Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Henry Firestone all walk into a bar…No this isn’t the start of a good joke, but it certainly is the conceptual basis for the successful Florida chain, Ford’s Garage.
The original location opened in March 2012, in the recently renovated downtown, Fort Myers, Florida. The establishment breathed new life into the area, and the 1920’s service station concept caught on like wildfire.
A Prime Location
There are a lot of businesses in Fort Myers that pay homage to Ford, Edison, and Firestone because it was their local hangout—so Ford’s Garage seemed quite fitting for the area.
In addition, the city had just been renovated in such a way that it was reminiscent of earlier times. With old-style street lamps and cobblestone avenues, the downtown area seemed like a prime location for a 1920’s themed concept.
Ford’s Garage offers gourmet-style burgers and craft beer—something which has proven to greatly appeal to the masses. When asking Bar Manager Brian “Nez” Nesbitt who their main demographic is, he simply replied “everyone.”
“You can come in on a Saturday—get there when it opens and stay till close, and you will see every demographic walk in. From college students to families, seniors, men, women, you name it! The concept just works for everyone because of everything we have.”
Although admittedly, Marc and his managing partners had other ideas in the works, they really saw the restaurant take off when they struck a licensing deal with Ford Motor Company in 2014. The only business in their industry to get permission, the Ford logo now resides in every one of their establishments.
Ford’s Garage always keeps the same high standards across all of their locations. Be it the original quaint location of 3,800 square feet or their larger establishments that top off at 6800 sq ft.. Their relationship with Ford is swiftly driving their business.
Nesbitt has scoured all of Florida (including Tampa breweries) to help Ford’s Garage Brandon offer local beers to their patrons. In Florida, local implies “state,” and they keep 5 taps open in every bar specifically for these craft beers.
In addition, each location pays homage to a member of the local community with their signature “Burgers of Fame,” by naming one after them.
“I can safely say every brewery in the greater Tampa area has been offered or featured a bottle in our place, or a spot on our draft.” ~Nez
The Business of Beer
Brian Nesbitt is a huge fan of marketing and he uses the TapHunter software to get his point across—especially when it comes to the digital drink boards. In fact, he displays the boards in every single store, to their fullest effect. In terms of promotions, Nez uses them for “beer of the month” specials, wine/beer/cocktails lists, and anything his heart should fancy.
Ford’s Garage also finds the TapHunter analytics helpful. They use it to forecast inventory and make new-carry decisions. Nez admits from a marketing standpoint, it’s a great tool for them to know what their customers want, and put it right in front of them.
In many ways, they have been shocked by certain beers that have been trending for specific locations, and when they follow suit, they always come out on top.
“It’s an eye opener. Some you can predict from sales, but others are surprising. It’s like ‘Wow people are searching for that? …I should keep that around more, or I should bring that back!‘”
The Future for Ford’s Garage
The Ford’s Garage brand is very blue-collar, and it appeals to all demographics. Nez admits they’re learning as they grow. The restaurant chain currently has 4 locations with plans to open 5 more locations in 2017, and expand to the Midwest after that.
They are downsizing to a core list of about 150 bottles, 15 core draft lines and 11 in rotation. Once they need to reprint menus, Nez insists he will be using none other than TapHunter to roll them out.
Ford’s Garage has big plans to become a national brand, and Marc Brown muses he’d be disappointed if they didn’t have at least 100+ locations in the next 5-10 years. As he put a final thought to their progress:
“We’ve got the right people, the right team, the right culture, the right product, the relationship with Ford—there’s so much great stuff happening and we want to make this everything it can be!”