If you’re looking to get the pulse of the craft bar and hospitality industry, there’s no better place to do it than New Orleans in the July. More specifically, I mean Tales of the Cocktail, the annual cocktail celebration / bartender education / industry networking event that takes place there each year. This year I had the good fortune to attend and had a very full few days attending as many seminars as I could!
But since not everybody has the ability to hop on a plane to New Orleans, I wanted to share a few of the big industry trends I saw – as well as how I expect they will (continue to) shape our industry in the year to come.
No surprise here. Just like the rest of the world, the hospitality industry is starting to look more closely at how they can reduce their impact on the environment.
The Last Straw
In the last few months this quiet movement has quickly gained momentum and Tales just furthered the cause. Bar straws are plastic, often ignored, and spend the rest of an eternity in a landfill (or worse, in the ocean!) Many bars are finding this an easy low-hanging way to reduce their environmental impact. Many are switching to paper straws or only providing straws when requested by the customer.
Saving straws is good and all, but why not make cocktails out of garbage? Trash Tiki is a pop up bar that sources many of their ingredients from the trash of other local bars, shops and restaurants. (Note: they are using kitchen trash and leftovers, not post-consumer trash.) It’s a radical approach, but it definitely gets your attention – and shines a light on the ways that bars and restaurants could more efficiently use their own ingredients.
It may sound like an oxy moron, but if we’re going to start telling people that bartending can be a long-term rewarding career, then we need to make sure bartenders can actually survive a lifetime behind the bar. It’s a grueling, physical job – which is also often punctuated by an unhealthy lifestyle.
This year Cazadores sponsored a next-level initiative to highlight bartender health. Rather than sponsoring a seminar or yoga class, they decided to take it another direction – sponsoring a grueling training regimen for bartenders in Houston and LA. Finalists admitted that the training was so tough, they were forced to give up bad habits like drinking or smoking cigarettes. Not to mention the physical challenge of the training itself.
The program was eye catching and entertaining to watch, and helped other bartenders see that health can be a priority alongside their career behind the bar.
Creatively Leveraging Technology
For years now we’ve been promised a perfect robot bartender, but we all know there’s a lot more to bartending than executing a perfect pour. While the engineers keep working on that, the bar community has found ways to use other techie tools to help their teams communicate and collaborate more efficiently.
- A quick SED talk highlighted the power of video – in creating videos to share on social media to capture the attention of a larger community than just the customers already walking into your bar each night.
- When asked how his team stayed organized through opening several bars in quick succession, Alex Day mentioned that his team leveraged the web-based collaboration tool, Slack, allowing them to stay in contact without getting buried in text messages.
- On a lighter note, Simone Caporale used an electric train to deliver his cocktails at the Elyx house. (Maybe not the most advanced technology, but definitely a creative use for it!)
I can’t even come close to covering all of the new things I saw at Tales this year – but these are just a few over-arching themes that I believe are slowly changing our whole industry as we know it. And next year I hope to be at Tales once again to report back on what has changed!