One of the coolest people I’ve had the fortune of getting to know the past few years has been Andy Farrell (above, left). Fun-loving Farrell is a GM/Partner at City Tap House, and an advocate, endorser, and fan of craft beers, particularly local ones. I’ve always known that Andy is the guy who handed me my check at City Tap after quizzo, but I wasn’t sure exactly what his background was, why he got into the beer business, or what he digs about his line of work. I figured I would find out.
JGT: How did you get into the beer business?
ANDY: I was a working chef for 10 years. Smith & Wollensky, Fleming’s Prime, a couple of small spots in South Jersey in AC and Somers Point.
JGT: So straight out of college did you go into the kitchen?
ANDY: Yeah, straight out of college. Every job I’ve ever had was in a restaurant, beach grill, bar.
JGT: After a while did you think to yourself, “The beer side of this is appealing more to me than the food side”?
ANDY: When I took over Bridgid’s in 2009 (as GM/Chef), I was going to be operating a business that had a 20 year history of great craft beer. In order to do the best for the business, I immersed myself in everything craft beer: American regional stuff, European brands. I learned all I could, from the process to the history of it, to the players local and nationally. I sponged it up as much as I could, first for the business, then it became a real passion. I kinda fell in love with the idea that this very artisanal product, literally “craft” product, was a hell of a lot more worthwhile and enjoyable than…what everyone else was offering.
At Bridgid’s, I did the menu and prepped much of the food, but I helped order the beers, set up events, ran the front of house. When I decided to leave there I wasn’t feeling it as a long term fit anymore. I was up in the air. I thought about trying to open something on my own, apply for brewery jobs. Wasn’t sure. But I knew I was done for the time being in the kitchen. I wanted to be more involved with beer and the emerging Philly scene. City Tap was something the Public House guys were just starting to work on and thru casual conversations I got involved.
I was only going to set up training, and it turned out to be something I wanted to be more heavily involved in: helping shape a new kind of bar in Philly. Most bars in Philly with good craft are small intimate neighborhood style. CTH was a chance to make craft more accessible, especially in UCity. Young audience. The people who are buying beer for the next 40 years are here.
JGT: What is your job description?
ANDY: Job description- operate the business profitably is the bottom line. Oversee the staff- hiring and training. Oversee the kitchen along with chef- quality/consistency. Oversee beer program- keep it dynamic, local, American regional, European benchmarks. But keep it accessible to folks who aren’t craft savvy, but might like to be. Drive business with good events, a strong weekly calendar, and most importantly, develop good relationships with our guests.
JGT: What’s the best part about working in the beer and hospitality business? (Click “More” below to keep reading)
ANDY: Beer biz…it’s a great community. Good people who push each other to be better, have more fun, advocate craft beer to the masses.
Best part of hospitality business is giving someone a good time, a break from life. I tell my staff people don’t go out to eat and drink. They go out to be taken care of. When a dining room is full and the bar is three deep and people are having fun because of the vibe and energy you and your staff created…instant gratification.
JGT: What’s the toughest part about working in the hospitality industry?
ANDY: Toughest part is the public is a hell of a lot smarter than they used to be when it comes to what the expect in a restaurant. The Food Network, blogs, yelp, celebrity chefs…people’s expectations are high. It puts pressure on you to get it right everytime.
Lots of restaurant people hate yelp. I find it comical, then helpful. If you see patterns in people’s reviews, even if the people are generally over the top in their praise and critique, there is probably truth somewhere there.
But the hardest thing is for sure is the hours. Having a wife and two kids, long hours does make the time with them even better, though.
JGT: The last few years of craft beer have been nuts. This has gone from essentially a hobby to a huge industry. What do you see the next few years down the road? Could this be a fad and in ten years everyone is back to drinking light beers, or is this thing going to keep on trucking?
ANDY: It’s gonna keep going. In the early 80s in Northern Cali there was a wine boom. Everyone starting vineyards and drinking great local stuff. It took beer 30 years to catch up with that. But the “Buy Local” movement in any economy is going to be something that stays. The beer business is pushed by the “Buy Local” thing. Without local successes, Victory and Dogfish wouldn’t be national.
Also, the price helps. It’s accessible. Even 40 bucks for a case of something local and good is a lot cheaper than a case of a good wine.
JGT: Thanks, Andy. And I’ll be back soon with another cool job. I’ve got several really interesting people lined up. I think this is gonna be a really neat project.