Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Kristen Sumpter. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Hi Kristen , thanks for joining us today. Let’s talk about social media – do you manage your own or do you have someone or a company that handles it for you? Why did you make the choice you did?
Yes, I manage Red’s social media accounts – we have an Instagram and Facebook. I create and manage all the posts, stories, comments, and reply to DMs. With only one location and a very small staff, there hasn’t been an option to hire a company to run social for us. But, I love how connected I am to our customers and followers by interacting daily on social.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your background and context?
My husband and I moved to Atlanta in 2014 after I received my Masters to start a job at UGA. It was my dream job: benefits, PTO, the works. I finally felt financially safe and secure! Fast forward 4 years, two things started to happen. 1) I started to feel like I was missing something in my life and 2) during college, we always went to cool spots with self-serve coolers of beer and I could not find anything in Atlanta similar. My husband would say night after night after night (you get it, he said it a lot), ‘you should open up a fun beer place here in Atlanta! You’re always complaining that it doesn’t exist’. One evening, I stopped and actually allowed myself to think about the idea. I put aside my fears of losing my financially safe life, and it felt scary and exciting. I spent the next two two weeks writing a draft business plan, making phone calls, and surprised myself when I realized I wanted to give this a go. I haven’t looked back since, and Red’s Beer Garden opened in January 2020.
As for our brick and mortar, Red’s is a counter-service offering hot dogs, sandwiches, and over 250 types of beer, wine, cider, mead, seltzer, and non-alcoholic options from our self-serve glass door coolers. We are family and dog-friendly, with a focus on connecting our community and neighborhood. Yes, it’s about the beer. Yes, it’s about the food. But we want Red’s to be a place for our customers, for our employees, & for our neighborhood.
Visually, Red’s Beer Garden is set apart from other restaurants, bars, and breweries with our self-serve glass door coolers. Customers can pick their own beverage, bring it up to the counter, and add it to their tab. I couldn’t find this type of visual experience anywhere in the state. But, the concept is not new – my husband and I were born and raised in North Carolina and frequently visited concepts like this, and thought it could be the missing piece to the Atlanta beer scene.
I am most proud of the fact that Red’s is able to give back to the community in different ways. Since opening in January 2020, we have donated to local and national non-profits through fundraisers and give back nights totaling over $8,100. Additionally, we starting hosting a Punk Bingo night once a month where we highlight a different local non-profit every month. It’s simple and extremely effective. We host classic bingo, with bingo boards and chips, play some of our favorite punk music, and customers donate online directly to the highlighted non-profit to play for the night. Punk Bingo has provided customers the opportunity to donate a total of $4,675 to different local non-profits so far in 2022.
Have you ever had to pivot?
Up until about six months before opening, the concept of Red’s Beer Garden was to be solely an on-premise beer garden with a couple pre-packaged snacks, no food. I was to be the sole owner, visionary, leader, and boss to just 2-3 other part time employees. Easy, right? About five neighborhood and city meetings later, it became apparent that the city would only allow me to open our doors if we were a restaurant. I had been so adamant about not being a restaurant. I fought my councilmember at meetings and did everything in my power to avoid selling food. But the thing about pivoting is, when you realize one door has been shut in front of your face, you have to sprint to the next door that is open. The next six months was a crash course in pivoting. Constant questions and answers of “Ok, if Red’s is now a restaurant, what do I want to serve?” “What can I serve with such a limited space?” “Who will cook the food?!” So, what was supposed to be beer storage, became a 7 ft x 8 ft kitchen, serving hotdogs from a local company. What was suppose to be my husband continuing his full-time job outside of Red’s, became my husband quitting his job two months before we opened to lead kitchen operations. The Red’s Beer Garden that exists today is not the original vision I had four years ago, but now I can say that it is even better than I had imagined. Become a restaurant has allowed us to bring on more employees to strengthen the economy, and customers stay much longer when they are able to eat a delicious hot dog with their beer. It’s always good to fight the good fight, but sometimes it can be even more beneficial when you accept your circumstances and ask, “how can I make this even better than before?”.
Any insights you can share with us about how you built up your social media presence?
Get personal. Depending on your business, your customers may know you really well, they may see you and exchange a hello, or they may never meet you. With social media being so vast, creating a personal connection was key for Red’s. While I have a PR company that handles the large scale vision of Red’s, I still run all the social media, marketing, events, and online interactions with customers. They want to know how it all started, they want to see our employees and management, and they want to interact in comments. I had always thought pictures of beer or hotdogs would get the most likes, but the posts with the highest levels of interaction have always been personal and heartfelt.
For Red’s we’ve found being authentic to who we are and the brand in addition to being informative on our social media channels creates meaningful connections with our guests. Our following has grown and continues to grow organically, which speaks to who we are.