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ON-TRADE bar.07: Drink it all in

The hotly-awaited Bar 07 promises an enjoyable, action-packed two days of exciting new products, seminars by leading industry players and a vibrant, buzzy atmosphere. Ben Grant reports

The upmarket on-trade is gearing up for Bar.07, which takes place at Earls Court on June 5-6. Already firmly established as an unmissable event in the calendar of the domestic drinks industry, this year’s event will cement the UK as a pivotal centre of the international bar scene, attracting a growing pool of delegates from around the globe. And with more than 10,000 visitors expected to descend on London, the organising committee has unveiled a number of new innovations that are set to make the event even more engaging and relevant.

Speaking to both exhibitors and visitors from previous years, the one word that crops up time and time again is “exciting”. Bar.07 promises to be a slick, high-energy gathering, neatly reflecting the industry it serves. As Paragon Vintners marketing manager Charles Marshall explains, “It’s a thriving, vibrant, fun and engaging atmosphere – a great place to meet customers and do excellent business.

The bar business is very convivial, so face-to-face contact is very important. The show is a great environment to engage with our existing customers and meet new contacts.” He explains that at last year’s event the company – which uses the show to drive awareness of the Angostura brand – held over a thousand meetings that required follow up.

But seriously
With such an enormous selection of superb spirits available, in previous years the bar show has, unfortunately, seen small numbers of delegates ending the day rather the worse for wear. The organising team is acutely aware of the issue, and has been working hard to ensure that responsible behaviour pervades during this year’s event. “We’ve been in contact with The Drinkaware Trust during the last year, working out a strategy to cut back on the excessive drinking,” says show organiser Suzie Ager.

While the need to sample product combined with the convivial nature of the trade means that a moderate intake of alcohol is inevitable, excessive consumption is totally unacceptable, and the organisers will be clamping down. “We’re trying to get all the exhibitors involved, we want to ensure that they support us on this issue as they’re the ones serving the samples.” With the threat of restrictive legislation round the corner if the industry shows itself to be unable to regulate itself effectively now, more than ever, the trade needs to show that it can be relied upon to behave in an appropriate manner.

It’s a theme that also chimes with Beam Global UK. The fledgling organisation used last year’s event to “put the company on the map”, and marketing director Drew Munro believes the show is an essential – not to mention enjoyable – ficture inf the industry calendar. “We believe that this is best show in the UK for the bar marketplace,” he states unequivocally. “It’s a great opportunity for us to get some key brand messages across in a vibrant and interactive way.” In particular Munro points out that the show affords an opportunity to do great business, but in a fantastic environment. “It’s a lively show with a great vibe and a buzzy atmosphere. There’s such a great mix of exhibitors at the bar show, as well as informative and lively seminars going on across the two days with some of the leading lights in the industry.”

For Cellar Trends, the objective of attendance is to showcase what’s new from its extensive portfolio of niche brands – and to demonstrate a strong commitment to supporting the men and women at the sharp end of the bar industry. “This show is very exciting and impressive,” says brand manager Catherine Rigby. “We believe that it is a must to showcase our new products and promotions for our brands. It also gives us the opportunity to show how we can support bars and give bartenders new ideas on how to serve our products.” She stresses that the entire environment is highly conducive to getting into the spirit, as so many suppliers go the extra mile in terms of bringing their brands to life with high quality, engaging presence. “Most brands present their stands in a very creative and stylish way,” contributing to a great atmosphere across the show floor.

With over 250 confirmed exhibitors, Bar.07 gets the entire trade “under a single roof”, as Rigby explains. So it is a one-stop venue for visitors who want to investigate pretty much any element of the bar business. Show manager Suzie Ager explains that the organisers have gone to great lengths to ensure that the event is packed out, not only with the staples of the licensed trade, but with a plethora of exciting new innovations that will help bar owners and tenders to stand out from the crowd. “There will be lots of products and innovations that are new to market,” she says, “quirky products and ideas that will enable premium bar owners to differentiate themselves from the crowd. Point of difference is so important at the top end of the bar world – the industry is always changing so owners need to keep their bars fresh and exciting.” Shifting away from the mainstream and coming up with new and inventive ways of engaging with revellers is critical to the ethos of the show.

Attracting the big guns

The bar show has been a major success in terms of attracting personnel from all levels of the bar industry during past instalments. However, if there was one element that has been slightly lacking it would be attendance of the more senior operators representing the major bar groups. The organisers have recognised this, and teamed up with Beam Global UK to put together an education programme that aims to make the event unmissable for the big boys.

As Beam global UK marketing director Drew Munro explains, “we would like to see some more senior operators at the show in 07”. Beam will be sponsoring the Bar Talks seminars for the second time, providing an educational showcase for all attendees. However, this year that programme will be augmented with an additional ‘mini conference’ aimed exclusively at the leading operators in the UK bar trade. Taking place on Tuesday morning the session will be by invitation only, with just 50 key decision makers in attendance. Guests will include the owners of the country’s biggest bar groups, and the programme – including a panel debate and guest speakers – has been devised specifically to cater to this market.

In particular, there has been a real emphasis on attracting the international community this year – with a record number of visitors from around the world pre-registered, and a host of foreign exhibitors bringing their products to London. This both cements the UK’s position at the forefront of the international bar business, and also means that a number of exciting new foreign trends are likely to make their way into the UK scene. As well as “vodkas from Russia and beers from Poland” Ager says that there will be a number of less predictable foreign products hitting the halls of Earls Court, though their identity remains a secret for the time being… “You’ll have to find out for yourself at the show,” she says.

With a trade that is focused on fun and frivolity, entertainment and socialising are key elements of the two-day event. However, there is still a very focused business brief for the show, and Ager reports that several of the changes this year have been implemented to ensure that delegates are able to get a good job done as well as have fun. “We have put a real emphasis on making sure that the show is more professional this year, making sure that the business aspect is central to the event.” This has involved setting up the Business Bar, sponsored by Pernod Ricard, “an exclusive enclosed area where exhibitors can schedule meetings away from the hustle and bustle of the show floor”. The organisers have also been working closely with The Drinkaware Trust to combat the problem of excessive drinking at the show (for more, see box).

Education, once again, will be key, as the show provides a forum for “all of the top industry figureheads to come together and discuss the challenges that face the industry and share information and knowledge about best practice”. In the year that the smoking ban kicks in – presenting probably the biggest change to operating conditions that the trade has ever experienced – such collaboration and information-sharing is more critical than ever. The Bar Talks programme, sponsored by Beam Global UK, returns with a range of varied seminars taking place throughout the two days. “It’s important to meet those who have already been there and done it,” says Ager, “and also to talk to people in a similar position to you.”

Design will also be a key feature of the show. The Design Talks program of seminars will emphasise the way that visual features can be used to attract consumers into bars, and will be particularly relevant to those who are in the process of opening or refurbishing premises. Additionally, the show has reached out into the design community with the Design Challenge, sponsored by Satellite. Colleges throughout the country have been invited to enter a competition to design a bar using the company’s furniture. The best candidates will be displayed at the show, exposing delegates to some fresh and exciting ideas, and giving the country’s most promising young designers the opportunity to present their work to the industry.

Time for wine
While spirits and beer flourish in top-end bars, wine has found it notoriously difficult to crack the trade. However, with a bigger focus on all things vinous, Bar.07 hopes ro redress this imbalance. “There’s generally not a lot of understanding of wine in the bar trade,” says Ager. “We want to change that by educating the trade and increasing the profile of wine in bars”. In particular, many operators only work with a single supplier, leading to uninspiring wine lists, while poor wine-by-the-glass offers serve to undermine consumer confidence.

In order to facilitate change, this year will see the debut of the Wine Forum, a series of talks chaired by Robert Joseph exploring how bar owners can improve their wine offer and drive sales far higher. Incorporating tastings, seminars and Q&A events the forum will enable bar owners to find out a great deal more about how they can sell wine better – an objective that will be beneficial to suppliers, retailers and consumers alike.

New to the show this year will be a dedicated buyers programme, aimed at increasing the number of top retailers in attendance, and making sure that exhibitors are able to welcome a prolific selection of visitors. The bartenders market will be opened up to exhibitors, enabling them to get closer to the men and women that make a difference in the trade. And finally, the final of the Bartender Awards – where the winners of the five regional heats will slug it out for the top prize – will take place at Earls Court for the first time, bringing even more energy and excitement to the show floor.

© db May 2007












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