a lot of sense.

“In the Hunter Valley, there are some great wineries in and around there, but there’s an opportunity to build out on the brewpub/distillery side of things and obviously there’s already a great level of local support and visitation, so we think here’s an opportunity to build out an iconic venue in the Hunter

“That’s the way we look at it, to help our brands grow in line with their strategies.

“We want to create great hospitality opportunities for people to visit and connect with the brands, but it’s really about us building these brands out in the marketplace for the long term.”


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