Working with industry greats like Gordon Ramsay, Philip Howard, George Calombaris and Scott Pickett, Joe Grbac has seen kitchens across Melbourne and London, heading some and stepping back to learn in others. In late-2017, he embarked on a solo adventure with Saxe – where the interview takes place today.
From watching his Mum roll gnocchi on Sundays to ultimately developing a unique flavour and style of cooking, Joe has seen the culinary world from many perspectives and it’s a pleasure to share our creative discussion together.
For more episodes, follow the program wherever you get your podcasts.
Amongst the tinsel and baubles, chocolate is also a regular guest at annual Christmas festivities. But an ever-growing list of dietary requirements can make this familiar member more like an awkward relative.
With this movement in mind, we took the opportunity to interview Juliet Sampson, Founder of London’s first vegan-only chocolate cafe, Copperhouse Chocolates about her new retail business.
Firstly, can you please clarity for readers, what part of the supply chain you operate within? Are you farming, sourcing, producing, distributing etc? There’s an important distinction between chocolateproducers and chocolatiers.
We are a chocolatier. However we do pay more attention to sourcing than many chocolatiers – we like to be in contact with the producers as much as we can and have visited some of the farms.
This is in contrast to, for example, Belgian chocolate, where you generally have no idea where the cocoa was grown.
Vegan chocolate isn’t a new idea but exclusive vegan chocolate retail is – and you’re the only store in London – so why is now the time to have a retail presence?
It’s mainly a personal reason – I am vegan, and have been for about twenty years. I wanted to open a chocolate shop and wasn’t comfortable profiting from dairy. With the timing, I feel that attitudes towards veganism have changed enough in the last few years that I can try to make a success of the thing that I want to do.
What adjacent industries are you looking to and learning from in the growing chocolate retail market?
We are always learning from other food businesses. In particular, I think speciality coffee has cleared a path for artisan hot chocolate to follow in.
Why aren’t there more vegan chocolate shops in London? Why haven’t other brands taken action in this space?
Some chocolate brands may be starting to add more vegan products, however if they have an existing customer base for their milk-chocolate products and don’t have the motivation to drop this then it’s probably a big leap. It’s a combination of a couple of niche markets, I’m happy to be (hopefully) leading the way.
Do you see this set to change over 2020? If so, how?
Maybe some will be watching how I do! I wouldn’t be surprised to see an increase in vegan counters or designated areas within existing shops, although I’m not sure about more dedicated fully vegan chocolate shops.
An interview with Katie Nagar, Australian Johnnie Walker Ambassador – by James Henderson.
There’s been a recent surge in interest for the Whisky Highball, a drink dating back to the 19th century (and therefore, long on the lips of bartenders), so what is driving the current trend?
We suspect that there may be deeper sociological, economic and psychological factors at play, so we engaged with Johnnie Walker (Diageo) in an attempt to understand why.
Johnnie Walker (who Katie represents) is currently running an Australian campaign on the Whisky Highball.
What’s special about this particular cocktail?
I think what makes the whisky highball so special is its versatility – the number of flavours you can choose to feature is only limited by your imagination.
The serve itself is so simple, yet the drink offers huge complexity of flavour – it can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. The classic whisky and ginger ale can easily be made at home, while on the other end of the spectrum, you see some of Australia’s most revered bars using advanced techniques to push the boundaries of creativity, combining whisky with exotic in-house produced ingredients (sometimes even using their own equipment to carbonate).
These drinks still fit into the highball category, but are completely different takes on it.
What’s driving that interest?
For a long time, a lot of people saw whisky as being rigid and exclusionary. Whisky was considered a spirit for one particular demographic of people, and only to be consumed in one particular way – neat, with perhaps a whisper of water.
Thankfully, now people are realising that that is a load of rubbish.Whisky has a huge range of flavour, and the people who enjoy drinking it are as equally as diverse.
Furthermore, drinking whisky should be an enjoyable experience, and if you don’t like having it neat, then you are well within your rights to add whatever mixers will enrich the drinking experience for you.
When people tell me that they don’t think they like whisky, I usually respond to them with: “Do you like flavour? Then you like whisky. It’s really just about finding the whisky that speaks to you, and the style of drink that suits your palate.”
Where are trends like this emerging from? Is it a location, a person or particular demographic?
There is research indicating that lower ABV drinks are becoming increasingly popular, internationally [see: ‘YouGov / Portman Group Alcohol Alternatives Survey of 2004 UK adults: The Low and No Alcohol Boom is Here to Stay – January 2019’].
The highball is perfectly positioned within this global trend as it usually contains only one measure of spirit as a long drink, meaning you can enjoy a lighter style, lower ABV drink that still offers amazing flavour.
What cross-industry factors (from the culinary, cultural or other worlds) have contributed to this cocktail trend? Are there demographic shifts or larger inter-industry variables forging this change?
The versatility of whisky highballs allows it to be a drink that holds relevance across a variety of cultures and nationalities.
A great example of this can be seen in Dave Broom’s book ‘Whisky: The Manual’, which evaluates 202 different whiskies based on the world’s five most popular mixers: soda water in the US and Canada, ginger ale in the UK and Ireland, cola in Eastern Europe and Russia, sweetened green tea in China and Taiwan, and coconut water in Brazil and Central America.
These are all whisky highballs, each celebrating a different mixer which embraces the flavour preferences of the peoples of that place.
I think this reflects a greater global trend of pushing for inclusiveness across a plethora of industries.
Given that Diageo also owns Starward Whisky – a leader in the domestic market – how are other Australian whiskies holding up to compete with this trend?
To clarify, we don’t actually own Starward. Distill Ventures is a Starward investor and Diageo is an investor of Distill Ventures.
It is apparent via our investment in Distill Ventures that Diageo views the local whisky market as having great potential. Local whisky brands help drive interest and relevance in the entire category, and that helps drive growth for all brands.
Do you see a permanent place on the menu for the Whisky Highball or will it come and go?
I believe it is here to stay. Top bars around the world are increasingly allocating more of their menu space to highball offerings.
From the conversation with Katie, the forces that are driving recent interest in the whisky highball include: a broadening of whisky understanding and adoption in the mass-market, a drive for low-ABV consumption and the Australian palate, interested in long, refreshing beverages.
As an additional note, given the prevalence of mixers here, I’m interested to know if there’s an upward-trend in carbonated drinks (including sodas, tonics and seltzers) and where they might ultimately fit in the future of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and beverages.
Almost two years after recording with The Hospopreneurs Podcast, Blake Hall has solidified his role as the Patient Wolf Brand Ambassador and is the leading mind behind the Front Of House at the popular Melbourne gin brand’s new Southbank distillery.
Outgrowing its original Brunswick site, Patient Wolf has
stepped toward co-owners, Matt Argus and Dave Irwin’s vision for an urban
distillery, in the heart of Melbourne.
Two years on, Blake is as charismatic as ever and continues
to go from strength to strength, now managing an operation with many more
moving parts – but an operation that he’s equally as passionate about and proud
It was a pleasure to catch up again and hear about their new distillery release, Rogue Barrel (made in collaboration with Wolf of the Willows Brewing Co.), that will be available when the new doors open very very soon.
What is Rogue Barrel? (ABV, tasting notes, barrel and history, cooperage, yeast, is the grain different to what Patient Wolf normally uses?)
We’ve seen some
amazing barrel aged gins that are really bridging the gap with whisky drinkers.
Instead, we wanted to look at a barrel as another botanical, adding new layers
of complexity. To do so, we used a barrel from our friends at Wolf of the
Willows, who released a ‘Brett Saison’.
The 200L barrel is made from French Oak and first came from a winery in country Victoria – we don’t know which one. It was used for ageing Chardonnay. Wolf of the Willows then picked it up to use as a fermentation vessel for 100% Brettanomyces Bruxellensis ferments (known as Brett Yeast – more on this available at the bottom of the article), which create their own microflora environment in the wood. This is a very unusual and unique process. The beer fermented in these barrels produced their Barrel-Fermented Brett Saison Beer.
Blake, other than the obvious Wolf-themed name, what made
Wolf of the Willows appeal for a collaboration?
Wolf of the Willows is a craft brewery in Cheltenham, Melbourne. We recently did a collab beer for GABS festival – a Tom Collins inspired Sour Beer. It was hugely successful, rating third in the People’s Choice Award.
Wolf of the Willows are a well respected Australian brewery. Other than the similarity with ‘Wolf’ in our names, there is great brand alignment and fit between us. Collabs such as this, drive a point of differentiation and hype.
How does this release fundamentally differ to other craft gin releases?
The key difference we can see is how unique the barrel is.
have French Oak, imparting more savoury characters than its American
cousin. Fill it with Chardonnay and you create something great. Ferment a beer
with a rare, unique and aggressive yeast strain in said barrel… How could you
turn that down?
Each element – be it
gin, beer, wine or barrel – offers something unique to the final
product. Lastly, this is a single barrel product. We’ll never be able to
recreate the flavours in each bottle, as the barrel has now evolved.
What does it mean for the Patient Wolf portfolio?
The next big step for
us is our new distillery.
With a great bar,
atmosphere and new stills on the way next year, this means we have a platform
and space to release more experimental gins. This is hopefully the first in a
long line of unique and interesting gins, and we’re incredibly proud of the end
Is this a way for you to test the market for a permanent position in the Patient Wolf line-up?
Yes, however we put so
much thought and consideration into everything we do, it really is more of
a reveal and offering a great gin rather than testing. However if it
absolutely kills it and everyone is loving it, absolutely, we’ll consider
whether it moves into our core range or we go to a bigger scale with it.
Do you have any hints on the next distillery release?
We have a few ideas.
We have some really interesting barrel ideas among other things. Stay
With many other brands now producing pink gins, what’s Patient Wolf’s position on the potential for a pink gin in the future?
We love the creative
freedom that gin, as a spirit, offers the producer. We are open to anything, as
long as the final product is a world-class product. We don’t compromise on
There is a fine line
between a gimmick and a credible product.
More on Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (aka: Brett or Brett Yeast):
Forward-thinking breweries have been looking at Brett yeast for a while now (I remember pouring an expression at Brisbane Brewing Co. in 2017) but what interested me, was its application in the barrel-ageing process of gin.
Blake Hall had this to say:
Brett), is a wild yeast strain. It’s volatile and is considered a bit ‘rouge.’
Many think that Brett beers are funky and dry, however it can produce
incredible tropical fruit flavours, like regular IPAs in hyper-drive.
And Scott McKinnon (Founder and Brewer of Wolf of the Willows) made this comment:
‘Brett is a very aggressive
mircoflora, and needs to be handled with respect in the brewery. Wine makers
loath it. For our barrel, I got lots of white peach and white pepper aromas and
flavours from the barrel.’
The use of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis has been tempting-emergence in the United States over the past 18 months but is still currently an underground yeast strain.
Beer-Nerds and Industry are across it but The Common Gin Drinker isn’t.
A revealing conversation with bartender and serial-competitor, Alex Boon, by James Henderson
The tried-and-true method for establishing a personal brand, at the retail end of the hospitality industry, is by participating in (and winning) competitions.
In the Australian cocktail industry, Alex Boon has done precisely this – recently voted as Australia’s Top T25 Bartender of 2019, competing at the Diageo World Class Final in Glasgow and winning the Hendrick’s Cultivate The Unusual Mind competition (partnered with previous guest of The Hospopreneurs Podcast, Pez Collier), all within a few months.
Alex has built a strong brand as an Australian bartender, by taking advantage of cocktail competitions and joined Hospopreneurs for an honest conversation on where competitions lack and what they truly offer.
What competitions have you participated in?
Diageo World Class, The Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge, The Woodford Reserve Cocktail Challenge, Hendrick’s Hot Gin Punch, Bacardi Legacy – the list goes on and on. There have been so many.
Maybe ten different brands?
Do you have any favourites or standouts
and what do they showcase?
The ones where you take something away from it, even if you lose. The prize is great, sure – obviously you’re looking to win – but when see someone competing who’s doing something cool, that’s pretty inspiring.
I think that’s what you should be doing it for – not just being number one or two, but when you can take something out of it.
What have the competitions that you’ve
really liked, showcased better than others?
That’s a good question… When I’ve been part of a large group of people and become friends with everybody.
I think the best competitions are the ones where you’re the most comfortable and when you look back, you feel like it was a holiday – that it was awesome hanging out with those people. The comps that have the best people in them.
So what are the ‘the best people’ – are they good competitors, are they friends of yours, what are they?
Exactly! Both. In Australia, everyone is close-knit and knows each other – so when they come together to compete, it’s not like you’re competing, it’s like you’re hanging out with your mates.
What do competitions allow you to
So much. They open doors. When you compete for a brand, you’re pretty much jumping on stage and acting like a brand ambassador for them – for the eight minutes that you’re presenting your drink.
It’ll open doors by going to a brand or progressing in your role as a bartender.
What’s it done for you?
Obviously opportunities have opened up with other brands and such – but I’ve chosen to stay as a bartender and for that, it’s definitely elevated the style of drinks I make.
I see it when looking back at the drinks I did before and then after taking inspiration from the methods of people I competed against.
What’s really driven that decision for
you to stay in venues rather than go down a brand route?
I like it! It’s fun, man – I love my job.
It takes a certain type of person to work for a brand and I’m not that type of person.
Although it’s the main tool used to
build your personal brand, what do competitions lack in conveying about a
The main problem – and the problem that I see over and over again – is that people will win one and think that they’ve hit the top.
That’s wrong attitude to have.
The problem with competitions is that they can keep people back – they’ll just go ‘Sweet, I don’t have to do anything anymore’.
So what is that next level?
There’s no roof – you just keep going. There’s always stuff to learn.
Other than a brand or venue route though,
what sort of avenues are available?
Look, not many. As far as potentially getting a job for a brand out of it or building your personal brand as a bartender, that’s about it, man.
The holidays are nice but the reason I’ve kept doing them is that it’s a test of my skills – in hopping up and talking in front of people and seeing if I can push myself further each time.
It’s a challenge and I like that.
What should the next generation of
Australian bartenders be focusing on?
Serving people – making people happy, I think.
I’m not saying that anyone is lacking, but that service should be everyone’s primary focus, in hospitality – we’re here to serve people.
So what, in addition to what we’re doing now, should people be looking at next?
That’s a good question as well… Service.
So we are lacking?
Yeah, look, I don’t think we’re lacking but I think it can be better.
Compared to overseas, Australians are amazing but that’s what makes us amazing, our good service.
You can get a great drink in other places but when your bartender is lacking and you’re not getting your water topped up – stuff like that – the experience is lacking.
The new bartenders coming in, instead of focusing on competitions, should be focusing instead on ‘Is the music too loud? Is the temperature in the venue right? Is the person over there being looked after?’
Without trying to rock the boat or anything, I think everyone should be stripping everything back to basics and starting there – making sure the place feels right and that everyone’s happy.
It’s another headache to add to the list of daily tasks of running a hospitality business. So why should the state of the environment be at the forefront of concerns for operators?
In recent years, being environmentally conscious has become a selling point. We ditch plastic straws, install second and third bins for recycling and compost and make a kombucha from left over pineapple skins to give ourselves a pat on the back.
While these are truly excellent contributions, it’s now time to take a step back and review how we – as an industry – must look at the broader impacts of climate change and future environmental conditions. We have to realise that without serious changes, serious impacts on the hospitality game aren’t far off.
It’s easy to see our industry as primarily a retail-based business. We purchase or produce stock, create a comfortable and engaging environment to sell it in and pass that stock along to guests and customers for (hopefully) a profit.
But delve down hard into what outside influences affect us and you’ll very quickly be reminded that our major commodities are all centred around produce. Be it the sugarcane in the rum in your Tiki Bar, the vineyards producing wines for your underground wine hot spot, the cattle stations providing the beef for the steakhouse or the fruit and veg for your vegan haven – everything we utilise comes directly back to primary producers.
These are the same producers, who are most affected by our climate conditions.
Bushfires tore through Queensland’s major wine producing regions in mid-2019 and I learned from local growers, that they’d never, in their recent memory, witnessed such a perfect storm – with the fires as the final straw on a horror season, plagued by drought.
Some of the toughest people you’ll meet, are crumbling and now asking for help. They’ve been forced to truck in water and animal feed and for the first time, are considering buying grapes from outside the region, to ensure they can produce enough wine to survive the year.
With yields down on everything from vineyards to kale, producers are forced to either decrease quality (an absolute last resort) or increase prices, both of which have a direct and incredibly pertinent flow-on to the bottom line of our businesses. For some, neither option is possible, as conditions have already beaten them into submission.
So before it grows to the point where your venue is rationing the citrus behind the bar or your chefs are forced to bend their ethics and menu due to supply issues, start to think (even more) about what your venue can do to help.
Take that extra step to refine your Sustainability Program, do the research and stay informed – put your business’ weight behind it, for our brethren up the supply chain.
Whisky, like all spirit categories, grape varietals, coffee roasts and indeed, life, continues to evolve. It can surprise, delight and even confuse the most discerning of tipplers.
Cameron Pirret was a guest of ours in 2017 – on Episode 9 of The Hospopreneurs Podcast – while behind the bar at the late, Seymour’s Cocktails and Oysters. Their Irish Coffees were known to be the best around at the time.
He’s now the Brand Ambassador for The Exchange (NSW) and back for a comment on what’s happening in whisky in 2019 – and quite possibly where we might evolve…
What defines a good whisky?
Personal preference is king! There are no bad whiskys, (in theory) just different whiskys. For me it’s about distillery characteristics and maturation flavour. A ‘good’ whisky hits all the notes, both pleasing and challenging everyone – balancing simplicity and complexity.
How do you feel about wood chips in the ageing process?
Not a fan! Don’t get me wrong if you use staves or pieces of oak during the maturation, that’s a different story. There are some amazing whiskys that use barrel maturation and oak pieces in conjunction to great effect though (ie: Makers 46).
If you’re trying to replace the barrels altogether you’re living in a pipe dream. Oak chips surrounded by liquid won’t breath and therefore will have one dimensional flavour. Barrels breath, hence Angel Share.
Without getting too technical, this increases some of the chemical processes that take place during maturation, acidification, esterification, ect. The result, and it’s what I alluded to in what makes a whisky good – you get a softer less dominating maturation that vastly increases complexity.
In your opinion, does older mean better?
Age is a good indicator of certain characteristics of a whisky and indeed I like it as an indicator and I don’t think it should be completely done away with. But on the whole, older does not mean better. It’s just one piece of a large and ever-evolving puzzle.
Older does mean more expensive for those who choose to follow it blindly.
Who’s changing the game in whisky today? Why is that?
The game is changing at two ends – distillation & maturation.
Distillation – this is happening with the younger guys in the new and emerging regions. They are fiddling with grains, malting types, cut points and still shapes and sizes. The best examples here are Archie Rose (Sydney) and Westward (Portland).
Maturation – happening with the ‘big boys’ – the distilleries that have 200+ years of history. They are not in a hurry to alter their distillery characteristic too much and nor should they be.
But because of sheer production volume, their maturation and blending techniques go to another level. They have access to many types of barrels and quantities to blend.
We are currently doing some amazing things at Laphroiag and Bowmore, with regards to maturation – but I dare say if you ask any of the large distilleries across the world, they’ll also have something new cooking.
Who will brands be looking to for inspiration tomorrow?
Its always the same, Consumers and Trade.
Vote with your feet, whatever we are drinking is what the distilleries are going to make. That’s why it’s important for us to continually (without being pushy about it) educate our customers. Sure, brands will push into new areas but they aren’t going to ignore global drinking trends.
For example, while Japanese whisky is super popular at the moment, many large blenders are finishing their whiskys in Japanese mizunara casks.
Now I guarantee that simply finishing a blended whisky in mizunara, does nothing to impart flavours unique to the native Japanese oak because Mizunara takes at least 15 years to impart flavour.
You can by an expensive Mizunara cask finished whisky if you want, but it won’t taste like mizunara. This could be considered innovation, but it’s fuelled by global trends, not the pursuit of quality.
What will come to define Australian whisky?
Price, if we don’t sort out our ridiculous excise tax.
Look, there are so many characteristics to Australian whisky – malt-forward, wine cask finished and more – but I cant say what will end up being the defining characteristic. I’m just excited and happy to be along for the ride.
Where can innovators learn from traditionalists?
Through seeing that consistency is king.
We all love to try interesting things for sure, however, you need to develop an identity.
It was inconsistency that lead to the rise of blended whisky around the world and distiller consistency that has bought it back to single malts. The new, independent bottlers need to respect that.
Just because something is different, doesn’t make it good – and if something is on every back bar in the world, that doesn’t mean it’s boring.
How do you stay on the pulse of whisky trends?
James, you’ve spent enough late nights with me in whisky bars to know it’s all trial and error with trends.
But to stay on the pulse, read, taste and listen to everyone’s opinion and expression.
At the end of the day though, have conviction – it’s ultimately about the love affair you have with the liquid in your glass.
To find hospitality trends before they happen, follow The Hospopreneurs Podcast.
It may be a simple question to answer but there’s a fine line between how entertaining you think you are and how entertaining people actually perceive you.
Instead, enter the entertainment industry. The reality is you were never in the hospitality scene – it was and will always be the entertainment industry. How well you connect and entertain your customers will determine your survival in hospitality.
Having worked in this industry my entire life – from management to consultancy – the common thread I have seen in successful operations, is the ability to attract and entertain customers.
Now remove the idea of a Ringmaster from the 1960s Circus Spectacular and think more connection entertainment.
Cafes are popping up faster than any other business in the hospitality sector, so what does that mean? It means customers have choice and more choice means more options – and more options mean customers get picky – whoever can tailor to those needs the best, wins.
Everyone does coffee and there’s also speciality coffee, so how do you compete? It all comes down to how you connect with your customers. If you entertain them long enough, you’ll force out any alternatives in their mind.
Today’s customer is starved for attention and craves stimulation. We are all wired in, monitoring everything and everyone around us. Unless a situation can be snapped, grammed or shared on our phones, it will struggle to achieve its full potential.
So am I telling you that creating a great coffee isn’t enough? Yes and no.
There is still plenty of room for great tasting coffee and food to draw a solid following. But the reality is, everyone else is close on your tail. Having operational efficiency, low wages and strong supplier relationships are very important, especially as you grow and expand.
But it’s secondary – all of it.
It all hinges on getting customers through the door and having
them unload their wallets for your experience. It’s not just about a Facebook
post or how you remember a few of your regular’s names – it’s much more.
How well you entertain, falls into three categories for your café.
1) Your Core Business
What makes you, you? Why should I pick you and not the other café down the road? How is your business different and why would it be appealing to me? Think of your business as a personality – how would it entertain your customer personalities? It could simply be your location or a new exciting method to deliver your coffee.
Make it about you, because customers want to get to know you.
2) Your Internal Strategy
This relates to your team, from recruitment and training to upper management. Your team should be a reflection of your core product and embody your café’s personality. Consistent meetings and key management catch-ups, business transparency and empowering your team must become the norm.
People are attracted to fun and exciting things. If your team are engaging and prompt, you will run rings around your closest competitors.
3) Your External Strategy
Social media, strategic alliances, partnerships – all of it increases your ability to entertain more people. No more excuses and no more saying ‘I don’t need it.’ Facebook and Instagram work wonders and are mediums perfectly aligned with this industry. Share, target and advertise as much as possible.
Team up with businesses around you, whether it’s a coffee deal with customers at a nearby hotel or latte art competition sponsored by one of your suppliers. It all makes noise and is highly entertaining. Invite local food bloggers and hospitality related resources to share your story and tap into their audience.
Being successful in this industry requires hard work combined with smart work. I often see operators get burnt out working constantly on one particular category and not spreading their efforts across all three. When you work on all three, you actually work less and start working on building pipelines to bring customers in.
Remember, you can’t entertain the same people forever. They will eventually move on, so having a constant flow system is paramount and the only way to build that flow is by constantly reviewing these three categories.
We all have the ability to be great entertainers. Visually
amazing cafes are attractive, smiles are infectious and screaming to the world
why your team and café is the source of good emotion will catapult you to the
top in this industry.
Just please make a good coffee first – after all, that is your business.
Many great venues make the mistake of resting on their laurels.
I won’t name names but we all know some that the limelight has set on — the popular venues that have had their day and died out.
When service gets sloppy and dress codes relax, chipped corners and stained tables lose their reminiscent charm and instead turn into an ugly reminder of an impending fit-out, necessary to reinvigorate the space (visually, at least).
Ill-motivated or poorly-qualified operators become hinges on which this turn takes place. They starve the cash cow and milk it dry.
The public wonders why — what happened to the business.
As good operators, we know though.
We stopped turning up when the coffee supplier changed or the cutlery was laid out incorrectly — long before staff stopped welcoming us or the water became self-serve.
We knew the turn was coming.
But for those who are just inexperienced, they don’t know any better. So when their demographic changes or ‘All Day Breakfast’ blurs into the evening, they don’t know that a 2pm close isn’t enough.
These are the same operators who need help to breathe soul into a space, absent after a clunky restructure or when a hefty new aesthetic is bankrolled for them.
It’s these operators that make the skilled among us, look good. Despite that, it’s healthier for the future of the industry to support them — not with our wallets, but with our time — to educate, motivate and inspire.
Experienced operators are here to demonstrate how businesses can continue to reinvent themselves and still stay true to their North Star — we know how to identify and hone in on what makes a brand popular.
…and it’s not an empty smile, expensive fit-out or the latest oat milk.
It’s damn hard to make a name for yourself or your business without a social mediastrategy these days — which raises the question,
‘Is the internet making us lazy or does it push us to be better at what we do?’
Both are correct in my opinion. Although the internet can be used as a tool for deceit and evil, I know and respect that it has many uses in our beloved industry and is hands-down one of the most important sources of knowledge and inspiration.
Today, we are lucky enough to be able to closely watch what the best bars and bartenders in the world are achieving at all times. The many talented and passionate hearts of our industry beat in unison and innovation on one side of the world can become an industry standard in no time.
Our dedication to delivering the best to our guests continues to elevate that standard and I love to wonder where we’ll be, ten years from now— knowing how far we’ve come since I started working in bars, ten years ago.
But realistically, how do we determine who’s truly delivering a great experience and who just owns a smartphone and is fluent in fluffy cocktail lingo?
It’s more common than I’d like to admit, that the cool new cocktails being posted online can, in person, be underwhelming — or worse, they don’t exist at all.
If that’s the case, can we be sure that the same thing isn’t happening with bars themselves? Is it possible that we know so much about social media and marketing now that we can fluff up an entire business to appear better than it is?
How long could a business survive with a top-tier marketing strategy but average service, average drinks and no bar hooks before anyone notices?
Does genuine hospitality actually make a bar successful or has it merely become a factor of it?
I have faith that present day bar operators are still working incredibly hard to improve their bars, their service, their drinks and their aesthetics to create better drinking experiences for the masses, but I also wonder how reliant the they are on platforms like Instagram and Facebook to get numbers through the doors — and I wonder how many businesses won’t be able to back it up with what really matters.
I’m sure you’ve had experiences going to reputable venues and quietly wondered, “Is this really in the Top 50 Best Bars list?”. I definitely have — it’s the contrast that makes it obvious.
Now, I’m not saying they aren’t ‘good’. I just think that nothing on that list should be ‘good’ — they should be much better than ‘good’. I don’t think I’m alone when I imagine a memorable drinking experience to be more than just chummy handshakes and some online hustle.
Let’s let our service, our drinks and our ideas speak for themselves and not fall into the cycle of fluffing up who we are and what we do to make friends on the internet.
Leave that to the influencers and let’s just focus on hospitality for a little while.