BrandTrip Partners created Turnstone Pizza opens 7th location in Riyadh.

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The brand we created for our Saudi Arabia client continues to grow.  The 3rd Turnstone Pizza location opened in Riyadh this month with more units under construction.  View the case study here> http://bit.ly/2qjjySV

BrandTrip CEO Completes France Cycling Challenge With Big Numbers Despite Weather Setback

BrandTrip Partners CEO Tim Hackbardt finished his goal to climb 10 of the most famous Tour de France mountains in eight days with a little improvisation. 

On July 31st, as he was beginning to ascend the final switchbacks on Col du Galibier, three consecutive thunder/lightening storms took him off the road scrambling for shelter as described in his blog entry Epic Turns Ugly & Sheep Attack.  Due to the dangerous weather conditions, he was not able to complete the climb.

However, to keep his promise of 10 big mountain ascents he dug deep and went big for a "make-up" climb.  On his last day, he attacked the famous 21 switchbacks of Alpe d'Huez and did a double for a total of 50 miles, 9,306 feet of climbing and 42 switchbacks on the iconic mountain.

Final totals for training and the challenge trip are as follows:

The Starbucks Killer? - Real Coffee Cred?

-The 1st Blog Entry In Our Grand Rapids, Michigan Emerging Concept Tour Series

No, for a change, we weren't on a project researching coffee.  We weren't looking for inspiration or the next flavor trend.  All we wanted was a cup of coffee and some wi-fi just like any other day on the road.  We weren't trying, but they found us at Rowster Coffee in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  

It was another example of an accidental discovery thanks to our friend Google Maps.  Speak into the phone and say "Coffee Shop".  Look for something not a chain and not too far away.  Hit navigate and see what happens.  That's how we got to Rowster Coffee.

The hardest part about getting to this mecca for roasted bean purists was entering through the back door and having to walk over and around burlap sacks of beans.  No, these were not a few sacrificial sacks of product for show like the potatoes at Five Guys.  They were what you were going to drink.  It was the first sign that this place was far from your typical chain with the proverbial brand word wall mandated by the interior design team.  No baked goods or retail shelves trying to sell you everything but exceptional coffee either. 

The second sign was just as obvious as we quickly scanned the patrons.  Hipsters, millennials, Mac toting creatives and foodies like us savoring and appreciating the artistry that was magically produced the same day (in some cases a few minutes ago) from the roaster just a few feet from them on the other side of the counter.  Forget that half of the clientele clearly just woke up (it was 2:00 in the afternoon) and showering was obviously the second step of their daily rising routine; these were people in-the-know.  These were people who could appreciate a $5.00 cup of coffee and were happily walking out with a pound of Costa Rican sun dried beans for the low, low price of $20.00.  

Was the coffee exceptional?  Yes.  It should have been.  Freshly roasted in that little hyper-over designed and engineered Italian looking machine with the round duct work coming out of it.  Our coffee god took literally five minutes to make it as he did the pour-over-the-grounds-thing and sat there with a timer in his hand to make sure it steeped for the exact amount of time.  Not kidding, he stood there next to the coffee staring at it with his timer in hand.  His care was not altered by pesky customers wanting to place their order or waiting orders either.  One cup at a time at Rowster.  One perfect cup at a time.

Did we walk out with a pound of it?  Yes.  It was crazy good.  We also watched local restaurants show up for their 5 pound orders one after the other too.  This, of course, pulled the chain on the light bulbs in our heads connected to our restaurant concept revenue calculators.  There were more streams of beans to count than the ones waking up our unshaven friends in flip flops surfing the internet and likely taking up space at the counter for some time to come that afternoon.

Is this the wave of the future to differentiate against the coffee chains?  We have since found more of these purists beginning to brew some expansion past one or two locations.  Is it a trend?  Is it sustainable?  Can it scale?  We would love to know your caffeine induced thoughts.

Your Next Beer Tasting Trip - The Hops Highway

Located in San Diego, we are in the epicenter of the craft brewing explosion.  In fact, there are more craft breweries in San Diego than there are McDonald's locations.  Little did we know that now one of our main corridors has been named "The Hops Highway"!  For you, if you are a craft beer fan, this may seriously be on the bucket list for your next vacation.  For our clients, this makes it easy for us to experience the craft beer trends as they happen in real time and help them time strategic beverage decisions appropriately for their brand.

The Hops Higway has 39 breweries located next to the 78 highway corridor.  The selection of breweries has it all including the small guys with one roll up door like On The Tracks Brewery to the category killer Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens and local favorite Belching Beaver Brewery where you can find everything from sours to stouts.  We know, because we have.  We haven't hit all 39, but we are working on it pint by pint and taster by taster.  

Make sure you call us if you are headed out our way to our highway of suds and growlers.

Your Next Wine Tasting Trip - 33 Wineries & No Driving

If you are looking for a great wine experience, and don't want to have to worry about transportation, look no further than the small California town of Los Olivos.  

On a recent wine exploration trip to the Central Coast, we stopped in Los Olivos for a bite to eat and a sip of some Sauvingon Blanc on a hot summer day.  We landed at Malibu Wines where we conveniently found a gourmet food truck outside who promptly delivered to us an amazing tri-tip steak salad with goat cheese and grilled romaine lettuce.  

This is the type of experience you can find throughout this small town packed full of wine tasting rooms.  In no less than two to three blocks in any direction, you will find 33 wineries represented!  Yes, 33 wineries!  If you can drink wine and walk, this is your town.  There is only one hotel, The Fess Parker Inn, but look on AirBNB for more options and a truly convenient walking wine tasting tour.

Meat-O-Clock In Austin

The year was 2013.  It was August in Texas.  We landed in Austin early with six hours before we had to meet with a potential client.  It was noon.  Which, for us, also means Meat-O-Clock!  We opened Google Maps and simply searched "Austin BBQ Brisket".  We blindly selected the first place that had 4 or more stars, launched the navigation and followed the directions of our female sounding digital guide to what we hoped would be smoky BBQ heaven.  

From the airport to a locale near downtown, next to an old neighborhood that is now probably taken over by Austin hipsters, we parked behind what appeared to be homemade trailers of sorts.  As we walked by them the picture became more clear.  They were literally a fleet of BBQ smoking trailers made from unidentifiable chassis and corrugated roofing panels on all five sides.  Next to each, were piles of wood.  It was almost too beautiful of a scene. Needless to say, our pace picked up on the way to what appeared to be a well deserved line.  

A line it was.  At 12:35 pm there was easily over 100 people in a serpentine through railings, down old concrete steps, out onto/down the sidewalk and back next to the upper level of the outdoor dining porch (It's a BBQ joint so it ain't no patio, it's a porch).  We took our place in what appeared to be a focused, but civil, crowd of expectant carnivores and began to wait our turn not knowing when we might get through this crude theme park style line to be able to experience the BBQ roller coaster.

Less than a minute after we cued up in the line a robust bearded man with smoke on his cheeks, and sauce on his apron, appeared directly above us on the porch.  The man spoke with 100% attention of the crowd.  "Here at Franklin (Yes, it is the Franklin Barbecue that was featured in American Express commercials and the movie Chef.), we smoke this meat out back for 18 hours.  That means when it's gone, it's gone.  We can't make anymore for today."  He then looked down upon our BrandTrip Partners founder Tim and began to hand him a piece of BBQ stained butcher paper with something written on it.  He continued, "This man is the Last Man Standin'.  That means he is guaranteed anything he wants.  Ribs, sausage, brisket, chicken...anything we smoke he can get it.  Anyone behind him might get somehtin', or might get nothin'.  But, the Last Man Standin' can get it all.  However, sir, it's about an hour and a half from where you are standin' right now before you get any meat."

Sure enough, the butcher paper said "Last Man Standin'" hand written with a Sharpie.  Upon closer inspection, it was clear that Franklin Barbecue is an equal opportunity meat provider as the other side had "Last Woman Standin'" inscribed on it.  And...sure enough it was an hour and a half to the minute that it took for that line to get the Last Man Standin' in the "On Deck" position.  Tim was greeted with cheers from the staff and congratulatory words from the management.  On top of that, he was informed that his entire meal was gratis and he could have anything he wanted.  Seeing that it was now 2:00 pm and there had been no nourishment since breakfast, he ordered "Some of each please, and a pint of that local pecan porter beer."  A large plastic tray with mountain of meat, some white bread, potato salad and a fine dark malted beverage was fastidiously bestowed in front of him.

Was it good?  Let's just say it was one of those days where you loved your job.  

ROI for Franklin's free tray of meat for the Last Man Standin' and a greasy butcher paper sign = Countless times we have told this story, blog posts read by thousands and a warm feeling for everything Franklin.  Do you have a Last Man Standin' moment you can create for your brand?

Pizza Truth

While driving through rural Michigan we stopped by Country Dairy for some fresh, as fresh can be, steaks.  As we passed by their deli to get to the meat case, we saw this sign.  This sign says it all when it comes to pizza!

To Mead or Not To Mead? What Is It Anyway Honey?

We spent a very enjoyable evening at the annual San Diego MIT Enterprise Forum Wine Social benefiting San Diego STEM and SEPT students.  Located at the Birch Aquarium with a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, what better place to enjoy sampling from over 35 boutique wineries.  Then we ran into Mead.  Sweet, sweet, mellow Mead.  We must say, we were very happy to meet his acquaintance, but we admittedly knew nothing about Mead and got a quick education when we rookies called him beer. 

Thanks to our friends at Golden Coast Mead, we were enlightened to find out that Mead is fermented honey.  With the popularity of sweeter malted beverages, will Mead be the next Angry Orchard?  The next hard root beer?  The next hard lemonade?  Seems like Mead is not the sexiest of names so the marketers might need to work their magic on this one.  However, keep the marketers away from the brewers.  Mead is too sweet a beverage to mess with.  How would you adjust the name to be more mass market?

Franchising Fun In Canada - Get Your Smokes

We were in Canada working on a technology project and met with a potential partner in Toronto.  While there, we ran into a unique branding angle for restaurant concepts.  This entrepreneur took three different concepts and cleverly rolled them all under one umbrella that worked well across his portfolio.  So, if you like to wear plaid, and you are looking for a "Weinerie", a "Poutinerie" or a "Burritorie" give Smoke a call.  We are sure there is a franchise combo deal in there somewhere for you if you take all three.

Where There's Success, There's Smokes