Author: Alex Karp, BSU student
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Barrett, born in Quincy, and longtime owner, and founder of Barrett’s Alehouse, which was established in 2003. They currently have 6 locations throughout the South Shore: Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, Fall River, Fall River Waterfront, Barrett’s at Olde Scotland Links, and North Attleboro with a potential 7th location opening in Taunton within the coming year.
Tell me about your business.
“Our business is food & beverage where our business volume is 50% food and 50% liquor. All of the locations are sports bar themed with an average of 60 televisions in each restaurant. At least 20 drafts in each restaurant. Food business is very important, it gives you stability and longevity, so we try to keep up with the times and give people what they want.”
Why did you choose this line of business?
“I choose this line of business because my father was in the business, he was the executive/president of Howard Johnsons, he also owned and operated 10 restaurants, started Ground Round, so I grew up in the business. I went to Cornell University hotel & restaurant school, and the rest is history here I am.”
What separates your Alehouse from chain and other bar competitors in the area?
“Every location is different, but they are basically the same. There is a core menu throughout, 60% of the menu items, we allow the chef & general manager to change the other 40%. If you walk into any location, they all basically have the same theme - TV’s, sports, bars, fun atmosphere. Depending on the location, we have function rooms in some, game rooms, beach areas in others, so we try to take advantage of the room and give people what they want. We also try to get involved in the community as much as possible, we sponsor little league teams. We do all sorts of community activities, before COVID hit we did a lot of fundraisers. Every Tuesday was a fundraiser night in all of our restaurants. We also supported just causes in each location, in addition to supporting local music. After a year without live music, we are finally bringing back acoustic duos, singles, & DJ’s in two of our locations.”
What is the toughest part about having a business in 2020?
“We have been forced to look at everything, every penny we spend and detail, we look at the products we buy, the inventory levels. We pay attention. During COVID, we have made sure to pay our bills every Thursday at 10:00am on the dot, we do not owe anybody anything. Whereas before, business was coming in, the money was going out, you did not pay as close attention to your financial statements as we do now. Volume and money hides all sins, but when there is less volume and less money, you begin to see what is wrong and what falls short, so this has definitely made us a stronger company.“
Do you feel that internet technology could play a bigger role in your business if you had the
“The right tools… they’re called people. So, if you can find someone within each restaurant that is good at it, and that is the key. Most of our general managers who run each operation, first thing they do is find someone on the property that can handle it and do a good job with it. So, if the general manager cares and he finds the right person. It works. You also have to be consistent; you cannot put out 10 ads every day on social media you know? It is annoying. So, you try to schedule it. We come up with monthly calendars of what we are going to promote and how we are going to do it. “
If you had to look 6 months to a year into the future where would you like to see your business be?
“I think the key moving forward is going to be changing with the times. Outsides are going to become very, very important. There are still people who do not want to go inside a restaurant, there are people who have not eaten at a restaurant, except for maybe takeout, which has become very popular over the past year.
We have always had a craft beer, but right now we just signed up for a thing called “Untapped” that promotes your beer menu. Every time you log on and add a new beer it goes out to the 200,000+ people that are signed up for the app in the area. So, say we put a new beer in West Bridgewater, it will go out to everyone within a 25-mile radius that West Bridgewater just tapped a certain craft beer.”
“The thing is to always have an open mind, you hear something, and you say “oh that’s never gunna work” but… when you hear it you have got to pay attention to it, if you see it starting to take off then Bingo. It is something you want to do. You know, it is crazy until it is not.
With that, are there any final thoughts or words of advice that you can give to any readers who are interested in potentially starting their own South Shore business?
“I think personally, first of all I would not go into the restaurant business again, my kids do not want any part of it because you work nights, weekends, holidays, you know it gets brutal. Whatever path you end up choosing in life, you have to own it. If this is your passion, you need to do it with conviction. You cannot work Monday through Friday 9-5, vacations and all that and expect to be successful. If you really want to be successful, you have to follow that passion and do whatever it takes to get there. It is a commitment. I am not the brightest bulb in the building, but I work hard, and I care, and I do whatever I can to make my business better and I have always been that way. So, whether you are an electrician, plumber, in the tech business, whatever industry you are in, you have to strive to be the best. The willingness to always adapt and learn is critical to any success for an entrepreneur trying to start up a new business. You cannot be complacent.”