Glenfiddich asks ‘Where next for our industry?’ by Ross Blainey

From left: leaders of our industry, Millie Tang, Sven Almenning, Jess Arnott, Tash Conte and Ross Blainey

Story by Ross Blainey, Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador @thewhiskyspecialist

Photography by Damien Bennet

As I began writing this, I realised that almost one year ago to the day, I sat at this same table on the same laptop with the same whisky glass and wrote an article for this same great magazine. It was partly about me learning of the power of being vulnerable and the realisation of how that can be a great help to yourself and to others.

This time, I’m taking that same theme forward and looking to what we can do now to keep pushing onwards, and unite together as one big hospo family. With the big question to ask: “Where Next?” for our industry.

The “Where Next?” campaign is being spearheaded by Glenfiddich and will take a deep dive into what the industry – and all of the brilliant characters in it – has endured over the past 12 months. We’ll be looking at the far-reaching impacts recent events have had on livelihoods and wellbeing of everyone working – and putting their heart and soul – into the industry, taking a step back to consider what it all means – and importantly, where next from here.

While some effects have been visible and documented, others have – and remain – under the surface. And we want to start a conversation that brings everything into the open and provides a platform to champion the great things, people and places we know and love in our industry and highlight the exciting future that lies ahead.

We want to look at growth – looking at what we have and what we don’t have and building on that. Let’s take all of the “trending” topics that we face in the industry like health and wellness, equality, career longevity, personal growth, government legislation and the many others and let’s study them properly. Let’s find out what we can do to help and then create real actions to make steps in the right direction as an industry.

Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador, Ross Blainey

So we’re setting out to develop an in-depth industry-wide study to gather all the information we need to look at making meaningful change in how we work, live and push forward in our industry. And the outcome will be to have an action plan that any bar from a small and independent to a large group operator, can utilise, to better their staff, their business and their future.

Throughout this process I will update you in Bartender Magazine with where things are headed and I’d ask that if you want to help, please reach out. All thoughts, ideas and support from every aspect of hospitality, are welcomed.

I’ll be honest, it can be scary embarking on a new project with uncertainty and not knowing what you may encounter. But I have a few things that see that feeling off, inspired by the maverick spirit we think and talk about with Glenfiddich – with or without a whisky in hand.

The first is that I know it wouldn’t be as worthwhile if it didn’t seem a bit scary. We know where strength can come from. The second is that I know as an industry we are good at working and sticking together and we all want progress. And last but not least, we have these incredibly talented people on the cover to guide, lead and push us in the right direction with everyone in our industry in mind and being a voice for everyone in Australia’s hospitality family.

In the mean time, some food for thought as we embark on this journey, inspired by the intrepid mascot of the Glenfiddich brand logo: the stag. Every year, a stag loses its antlers and then grows them back with an extra point on them. As part of this process, the stag becomes vulnerable, exposed and alone – only to grow back stronger than before. This really made me think and I hope it’ll make you think too. We’ve all been there in some way. This small yet powerful thought made me realise that we are in exactly the right place as an industry to do the same.

We’ve had the vulnerable and exposed. Now let’s use what we have to grow back stronger. It’s our time to make a change for good.

We asked these leaders and mavericks, where next? And here’s what they had to say:

Sven Almenning, Director of Speakeasy Group & Ananas:

“I have high hopes for the future of hospitality and believe the more we collaborate and work together the more we will achieve and the better off the industry and the people who work in it will be as a whole.”

Jess Arnott, writer, TV personality and drinks guru at Foxtrot Unicorn, Perth:

“We need to figure out how to keep our industry fun, while keeping people in our industry for the long haul.”

Millie Tang, businesswoman (@meohomyjournal), photographer and drink maker at The Gresham, Brisbane:

“I hope to see how we can help more people pursue a career in hospitality by lookin at the before during and after of careers for longevity.”

Tash Conte, owner of multi-award winning Melbourne icon bar, Black Pearl:

“I’m hoping we can pin down some of the long term issues and genuinely work out a plan to fix them for a big part of the industry and not just a few.”

If you want to find out more about this initiative, reach out to your William Grant & Sons rep.