Brian Grano, owner of Mickey Finn's in Libertyville

When I sat down with Brian Grano, proprietor of Mickey Finn’s Brewery, I knew I had made the right choice for the first person to interview for my new blog. I wanted someone who would really take the hood off the car, so to speak, and show me how they were able to make a go of owning an operating a restaurant. Brian did just that!

As an accountant, I always start by thinking through the numbers. Sales minus COGS = Gross Profit. COGS + Hourly Labor Costs = Prime Costs. Sales minus prime costs minus rent, marketing and supplies, and you are just about at Net Income—the profits your business is making. So, when Brian and I sat down the week of St. Patty’s Day, I asked him about that.

How closely do you monitor your food and beverage costs? He said he really doesn’t. He doesn’t need to. After running Mickey Finn’s for almost 20 years he can walk into the place, count the number of covers, and know if he is making money or losing it. It takes a well-managed operation with an extremely well-trained and caring staff to get to that point!

As far as running a business, Brian gave me some sage advice (the words he lives by): keep rent as low as possible, make sure there is plenty of easily accessible parking for guests, and never say no to your brewer!

The first two tips led to Mickey Finn’s relocating five years ago, just a bit south on Milwaukee Avenue from the old location. The biggest driver was parking. Brian had been renting parking from a furniture store, but when the store closed Brian wasn’t able to rent the parking spots, and he needed to find an alternative.

After a lot of looking and back and forth with the old owners, Brian was able to buy the building Mickey’s currently occupies. And the kicker is, he was able to buy it for a (relative) song because he was purchasing when the fallout from the Great Recession was still around. Parking and rent: under control.

The third tip really caught my attention, though. As a VERY enthusiastic home brewer, “never tell your brewer no” really hit home with me! After Brian found out I was an avid home brewer, he also gave me a tour of the brewery. It was awesome—and really state-of-the art. When I was there a batch of Pineapple Express was fermenting. While I have not tried that one, the ferment smelled wonderful: everything you would expect—grain, hops, and fruity pineapple!

I also got a look at the pilot system that Brian and Greg (the brewer) cook up and test out. It is a one-barrel system that I really, really, want. It was just like an all-grain home brew setup, but much more professional.

It was a great tour, and you can see it too when you dine at Mickey’s. If Brian is around and has time, he might even take you inside the brew house and give you the tour I got!

So, to sum up the lessons I learned from Brian Grano, pay a lot of attention to the really big items you cannot change easily once you make those big decisions, such as how much you pay in rent and whether there adequate space for your guests to park. 

Restaurant name:
Mickey Finn's Brewery
Restaurant address:
345 N Milwaukee Ave, Libertyville, IL 60048
Blog category