Around seven month ago, I have send an Email to my head bartenders of Le Lion • Bar de Paris and the BOILERMAN BAR Eppendorfer Weg.
I have asked them to stop reorder any kind of liquor from DIAGEO. I asked them to do this discreetly. Un-list products like Tanquerray, Bulleit, Zacapa, lots of Malt Whiskys etc. But do not make it a big story. If guest ask for specific DIAGEO brands, just answer „Oh sorry, currently we ran out of stock – but how about this one ?“
Our Bartenders did this quite quick. Nearly perfect. For example – we just found out that also PICON is a DIAGEO product. We will keep it. Maybe for the „frenchiness“. But in general, I think you understand what this is all about: Taking out all high volume, major brands from a luxury global player.
DIAGEO has done nothing wrong. They have a great team here in Germany, Heiko, our Hamburg contact, for example, is an awesome guy.
But I wanted to prove myself a thesis:
„Brands need bartenders – but bartenders do not need brands“.
I was quoted on this sometimes. I gave this quote out first a few years ago. Around seven month ago an on-trade magazine picked this quote up again and I felt it was time for the next step.
When Monkey 47 Gin, a brand I respect very much and we sold 700+ bottles a year, sold a major share to Pernod Ricard, we took the Gin out of the shelves of Le Lion the next day.
And to be honest: Because of this great emotional story that this amazing Gin brand built up in germany, that was maybe the only time some consumer really complained because they missed „their (former craft) brand. I had the feeling they did not complain because we did not stock Monkey Gin anymore – some just kind of felt offended that we indirectly would critic their taste now (which we would never do / me at least not as long as you do not ask for an energy drink in an adult place – just saying)
Today I am struggling with Sipsmith. I love Jared and the boys. But now they are a hundred percent sold to Beam Suntory. So, time to take out Sipsmith and „give“ the money to the next small producer (may we keep this unique London Cup).
I am really struggling with former craft brands bought by Global Players. I am not judging. I love the people who built this brands and I do love the fact that they now have this entrepreneurial success. But: its is simply shit for me as a re-seller. The brand has lost a part of the story. The romantic part. The sympathetic part. Always.
I am also struggling with this small new producers having big „secret“ partners like Distill Ventures. Different stories – but they have kind of the same background.
Bars and Bartenders sell stories and experiences – not brands. And great products with authentic attributes like regional, organic, niche, small, personal and maybe craft – which are great story to sell if you ask me – just have become a suprisingly very bitter aftertaste if you have to finish with „yeah and its 20% owned by a global player and one day I guess they will take over…“.
So please: before I go on, I like to make sure: I do not want to give someone an advice. Please feel free to pour every brand you want and work with you ever brand you want to. I am not judging. As long as you can pay the bills and pay your staff very well – you may do it all right… Just my story – not yours.
So, we took out (nearly) all DIAGEO brands and I gave orders to the bartenders to give me feedback on how our customers will react on this. I was curious: Global Players like DIAGEO invest hundreds if millions of dollars in brand awareness.
It is the old battle between bar owners and liquid brands.
Does a liquid brand and a brand call becomes so strong – that you as an bar owner have the feeling that you need to stock it? If „yes“- the pricing will go up. Always. Same old story. And you as a owner / bartender become dependent. And to be honest: the biggest joy of running your own business is independence.
Dependence of all kinds are a bad situation. We as bar owners and bartenders always have to make sure, that our brand of the bar is stronger then a liquid brand call.
The highest value you have as a bar or bartender, especially if you look for a life long career in our business, is the trust of your guest. If you want to run you business or your career successful over years – the most important thing to build is your credibility.
Something that takes years. I am not talking about this foolish arrogant self proclaimed „mixologist“ who wants to „educate“ his guest and just act like a stupid child.
I talk about credibility and trust built over years because you always delivered real value for money, you always made the extra mile in quality and service.
If you have built this, you personal or business brand becomes so strong, that your guests just don’t care what you offer them – because they know you will never cheat them, would never serve them something bad or rip them off.
And I think it is very important for you to always keep this in mind. If you start to rely on someones brand instead of your own brand – you already lost the game.
So, honestly, I was very happy to see, that the feedback of „taking out one of the biggest players in our industry from our bars“was very relaxed.
Some people ask for this specific brands, a very few were kind of irritated, but I did not hear one single serious feedback that someone was truly disappointed.
Guests followed our alternative recommendations and had a great night. We live in great times: So many great brand to choose from – time to make our own stronger!
I am very happy about this – because it shows that we have build a strong brand and our guests trust us.
This is not about this classic David VS Goliath game. It is not about the „bad“ global player vs the small independent producer. So please: Do not contact me with this: „oh – may I offer you our craft handmade Gin – because I saw you are now kicking out all Global Players“.
No ! F••k you! Some of these so called small brands are just bullshit as well. If you cannot organize a professional bottling of your product and think „Hand-bottled“ on your ugly homemade label gives somehow a value to a far overpriced product you play in the same league like these US Rye Brand who doesn’t like to tell you that a 95% Rye Mash Bill is not the special brand fact – it is just the mash bill this factory distillery in Indiana where you buy it from, is using for all ryes they produce or this „world best“ rum who „upssy“ add quite a lot of sugar and still writes an „age“ number a kind of big and the „Systema Solera“ a kind of small on the label.
I am not on a mission small brands vs big brands. I, as an liquid entrepreneur, and hopefully my bartenders too, are on a mission „making our own brand stronger than anything else“.
And, If I can give you one final advice: You should do the same. Build your brand – do not build other peoples brands.
Find the fine line in what makes your guests happy. What makes them coming back. For years.
Believe me: Guests do not care about your pouring contracts. This is not an USP. This is short term money. For sure: Your bar NEED to be financial successful. But this will happen when you build a real USP and a great own brand reputation. I do not need a brands cash, a Brand Ambassadors to train my stuff or other benefits. We do it on our own way. With the highest possible quality standards.
Will we reorder this DIAGEO products again? I do not think so. They are replaceable – like many brand of global players. Will I list out more and more common big players? I guess so.
Will I try to make great deals with smaller brands which gives me and them a value and a USP for my guest? For sure!
Will I keep some Global Player? Yes. At least in my current concepts. When I have the feeling that they have a great story and a good value for money for my consumers.
Please: make sure that people come for stories and an experience in your bar. Not for bottles.
I would like to close with a text from HARRY JOHNSON from 1882 – from his book „New and Improved Bartenders Manual and Guide for Hotels and Restaurant“.
It is an amazing text, 135 years old. It is quite a couple of lines worth reading. Could not be more actual in this brand soaked times behind our bars today.
Keep up the good work and keep in mind: The only brand you should build, is your own!
Of late years it has become quite the fashion to sell over the different bars all the various brand of liquors or case goods. No one is to blame for this more than the proprietors of saloon-keepers, because every one of them in the desire to offer special inducements and to obtain trade, have pushed these goods on to the public notice, and by so doing have cut into their own flesh. By offering and introducing the different brands, whether they were called for or not, and without stopping to think whether it was advisable or profitable to do so or not, people in our business have injured themselves and the trade as well.
A very large number of distilleries have introduced case goods at the expense of the proprietors of saloons and restaurants. When a man buys whiskeys, for instance, at from $3.50 to $3.00 a gallon for 10-cent goods, he has the chance to make a very handsome profit.
But the majority of wholesale dealers now put up the same article in case goods and charge an enormous price for it
The average price of case goods is from $10 to $14 a case. With the dozen bottles in the case, at a cost of $12, the price would be $5 per gallon. That is, we must pay for the labels, the fancy bottles, and the immense amount of advertising in newspapers, by circulars, etc. Although people selling at retail, can very seldom get more than 25 cents for two, an average of 12,5 cents a drink, they are also
obliged to cater to those customers who never take a whiskey without a glass of ginger ale, soda, seltzer, or other mineral waters, which reduces your profit materially, as the side-drink is always a gift.
You can always figure that whenever you sell a case containing twelve bottles of whiskey, that there is always a case or more of some kind of a mineral water given away with the liquor. Consequently it puts the price of your whiskey at an advance of from 70 to 75 cents a gallon.
Another bad feature of the use of case goods is, that with people who drink, they are no longer satisfied with an average amount, but take a large-sized drink, in order to have it „stiff“ enough when mixed with the mineral water. It is also a mistake in showing and placing the case goods on the back-bar, where every one can see them, and is naturally, at any time, a temptation for the consumer to call for them. I should advice any one, who is compelled tho handle case goods, not to expose them to public view, but keep them in a closet where they are hidden from sight, but, if called for, of course, they must be produced.
The way our business is conducted, at present, it is understood that places can not be run without having more or less case goods; therefore, I recommend every first-class establishment to keep leading brands of whiskey to suit all the varied tastes of your customers, if it is necessary to do so. I am sorry to state, that many people are not acting honorably with the public, and do not always give the goods that are asked for by the customers. Some get a few brands of different case goods simply for the purpose of obtaining the original bottles, and, when these bottles are first emptied, later fill them with any ordinary liquor, dealing it out under the label of original goods. This is a very cheap form of swindle, and can not be too throughly denounced. Even if you are not able to make a fair profit, at least give the customer what he supposed is going to be handed out to him.
Where case goods are kept in closet, the bottles in a front row, each brand should be four or five bottles deep, so that when the first bottle is emptied, the second of that special brand can be pulled forth by the bartender, the cap cut and the cork drawn, in sight of the customer, proving to him that he is getting the genuine goods, and that you, at least, are not engaged in defranding the public.
It is also wise for every proprietor to teach his bartenders, that they should not recommend case goods, but the staple article you have in bulk goods, with the understanding that you sell as good a whiskey as possible. All this depends upon the style of your establishment. The wholesale price of the best bulk goods is from 3,25 $ to 4,00 $ and 5,00 $ a gallon. Eben by paying the extreme high price of 4,00 $ you can readily see how beneficial it is to recommend your bulk goods, as they will then cost you about 2,00 $ less a gallon than the case goods. In a medium-sized business, where they only sell ten gallons a day. it amounts to 20,00 $ difference, or about 7000 $ per annum. The entire remedy lies in the power of the proprietor, and it is with him whether to push and sell case goods, or to place before the public the merits of bulk goods. The former are not all superior to the latter. While the last-named improves daily within the confines of the barrel, there is no improvement of the case good within the limits of the bottle. It is the fancy label and the winning exterior appearance of the bottle that has made the public think, they are getting a superior article, but, in nie cases out of ten, it is not so. Therefore, I advise any man not to push the case goods more than possible, for he is only infusing his own business by doing so. I do not wish it to be understood that a proprietor should decline, at any time, to recommend case goods, but he should not disparage them, simply from a feeling of economy. All this particularly refers to imported goods, such as Scotch and Irish whiskey, in which the profits are so small and reduced, that if any one should sell only that class of goods, he would exist in business but a week. Some of the distilleries put up their older whiskeys in case goods, nut generally, they sell the same article both in case and in bulk goods.
He you find the whole scan from this book: [https://de.scribd.com/doc/19428863/BARTENDERS-MANUAL-By-Harry-Johnson]