Leopards can change their spots and you can teach old dogs new tricks.
Well never in my most cynical mind would I have ever dreamed up the possibility of the current economic collapse recently brought about by a global pandemic such as Covid-19.
However right next to other unexplained phenomena in the world like, enjoying pineapple on pizza or reversing cars only while looking in a rear view mirror, Covid-19 is another reality we are frantically trying to come to terms with. Quite frankly I would rather reverse a car one handed, using the rear view mirror and while eating a pizza in the other hand topped with pineapple skins, than have to deal with a forced financial hiatus such as the one we are currently negotiating.
Not to make light of the situation; primarily speaking, lives have been lost from the virus which remains the worst case scenario attached to the pandemic. But in the wake of the actual health desolation of life, comes the secondary effects the virus has had on the global economy with each of the economic sectors wearing the effects on their sleeves in differing degrees of devastation.
Hospitality, in particular, has been affected more than most other sectors, reeling almost an entire fraternity of face to face specialists, who spend their lives hosting and interacting with people, up the creek without a paddle. In a lot of ways the entire industry was already up the creek even before the pandemic hit. Not without a paddle though, hospitality has always been an industry filled with people who have exactly that – industry; and who largely never know when to give up and very rarely do.
Hospitality has taken a pounding second to none economically, and even though the prospect of returning to normal working ways is periled far beyond the realms of level 1, the people of hospitality have been keeping themselves busy, busy not giving up and busy ‘never say dying’.
Largely made up of creative enthusiasts, traders in hospitality have been turning to other outlets for creative expression, either by choice or by necessity, but success is a question of Biology and Biology is destiny – according to Douglas Coughlan of course.
So what does an army of hyper industrious people with k-9 qualities do in times like this?
Live Interviews and Crossovers
Face-to-face is such a big part of thriving in Hospitality. Thanks to Facebook and Instagram multiple platforms are available for people to continue having ‘face-to-face’ contact. Most notably the Brand Ambassador. Brand Ambassadors are on-trade creatures, the embodiment of their brands. Their jobs depend on the influence they can generate through animate dealings with their customers to build brand strength in the on-trade.
Many Brand Ambassadors moved their focus to hosting guests in conversation on their social platforms and invited others to tune in. The premise of the conversations are always trade specific, most of the time it is spent talking trade things knowing that most of the people tuning in will identify with it very easily. The viewership always varies with each interview; some of the biggest number of viewers have come from interviews done with international guests.
Rudolf De Vos with Jody Francis
An interview generally lasts half an hour to an hour for the most part, and almost always includes a tasty tipple being sipped. Some of the guys doing great things on Instagram and are worthy of a view are:
Jody Francis https://www.instagram.com/theblondeninja/ Lauren Penny https://www.instagram.com/thelolpenny/ Luke Knox https://www.instagram.com/knoxluke/ Fermented https://www.instagram.com/fermented.co.za/ Peter Labese https://www.instagram.com/theegintleman/ Caitlin Hill https://www.instagram.com/royalyrant/
Some guys opted to host their own daily shows. ‘From the drinks trolley’ is a daily tune in with bartending royalty Kurt Schlechter, owner of Cause | Effect Cocktail kitchen and purveyor of fine SA Brandy.
At about 2pm each day Kurt highlights a different local brandy producer with an expression of their tipple in a cocktail which changes every day. You can tune in for a virtual Brandy cocktail master class and even get some anecdotes from his wonderful daughter Olivia at the same time.
Follow Kurt and his Brandy quest here https://www.instagram.com/kurtschlechter/
Online “How to” videos have been a big one. Like I said it’s hard to stop a true bartender from mixing drinks, bartenders across the country found it difficult to down tools, even during a government lockdown. For the most part these videos hold more value in keeping the spirit flowing in more than a literal sense. Some however, turned to videos as more of a creative outlet, by showcasing their own signature cocktails using ingredients with which they have much affection. Some interesting drinks purveyors to follow:
Dom De Lorenzo https://www.instagram.com/domdelorenzo/ Ryan Ontong https://www.instagram.com/thefineshaker/ Leighton Rathbone https://www.instagram.com/aquavitae_dealer/ Cassandra Eichhoff https://www.instagram.com/mynameis_cass/ Keanu Batista https://www.instagram.com/keanubatista/
To manifest their inherent creative expression, some have ventured outside the realms of drinks and bartending. Most of the time this has not been completely unattached to the delight and balance of a cocktail with a few still using drinks to inspire their creative outputs. Sabrina Traubner enthusiastically exercises her love for makeup in various inspiring looks which you can follow below: https://www.instagram.com/sabrinatraubner/.
Not only have Jody Rahme and Rudi De Vos been making excellent drinks, they’ve been taking amazing photos of them as well. These are two exceptional bartenders who have found a way to enjoy the world of drinks in a different way, this time through the lens of a camera. Catch their feeds here:
Also follow Leighton Rathbone https://www.instagram.com/aquavitae_dealer/, who not only has been bashing out some cool cocktails vids, he is also keeping tabs on everything by timetabling all the interviews and stuff for everyone in his own sort of weekly TV guide to make sure we don’t miss a thing. He is also working on his graphic design work by honouring fellow bartenders with their own custom designed logos.
Another cool thing going down during lockdown have been these impromptu challenges set out by the SA Bar Awards. In the interest of connecting everybody attached to the ceremony, a series of quirky challenges have kept the nominees busy posting videos as finalists in their different categories.
These challenges are more set out to insight conversation among the industry role players, getting their creative juices going and participating in something which encompasses the industry at large.
Follow their page to check out what challenges the guys have been doing here: https://www.instagram.com/sabarawards/
For everybody looking in, wondering what’s the best way forward, just have a look at what these guys are doing and take a leaf out of their playbook. For the most part, even just to have arrived here with your fishing pole still in the water is a major thing, but if you want to actually catch a fish right now, these core things which can help you do so:
Consolidation – Take a look at your expenses and reduce them to the bone. Diversification – If there ever was a time where you wanted to express yourself in another realm, now is the time to explore. Communication – Talk to other players in the industry, no one is walking this road alone, and you’ll probably find what you are experiencing is not isolated to you alone. Keep talking to one another and remember that we are in this together, a position which will bode you better than taking pole position alone.
So what can you do to help?
Firstly help yourself, before you help others. You know like how on planes during the safety announcement the hostesses tell you secure your own oxygen mask first before helping others, same applies here so don’t wallow in your own problems not knowing that there is someone out there holding the one key which could help you. Secondly, support each other in the virtual world in the same way you would in the animate world. Like, share and subscribe to each other’s endeavors, get your friends to do so as well for the next couple of months the virtual world is all we’ll have. Lastly, give a little, even a bunch of little contributions can be all someone needs to get by, if you can’t give big – give little, that’s the notion of crowd funding.
It’s been the roughest of rough times for the Hospitality Industry, befallen by a worldwide pandemic only read about in fanciful novels and writings of non-fiction. But salute to all of you who refuse to take this whole thing lying down. In these times it’s important to understand that success is often a question of perception, and what success looked like to us two months ago may look very different to what success will look like in another two months from now. In winning and losing always remember this one thing in encouragement:
“The persons who say that they can, and the persons who say that they can’t, are both usually right!”
See you soon Champions!