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Expanding 7 Hills Into Other Markets

 7 Hills experienced a quick and acute growth when we stepped across the border into Wisconsin. We had an amazing summer post the Covid shut down, with many Southwest WI residents and UW-Platteville students visiting us that year. There was quite an interest in us, one that made my wife excited and eager to let me explore the landscape.

An opportunity arose with the chance to step into a prime commercial location, housing what was known as  2nd + Main bar and grill.  The owners of the building had also operated the restaurant and were looking to step out to focus solely on their business growth as property developers.

They wanted to invest in a good tenant as any wise landlord would do. This isn’t always feasible given the timing of things, so they opened up a restaurant with their experience and knowledge of food and beverage to occupy the space while filling the need in the market.

Covid put a strain on everyone so the timing was right for us to consider entering as they were simultaneously considering exiting. 

An Easier Transformation

The building was properly fitted with bar, kitchen, and restaurant equipment. The  layout was adequate in size requiring  minimal construction needed to create a more efficient workflow. 

We transformed the design and decor to fit our specific branding with colors schemes, signage, and merchandise, to bring our branding to the top of mind awareness. We were ready to rock within 3 months time, quite the change from a massive 12 month buildout in Dubuque, albeit from scratch.

We could get used to projects like Platteville. 

Getting the Right Manager

       As content as we were with the preparation phase, we were equally challenged with finding the right managers to operate successfully. I was told that your 2nd child is actually harder than your first, and I would dare say so is your 2nd restaurant.

Needless to say, we went through a few managers but landed on a great candidate who helped stabilize the staff while bringing continuity of care to the company. From there we built a quick rapport with the customers that has since developed into a consistency that warrants emulation from its big brother back in Dubuque. We felt we had conquered our expansion North.

Meanwhile out West, the Field of Dreams expansion and development was on everyone's mind. Located near  a town hurt by the closing of local anchor restaurants, a new opportunity was born. The Gold Rush of Dyersville was quickly becoming our next adventure. 

If You Build It, Will They Come?

       We were truly window shopping as we did not think we would want or need to consider an expansion to the west of us. Our second child was healthy so why try for a third? If life were only that easy. What turned into a quick peak, developed into a much bigger plan.

The economic team of Dyersville was aggressive in their search for a larger restaurant to fill the current void in their food and beverage options. There are plenty of great local restaurants, but none willing to take a dangerously large footprint, able to host corporate work events in the colder times, and larger tables for sports teams traveling to town during the warmer times.

We had great potential to address the operational position, but the real concern lies in timing and demand ? After much deliberation we decided to jump in and take the risk. The economic team was excited to support us and eager to develop a space that was dear to their heart and soul; it also just happened to be in their possession too. 

When terms were agreed to, the buildout began and the work was launched. Within 6 months we were opening the doors and introducing ourselves to Dyersville. 

What Does the Future Hold?

        We have since opened another restaurant in Platteville; we now  plan to evolve this 2nd round with less ambition and more calculations. Every day forward is another lesson to learn from past mistakes while simultaneously making new mistakes.

As long as we self-reflect, take accountability, and right our wrongs, we project a future location in Galena, IL. within a few years. Until then we will continue to sharpen our skills, refine our processes, manage our technology systems, and study industry trends.

Most importantly we will continue to strive to make great beer, great food, and great memories through the modicum of well rounded customer service. 

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