The history of Austin-based Jester King Brewery is not the typical one of most breweries or restaurants.
Yes, its founders got their start with homebrewing, but the brewery’s building and grounds have gone through some unusual changes. The building is an old machine shop from southern Texas that was taken apart and put back together as a brewery. The site itself opened in 2010. Five years later, the brewery purchased 58 acres that surrounded the brewery, and then an additional 107 acres in 2018. Then, they purchased the Tipping T Inn property in 2019.
Who could have guessed that the purchase of that land would play a major part in Jester King’s business during the 2020 pandemic?
Like most hospitality venues, Jester King went under lockdown in March 2020, but their employees didn’t spend the pause in business just binging “Tiger King.” They evaluated their assets and strengths and used them to reinvent themselves to fit our new normal. By May, the team reopened Jester King from a brewery to a park with a brewery, picnic grounds, and hiking trails across their 165 acres.
It was a natural transition, according to Taylor Gardner, Private Events Manager at Jester King.
“Part of what makes Jester King special as a destination is our grounds and the beauty of the surrounding Hill Country. We’ve always been a place to gather with friends and family, to celebrate, to enjoy great beer and food,” she said. “With restaurants and breweries having to shut down due to COVID, we had to rethink our service style and layout. We have 165 acres at our disposal — a great opportunity to share our grounds and trails with guests while still providing a safe space to gather in (smaller) groups.”
Jester King created six outdoor green spaces for guests — The Beer Garden, The Hop Yard, The Goat Pen (yes, there are goats!), The Vineyard picnic space, The Pasture, and The Canopy, The Grotto, and The Pole Barn. All of these spaces have picnic tables with umbrellas and tree shade. There’s more to come; the brewery is developing more green spaces and a 2-mile nature trail. All of these spaces can be booked for events, private guided tours, and tastings through Tripleseat.
In addition to providing plenty of social distancing space, Jester King has introduced a new online reservation system that allows guests to book their visits during limited two or three hour periods offered Wednesdays through Sundays, with an hour blocked off between time periods for cleaning. Food and drinks are being served in disposable containers and Jester King’s food and beverages are also available seven days a week through contactless curbside pickup.
The brewery has introduced contactless payments and QR code-accessible menus. Guests are notified via text when their order is ready, and pick up their order at the brewery’s pole barn. The team has increased their cleaning frequency during business hours, with all employees wearing masks and gloves. Guests are also asked to wear masks and Jester King provides plenty of hand sanitizer made by local distilleries.
Technology and flexibility have been an important part of the reopening process, said Gardner.
“Technology has been key — we’ve moved to mobile ordering from our tables, offering to-go beer and pizza, and instituting a reservation system,” she said. “The ability to be flexible and pivot as changes evolve regarding operating regulations has also been key. Our staff is a serious group of badasses — they have taken everything that has gotten thrown at them and run with it, making Jester King an even better place to visit during a pandemic, all while keeping a smile on their face (even if it is hidden behind a mask).”
Before the pandemic, Jester King was an Austin hotspot for all kinds of events. The team hosts 30 to 40 events annually at their event spaces, including weddings, festivals, rehearsal dinners, and fundraisers. They brought on Tripleseat to manage all of the details that go into planning these celebrations.
“We needed a tool to streamline our event booking process, from inquiries and event requests to taking payments and signing contracts. Tripleseat came highly recommended, and after researching other tools, we recognized Tripleseat had the best features and was exactly what we were looking for,” Gardner said.
After reopening, Jester King has started to receive event inquiries and they’ve started offering updated event packages to ensure that guests are safe, comfortable, and everyone — from employees to attendees — are following recommended COVID prevention guidelines.
“We have added event packages for microweddings and elopements, as well as developing smaller full-service wedding packages. Our venue is all-inclusive, offering catering and bar services in addition to our picturesque venue,” Gardner said.
“We’ve seen an uptick in micro-weddings of 20 guests or less, elopements, and smaller weddings overall. We are also seeing more corporate meeting inquiries as businesses look for safer ways to host larger staff meetings and conferences. We have also continued to book events into 2021 and 2022 as people continue to look to the future.”
Fortunately, Tripleseat’s tools offer plenty of contactless ways to plan events and the best event management features to streamline the entire process.
“We love the ease of taking payments. Tripleseat’s integration with Stripe has made receiving payments such a breeze. I also love the master document feature — it makes updating individual sheets for the kitchen, client, and staff so easy,” Gardner said.
“If Tripleseat was taken away from us, we would freak out! Seriously. Our ability to quickly respond to inquiries, update client documents from anywhere, and track our event calendar are all dependent on Tripleseat. Without it, we would be definitely less efficient and effective for our clients.”
Learn more about Jester King by visiting their website at jesterkingbrewery.com.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Fall 2020 Issue of Seated magazine.