The Portsmouth Brewery is like a stage for general manager and self-described “hospitality lifer” Brennen Rumble.
It’s a place that comes alive the second the doors open, or, as in Rumble’s imagination, the curtain goes up.
Patrons are greeted with warmth and a smile, and soon find themselves transported from their daily cares in to a microbrewery that entertains—it even introduces its patrons to one another if they wish— and offers lively discussions, fun events, and daring and delicious brews. And so the beat goes on for the longstanding mainstay in Portsmouth, N.H.’s hospitality scene.
In this week’s Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, the Portsmouth Brewery’s GM talks about his approach to serving the public since the brew pub opened in 1991.
Q: What do you mean when you say the work is like being on stage?
I’m a hospitality lifer who just fell into the work and found out I loved it. I also figured out that you need to go much further than taking orders from patrons. Anybody can do that. So many people get into hospitality or bartending and treat their customers with the same frame of mind they use when they go grocery shopping. I’ve learned you can’t be like that. No matter what’s going on in your life, whether you just broke up with your girlfriend, you need to be “on” for the customers.
I look at my customers like an audience, and without going over-the-top, or taking over their experience at the Brewery, I try to have fun with them, to give them an experience, and to pull people together. I’ve actually become known by my reputation for making sure people meet each other while they’re sampling our seasonal brews. Because the restaurant experience has to change and adapt with the times, and I’ve learned it’s about much more than just taking orders.
Q: Things were “dead” when you arrived on the scene in 1991. How did that change?
I arrived at the Brewery in 1991, two months after it opened. At the time, the whole area was just kind of dead. But I knew if this place could just get itself established, and find a way to bring in customers, it could be great.
We built up our name and reputation by striving to be the best. But also by being personable, even funny, and working to bring people together.
Our motto is that we serve all types. Not only all kinds of beer but all kinds of people. And with that motto, we’ve become a real hub of hospitality.
Q: In what other ways has The Portsmouth Brewery changed with the times?
Social media is now very important to us. We blast our specials, our new beers, photos and events. We have calls-to-action and invite people in. We’ve tried to sprinkle in all kinds of special events, from science talks about climate change to comedy and Twister nights. We also offer a special charitable outreach where a portion of our proceeds gets donated to a certified 501 c 3 nonprofits the patrons choose.
Q: Behind all the fun is a system for success.
Yes! I went to school for industrial engineering, and I look at the flow of everything in the restaurant, from the food to the people, and have created systems for that. A well-run restaurant needs a lot of systems, just like any other business. It takes project management to elevate every component of the restaurant.
A big key to that is the people who work here. We’re all lucky enough to work for the unbelievable individuals, our founders Peter Egelston and Joanne Francis. They’ve led us to where we are today.
And we’ve learned that though there’s no guaranteed success anywhere —even this year and season we’ve seen several restaurants close—we haven’t been afraid of change.
I fell into the business at a young age, worked in the kitchen and then moved up. I never really thought hospitality was going to be my calling or my career, but I took bartending very seriously. Once I cut my teeth working in Connecticut, I realized that for many patrons, we were the faces that many people knew, and came to associate with the establishment.
And that’s when I started to see the work sort of like being on stage. You have to perform to a high level, and I strived to be the best; to be efficient and personable, even funny, while the place was teaming with customers. — The Portsmouth Brewery serves 250,000 pints of fresh brew every year. And it uses Boxerbrand menu cover products in its table presentation. Thank you!