Success on tap: Nicole Barry, PEG Beer Company, Winnipeg

By Sean Moon

After a decade working in senior financial management and accounting positions, Nicole Barry certainly has the pecuniary pedigree to help grasp the finer economic aspects of starting and running a restaurant business. What Barry is really banking on, however, is that her love of craft beer and entrepreneurial spirit can add up to success in an exciting and emerging Winnipeg brew-pub market.

With parents who had owned their own businesses over the years, Barry was exposed to an entrepreneurial lifestyle early on. She decided that a strong business education was important before trying to branch off on her own. Eventually earning her CGA/CPA accreditation as well as a Bachelors of Business Administration, Barry spent about 10 years in senior financial management and accounting before launching her first business in 2006, a craft brewery called Half Pints Brewing Company. While managing that successful operation, she has also run a small business management consulting firm. Her most recent venture saw her leave the brewery to open one of Winnipeg’s first brew pubs, PEG Beer Company, in early 2016.

Seizing opportunity

“A foodservice career sort of landed in my lap,” says Barry. “(But) I am very passionate about craft beer and growing the craft beer industry here in Manitoba. Currently Manitoba does not have any brew pubs, so I decided to change that.”

It seems that Barry’s thinking may have been contagious; two or three other players have also recently entered the burgeoning Winnipeg brew-pub arena. Barry is confident that not only her own successful background in financial management will be a boon to her new operation, but a commitment to the best products and people will set PEG Beer Co. apart from the previously non-existent competition.

“I believe that in any business venture, it should be operated with passion and integrity and respectful of all stakeholders,” explains Barry. “So, our chef Aron Epp will source local ingredients and will develop seasonal menus that pair with the craft beer we brew right on site. Everyone at PEG is passionate about sourcing local ingredients, whether in the brewery or in the kitchen. Sometimes these are a challenge to source, partly due to our cold climate and partly as this is a growing sector of the industry. We try our best to operate with sustainability in mind and as we grow this is a priority to further invest in.”

Clear business vision

Although the new brew pub is a few weeks away from its official opening (at the time of writing), Barry has a clear vision for what she expects from the business and how it will fit into the local community.

“Everything we do at PEG is to elevate the profile of craft beer. The beer we brew will be creative and inspired. The food we offer will add to the experience of drinking the beer we brew. The service we provide will be knowledgeable to guide you through tasting our wares and pairing food and beer effectively. We hope to educate and entertain and grow the appetite for craft beer here in Winnipeg.”

Although many foodservice operators wait until their businesses are already established before joining Restaurants Canada, Barry quickly understood the advantages of membership in such a vital and influential organization and joined the association while her business was still in the concept and development stage.

“PEG is a brand new member of Restaurants Canada,” says Barry. “We thought membership would be valuable as a new restaurant for its networking opportunities, and we appreciate the advocacy work that is being done.”

Focused on success

Like many budding restaurateurs, Barry had to jump through her share of regulatory hoops to obtain the necessary permits and licences before getting the green light for her brew pub. But thanks to a never-say-die attitude along with inspiration from her two young boys, a supportive boyfriend and the ever-loyal family dog, Barry says none of those challenges could diminish her resolve.

“My boys are proud that their Mom works hard and they are excited to see PEG open. They have seen the process of opening a brew pub from the architectural plans through to having our kitchen equipment installed. They know just how hard I work and they are encouraging and supportive. They’re my number one cheerleaders and why I work so hard. It is important to me to show them that following your dreams is the most important career path you can follow.”

While Barry is calculating that PEG Beer Company will soon be a success, she has her sights set on even greater returns and is already planning to expand the company’s craft beer distribution outside Manitoba. And for others interested in following in her entrepreneurial footsteps, Barry has advice that anyone should be able to take to the bank.

“Hire an experienced chef and front-of-house manager, have realistic aspirations and goals, and spend the efforts on developing policies and procedures. That said, I am also accepting business tips myself as PEG is my first true experience in the foodservice industry, so please wish me luck!”

Sean Moon is the managing editor of Canadian Restaurant & Foodservice News.

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