"No, we are not selling out to Panini's," says Brew Kettle owner Chris McKim, in reference to rampant rumors. "We entered into a partnership with an investment group that will be helping me get the restaurant dialed in so that we can open up more locations."
McKim says that one shareholder of the investment group happens to be the spouse of a Panini's franchise owner.
The investment group, says McKim, has ambitious plans to replicate the success that he has cultivated in Strongsville over all these years. Before the end of 2013, he says, fans of the Brew Kettle will likely see a new location open in Northeast Ohio.
"This group is very focused on repeatability — it could grow exponentially," he adds. "I can see many locations down the road." That includes locally, regionally and beyond.
But, he stresses, never at the cost of quality, consistency and personal control.
"We will grow like we always have grown: methodically. We've gone through seven expansions over 18 years and they've always been organic and homegrown. And I believe that's how we will continue to do so."
Brew Kettle has expanded so many times thanks to a unique and attractive formula that pairs good food, great beer and an easy-going atmosphere. This is an opportunity to take the Brew Kettle brand to a whole new level, says McKim.
"We never had that cookie-cutter feel," says McKim. "It wasn't ever a copy of something else. I always aspired for the Brew Kettle to be a pub — not a sports bar or a late-night party bar. I always want it to be a place where people can talk and enjoy great food and beer. We will maintain that same level of integrity as we grow."
Going forward, all brewing will be centralized in Strongsville (though some locations will have brew-on-premises).
"Our last expansion took us from 2,500 barrels a year to 5,000," says McKim. "And when we did that last expansion we put in the infrastructure to easily jump from 5,000 to 10,000 barrels — all we have to do it add the tanks."
As for the sharp-tongued remarks regarding "selling out," McKim just doesn't get it.
"It's funny how some people turn around great news and call you a sell-out," he says. "This is all I know in my life. I think it's a fantastic thing for the brand, the staff and the customer. And at 53 years old, I might finally get a chance to go fishing a little more often."