TNT, a dynamite approach
Hi there! We are Timo Janse and Tess Posthumus. Among a few other things we co-own Perfect Serve Barshow Amsterdam, Amsterdam Cocktail Week, and bars Flying Dutchmen Cocktails and (the soon to open) Dutch Courage. Apart from that we have our solo-projects, including consulting jobs, a line of cocktail cherries, bar tools and cocktail books.
As you can gather, virtually all of our businesses were deeply impacted by the current crisis.
We pretty much went through all stages of grief, where in particular anger - why is this happening now! - and disbelief - it'll just blow over - were some of the more deeply felt. We've come to realise that we are in fact very fortunate.
Fortunate, first and foremost because we are all healthy and alive; both of our teams, ourselves and our families. Fortunate, because we have the reserves to sit this thing out for quite some time, without having to fire anyone, or even pay them less hours.
Fortunate, because we are in a country that not only supports us to a certain degree, but also is not in complete lockdown as of yet, so at least for the time being we can go out for groceries or take a walk at 1,5 meters distance of one another.
When talking to some of the many bar owners and bartenders around the globe, we realise all of this is a real fortune indeed.
On the same eve of the Amsterdam Cocktail Weeks launch party, we were told by the government that all bars were to close immediately. This was a huge blow for us, as we had worked very hard for the last 6 months to bring 40 wonderful bars in Amsterdam together and prepare for a week of sharing our common passion with the city in celebration.
Instead we watched much of our budget go to waste, only to hopefully have to reorganise the event at a later date. We were lucky that we were both on the same page on how to go about this situation. That is, to seek out all possibilities to keep producing and connecting and move and adjust as quickly as possible as the situation evolves. As a joke we are sometimes called TNT, for Timo 'n Tess, and explosive is exactly how we went about once the hospitality industry was closed by the Dutch government.
With everyone having and voicing all these opinions at all times (we are now a country of 17 million virologists), this sometimes makes us feel as if we are trying to wade through quicksand. We will do anything in our power to take care of our team, try to grow and even maybe thrive in this quicksand situation. We want to support the people we work with and the industry we love so much. Sometimes this means turning off social media altogether, and to only listen to government regulations and form your own best judgment about what is right for you and your circumstances at that given moment. We will all face the voices in our own head about our actions at any time, and ultimately, we are doing what we believe is possible within the safe boundaries.
Last week we received the keys to our new bar, Dutch Courage. Again, most people are telling us we are mad for even trying to open a bar at this time, and that we should cut our losses and abandon this project while we can. However, we believe that however trying the times, this too shall pass, and at the end of the line will be the moment worth working for, where we will all reunite in a big 'cheers'. How that 'cheers' moment will look like, we might need to adapt compared to what we're used to, but we're sure there will be a 'cheers' moment at the end of this.
Some of the key pointers we picked up along the way:
1) Gift cards are great. Delivering cocktails is great, doing online workshops is great. But be aware it will require much of your time and effort, with mixed results. None of it will be your one golden ticket. There is no golden ticket. You will be extremely busy, while others are bored out of their skull. Accept that.
2) The main goal is not to make money but to not let your name be forgotten. See it as a tool to keep spirits in your team high and create positive thought about your bar in the community. Whether your patrons come back to you when this is over depends on how you engage with them now and the time in between. Be sure to talk online to them whenever you can and keep building your fan base.
3) Now is the time for giving. Do not accept the role of the victim. We are all the victim, and your guests sometimes more so than you. Wherever possible try to show kindness and humanity. We are in a luxury industry providing a luxury service, therefore we are likely to be the first to go when things get tough. Give them a reason not to go.
4) Your supply chain was never this valuable. All of your suppliers share your fears. You will be amazed to find how much they can help in these times with support, ideas, and all sorts of possibilities if you were good to them in the past. Here is where that pays off.
5) Protect your staff at all cost. Nourish them, support them, and see how they flourish. With hardly any 'face time' try to talk as much as possible online. Schedule weekly conference call sessions together with the team. And be understanding if things take longer, or that some people adjust more quickly than others.
6) Contrary to what many people believe, peoples' first instinct in a crisis is not to flee. It is to stand still and do nothing. Stagnancy is poisonous and leads to rot. Keep moving, even if the only place to move in is in place. If staff is in quarantine, NOW is a good time to load up on activities to build knowledge, content and refinement of skills.
7) Take care of yourself. You are no good to anyone if you are burnt out or sick. Do what you must to ensure your own (mental) safety. This can be taking some time off each day to work out, sing, dance, cook, puzzle, watch Tiger King, do some embroidery like Timo or play with lego like Tess.
If there is anything you want to ask, drop us a line! We will be happy to help wherever we can.
Photograph by Sophia van den Hoek
If you are a bar owner and would like to contribute to Bar Entrepreneur Frontline please email me at Simon@DiffordsGuide.com. Thanks to support from Havana Club all published contributions will be paid for, with a matching amount donated to The Drinks Trust charity (formerly The Benevolent), or a local hospitality charity of your choice.