The evolution of the 2020 ambassador: Garth Foster, Belvedere Vodka

Never did we imagine a time when brand ambassadors would be grounded and kept out of the bars they frequent. When coronavirus set the bar industry (and the world) on fire, brand ambassadors, like their bar industry brethren, had to come up with new ways to stay relevant. We all want to be here on the flipside of this, so how does that look? In our September issue, we asked nine of our industry’s brand ambassadors to talk about how their lives have changed since coronavirus.

In this, our fifth interview of the series we hear from Garth Foster from Belvedere Vodka.

This year has thrown a massive curve ball at everyone in our industry, and the world; how have brand ambassadors maintained their relevance?
For me it went from being brand focussed to much more personal. There were some pretty dark times for many of us so obviously a chat about vodka often wasn’t relevant – it was more about personal support and how I could help the business or bartender. At Moet Hennessy we’ve had to be adaptable with some temporary role changes and shifting priorities across the whole company, but we are trying to stay positive and focused on helping create a better future. Ultimately we’ve tried to keep relevant with some great projects that give back to the industry, like Hennessy for Hospo.

In your role specifically, what do you miss the most about life before COVID?
I miss the air of confidence and optimism that everybody had around them. It feels like so long ago that you didn’t have to remind yourself whether it was even appropriate to shake somebody’s hand, offer them a seat at your table or buy the a drink. We are in the business of going out and having a good time, and I miss the spontaneity and culture that our hospitality industry thrives on.

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It has been said that this pandemic will change the hospitality industry forever. Do you agree with this or not? Explain.
It already has, its surprising how short a time it takes to change behaviour. There are some good things – like a renewed focus on hygiene which is great. Hopefully the biggest positive is growing respect for the hours, effort and talent that Australians get from staff when they walk into a venue, a realisation of the true value that these things cost – and the fact that its most definitely worth the experience. Yes, hospitality has fundamentally changed, but the fundamentals of hospitality remain unchanged.

What are your hopes for 2021?
I hope that we can take some positives out of this time. Rather than having just waited for it to be over I hope that we can grow to appreciate what we often took for granted, whether it’s the country we live in, our health or simply being able to catch up in a bar with good friends. I’m hoping that we can also be more mindful of what others are going through around us on both sides of the bar. Lets all be the people that bake banana-bread for our neighbours and not the ones that push them out of the way in the toilet paper aisle of the grocery store.

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