The Social Exchange and the trade industry in a post–isolation world

This time last year, The Exchange team were touring Australia with their seminar “The Great Exchange – Health in Hospo” which aimed to put health and wellbeing in the spotlight and to educate and empower owners, operators, and bartenders. Come March 2020 the Covid-19 lockdown began, venue doors closed, and the health and wellbeing of the trade community took on a whole new meaning.

As the trade industry was propelled into the digital sphere, The Social Exchange – Drams from Afar live streamed social media series was created by The Exchange in response to the newly imposed lockdown. “It started out as an educational piece, but really it was about staying connected and supporting each other through this time in the industry. It was and still is a really tough time. We were asking people to reach out – not only to your friends, but the industry that is so supportive and has such an amazing community spirit” says Cam Pirret, The Exchange NSW Brand Ambassador.

The Social Exchange was live each night at 6pm AEDT Tuesday – Saturday, with The Exchange Brand Ambassadors across Australia hosting their own episode weekly. Each episode averaged over 1,600 views and over 30 comments from the trade community. Across the span of 12 weeks, The Social Exchange live streams alone gathered a whopping 93,000 organic views, as well as 2,061 likes and 1,760 comments.

“It has been really great to see so many initiatives by so many companies keeping the industry together through education and fun. I think the social exchange was one of the initiatives which really kickstarted the whole business of streaming. It showed proof of concept and empowered people to do their own thing as well” said Sacha Norse, Whisky and Spirit Specialist at Beneath Driver’s Lane in Melbourne. “It was great getting Tom Scott on my stream at Beneath Driver Lane and he was kind enough to let us launch our bottled cocktails on his stream. Hospitality has always been able to make a bad situation into a good time and we have seen awesome initiatives which have helped people get through this with booze, food and a laugh.”

Throughout the episodes the Brand Ambassadors covered an immense number of cocktail tutorials, brand history and spirit lore – divulging the knowledge that is traditionally only available to Bartenders through masterclasses and trainings in venue.

Cara Devine, Manager at Bomba & host of Behind the Bar with Cara Devine

“While there is nothing better than sitting across the bar from someone you admire, I do think the industry has done a really great job of adapting to the new way of things. Bartenders tend to have such erratic schedules that having a bank of webinars, live streams etc that you can access whenever the mood for learning takes you is a really valuable asset” says Cara Devine, manager at Bomba and host of Behind the Bar with Cara Devine. “As much as I can’t wait to get back to real life tastings and socialising, I hope that we don’t lose this push towards online, international and inclusive educative content. It also means that bartenders who are not in the metropolitan hubs can still access all this information and up their game- it has been a real equaliser.”

The star-studded line up of movers and shakers in the industry that joined the live streams for interviews meant that viewers were really able to access real-time insights into how leaders are pivoting in this time of crisis.

Kurtis Bosley, owner of Corretto Dee Why

Kurtis Bosley, owner of Corretto Dee Why discussed how he was adapting by creating a new menu for take home drinks, and emphasised the importance of viewing the likes of Ubereats as a marketing vessel – and using it to your advantage rather than just viewing it as a place to sell your products. “Although it’s been pretty brutal everything going on, there has been some pretty positive take aways and that has been through platforms such as the social exchange allowing us to group together to better manage ourselves and our businesses. Hearing other’s stories brought a better understanding on how some of the most successful people around us got to where they were.”

“The Social Exchange for me encapsulated the resetting of the industry. The discussions had in a time that would be usually spent in the bar, allowed us to collectively discuss what we offered and how we approached our day to day” says Kurtis.

Michael Chiem, co-owner of PS40, Sydney

Michael Chiem of PS40 in Sydney discussed his experience launching their new bottled cocktail delivery range and emphasised the power of setting a deadline, an approach he took when posting the new menu online. “When you’ve got something you want to take on, just set a deadline and do it. The more pressure you put yourself under, the more you’ll find solutions. Nothing is ever going to be perfect.” Daniel Nobel from Old Mate’s Place in Sydney reiterated this sentiment, saying that during the venue creation process “you can’t have a set in stone idea, because you can’t force a venue to work with your theme. You have your ideas about how you want your venue to be, but you have to adapt and change as you get certain pitfalls and hurdles.” He also emphasised that “the venue itself is very much an amalgamation of who me, Dre (Andreas Walters) and Gabs (Gabriel Walters) are as people”, and that a “great bar should be an extension of yourself and what you believe in”.

Guest experience was a reoccurring topic throughout interviews, with owners really taking the time to step back and think about the consumer journey through a venue start to finish. “One thing every bar should think about is the hello and goodbye. The way you greet a guest, and the way you let them leave a venue are probably the two most important parts of an experience” says Sam Bygrave. Jono Carr, beverage manager for Liquid and Larder Hospitality Group discussed his focus on service, and how it is as much as part of the drink as everything else in it. “You really have to think about the way you put those drinks down. How you present them, how they arrive at the table. It’s as much a part of the drink as just making it.”

With the lifting of restrictions, the later episodes delved into the new normal we will see occurring across the industry. Thomas Brien from The Palace Arcade in Perth discussed what challenges we see both venues and consumers facing coming back into the post-iso world. “At the moment our biggest struggle is figuring out how we are going to manage patrons, keep everyone informed, make sure they are sanitising and keeping everyone safe, without also intruding too far into the experience.”

As venue doors reopen and the trade industry reignites with consumers seeking the in venue experience and delicious (non-DIY) beverages, The Social Exchange’s schedule will be changing to allow the industry to focus on what it does best – facilitating amazing social experiences in venue, with tantalising cocktails in hand.

Be sure to tune into the Drams from Afar live streams now live every Monday night at 6pm AEDT, and follow The Exchange’s social media to keep up to date with a host of fun and valuable content to be unveiled over the coming weeks.