• 11.-13. October 2021
  • Exhibition Centre Berlin

15 April 2020, by Andrew Wilkin

How Bartenders and Bar Owners Lead Healthier and Happier Lives

Staying healthy and happy is more crucial than ever during COVID-19. Tim Etherington-Judge is tackling these issues for the hospitality industry with his Healthy Hospo initiative.

Healthy Hospo helps educate, inspire, and activate hospitality professionals around the world to live healthier, happier lives.

From focusing on helping bartenders and bar owners deal with the excesses of our industry, to now helping them deal with the complete lack of stimulation, Healthy Hospo has had to change its strategy. But the overall focus is the same: fostering health and wellness in our community. Here’s what we found out when we spoke with Tim, finding out about the history of the initiative, how he’s coping and what different initiatives there are for bartenders and bar owners right now.


BCB: How did Healthy Hospo get started?


Tim Etherington-Judge: It actually started from a very personal experience. I was the global brand ambassador for Bulleit Bourbon and had one of those dream jobs – travelling the world and teaching people how to drink, while drinking in the world’s best bars and restaurants. 


However, I was struggling with general health issues – something exacerbated by the demands of the job, including endless travel, lack of nutrition and sleep. Then in November 2016, at the Athens Bar Show, after doing my talk on bourbon, I went to my hotel room and tried to commit suicide. I survived and got through that – and started to talk publicly about my struggles with mental health. What was crazy was that after I started posting on social media about my experiences, hundreds of people wrote to me privately to tell me theirs - including lots of overdrinking and physical health problems. I realized that maybe there was a huge problem that nobody is talking about. But maybe I’m the right person to bring it to light. 


How did it go on from there?

Tim: After seven months of recovery, I knew what I wanted to do in the industry. In January 2018, we hosted our first ever Healthy Hospo event, with talks on sleep, nutrition, yoga and pilates classes - and all sorts of other fun stuff.


What do you guys do?

Tim: We mainly focus on training and education around health and wellness and run workshops and seminars around the five core pillars of health: Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise, Social Connection and Mental Health.


We also host trainings for businesses and operators, analyzing the business impacts of health and wellness. We explain why it makes good sense for operators to look into this. Then we produce written content online, too.


So yes, COVID-19. What are your recommendations for bartenders during this time, now dealing with unemployment and lack of work, in comparison to the over-stimulation of before?

Tim: Turn off the TV! Turn off the news! It can create what’s called ‘headline anxiety disorder’ so that’s the first thing to avoid.

Humans don’t like uncertainty, something which is rife right now. We aren’t trying to trivialize this – far from it – but try to shift perspective and reframe this an opportunity. Think of what you can do with this time. Make a list of three things you want to do a day, which can be super basic from cooking a healthy meal, to reading and doing some exercise. We have a need to feel purposeful, so creating a rough daily schedule and keeping busy can work. I even have one on the wall! 

A few other tips: Stay off social media, if possible. Stay on your phone and messenger apps, though. Reach out to your friends – maybe three to five people every day? The amazing thing right now is we are connecting with people we don’t usually connect with. 


Are there any online initiatives you would recommend for bartenders?

Tim: There are lots of online talks and webinars. Actually, we are launching one imminently – so stay tuned. They’ll be daily talks with experts on a variety of things to keep people up-to-date and educated. 


Do you know about Hospo Live? It’s a Facebook video channel set up by some guys in Scotland, one focused on connecting and upskilling the hospitality industry during COVID-19. If you’re up for some fun, every day at 7pm (UK time) we’re also doing “Music to Make You Happy” over on our Facebook page. After all, music is such a powerful tool to lift the mood and create an instant good feeling. It’s not about education or self-improvement – but just about listening to great music. 


What about financial aid?

Tim: It depends on the country, as different countries have different programs. In the UK, we have Hospitality Action and The Drinks Trust both offering financial support for bars and bartenders, while in the US you have the US Bartenders Guild, who are making lots of emergency grants. Then, there are lots of the big drinks brands are supporting. But the only people who can make a substantial impact in giving financial support are the governments. 


Actually, here’s one more: Speciality Drinks, one of UK’s biggest distributors, and Edrington-Beam Suntory UK have made a wellbeing care package. You can sign up and you get a food parcel with lots of healthy stuff delivered to you.


For 2020 and beyond, what will be the impact on the food and beverage industry?

Tim: Well, we’re all just making educated guesses here but the booze biz is more insured against this. People won’t stop drinking, they’ve just shifted their purchasing habits. But after this, when we go back to new normal, there will be a fundamental change in consumer habits.

I think that bars will be busier before restaurants, as people wanna drink. But the overall trend will be less people in on-trade drinking and less bars and restaurants will return. The ones that will survive? The ones with great culture! In addition, there’ll be more house parties and drinks at home with close friends.


What do you wish for the future?

Tim: What I would like to see is the food and beverage industry take a long, hard look at how it does business. This way of doing business, with forcing prices down to the lowest possible price – I’d like to see that change. It would be great to see healthier margins, where people are paid healthy wages and people are charged what food and drink should cost. 

The biggest problem I heard about from bar owners and operators was recruiting and retaining staff. There were so many bars and restaurants and just not enough staff. Do you know the average worker stays in a role less than a year? There’s a 130% - or more! - turnover rate in some establishments. This hopefully will change when the crisis is over.


The conversation was held in April 2020 and has lost none of its relevance.