Service industry survival guide

We are all frightened.

We’re in uncharted territory right now, and the world feels like it’s truly collapsing under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hard not to feel like the bar and restaurant industry will be completely gutted, and perhaps it already is. It’s estimated that the Louisville tourism industry has already suffered a $57.6 million blow from COVID-19 cancellations. And just Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear required the closure of all restaurants and bars, except for delivery and takeout orders. I’m not here to parade terrifying facts along your screen as you scroll or to further twist that already existing pit in the depths of your stomach as you flip the pages of the LEO — I’m well aware you’ve got the daily news cycle and social media feeds to do that for you in real-time. I’m here to remind each and every one of my service industry fam: We are tough. It’s going to get worse, I think, but we will endure. I’m writing this to you because I believe in us, and because I’ve got to say it to myself in the mirror, as well. So, how can we keep our heads above water, remotely? Here’s a few ideas, and perhaps some light in the darkness.

My first thought amidst all the chaos is to look to the parts of the world that have already experienced, or are still in the middle of, mandatory quarantine and business closures. How are they handling it? What are their community members doing right and how can we learn from them?

Some folks may not know that the cocktail scene in China is second to none. Some of the world’s best craft concepts, recipes and bartenders originated, or currently work in Shanghai, Hong Kong and other places in that part of the world. I’ve followed Chris Lowder on Instagram for a while, the China resident and cocktail powerhouse who is known for publishing his “Classic Recipe Training Manual” for free in 2016, much to the glee of bartenders across the world. His accounts of being quarantined in China and how the bar and restaurant industry is dealing with it has been invaluable. Those posts make up the majority of the screenshots in my phone. Many programs have taken to delivering their famous cocktails directly to the doors of the thirsty masses, in glass bottles, vacuum-sealed containers and even DIY kits. Sure, there will be red tape to be able to execute such delivery here in the states, but it’s time to get creative. If we cannot open our doors to the public to execute our programs, can we bring our delectable creations to them in the comfort and safety of their homes?

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As industry professionals, it’s time to think about our own value and how we can offer our skill sets remotely. Many industries can seamlessly transition their employees to work completely remotely. In fact, some are used to it. However, when these insurance providers and tech workers and lawyers and marketing managers (etc. etc.) need team-building exercises or breaks from monotony, let’s jump in. Are you an amazing cocktail creator? Have you built a bar from the ground up? Are you great at training folks on the classics? Why not set up a home bar and shoot tutorials on your phone with video apps on the things that you’re good at, and then market them to businesses? “How to Make 5 Classic Cocktails with Chris” or “How to Wow Your Guests With Bourbon Tastings,” tutorials that walk your average human through how to do these things. Ask for Venmo payments, and you can even shoot a live, virtual team-building exercise on cocktail classes. Pitch your amazing recipes to be published in large beverage magazines and cocktail books! You may not think you have skills that can transition to remote work, but, trust me, you do!

It is so important to support each other right now, and I well up with pride to see it firsthand in the Louisville food and beverage community already. While most of us don’t have disposable income and are now looking to other options for keeping the lights on, an idea brought forth by The Limbo tiki bar owner Olivia Griffin is to barter services and make life a tad bit easier on one another. “While I don’t have extra cash, here are some resources I can offer,” said Griffin in a recent Facebook post. She listed childcare and food preparation and asked others to add what they can share. Folks commented that they can help with running errands, dog walks, yoga, guitar playing and more.

I think, the easiest way to find light in the darkness is to see the good in one another.

We’re uber cautious about spreading germs right now, but we can continue to spread love and kindness from afar, and see the value in one another even when we can’t see them face to face. I truly believe we will find the light.

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