Anything But Beer, a craft brewery in downtown Syracuse, was incorporated in June 2017, one month after Logan Bonney completed his master’s degree in entrepreneurship . “We make grain-free, gluten-free, craft alcoholic beverages that are essentially beer alternatives,” says Bonney.
At first, the business operated with a wholesale model, manufacturing in Syracuse and distributing to other bars and breweries, which helped those retailers better serve niche consumer segments. “Then, after having people show up in our parking lot multiple times a week asking where they can try the beer, we realized that there was a demand for us to have a tap room,” Bonney says.
Bonney and co-owner Brittany Berry researched and found a downtown location that inspired them to expand their value proposition. The space came equipped with an 1,800-square-foot commercial kitchen. They decided to sell not only craft beer alternatives but also food geared toward people with dietary restrictions or food allergies. The brewery’s new taproom had been open for just 30 days—during which it made $70,000 in revenue—when social distancing guidelines closed every dining room in the area. “Now we're at around $4,000 a month. It's about 5 percent of the amount we were making,” Bonney says.
Faced with an existential threat to his business, Bonney relied on the building blocks he learned in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management’s entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises program. He is also reaping the benefits of hospitality training he received through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV), a program he was eligible for based on his seven years of service in the U.S. Air Force.
Considering his customers’ now-limited budgets, Bonney set out to understand what consumers need and made a plan. “During recessions, people don't drink less beer, people drink less expensive beer—but it’s the same volume,” he says.
At Whitman, Bonney learned how to organize and conceptualize a business, from managerial accounting to how he could most effectively interact with his customers. He also learned how to analyze data to ensure he was meeting his customers’ needs. He used those skills to evaluate his business model based on market research and has adapted his business in response to the crisis.
When the social distancing guidelines were initiated, the restaurant was not set up for delivery. Beyond arranging to receive orders by phone and determining who will deliver the food, Bonney says every recipe on the menu had to be evaluated for a whole new purpose. “It needs to look good, taste good and be fresh right out the box, even though it will travel 10 miles and be eaten half an hour after it was made.” Bonney adjusted his process by applying what he learned in the EBV, such as the basics of being a line cook, calculating ingredient yields and running a commercial kitchen. “It's been super helpful to draw on that knowledge,” he says. “We pivoted, and within a week we were able to scale fully into delivery.”
Bonney attended the EBV program at the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at Cornell University. Cornell is one of 10 EBV consortium schools within Syracuse University’s IVMF arsenal of entrepreneurship and small business programs. The IVMF exists to support veterans across the country as they transition out of the military into meaningful employment, reintegrate into civilian communities and build sustainable self-employment opportunities. “It really helped out because it was focused on hospitality,” says Bonney. “I’ve just gone back to those business fundamental skills—keep talking to consumers, use the data, and run a restaurant based on the fundamental rules of hospitality. I've got these building blocks.”
As a veteran, Bonney is also drawing on the resilience he learned in the New York Air National Guard. “It's that classic military mindset,” he says. “You have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and try your hardest.”