Hop Valley Brewing Co.
980 Kruse Way
Springfield, OR 97477
This is the kind of restaurant you would get if the Chief Operating Officer of Chili’s decided to set up a new business of his own. All the hardware and fancy control systems are in place…in fact, they are WAY overdone for a single location restaurant…but there’s still something missing.
What’s missing is a good marketing plan. By marketing, I don’t mean advertising. I mean the more important aspect of marketing which involves creating a brand strategy and brand position, and then making sure the layout, decorations, materials, menu, food, culture and service system of the restaurant fit this position perfectly. That’s exactly what Hop Valley badly needs to make it a more successful venture.
Let’s back up a bit here to first describe Hop Valley Brew Co. as it now exists. Basically, it’s a big brew pub that makes beer on premises like Steelhead or a couple other places do as well. Food offerings are burgers, ribs, sandwiches, and steaks. So far, so good.
Hop Valley Brew does not appear to have any history of any kind (as the Eugene Burger Blog also pointed out). It just sorta popped up one day looking all fresh and new. They seem to have realized at some point how this feels a bit “empty”, so now they have added some photos on the wall which attempt to simulate history: photos of some of the staff and premises which have been heavily photoshopped to make them look old and faded, then printed on some sort of canvas and frame, and finally attached to the wall with four big shiny Home Depot screws. Wow. Convincing…
In terms of hardware, Hop Valley has everything you would expect to find in a big chain restaurant. Fancy uniforms, complex computer ordering systems, a full line of Hop Valley branded clothing and knick-knacks for customers to purchase, a super fancy website, etc. They also got their own custom building and own parking lot. It appears the C.O.O. of Chili’s saved up all of his money and poured it into this place. (Too bad he did not also recruit the Chili’s marketing director to join the venture in the planning stages. All of the following mistakes could have been avoided with a talented strategic planner.)
Layout-wise, it’s a miss. Booths are lined up against the windows, with some of the booths getting strong sunlight and some getting none at all. Since the building was custom built for this restaurant, why didn’t they think about this and place the windows properly? Aside from the train-car-like line of booths, the rest of the seating is tables and chairs scattered around a big open area in the middle. Definitely I would not be happy sitting at one of those exposed tables. The ceiling is acoustic tiles painted dark brown with blacked-out air vent piping, which is pretty standard stuff, but the ceilings are way too high, giving the place a warehouse-y, Chuck E. Cheese-y feeling. They also have a bar area at one end which is somewhat separated from the eating area, but seems oddly out of place. Again, the overly high ceilings kill the feeling.
Service-wise, it’s also a miss. Every staff member has a cold-ish, not friendly, and not-happy-with-their-job attitude. They are professional but that’s all. Human robots. On the other hand, they may have all broken up with their respective boyfriends and girlfriends that day. But I doubt it.
Menu-wise, it’s a big miss for me, mainly due to their burgers. The menu clearly states “Due to the smoking process, our burgers stay pink in the middle no matter how well done.” Uhhh…ok…but sorry, that sounds like BS to me. So I asked the waiter if there was any way possible that they could cook my burger all the way through so there would be no pink? His answer was “No, it will always be pink inside because of the pork seasoning that is mixed into the beef”. BS alert is flashing bright red now since the waiter’s explanation is different than the menu’s explanation. End result, I did not order a burger even though that was what I came here for. (Internet explanation for why fully-cooked meat might still remain pink inside…all very unhealthy and unappetizing sounding).
Fish & “Chips”: What do you expect when you order this world famous dish? Deep-fried fish and french fries. Some places serve thick fries, and some places serve regular fries, but you always get fries…except at Hop Valley where you get oily cold potato chips. Plus the fish is rubbery cod instead of halibut.
Side of fries we ordered to rectify the “chips” issue: Cold. Boring. Sysco. (Sysco is a huge restaurant supply conglomerate that provides so so food materials and supplies nationwide.) Sysco ketchup on the table did not help the Sysco fries come to life.
Chicken Strips with BBQ sauce: Batter was supposed to be made from Hop Valley beer, but I could not taste any difference. The batter was very crispy and brown outside but wet inside (fryer oil was probably too hot). BBQ sauce was thin and light on flavor. It tasted Sysco-tastic.
Beer: Better than Budweiser but not as good as Ninkasi or even Steelhead. I don’t think Sysco makes craft beer, but if they did, this is what it would taste like.
Summary: The idea was a good one, and the hardware is very professional and big chain-ish, but everything else is a big miss-ish.