Many of you might have noticed on our website or through the signs on our restaurant doors that we were closed on Monday, Aug. 11. That is because the entire Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant team celebrated our annual GABF party, and I have to say it was one of our best ever!
This year, we took about 500 employees to Dorney Park in Allentown, Pa., for the day. The weather was perfect and everyone enjoyed themselves. As usual, we served Iron Hill beer in one of the pavilions (including one of my favorites, Mahalo, Apollo!). I got to ride a few roller coasters with the staff and overall it was a great success.
What is the GABF party? Well, businesses have an annual Christmas party, but as a restaurant, that is tough for us to do. Closing the restaurants in the middle of the holidays does not work for us because we are usually the ones hosting those parties. We created our annual party in the summer to allow our staff to celebrate everything that is Iron Hill and to give back to our employees.
The party started in 1997—less than a year after we opened. We were getting ready to attend our first Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and we wanted to get our staff involved in the excitement of the event. My partner Mark, who heads our brewery operations, and I had attended GABF a few years prior to the start of Iron Hill, and we felt that it was a great way to get our staff involved in the culture of craft brewing and immerse them in some of the best beers brewed in the world!
Back when we had only a few restaurants, each restaurant hosted its own party and at each party, we picked one employee to attend the GABF with the brewery staff. The employees received tickets based on their years of service, hours worked and whether they had helped work in the brewery in the previous year. We finally had to combine it into one big party because it became hard for each of us to attend all of the restaurants’ parties.
Over the years, the party has changed to reflect how we have changed. It really is a party for our non-salaried employees because they are in the front lines of everything we do and are so important to our overall success. The thing that I find so fulfilling is that many of our employees come up to thank me that night and the next few weeks for such a great time and for doing something so special for all of them.
This was the first year that we attended Dorney Park and the staff at the park did a wonderful job of taking care of us. All 10 of our restaurants had staff attend the event, about 50 from each store, for a total of about 500 employees. The staff was able to ride the rides and come back to the pavilion for lunch and, of course, Iron Hill beers! The day was gorgeous and we snapped lots of photos of the staff enjoying themselves.
But the highlight of the night is always the GABF drawings. One non-salaried employee from each restaurant is offered a free trip to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver this fall. Everyone gathers together and one of my partners or I pull out a name from each restaurant. As the winners come up, we ask them if they are going to the GABF. It is always great to see the excitement of the employees as they realize that they are getting a free trip to Denver to attend the GABF!
In the future, I am going to blog about our Brewie award (which was awarded to Iron Hill Newark, Del., this year) as well as what happens at the GABF. But today, with this blog, it is about Iron Hill’s employees. I really can’t tell you how proud I am having such a wonderful staff. It truly is one of the most rewarding things I do, creating a company where employees can be appreciated. I believe this translates directly into great customer service. I hope you agree!
With 10 locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey (make a reservation here), we specialize in handcrafted beers and fresh, from-scratch New American cuisine. Monthly releases vary by location, so scout out our beers on tap and visit us soon.
Blog by Kevin Finn, President & CEO of Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant.