Vision Discussion Wrap-Up

This is going to be a long post, but I hope everyone reads it to the end and offers comments either below or through or  The workers and the Board want to be responsive to your preferences as member-owners, and that can only happen if we have a clear idea of what those preferences are.

On Sunday, October 26th, we held our Fall Members’ Assembly Meeting and spent a significant amount of time talking about the basic values, innovations, and means of expanding into a second location.  This portion of the meeting was organized around the Co-op’s Ends Policies, or end goals of the Co-op, known as the Five Points of the Black Star: Patron Experience, Community Involvement, Environmental Sustainability, Worker Treatment, and Financial Development.

The board asked members to write down new ideas, improvements, and even things to stop doing in regards to each policy.  After everyone had a chance to circulate among the Ends and talk amongst themselves, we collected the poster boards and recorded the submissions.  After mild editing for space and clarity, here they are under each Point and grouped into similar topics:

Patron Experience

  • Example: Sell Beer at Grocery Stores*
  • Change to a different Members Assembly cycle, such as during the summer or closer to dinner
  • More diet and diabetic options
  • Additional tap service – not just 2**
  • Better promotion of daily specials*
  • Dedicated styles like 2 IPA taps or 2 ESBs
  • Bring Beer and Bar Nuts back*
  • Chili!
  • Worker Nametags; 1st name only, get to know them better!*
  • Member-Owner Nametags*
  • Add space for a music venue / Live music
  • Add something like Square to the Point of Sale system so more people can pour and charge for drinks
  • Brewery Tours**
  • Noise control is still a big problem / Continue the sound-proof efforts, cushions on seats maybe? / Acoustic treatments to reduce ambient background noise*****
  • Include equipment members could use to brew their own beer
  • Member-Owner Line for faster service we know what we want vs new people who want to sample and try stuff first

Community Involvement

  • Example: Large meeting/private space*
  • Brewery Tours****
  • Black Star Bowling and Dart teams
  • Competition between first and second locations to help fundraising, possibly for different charities
  • Bar Nuts for Charity
  • Happy hours for local businesses
  • Be more involved in the neighborhood; “Crestview Park Now” or do charitable work with Friends of Brentwood Park
  • Hold periodic promotional events in Austin neighborhoods**
  • School partnerships/sponsorships for teacher events and neighborhoods

Environmental Sustainability

  • Example: Solar Panels*********
  • Wind Power
  • Drone fleet to transfer product between facilities
  • Use a facility that’s already built, no new developments***
  • Nifty efficiencies in the brewing system like recaptured steam or condensation that could be used to water plants or mashing techniques that use the grain better
  • Visit/research what New Belgium Brewery is doing
  • Spent grain could be reusable or recycled into backed goods, animal food, electric smoker pellets, etc.*
  • Sustainable or local hops?*
  • Water conservation when brewing
  • Design low water landscaping***
  • How about rain water collection?*****
  • Imagine a “public” garden open to member-owners donate a portion of their produce in exchange for using the garden*
  • Public Recycling Day, including batteries and foam*
  • Paper or compostable ketchup cups instead of plastic (already are!)
  • Go for LEED again, please**

Worker Treatment

  • Example: Profit Sharing
  • Publicize what we are doing for workers**
  • Employee Stock Purchase Plan****
  • Investor shares via pay deductions**
  • Create a sabbatical program for employees w/ X years of service; 90-180 days off w/pay to invest personal time in co-op development
  • Paid parental leave for both parents****
  • How much flexibility do employees have to do their schedules?
  • Professional Development***
  • Up the hourly wage to $15 with a time frame for periodic evaluation
  • On-site or Subsidized Day Care**
  • Tuition Reimbursement*
  • Supplemental Insurance*

Financial Development

  • Example: Pay a Patronage Refund*****
  • Do not pay a patronage refund.  Remove it from the Ends policy and instead dedicate that % of revenue to an employee fund for education/travel/etc,**
  • Kiosk for sign-up or membership sales (like an ATM)
  • Gift Cards (already are!)
  • Push merchandise more
  • Spent grain dog biscuits or smoke pellets
  • More merchandise?  Backpacks?  Put them on Zazzle to they can be ordered online
  • 2nd location in south/southwest Austin will increase membership/patronage/profit for other “points of the star”
  • Instead of a full kitchen at a 2nd location, start a BSC Food Truck that can serve the new tap room & go to other places to increase visibility of BSC brand.******
  • Central Market or Whole Foods cooking classes
  • Paid consulting services to co-op brewpub hopefuls around the world*
  • Additional opportunities to invest**

One or more asterisks (*) means that number of additional people noted their support for the idea and italicized text means the idea was mentioned in another Point.  Two items mentioned are things we already do: sell gift cards and use sustainable ketchup cups.

One way to look at these ideas is to seek consistent themes among them and decide if there are a few high-value ideas that translate into Ends policies.  Another way to look at the results is those suggestions with most intense member-owner support should be considered, if they make good business sense.  If we combine similar ideas and rank them, we get this top 10 list of ideas with at least four backers each:

  1. Solar panels
  2. Noise control is still a big problem / Continue the sound-proof efforts, cushions on seats maybe? / Acoustic treatments to reduce ambient background noise
  3. Instead of a full kitchen at a 2nd location, start a BSC Food Truck that can serve the new tap room & go to other places to increase visibility of BSC brand
  4. Brewery tours
  5. Pay a patronage refund
  6. How about rain water collection?
  7. Paid parental leave for both parents
  8. Employee stock purchase plan
  9. Professional development
  10. Use a facility that’s already built, no new developments

Let’s  continue the discussion here. Given our five Ends policy points and with a focus on things we could do at a second location, what do you think? What would you like to see the Co-op doing?