Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

July 22, 2020 COVID Stories

COVID Stories: Greater Good adapts in the age of the coronavirus 

Photo | Courtesy | Greater Good Greater Good Imperial Brewing Company President and CEO Paul Wengender, bottom right, and part of his crew at the Worcester brewery

Greater Good Imperial Brewing Company continues to adapt, innovate and survive during the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Paul Wengender, who founded Greater Good in 2015 and its president and CEO, says the pandemic is the biggest challenge the business has faced. Wengender faced transitions in many parts of his businesses operations throughout the increased restrictions in the state. Unlike establishments such as Domino’s or Chipotle, which had takeout delivery systems already in place, Wengender said Greater Good did not.
“We quickly invested time and direct money into a digital ordering platform, for takeout beer and food, accessible through social media and our website,” Wengender said. “We coupled that with touchless curbside service and walk-up packaged beer pickup.” 

Another change in operations was refraining from selling draft beer, due to the pause in production, and shifting towards 100% cans and glass packaging. 

Financial support and changes

Next to the new delivery service, Greater Good has also dealt with many financial changes including: a revenue drop due to other states and breweries opening earlier, reduced staffing, and little financial government support.

“Overall, the revenues for taproom and kitchen have been down 55-60%,” Wengender said. “But we consider that a victory given the shutdown period and the subsequent reduced capacity period we are currently in. The one dip we experienced was the gap between surrounding states opening, four weeks or so before Massachusetts. In that period, the brewery traffic diverted away from Massachusetts and our revenue dropped into a trough.”

In terms of payroll and finances, Greater Good didn’t have to furlough any salaried employees, but Wengender decided to personally take the biggest hit financially with his own salary until the brewery got some government assistance.

Greater Good also kept manufacturing going throughout the pandemic, switching staff around where they were most needed.

“We even had the chef on the canning line helping in the brewery,” Wengender said. “Front-of-house staff was reduced to three during the shutdown, the rest were taken care of by Uncle Sam, but we are back at 10. We had 18 front-of-house staff on March 1.” 

Greater Good also dealt with adversity related to the safety restrictions that were in place. These losses related to their inability to sell to restaurants and gain revenue, and due to pandemic concerns, eating the costs of spoiled beer. 

“One thing that the public may not realize is that not only did breweries lose a significant amount of revenue,” Wengender said. “Restaurants are probably 40% of many breweries’ revenue through draft sales, but all of the inventory of draft beer sitting at restaurants on March 15 went ‘out of code’ and returned to breweries or distributors. So the shutdown of restaurants cut beer suppliers deeply like a double-edged sword.”

Community support 

Wengender highlighted the outpouring support Greater Good received from consumers during the challenging times. This was especially evident when they were allowed to open outside. 

“Our taproom and kitchen depends on human beings coming to the brewery,” Wengender said. “The community around our brand responded with vigor, and immediately people continued to show up for curbside and pickup of packaged beer.”

“Thankfully, once we were allowed to reopen outside, the city of Worcester was an amazing partner as usual,” he said, with the city giving licensing exemptions to allow outdoor consumption that would otherwise need special approval. “Our community came back to experience our offerings in a safe, responsible, and fun manner.”

Advice to other business during the age of the coronavirus

When asked about what advice he would give to other businesses and companies dealing with the drastic effects of the coronavirus, Wengender highlighted safety. 

“Take safety and sanitation seriously,” Wengender said. “Customers want to come see you, show them that you care deeply about their comfort and safety. 

Wengender also said, “I can’t measure how immensely proud I am of my teammates and our guests for abiding by CDC safe guidelines for engagement. That’s probably the biggest victory for this company this year.”

Looking to the future 

Throughout change and innovation, Wengender looks forward to a bright future in Worcester. He hopes to grow and expand Greater Good to other states and possibly other countries in the future. 

“With the team’s foundational buy-in to our vision, we are confident that this current adversity will pass and we will be back on a positive trajectory,” Wengender said. “It’s a ‘those most adept at adaptation’ marketplace.”

“We are like our city: intrepid and ready to take all means necessary to continue to operate,” he said.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners


Order a PDF