A dedicated platform to recognize, rank and award bars, bartenders and professionals, 30 Best Bars India celebrates the emerging spirits scene in India. Vikram Achanta co-founded it in 2019 and the same year, he managed to pull off the brand’s first awards edition to recognise the best bars across India.
Now, in its second year, 30 Best Bars India, along with the whole spirits fraternity, is facing the heat of the global pandemic. But, Achanta has taken it in stride and introduced a crowdfunding initiative Bar Fuel to raise Rs1 crore to help and pay the salaries of the employees of the bars that are registered with Bar Fuel.
How is the spirits industry holding up in the pandemic? Right now, the status of the bars and pubs is fairly bleak. If and when they reopen, they will have to incur fixed and variable costs, which might make the businesses a little unpredictable in terms of what kind of recovery they may possibly expect during that time. Not to forget that the staff members of a lot of bars have also gone back.
What is Bar Fuel? Bar Fuel is an initiative launched by 30 Best Bars India to help Indian bars, specifically, the working staff there. We are attempting to support the livelihood of nearly 2000 staff members. Funding is sought from, both, guests of these bars and from institutional sources like beverage companies and other stakeholders. We have 50 bars on board from across the country along with the Indian Flair Bartender Association.
Bars that need assistance are requested to register on www.30bbbarfuel.in. The details of each bar are then made available to public and corporate donors on the website. Donors are free to support one or multiple bars. This is a public service initiative and 30 Best Bars India does not retain any commission.
What strategies can bars adopt to sustain in these difficult times? Some bars that we know of, such as Sidecar and C&D Speakeasy in NCR, and Bombay Canteen and O Pedro in Mumbai, have introduced their own shrubs and cordials, which act as easy mixers for cocktails. I expect to see more bars launching and selling such products. I also expect to see several bars start at-home drinking experiences.
How will the bar experience change for customers Conversations with customers and that personal connection is going to be much harder now, as direct physical contact is expected to be limited. The managers and staff members will need to think of new, non-verbal ways to serve their drinks and enhance the drinking experience. Thinking out of the bottle will be the way to go!
As the lockdown is gradually easing up across India, what challenges will the spirits industry face once bars open? How could it be tackled? Spirits industry will be grappling with supply chain challenges. Local companies will have to deal with supplies of raw and packaging materials and the transportation of finished goods. The imported spirits companies will struggle with keeping their supply chain active in the wake of curbs on transport as well as custom clearances of non-essential goods.
Costs are also likely to increase, putting more pressure on bars’ revenue margins. At the retail end, there might be an increase in duties by the government, which will make it difficult for the brands to raise their prices.
How will drinking habits change? I definitely see a big shift to home consumption and consumers wanting to recreate similar bar drinking experiences at their personal abode. The quality of glassware, cocktails and suchlike services will change as well.
Are you planning your awards event this year?? We are waiting to take a final call on when to start the awards process, as it also depends on when the bars will open for business.
What is the future of luxury spirits and bar industry in India post-Covid? Luxury wines and spirits are relatively demanding, inelastic and will rebound strongly post the lockdown, especially as the Indian liquor retail sector emerges in a pole position as compared to the hospitality industry. However, the one impediment towards its sustained growth would be restrictions on international travel and therefore, on duty-free shops, which are traditionally major channels. It’s not clear yet as to what percentage of bars and pubs may close down. At the bars, there will be far more emphasis on hygiene and social distancing. Gone are the days of cosy conversation at the bar!
Which projects are you working on next? We are working with several of our beverage clients including Gruppo Campari, Beam Suntory and United Breweries to deliver online training sessions to their key accounts in the bar and pub sector. Two weeks ago, we also launched the first-ever online WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) Level 1 course, which we taught to a full batch of 17 people over a span of two days. Our second course will be held towards the end of the month.
We will also kickstart online cocktail workshop Greater Than Gin for consumers via Zoom. Retailing bar accessory is on the anvil as well.