Braise Local Restaurant Uses Beepods Bees to Create a Buzz
A brief overview of how a restaurant has used bees to generate awareness, marketing and new featured items on their menu to increase business and sustainability in the community.
Business Name: Braise
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Dave Swanson, owner of Braise CSA and Braise Local Restaurant had always had an interest in bees for his business. He understood the importance of bees to the products and services he was offering. Finding a system that fit his needs and limited his concerns was important. Ultimately, a traditional system was not what he wanted, but a teaching tool and something that could be leveraged as a business asset for production, marketing and human resources. He found it in the Beepods Beekeeping System.
It’s common knowledge that bees are responsible for a huge amount of our food supply. Braise, a restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has used this fact to their advantage by installing a bee hive in their rooftop garden. Dave Swanson, the owner and chef at Braise, heard about the hive at Core/El Centro, and had an interest in creating a pollinator-friendly corridor and, since there was already an urban garden on the roof of the restaurant, adding a hive just seemed like a natural fit. From a business perspective, it also seemed like a great marketing strategy – it helps Braise to create unique cuisine, and it’s a fun and unusual attraction for customers to look at. In addition, Dave likes to support the industries of his employees, and it just so happens that Beepods’ head beekeeper, Laura, works for Braise.
While Laura being a member of the Beepods team played a role in Braise selecting a Beepod as their hive of choice, this was not the only reason. Beepods are a very gentle kind of hive for both the beekeeper and the bees. Because of the top-bar design, the beekeeper doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting as they would with other hive designs. This alleviates stress from the beekeeper. The Beepod design also allows for non-invasive hive inspections (no smoke needed!), which helps to keep down stress for the bees. The less stressed the bees are, the happier they are, and happy bees are healthy bees.
The benefits of a Beepod don’t stop at the bees and the beekeeper, however. Beepods have an observation window so that people can see what is happening inside the hive without disturbing the bees. This is great for anyone who is curious about the inner workings of a bee hive who may not be properly trained to open it up, or for someone with a fear of being stung.
Laura says that since the hive’s installation in the summer of 2015, the restaurant has benefitted greatly from having a hive on site. In addition to seeing a marked increase in garden productivity, people have been reacting well to having a hive. While it was expected that people would be nervous about being so close to the bees, Laura remarked that staff and patrons alike are very enthusiastic and want to learn more about them.
What the Staff Think:
The staff love the hive, and view the bees as a sort of restaurant pet. They will regularly ask how the hive is doing and want to learn more about what is happening with the bees, and will often go up and check on the hive themselves. One of the big goals at Beepods is to create a relationship with the bees. In other words, we prefer to treat bees less like a herd of livestock and more like a beloved pet.
The hive has not just had an effect on the staff – it has had an effect on the menu, as well. You can order yourself a delicious cocktail called the Bee’s Knees, which is made using honey from the hive. If you order a cheese plate, you will find cut-comb honey nestled among the cheeses. There are several items on the menu that are marked to indicate that they are sourced from either the rooftop garden or the bees. Laura says that people are excited to try things that are farm to table, especially when one of the “farms” is located right on the roof!
While there are only two people who care for the hive and do the inspections, many people come into contact with the bees on a day-to-day basis. Aside from the twenty or so members of staff, parties of up to sixty guests can dine on the roof a mere ten feet from the hive. The bees also encounter people when they fly through the restaurant’s open windows and mingle with the diners. This may seem like a recipe for disaster, but Laura says that in the two years since they got the hive, only two people have been stung – the beekeepers!
The bees serve as a conversation piece between servers and customers, and the staff have become quite knowledgeable about them – particularly in telling the difference between honey bees and other types of bees. This is especially important because both honey bees from the hive and other sorts of bees will fly among the customers. However, the honey bees fly overhead, while the other pollinators will come closer, inspecting the food. Since most people typically cannot tell the difference between honey bees and other types of bees, customers tend to assume that anything that looks like a bee is from the hive. The servers are happy to explain that the honey bees only eat nectar, and have no interest in what’s on the patrons’ plates, and, if they are inside, a member of the staff will gently escort the bees back out of the window.
On the whole, the hive at Braise has been a great success. It has increased the productivity of the rooftop garden and inspired new and innovative items on the menu. The staff have become quite well educated about bees and their behavior, and are able to hold informative conversations with their customers and answer many of the questions that they may have. In turn, the patrons at the restaurant have a great interest in the bee hive, and have a desire to better understand bees and their role in our environment, and what they can do to help. In fact, some customers have been so inspired by the hive at Braise that they have gotten into beekeeping themselves!
One of Braise’s goals was to create a more pollinator-friendly corridor. By installing the hive, they not only did their part to give honey bees a happy home – they also started a conversation with the public about the importance of bees, and inspired a new crop of people to do their part for the bees, whether it be by spreading the word, planting pollinator-friendly plants, or even getting hives of their own!
Braise is part of the Milwaukee Pollinator Initiative and is working with us to expand their Pollinator Initiative to all of their local farmers who supply the RSA and their restaurant.