COVID-19 Survival Blog #11 - Thinking About the Future

Thinking about the future

Remember at the beginning of all of this, when we all started sentences with something like:

"You know, when this all gets back to normal..."

Ha! What a bunch of suckers. Those guys (me, and you, circa 7.5 weeks ago) were total dummies. 

Those were the days, huh? Back before we saw articles daily about beloved local businesses calling it quits for good (just today - you will be missed, Low Bar in Vancouver, WA). Back before we were all getting close to the two month mark on the money that the government gave us that was supposed to only last us 2.5 months (based on the previous year, no less). Back before our distributors told us that they were going to start buying draft beer again in order of the highest volume products in THEIR book (as in, not our book; as in, our little brewery won't be selling much draft to our distributor for a whiiiiiiiile). 

Believe it or not, this is going to be a positive post. Bear with me. 

I was on a podcast earlier this week (Business Over Beer - great show!), during which they started by asking about Backwoods' structure and history, but of course we inevitably got talking about how we're coping with COVID-19. The longer we talked, it struck me that the hosts wanted to know a lot about how we were being creative during this time and what our creative process was.

I ran them through how we go about making plans and being creative (pretty similar to our notes about creativity in the last blog post), but the longer we talked the more I realized that they were most interested in how we were creating a business that could adapt to the new world that was about to come at us after this crisis, and that I was answering the questions as if we were busy over here creating something that will still work - and work a lot differently - in that same new world.

And then I realized that I had spent the entire day prior to that podcast recording having meetings with many people in the company about how we are doing that. And then I further realized that we've pretty much been doing that the entire time during the shutdown, we just hadn't really put a name to it because it only felt like we were reacting to everything that was happening all around us.

We've had three beer releases in 16oz cans since the shutdown, all but one of them planned beforehand. They were some of the best releases we've ever done, and we sold most of those releases directly to our guests. We're working with UPS right now while I write this to start shipping beer in some states. We kicked off a smoked meats program to capture extra takeout business. We're currently building a deck adjacent to our current patio in Carson to provide extra spaced out seating and large party space (once that's allowed again). We're building a walkup window in the Carson pub so folks don't have to navigate inside our building if they're fearful of crowds but still want to order to-go food after we're allowed to seat guests again.

In short, we're changing the way we do everything. Instead of just putting out beer (primarily through distribution), we're going to invest a lot more time into creating ways to connect it directly with our consumers. Instead of just filling our restaurant, we're finding new ways to give folks the Backwoods experience whether they want to sit down, party in our new event space, or just grab food as easily and quickly as possible and enjoy it at home.

In one of the meetings we had that day, a question came up about the meat shortage that could be looming on the horizon. What do we do if that happens? We all thought for a moment, and came to the same conclusion. 

"Well then, we'll become the best damn (temporarily) vegetarian restaurants we can possibly be."

And that's what we'll do. Can our beer, sell directly to our customers, be nimble, and build new things. I think I mentioned in the first or second post (maybe not?) that my family wasn't wealthy to begin with, and each of us invested every extra penny we had into this thing a long time ago. All of our personal assets are tied up guaranteeing contracts and business loans. There is no plan B.

Good! Then there's nothing else to focus on but survival!