When the craft-beer industry experienced a shakeout in the late 1990s, microbrewing experts Vic Gumper and Daniel Rogers decided specialty-beer drinkers needed a place to go for the increasingly hard-to-find craft brews they loved.
In 1998, Gumper and Rogers, both 35, left a failing microbrewery to pour their expertise (and $150,000) into Lanesplitter Pizza & Pub. Their marketing secret: The niche restaurant serves unique beers made only in California. The daily menu at their original location in Berkeley, California, boasts 20 different brews, which are rotated often. Customers rave about the freshness of the beers on tap, and the unique mix gives the restaurant an edge over pubs serving big-label beers. They also offer award-winning pizza at a low price. Lanesplitter's three locations served up $2 million in 2005 sales. "We want to exceed our customers' expectations," says Gumper. "That way, they keep coming back."