In conversation with Jack Doolan: Rock God, Guinness Enthusiast and CEO of Flightcase Bars
Hotel Suppliers reporter, Manon Martini, sits down with CEO of Flightcase Bars, Jack Doolan, to discuss all things business, music and drinks.
Manon: Mobile draught systems are such a unique yet necessary idea- tell me, when did the concept first come to you?
Jack: “I’m a musician, I’m in a rock band and I’m a big fan of Guinness.”
“Some years ago, when my band and I travelled round the world- I hated not being able to get a proper pint. Eventually, I decided to build my own bar and put it in a flight case so that we could get really good Guinness wherever we were playing- that’s essentially our origin story”
M: And here you are today! How did your personal mobile bar evolve into the company you have today?
J: “In 2019 I was persuaded to start a very small mobile bar company with just the one Guinness bar that we had”, Explains Jack, “and then in 2020 when lockdown hit and all the pubs closed- I decided to put the bar in the back of a van and start delivering draught pints around London and, yeah… that went down quite well.”
M: I think that might be an understatement- there was some serious buzz and excitement over this!
J: “Yeah- I suppose we ended up taking over London! But that’s how Flightcase Bars started- it was all to do with lockdown.”
M: So how did you go from delivering pints in the back of a van to serving at weddings, festivals and high class events?
J: “Well, we’ve since grown from having one bar to now having thirty-five- and we don’t just do Guinness anymore- we also provide larer, cider, cocktails- any drink that you can imagine!”
“We often handle the entire service- weddings, corporate events, festivals, parties, that sort of stuff- and now we’re just starting to kind of go in to the hotel industry to supply the bars themselves.’”
M: Awesome! So what type of response do you get from customers/guests when serving from a Flightcase Bar at these events?
J: “People are really visually drawn to the bar units themselves, and they love the fact that they can get draught beer or cocktails anywhere.
“We do a lot of stuff outside- at places where you wouldn’t normally be able to get a good pint of Guinness- lets say.”
“We were told more than once during lockdown that we were ‘doing God’s work’.”
M: Ha! Brilliant.
J: “We’ve also had a really strong response to the physicality of the bars from the hospitality industry: they’re kind of set up and ready to go in about five minutes: there’s no building or installing or anything like that”
“It’s been really interesting to see how a simple bar in a flight case has been changing the game.”
M: Well, they say simplicity is the ultimate sophistication- and the bar’s sleekness is certainly making big waves as it challenges the traditional approach towards the drinks industry. What did the design/manufacturing process look like for you? Was it fairly linear?
J: “My thinking has always stemmed from my background as a musician who travels- all of my equipment has always been in flight cases- that’s just how you protect stuff in the industry.”
“I always thought in my head- being kind of simple- that I’d love to have a Guinness bar that worked in this way. So I kind of built all the pieces thinking- ‘The only thing better than owning a bar in your house would be owning one that you could take anywhere!’”
“Eventually we spoke to a company that we now work with closely and asked, ‘could it be done?’. They said ‘maybe’ and we eventually landed on the design that you see today.”
M: So it was a very strong vision from the start?
J: “For sure- flight cases always made sense for me because I’ve found through experience that if you have something delicate that’s not in one it gets broken- and I tend to break literally everything I come into contact with.”
“In fact, we did a festival last year where I accidentally dropped one of the bars off a truck and thought ‘oh my god- I’ve broken a bar’ but the shell just quivered on the floor, I put it back on its wheels and it went straight back to work.”
“Its just a concept that has always worked and made sense for me- combining my two loves of music and alcohol. Visually they’re also quite exciting for people to turn up to at an event- especially a hotel or corporate event where you wouldn’t typically expect to see a flight case- yet it just sort of fits in”
M: Its good to know that the bars have been through their fair share of durability testing! And you’re right- they certainly never seem out of place. I see you’ve got lots of different colours- are they quite customisable?
J: “Yeah totally! It’s not something we really thought about to begin with but we now provide different colours, wraps and configurations for different drinks. We started off with our black Guinness flight cases but now we have yellow for lager, green for cider and pink for cocktails.”
M: Awesome! Where’s the coolest place that you’ve served from a Flightcase Bar?
J: “Good question! We’re always trying to push the boundaries on that one- the tagline of the business is ‘draught drinks anywhere’’- you could pour a pint on top of Everest if you could get a bar up there on a helicopter!”
“We’ve had the bars on stages at festivals with the band- that’s been quite fun. We’ve had it on a couple of really beautiful rooftop terraces in London- we did one overlooking Buckingham Palace which was also nice.”
“We end up in a lot of offices in London which is quite bizarre because you’re at an oil trading desk and then suddenly you’ve rolled a bar next to it! But equally we do a lot of beautiful outdoor country weddings- where you suddenly find yourself in a field surrounded by natural beauty and you’ve got a bar there kind of randomly.”
“We’re excited to get out to Europe this year as we’re getting some amazing offers to head out to the south of France and The Alps, for example. We always make sure to take lots of pictures of the bars in their various location”
M: I guess it’s simply the nature of the flight case that it just never seems out of place.
J: “Yes that’s exactly it! It’s been amazing to see the bar in front of a stately home somewhere and go- ‘well actually, it looks really cool!’”
M: Who’s the coolest person you’ve served from a Flightcase Bar?
J: “We served Stephen Fry once which was pretty cool. That was completely by chance- I accidentally blocked his car in with our van, not realising who he was. I cajoled him round to the side of our big white van and there was a bar on the other side- he then had a pint with us which was really nice.”
“We’ve served some other really cool people- Fred Again, the producer, he loves Guinness.”
“We’ve also worked with Jeremy Clarkson, Kaleb and the Hawkstone guys on their lager and cider.”
“It’s amazing because you meet really interesting people all the time but it’s not until afterwards that someone will say ‘did you know who that was?’”
M: I suppose the celebratory nature of what you do means that you really do get to meet people from all walks of life at significant times in their lives
“Its really cool because a lot of the time we get to work at these events and we get involved in these significant life celebrations that have nothing to do with us- but we come in and we make them that little bit better.”
M: That’s beautiful! It’s a really special thing that you are doing!
Well Jack, I have one final question for you: what’s your drink of choice?
“Ha! Okay- well it’s obviously Guinness. But it’s funny because we served about 85,000 pints of Guinness during lockdown and lots more since then- so I’ve served many, many pints of Guinness. But what l’ve found is that I don’t drink quite as much Guinness anymore as a result.
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