Delivery First’s Finest: Elmhurst Brewing Company – A Chat with Co-owner Pete Dolan
Elmhurst Brewing Co. is your quintessential local brewery — a tasteful, hip hangout that the people of Elmhurst wholeheartedly embrace. The brewery’s space and staff are inviting, their beer is tasty, and their upscale pub food is unmatched…and can be ordered to-go!
The brewery was opened in 2017 by two friends: Pete Dolan and Frazer Donaldson. As with all small restaurants, the owners have endured a monster of a year, but came out on the other end with a rejuvenated passion for their community and their team.
Pete Dolan, co-owner and local “cool dude,” gives us the inside scoop of the vision behind the company, struggles of the past year, and even shares tips on what to order when we stop in!
What was your mission when you started Elmhurst Brewing Company? How has it evolved?
P:“My business partner Frazer and I really wanted to bring a good, unique craft beer to Elmhurst along with upscale pub food. We’ve been committed to that mission and we are very happy with what we’ve delivered. Because of it, we’ve really been embraced by the community, too.”
How did you come up with the name for your company? Were there any others in the running?
P: “There were a few we talked about, like ‘The Elm.’ We really loved the idea of naming it after the city: Elmhurst Brewing Company. Right off the bat the community came in and said, ‘this is our brewery.’
How do you measure success at your company?
P: “We measure success a lot on the customer experience — it’s important to us that our customers enjoy their time here. Simply put, we want them to like what we do and love our beer and our food.
Another huge indicator of our success is the well-being of our team and the sense of community we create. Our staff is core to what we do. A lot of our staff is from the area, so it’s not uncommon that mom, dad, aunts, and uncles come in which really helps to fuel this sense of community.
What’s the most rewarding part of starting a company in the food/bev industry?
P: “It really is the people, on all levels. Frazer and I are very hands-on owners, so there’s always one of us here. It’s not uncommon that I get a “hey, Pete!” at the grocery store from a customer. It’s really fun to see your customers out and about.
You get a good rapport with the staff, too. You get a lot of young folk that come in — a lot of highschool and college kids and this is not always their final destination. We get to see these bright young people in the early stages of their careers and then they go off to bigger and better things. It’s a little bittersweet but it’s fun to see the baby birds leave the nest. And they always come back to say hi.
What’s your favorite interview question to ask an applicant?
P: “I have two! If you’re of age I want to know about your beer background, what do you love about the beer industry?
For our applicants that are a bit younger, I like to ask what their career plans are. It’s always interesting — some aren’t sure at all, which is understandable. Other applicants have very clear plans for where they feel their career path will go. It’s really interesting to see how they pursue it during their time with us.
Biggest hurdle in the past year?
P: “We were forced to be very reactive. Frazer and I really like to plan but Covid was so volatile, we really had to respond to the market. Things changed so fast. One example was when the governor announced restaurants were closing on a Wednesday, to go into effect that Friday. We had to move quite a bit quicker. I still remember at the time we weren’t very equipt for delivery. We had to get takeout containers in here ASAP, which was difficult with supply lines backed up.
Then there was no inside dining and it was a race to get a tent. Supplies were limited so Frazer and I knuckled down again. It was a lot of jumping on the phones and making do with whatever you can get, however you can get it, to keep the business alive.
Biggest learning in the past year?
P: “The biggest thing we learned in the past year was how well we are supported by our community. During the pandemic I think things could have gone quite awry. Tensions were high, people were really stressed out, but I was really inspired by how the community came together. It became more of a ‘this is a we problem, how can we get together and solve it?’ We saw a line down the street of people focused on keeping local business alive. It was amazing .”
What am I ordering when I come into your restaurant?
P: “We’re very proud to say we’ve had a lot of people come in from Wisconsin and say we had the best cheese curds. We like to have unique upscale pub food classics with a twist as well as some unique dishes like our pork fried rice. Now, asking my favorite beer is like asking a parent who their favorite child is, but we’ll help you find something you’ll love”