19 February 2008

Bear Brew Pub in Orono, Maine: Reborn?

[Since posting this, the Bear Brew Pub has changed hands. Under new management, it's reportedly a welcoming place with quality food and (of course) good beer. - ecorover]

The philosopher Immanuel Kant, in his theory of ethics, talks of how no amount of good can make up for a single big mistake. It's that way with a business. You can do a good job with lots of customers, but then screw up (and fail to be contrite about it) so that even your most loyal customers are alienated.

That's how it was with the Bear Brew Pub in Orono, Maine:

Jan & I were in town to see Emily swim with the Boston University team at the East Conference Championships hosted by the University of Maine. After wandering into the pub out of a torrential, cold rainstorm that turned snowpacked sidewalks into dangerous sheets of ice, my wife and I liked the place. It was warm. The food was OK, with maritime ingredients much appreciated by a couple from the northern Rockies. The beer was good, with three or four of the pub's own brews on tap. And service was adequate.

But then came the big sin: on the last day of the swim meet, the pub totally botched a celebratory dinner for 50-some swimmers and 30-some parents. Parents arrived first, put in their orders, and things seemed to be going OK. Well, sort of--since some remarked that their food was cold by the time it was served.

But then the swimmers' bus and van arrived and things got much, much worse.

Instantly, the two waitresses were hopelessly awash in orders for food and drink. Instead of systematically taking everyone's order, they worked the room helter-skelter, wasted precious time running back and forth to check orders, and in being flagged down by those who had not yet put in their order while tablemates were eating already. The dinner was held in a spacious upstairs dancefloor area, and the long treks to the downstairs kitchen and bar wasted even more time.

When swimmers leave the pool at 9 p.m. after a long day of competition, they are HUNGRY. What's sadder than swimmers collapsing on the table from a hypoglycemic attack?:

Two hours later, and three tables of swimmers still had not received their food. The swimmers ended up taking go-boxes on the bus for the long, night ride back to Boston.

The worst part of all: even when the staff realized there was a problem, they did not seem to feel sorry or bad about it, and made no noticable effort to see that hungry swimmers got food ASAP. That kind of who-gives-a-shit apathy is even worse than surly, rude service.

And it's bad business. You can bet that the disgruntled parents, most who live in the New England area, will not say nice things about the Bear Brew Pub in Orono.

Suggestions for Bear Brew Pub management if you're going to book large parties: (1) Develop simple procedures (taking orders, buffet lines, etc.) to handle the crowd; and (2) invest some time in staff training.


Anonymous said...


I found your posting on the Bear Brew Pub in Orono, Maine and thought I would respond. My wife and I are in the stages of purchasing the pub and want to know more about your experience at the pub. We ate there several times and were not happy with the service as well. The food was okay but could be better. The two of us need to know these things so they will not happen again. Things will change for the better if we are able to buy the business.

You can email me more details about your unfortunate experience at russ@cwgrahams.com

Thank you for your time and the next time you are in the area, stop in. If we purchase it, your dining experience will be only positive.

Russ and Lynn

Anonymous said...

One big mistake is an understatement. I have been a loyal customer for years. Still came by with friends during the food quality issue a few years ago. I was fine with the restaurant changing it’s direction when they opened Soma. I was still having fun while every employee I became connected to was fired or quit. When all my friends wanted to go elsewhere I still talked them into our Thursday night break from school work. Over my last few weeks attending Brew Pub I was absolutely frustrated how anyone could screw up a brew pub. Beer list slowly changed to PBR and Bud Light, hour wait for anything you could eat, food was horrible, over an hour wait for drink orders to arrive, inside temperature was so hot everyone was sweating all over the food I waited so long for. What made it easy to walk out and never return after years of dedication was some guy by the pizza oven on his cell phone. He was yelling and swearing beyond what I could describe. I later found out he was the owner and it all made sense. I cant tell you the horror stories I have heard since I made my big mistake. Former Brew Pub Regular.

Stellathomas said...

Bear Brew Hibernator looks very nice. It’s very dark, nearly black. It’s a high alcohol winter offering from them. The aroma is spicy and malty. You can certainly taste nutmeg in this one. It’s a rarity at the pub and only available every now and again.

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