As Austin's original board game cafe, Emerald Tavern Games and Cafe was one of the first businesses to bring tabletop games out of the home and into the community. Part coffee shop, part game night destination, Emerald Tavern's vast library of games made it one of the best places to head for everything from Monopoly to Dungeons & Dragons. But like most restaurants, Emerald Tavern has been forced to adjust its business model during the ongoing pandemic. Thankfully, a loyal customer base and an impressive curbside menu have made a big difference for their team.
In this week's Instagram Live interview, we spoke with Keith Hodges, the Events Manager at Emerald Tavern, and discussed the original vision for their unique board game cafe. Keith breaks down the best way to combine European craft beer and tabletop adventures; for those families in need of a new activity, he also shares some of his favorite titles available for sale.
Here are a few of the biggest takeaways from Hodges on Emerald Tavern's new normal.
On Why Board Games Are More Popular Than Ever
Keith Hodges: "We've hit this critical point where there's a game for everyone. [People] are trying to get a little bit off the technology and trying to make sure that they have entertaining things to play, even when they don't have to sit at a computer and they can just instead play while sitting around a table. So people are playing a lot more social games now. People are even getting heavier games for people who've never played heavier games. It's really hitting the entire spectrum."
On The Owner's Original Vision for Emerald Tavern
Keith Hodges: "All this really started from our owner, Eric, looking at it and going, 'You know what? I want a place where I can have my beer, have my coffee, play my board games, and have my British pub food.' And that was the core concept and that's what it's always been. But it's only been until about the last year that we've actually been able to open up to a full restaurant."
On The Importance of Building a Community As a Small Business
Keith Hodges: "We wouldn't be able to do what we do if it weren't for the fact that people love coming here. And it's the fact that as a board game store, we have to run events so people are coming in to play. And frankly, there's a lot of things that we wouldn't be able to even try. We've got an entire painting group that normally meets.
We have a 60-person painting group, basically every other week during normal business that comes out not just to learn how to paint or to get back on that mini to use the store paints, but also because being there feels like with a group of 60 friends, just having a good time, having beers, laughing and really just enjoying life. So that's been kind of our biggest takeaway is that that sense of community is vital for us as a small business."
Making Every Little Bit Count During a Global Pandemic
Keith Hodges: "It's been a lot of looking at expanding our curbside, looking at expanding our to-go orders. We've been getting into Uber Eats and Grubhub to try and facilitate a little more delivery. We've been looking at doing deals - get an entree for lunch or something and get a drink with it, things like that. Kind of really expanding options that we never really felt the need to before.
I mean, just last week, and even now we still have some remaining, but we went and went through all the games that we are unable to keep for our games library for a variety of conditions and did a big huge discount used game sale that kind of hit on a lot of Warhammer and older games that you don't really see as much. So we've been really figuring out ways to kind of stretch everything."
Recommended Family Games to Play During COVID-19
Dominion: "Dominion is a really great deck-building game, kind of the grandfather of the entire deck building genre, where you're building up a deck card engine and playing as you go. It makes it really easy to jump in. And it kind of sets you up to learn about this entire exciting world of deck building."
Trap Words: "Trap Words [is] this fantastic party game where you split into two teams. You can play it over Zoom even, which is fantastic. And one team, one member of each team is going to be trying to give clues to get their team members to guess whatever word it is, but the other team can set traps."
Flying Goblin: "It's a dexterity game that has you trying to launch these little wooden goblins into an entire card-based maze thing. And you're trying to knock people off edges. It just makes for a really hilarious time."