Andrew Ho and Bastien Ciocca

Words by Sammy Hemmings and Andrew Ho and Bastien Ciocca

Photography by Havana Club

"At Hope & Sesame we have done over 100 guest shifts across China, Asia, Australia and Europe, trying to put Guangzhou on the world's cocktail map," says Hope & Sesame bar owners Andrew Ho and Bastien Ciocca.

And the duo have gone from strength to strength. "To this date we have opened four venues across Guangzhou and Shenzhen, expanding our reach cautiously but steadily," they say. "We set our sights on trying to bring the not-so-talked-about South China region into the international F&B spotlight, highlighting the amazing venues and F&B culture we have in the region."

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As for most bar entrepreneurs across the globe, the pandemic hit them hard. "China being the first country to be hit, we acted swiftly in order to preserve our business and to come out stronger," they say. "We had no benchmark or best practices to reference from, therefore we had to be diligent and creative."

Despite there being no precedent, Andrew and Bastien believed their strategy was fundamental in order for their business to survive. "The amount of revenue generated and cost saving strategies implemented allowed us to keep all of our staff on full pay during the entire lockdown period," they explain. "Being in Guangzhou, a city that has little or no bar reputation, and little international visitors, we had to overcome this and try to put Guangzhou on the map."

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Keen to share their knowledge, the pair believe inclusivity is key for a better industry. "We also believe we have to be collectively a good industry in order to gain more international exposure, that's why we conduct weekly trainings (at our bar and live streaming reaching 1k-2k audiences) for our staff and industry peers," they say.

Andrew and Bastien consider it crucial to support local producers. "We purchase most of our cocktail ingredients from farmers directly, allowing them to gain the maximum profits," they say. "Especially during Covid, a lot of the farmers have a lot of crops not being sold and are taking losses everyday."

The duo also focus on sustainable developments in their bar, from growing herbs in their garden and using food waste as fertiliser, to raising funds from cocktail sales which are donated to Wilber Foundation, a local charity for underprivileged children.

Bartenders, visionaries and as dedicated entrepreneurs Andrew and Bastien intend to lead by example. "Our staff is one of our main drives as well, being responsible for 30-40 staff and their families is not a task we take lightly, therefore we have to do everything we can do drive profit and to achieve this is to keep being the leader in the industry, setting standards," they say. "We also have a priority to promote from within, allowing our staff to have more opportunities to grown within our company."

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