The hospitality trade is breathing a sigh of relief: finally, they are able to reopen their establishments, and patrons are happily returning to restaurants and cafés – in some regions they are even allowed indoors. For bars, however, restarting operations is a bit more challenging. Summer has never been the best season for bars here in Germany, and many do not have any outdoor seating. What can bars do to benefit from the reopening in spite of this? 5 tips from Jan-Peter Wulf.
1. Implement open-air concepts
One thing has always been true in summertime, and it will be truer than ever in 2021: people want to sit outside. This trend towards ‘Mediterraneanisation’, which is what sociologists call the tendency to transfer life outdoors like in southern Europe, has been around for many years now – one need only think of beach clubs. Now, following many long months of lockdown and the urge for fresh air, it has reached a whole new level. This means that open-air concepts are called for until this autumn at the very least. For example, this might involve expanding outdoor areas: in 2021, many towns and cities have been very generous in issuing the necessary permits, and they have been doing so quickly too. Another option: opening a pop-up bar in a different location (excellent example: the ‘Cocktailgarten’ that was set up by the ‘Das Schwarze Schaf’ bar in Bamberg).
Perhaps it would also be possible to collaborate with a beer garden in the city? Opening a stand on a beer garden’s premises allows the beer garden to expand its range, because not everyone wants to drink beer – it is a win-win situation. And in spite of all the negative impacts of the pandemic, greater solidarity in the hospitality trade is certainly a positive result of the situation.
2. Open earlier
With the restrictions on opening hours that remain in force in many regions, the entire hospitality trade has temporarily been brought forward to earlier in the day. Even fine dining restaurants now offer breakfast and brunch specials. Why should bars remain constrained by their conventional 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. opening times?
There have long been efforts to establish an aperitif culture here in Germany. Perhaps the aperitivo’s time has finally arrived: with special drinks for the early hour – 3:00 p.m. is entirely reasonable – and a complementary culinary selection (more on this below), bars can grab a slice of the business that has largely shifted to the daytime. Day-drinking is not a crime – particularly in 2021! And when it starts to slowly grow darker later on, that is when classic bar culture comes into its own – assuming indoor service is allowed.
3. Serve summery drinks for the afternoon and evening ...
This summer will be defined by an overwhelming desire for fresh air and relaxation – as well as for safety. This safety does not come solely from a professional hygiene concept, something that every good bar offers as a matter of course. It also comes, at a more subtle level, from ‘safe’ drinks. Drinks that do not pose the danger of losing control, and which offer that oft-cited ‘mindful satisfaction’. These include low-ABV cocktails, aperitif drinks, light long drinks, as well as other creations without any alcohol whatsoever with ‘non-alcoholic spirits’ that are prepared using special techniques to conjure up flavours that go beyond sweetness.
Adding a menu of summery light drinks is not a bad idea either. For example: if a bar is famous for its classic short drinks with a kick, a bar might do well to recreate these as lighter highball versions. Time to stock up on soda water.
4. ... and accompanied by a small selection of fine foods
The situation is relatively clear: if the hospitality trade is going to be primarily a daytime affair during summer 2021, with closing hours restricted, and the ability to frequently move between establishments is inhibited by hygiene regulations (reservations, registrations and such), bars will have a few obstacles to overcome. The reason: customers will also want something to eat. What can be done about this? That's right: bar food! There is no need to create an extensive menu – it is better to offer two or three simple, good dishes, that also go well with the drink concept. That is what the pintxo bars in northern Spain have always done.
And if there's no kitchen available? During the summer, cold (pre-prepared) dishes are also welcome. It is also possible that the restaurant next door might be interested in serving their dishes outside their own establishment to generate additional sales. Perhaps the best pizzeria in town could deliver an exclusive creation to the bar within 30 minutes of ordering the first drink – guaranteed. What about collaborating with a local street food seller and having them set up their stand on site or pre-preparing foods and giving them the finishing touch on a contact grill? Food is the key – and that is why creativity is essential here.
5. Think bigger: to-go service has arrived, and it's not going anywhere
Now that bottled cocktails and other such creations have made their appearance, the principle is clear: while cocktails may be consumed in a bar (and they will always taste best there), they do not have to be. Offering drinks to go continues to be a good way for bars to generate additional business. The same applies to deliveries. Major delivery services have now added drinks to their range of services: in addition to Indian food and pizza, now it is also possible to have a Vieux Carré, a Boulevardier or a creation of choice delivered straight to customers at home. Or maybe even somewhere else – perhaps a group of people would like to enjoy some good drinks in a park or alongside a local lake. Perhaps a bar could deliver to these customers directly there and forgo the need to pay commission to the delivery service.
Another option: preparing drinks in advance – with only ice needing to be added – that can be served on the terrace by the staff of a restaurant without its own bar, with proceeds divided fairly. Might cocktails in bottles offer a welcome supplement to a local wine dealer’s product range? Or a delicatessen? Souvenir shop? This also makes it possible for bars that decide to reopen in autumn to generate business and keep people talking about them.
All the best to the restart!