How social distancing will shape the future of bars

How social distancing will shape the future of bars

By
Emilie Dellecker
May 13, 2020

A few days ago, I got genuinely excited about getting back to my part-time job: bartending.

Of course, I knew things wouldn't be the same. I expected that we would have to keep a safe distance away from clients, disinfect our hands, glasses, counters and tables several times a day, be ready to wear and speak through masks and wait a few months more before hosting live music again. Still, I looked forward to getting back to work, chatting with people, hearing about the latest gossip and serving my favorite drinks.

But when the GastroSuisse COVID protection plan came out, I started to worry. The protection plan understandably forbids social mixing but in the process prevents the casual free atmosphere that is so essentials to bars. This troubles me deeply. Here is why: neighborhood cafés and bars do a lot more than serve drinks.

Café and bars, of all places, encourage social mixing. They are neutral spaces where everyone is served and treated with respect, where people are cheerful and where they can talk freely about anything to friends and strangers. For some of our clients, bars are like a home away from home.

Society’s response to Covid is entirely based on social distancing. In doing so, it influences the heart of the bar’s model, of its purpose and spirit, running the risk of ending the essence of small bars as we know them and with it, the economic livelihoods - not to mention the motivation - of their owners. Many of whom aren’t thinking about reopening their establishments in the near future.

But the reality is that until a vaccine for Covid is found, it will be impossible to sit shoulder to shoulder with strangers again, and even harder to mingle. And in the years to come, bars will witness drastic drops in their customer base, if they are opened at all.

So what options are left for cafés and bars that don’t have the necessary space or resources to enforce the social distancing that is required? Can we maintain pubs and cafés' social role and ensure small owners continuing cashflow during this transition period ?

Instead of sitting around sulking, I put my FoodHack hat on and went about surveying options to help cafes and bars like the one I work for, adapt and navigate over the coming months. And although nothing will be quite like it was before, there is hope for those eager to try new things and future-proof their business.

Here are a few of them:

  • Get some cash-in today

    It has never been so easy for customers to show support to their favorite venues. The internet has made this almost effortless, and many businesses have jumped on the opportunity, setting up online voucher schemes for future services, often with generous discounts.

    Although this might be a good option to compensate for sales drop in the short term, vouchers aren't here to stay. It would be no surprise that the progressive re-opening of bigger bars and café dries out customers' appetites for voucher purchasing, phasing out this life line for smaller local businesses. It also differs income. When bars eventually do reopen, they will have a backlog of vouchers to fulfill before they can gain new income.

1584457361BrewDogDrive_Thru_Social_2.0_TWITTER600x335.png
Source: BrewDog
  • Set-up takeaway

    Drive-through and takeaway offer immediate alternatives for small bars and café owners. You can skip the hurdle of setting up an online shop and don’t need to settle with a delivery partner. Depending on your country's regulatory framework, you might need a license that permits off-premises sales of alcohol in place. Among successful examples,is a band of local microbreweries that teamed up to put in place drive-through events, or cocktails bars offering fancy cocktails mix kits.

    Takeaway or drive-through allow owners to skip the third party fees that are often associated with delivery platforms whilst also maintaining connections with their customers, allowing for brief interactions that can exude the spirit of bars past. And, according to a UK pub owner, it doesn’t only serve long-time customers but can bring new faces in too.

Capture d’écran 2020-05-13 à 13.30.50.png
Source: Virtual Staff Meeting in Valais
  • Set up a virtual pub

    New technologies can be daunting at first. Every platform has its pros and cons. Among the most popular one Zoom is only free for the first 40 minutes; House Party allows only eight people per room; Facebook live has to be paired with Zoom or another third party to invite other people on screen. We used House Party for our first online apero and it was surprisingly fun. Each staff member set up their own virtual room and clients went back and forth between us to chat, almost like in a real, physical setting. Jo Bowtell, a former pub owner in Leicestershire gathered 14,500 customers globally through her Facebook page. In a recent interview  she said “Everyone is buying into it as they can sit at home and be entertained as if they are in the same place. It is a haven.”

  • Support your staff

    Tipping is a huge loss for workers in the industry, even in Europe. I typically make an extra 50% off my paycheck from tips, and these are not compensated by the unemployment scheme. Yet tipping can also be brought online. An easy way to support your staff is to bring your tipping jar online. A simple google spreadsheet, listing your employee names and linking to their favored payment app can be tremendously helpful. Not only financially, but to keep the social bonds between customers and bartenders.

  • Share your atmosphere

    The bars I go to, let alone choose to work for, aren’t just picked on their locations or because of their choice of wine. I choose the place for a mix of things: their playlists, the beers they have on tap, the staff and owner’s attitude and even the decor. (I really miss these things right now!) Signature’s Brew, a London based brewery, has found a novel solution to this problem: the brewery is paying out-of-work musicians to hand-deliver its ‘Pub In A Box’ product with glassware, snacks, a music quiz, playlists and beer. This helps recreate the bar atmosphere within your own home, and can be truly appreciated and sought out by customers missing the pub vibe.

  • Get into the grocery business

    A few small cafés and bars have taken the chance to pivot and operate as grocery stores. Many of them were already selling food and started by selling their own inventory. Since then, they’ve continued acting as a support for their communtiy, reducing trip time to supermarkets for ederly and helping to connect the community, often with locally produced fresh food, whilst also opening up an additional revenue stream for the business.

Takeaways and considerations


It is clearly a challenging time  for small cafés and bars that can’t enforce new stringent regulations to re-open to stay afloat financially. It may be even harder for them to be able to play their essential role as social mixers and equalisers.

Yet there are some alternatives that can help with cash flow before re-openings. They may also help future-proof businesses, by diversifying their revenue streams and preparing them for the long game in case something similar were to happen again or if re-openings take longer than expected. Lastly, it may even help imagine, and shape, the future of social mixting: 

  • Consider organising online educational activities (wine tasting session, cocktail tutorial, coffee degustation). Pair these with a takeaway or a hand-delivery service to incentivize sales. 
  • Keep the conversation with your clients going. Engage online and talk to your clients through virtual apero, live quiz or virtual concert. Use those engagements as an opportunity to get support for your staff, local musician or health organization. 
  • Think about what makes your bar so unique. Pack it in a box and bring it to your community. 
  • Consider pivoting to grocery delivery If you are serving food or if your café serves an aging population, consider helping your community by selling grocery. 
  • Offer takeaway Keep takeaway and drive-through schedules short and condensed over a couple of days a week. 

Nothing will quite replace the feeling of sharing a pint or glass of wine with a group of friends and strangers at your favorite bar. No virtual quizz, snack box or virtual tasting session will compensate for the loss of these places. But in the face of things we can’t control, we can at least try to shape our social future as we want it.

Written by
Emilie Dellecker

Equipped with a Master of Science in Behaviour, Ecology, and Conservation, Emilie’s career was always driven by a desire for positive change. She previously worked at WWF International and Luc Hoffmann Institute, where she was in charge of stakeholder engagement and managed a portfolio of multidisciplinary projects related to sustainable consumption and production involving NGOs, research centres and practitioners.

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  • Read Unlimited Articles
  • Access Member Directory
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A few days ago, I got genuinely excited about getting back to my part-time job: bartending.

Of course, I knew things wouldn't be the same. I expected that we would have to keep a safe distance away from clients, disinfect our hands, glasses, counters and tables several times a day, be ready to wear and speak through masks and wait a few months more before hosting live music again. Still, I looked forward to getting back to work, chatting with people, hearing about the latest gossip and serving my favorite drinks.

But when the GastroSuisse COVID protection plan came out, I started to worry. The protection plan understandably forbids social mixing but in the process prevents the casual free atmosphere that is so essentials to bars. This troubles me deeply. Here is why: neighborhood cafés and bars do a lot more than serve drinks.

Café and bars, of all places, encourage social mixing. They are neutral spaces where everyone is served and treated with respect, where people are cheerful and where they can talk freely about anything to friends and strangers. For some of our clients, bars are like a home away from home.

Society’s response to Covid is entirely based on social distancing. In doing so, it influences the heart of the bar’s model, of its purpose and spirit, running the risk of ending the essence of small bars as we know them and with it, the economic livelihoods - not to mention the motivation - of their owners. Many of whom aren’t thinking about reopening their establishments in the near future.

But the reality is that until a vaccine for Covid is found, it will be impossible to sit shoulder to shoulder with strangers again, and even harder to mingle. And in the years to come, bars will witness drastic drops in their customer base, if they are opened at all.

So what options are left for cafés and bars that don’t have the necessary space or resources to enforce the social distancing that is required? Can we maintain pubs and cafés' social role and ensure small owners continuing cashflow during this transition period ?

Instead of sitting around sulking, I put my FoodHack hat on and went about surveying options to help cafes and bars like the one I work for, adapt and navigate over the coming months. And although nothing will be quite like it was before, there is hope for those eager to try new things and future-proof their business.

Here are a few of them:

  • Get some cash-in today

    It has never been so easy for customers to show support to their favorite venues. The internet has made this almost effortless, and many businesses have jumped on the opportunity, setting up online voucher schemes for future services, often with generous discounts.

    Although this might be a good option to compensate for sales drop in the short term, vouchers aren't here to stay. It would be no surprise that the progressive re-opening of bigger bars and café dries out customers' appetites for voucher purchasing, phasing out this life line for smaller local businesses. It also differs income. When bars eventually do reopen, they will have a backlog of vouchers to fulfill before they can gain new income.

1584457361BrewDogDrive_Thru_Social_2.0_TWITTER600x335.png
Source: BrewDog
  • Set-up takeaway

    Drive-through and takeaway offer immediate alternatives for small bars and café owners. You can skip the hurdle of setting up an online shop and don’t need to settle with a delivery partner. Depending on your country's regulatory framework, you might need a license that permits off-premises sales of alcohol in place. Among successful examples,is a band of local microbreweries that teamed up to put in place drive-through events, or cocktails bars offering fancy cocktails mix kits.

    Takeaway or drive-through allow owners to skip the third party fees that are often associated with delivery platforms whilst also maintaining connections with their customers, allowing for brief interactions that can exude the spirit of bars past. And, according to a UK pub owner, it doesn’t only serve long-time customers but can bring new faces in too.

Capture d’écran 2020-05-13 à 13.30.50.png
Source: Virtual Staff Meeting in Valais
  • Set up a virtual pub

    New technologies can be daunting at first. Every platform has its pros and cons. Among the most popular one Zoom is only free for the first 40 minutes; House Party allows only eight people per room; Facebook live has to be paired with Zoom or another third party to invite other people on screen. We used House Party for our first online apero and it was surprisingly fun. Each staff member set up their own virtual room and clients went back and forth between us to chat, almost like in a real, physical setting. Jo Bowtell, a former pub owner in Leicestershire gathered 14,500 customers globally through her Facebook page. In a recent interview  she said “Everyone is buying into it as they can sit at home and be entertained as if they are in the same place. It is a haven.”

  • Support your staff

    Tipping is a huge loss for workers in the industry, even in Europe. I typically make an extra 50% off my paycheck from tips, and these are not compensated by the unemployment scheme. Yet tipping can also be brought online. An easy way to support your staff is to bring your tipping jar online. A simple google spreadsheet, listing your employee names and linking to their favored payment app can be tremendously helpful. Not only financially, but to keep the social bonds between customers and bartenders.

  • Share your atmosphere

    The bars I go to, let alone choose to work for, aren’t just picked on their locations or because of their choice of wine. I choose the place for a mix of things: their playlists, the beers they have on tap, the staff and owner’s attitude and even the decor. (I really miss these things right now!) Signature’s Brew, a London based brewery, has found a novel solution to this problem: the brewery is paying out-of-work musicians to hand-deliver its ‘Pub In A Box’ product with glassware, snacks, a music quiz, playlists and beer. This helps recreate the bar atmosphere within your own home, and can be truly appreciated and sought out by customers missing the pub vibe.

  • Get into the grocery business

    A few small cafés and bars have taken the chance to pivot and operate as grocery stores. Many of them were already selling food and started by selling their own inventory. Since then, they’ve continued acting as a support for their communtiy, reducing trip time to supermarkets for ederly and helping to connect the community, often with locally produced fresh food, whilst also opening up an additional revenue stream for the business.

Takeaways and considerations


It is clearly a challenging time  for small cafés and bars that can’t enforce new stringent regulations to re-open to stay afloat financially. It may be even harder for them to be able to play their essential role as social mixers and equalisers.

Yet there are some alternatives that can help with cash flow before re-openings. They may also help future-proof businesses, by diversifying their revenue streams and preparing them for the long game in case something similar were to happen again or if re-openings take longer than expected. Lastly, it may even help imagine, and shape, the future of social mixting: 

  • Consider organising online educational activities (wine tasting session, cocktail tutorial, coffee degustation). Pair these with a takeaway or a hand-delivery service to incentivize sales. 
  • Keep the conversation with your clients going. Engage online and talk to your clients through virtual apero, live quiz or virtual concert. Use those engagements as an opportunity to get support for your staff, local musician or health organization. 
  • Think about what makes your bar so unique. Pack it in a box and bring it to your community. 
  • Consider pivoting to grocery delivery If you are serving food or if your café serves an aging population, consider helping your community by selling grocery. 
  • Offer takeaway Keep takeaway and drive-through schedules short and condensed over a couple of days a week. 

Nothing will quite replace the feeling of sharing a pint or glass of wine with a group of friends and strangers at your favorite bar. No virtual quizz, snack box or virtual tasting session will compensate for the loss of these places. But in the face of things we can’t control, we can at least try to shape our social future as we want it.

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  • Read Unlimited Articles
  • Access Member Directory
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A few days ago, I got genuinely excited about getting back to my part-time job: bartending.

Of course, I knew things wouldn't be the same. I expected that we would have to keep a safe distance away from clients, disinfect our hands, glasses, counters and tables several times a day, be ready to wear and speak through masks and wait a few months more before hosting live music again. Still, I looked forward to getting back to work, chatting with people, hearing about the latest gossip and serving my favorite drinks.

But when the GastroSuisse COVID protection plan came out, I started to worry. The protection plan understandably forbids social mixing but in the process prevents the casual free atmosphere that is so essentials to bars. This troubles me deeply. Here is why: neighborhood cafés and bars do a lot more than serve drinks.

Café and bars, of all places, encourage social mixing. They are neutral spaces where everyone is served and treated with respect, where people are cheerful and where they can talk freely about anything to friends and strangers. For some of our clients, bars are like a home away from home.

Society’s response to Covid is entirely based on social distancing. In doing so, it influences the heart of the bar’s model, of its purpose and spirit, running the risk of ending the essence of small bars as we know them and with it, the economic livelihoods - not to mention the motivation - of their owners. Many of whom aren’t thinking about reopening their establishments in the near future.

But the reality is that until a vaccine for Covid is found, it will be impossible to sit shoulder to shoulder with strangers again, and even harder to mingle. And in the years to come, bars will witness drastic drops in their customer base, if they are opened at all.

So what options are left for cafés and bars that don’t have the necessary space or resources to enforce the social distancing that is required? Can we maintain pubs and cafés' social role and ensure small owners continuing cashflow during this transition period ?

Instead of sitting around sulking, I put my FoodHack hat on and went about surveying options to help cafes and bars like the one I work for, adapt and navigate over the coming months. And although nothing will be quite like it was before, there is hope for those eager to try new things and future-proof their business.

Here are a few of them:

  • Get some cash-in today

    It has never been so easy for customers to show support to their favorite venues. The internet has made this almost effortless, and many businesses have jumped on the opportunity, setting up online voucher schemes for future services, often with generous discounts.

    Although this might be a good option to compensate for sales drop in the short term, vouchers aren't here to stay. It would be no surprise that the progressive re-opening of bigger bars and café dries out customers' appetites for voucher purchasing, phasing out this life line for smaller local businesses. It also differs income. When bars eventually do reopen, they will have a backlog of vouchers to fulfill before they can gain new income.

1584457361BrewDogDrive_Thru_Social_2.0_TWITTER600x335.png
Source: BrewDog
  • Set-up takeaway

    Drive-through and takeaway offer immediate alternatives for small bars and café owners. You can skip the hurdle of setting up an online shop and don’t need to settle with a delivery partner. Depending on your country's regulatory framework, you might need a license that permits off-premises sales of alcohol in place. Among successful examples,is a band of local microbreweries that teamed up to put in place drive-through events, or cocktails bars offering fancy cocktails mix kits.

    Takeaway or drive-through allow owners to skip the third party fees that are often associated with delivery platforms whilst also maintaining connections with their customers, allowing for brief interactions that can exude the spirit of bars past. And, according to a UK pub owner, it doesn’t only serve long-time customers but can bring new faces in too.

Capture d’écran 2020-05-13 à 13.30.50.png
Source: Virtual Staff Meeting in Valais
  • Set up a virtual pub

    New technologies can be daunting at first. Every platform has its pros and cons. Among the most popular one Zoom is only free for the first 40 minutes; House Party allows only eight people per room; Facebook live has to be paired with Zoom or another third party to invite other people on screen. We used House Party for our first online apero and it was surprisingly fun. Each staff member set up their own virtual room and clients went back and forth between us to chat, almost like in a real, physical setting. Jo Bowtell, a former pub owner in Leicestershire gathered 14,500 customers globally through her Facebook page. In a recent interview  she said “Everyone is buying into it as they can sit at home and be entertained as if they are in the same place. It is a haven.”

  • Support your staff

    Tipping is a huge loss for workers in the industry, even in Europe. I typically make an extra 50% off my paycheck from tips, and these are not compensated by the unemployment scheme. Yet tipping can also be brought online. An easy way to support your staff is to bring your tipping jar online. A simple google spreadsheet, listing your employee names and linking to their favored payment app can be tremendously helpful. Not only financially, but to keep the social bonds between customers and bartenders.

  • Share your atmosphere

    The bars I go to, let alone choose to work for, aren’t just picked on their locations or because of their choice of wine. I choose the place for a mix of things: their playlists, the beers they have on tap, the staff and owner’s attitude and even the decor. (I really miss these things right now!) Signature’s Brew, a London based brewery, has found a novel solution to this problem: the brewery is paying out-of-work musicians to hand-deliver its ‘Pub In A Box’ product with glassware, snacks, a music quiz, playlists and beer. This helps recreate the bar atmosphere within your own home, and can be truly appreciated and sought out by customers missing the pub vibe.

  • Get into the grocery business

    A few small cafés and bars have taken the chance to pivot and operate as grocery stores. Many of them were already selling food and started by selling their own inventory. Since then, they’ve continued acting as a support for their communtiy, reducing trip time to supermarkets for ederly and helping to connect the community, often with locally produced fresh food, whilst also opening up an additional revenue stream for the business.

Takeaways and considerations


It is clearly a challenging time  for small cafés and bars that can’t enforce new stringent regulations to re-open to stay afloat financially. It may be even harder for them to be able to play their essential role as social mixers and equalisers.

Yet there are some alternatives that can help with cash flow before re-openings. They may also help future-proof businesses, by diversifying their revenue streams and preparing them for the long game in case something similar were to happen again or if re-openings take longer than expected. Lastly, it may even help imagine, and shape, the future of social mixting: 

  • Consider organising online educational activities (wine tasting session, cocktail tutorial, coffee degustation). Pair these with a takeaway or a hand-delivery service to incentivize sales. 
  • Keep the conversation with your clients going. Engage online and talk to your clients through virtual apero, live quiz or virtual concert. Use those engagements as an opportunity to get support for your staff, local musician or health organization. 
  • Think about what makes your bar so unique. Pack it in a box and bring it to your community. 
  • Consider pivoting to grocery delivery If you are serving food or if your café serves an aging population, consider helping your community by selling grocery. 
  • Offer takeaway Keep takeaway and drive-through schedules short and condensed over a couple of days a week. 

Nothing will quite replace the feeling of sharing a pint or glass of wine with a group of friends and strangers at your favorite bar. No virtual quizz, snack box or virtual tasting session will compensate for the loss of these places. But in the face of things we can’t control, we can at least try to shape our social future as we want it.

A few days ago, I got genuinely excited about getting back to my part-time job: bartending.

Of course, I knew things wouldn't be the same. I expected that we would have to keep a safe distance away from clients, disinfect our hands, glasses, counters and tables several times a day, be ready to wear and speak through masks and wait a few months more before hosting live music again. Still, I looked forward to getting back to work, chatting with people, hearing about the latest gossip and serving my favorite drinks.

But when the GastroSuisse COVID protection plan came out, I started to worry. The protection plan understandably forbids social mixing but in the process prevents the casual free atmosphere that is so essentials to bars. This troubles me deeply. Here is why: neighborhood cafés and bars do a lot more than serve drinks.

Café and bars, of all places, encourage social mixing. They are neutral spaces where everyone is served and treated with respect, where people are cheerful and where they can talk freely about anything to friends and strangers. For some of our clients, bars are like a home away from home.

Society’s response to Covid is entirely based on social distancing. In doing so, it influences the heart of the bar’s model, of its purpose and spirit, running the risk of ending the essence of small bars as we know them and with it, the economic livelihoods - not to mention the motivation - of their owners. Many of whom aren’t thinking about reopening their establishments in the near future.

But the reality is that until a vaccine for Covid is found, it will be impossible to sit shoulder to shoulder with strangers again, and even harder to mingle. And in the years to come, bars will witness drastic drops in their customer base, if they are opened at all.

So what options are left for cafés and bars that don’t have the necessary space or resources to enforce the social distancing that is required? Can we maintain pubs and cafés' social role and ensure small owners continuing cashflow during this transition period ?

Instead of sitting around sulking, I put my FoodHack hat on and went about surveying options to help cafes and bars like the one I work for, adapt and navigate over the coming months. And although nothing will be quite like it was before, there is hope for those eager to try new things and future-proof their business.

Here are a few of them:

  • Get some cash-in today

    It has never been so easy for customers to show support to their favorite venues. The internet has made this almost effortless, and many businesses have jumped on the opportunity, setting up online voucher schemes for future services, often with generous discounts.

    Although this might be a good option to compensate for sales drop in the short term, vouchers aren't here to stay. It would be no surprise that the progressive re-opening of bigger bars and café dries out customers' appetites for voucher purchasing, phasing out this life line for smaller local businesses. It also differs income. When bars eventually do reopen, they will have a backlog of vouchers to fulfill before they can gain new income.

1584457361BrewDogDrive_Thru_Social_2.0_TWITTER600x335.png
Source: BrewDog
  • Set-up takeaway

    Drive-through and takeaway offer immediate alternatives for small bars and café owners. You can skip the hurdle of setting up an online shop and don’t need to settle with a delivery partner. Depending on your country's regulatory framework, you might need a license that permits off-premises sales of alcohol in place. Among successful examples,is a band of local microbreweries that teamed up to put in place drive-through events, or cocktails bars offering fancy cocktails mix kits.

    Takeaway or drive-through allow owners to skip the third party fees that are often associated with delivery platforms whilst also maintaining connections with their customers, allowing for brief interactions that can exude the spirit of bars past. And, according to a UK pub owner, it doesn’t only serve long-time customers but can bring new faces in too.

Capture d’écran 2020-05-13 à 13.30.50.png
Source: Virtual Staff Meeting in Valais
  • Set up a virtual pub

    New technologies can be daunting at first. Every platform has its pros and cons. Among the most popular one Zoom is only free for the first 40 minutes; House Party allows only eight people per room; Facebook live has to be paired with Zoom or another third party to invite other people on screen. We used House Party for our first online apero and it was surprisingly fun. Each staff member set up their own virtual room and clients went back and forth between us to chat, almost like in a real, physical setting. Jo Bowtell, a former pub owner in Leicestershire gathered 14,500 customers globally through her Facebook page. In a recent interview  she said “Everyone is buying into it as they can sit at home and be entertained as if they are in the same place. It is a haven.”

  • Support your staff

    Tipping is a huge loss for workers in the industry, even in Europe. I typically make an extra 50% off my paycheck from tips, and these are not compensated by the unemployment scheme. Yet tipping can also be brought online. An easy way to support your staff is to bring your tipping jar online. A simple google spreadsheet, listing your employee names and linking to their favored payment app can be tremendously helpful. Not only financially, but to keep the social bonds between customers and bartenders.

  • Share your atmosphere

    The bars I go to, let alone choose to work for, aren’t just picked on their locations or because of their choice of wine. I choose the place for a mix of things: their playlists, the beers they have on tap, the staff and owner’s attitude and even the decor. (I really miss these things right now!) Signature’s Brew, a London based brewery, has found a novel solution to this problem: the brewery is paying out-of-work musicians to hand-deliver its ‘Pub In A Box’ product with glassware, snacks, a music quiz, playlists and beer. This helps recreate the bar atmosphere within your own home, and can be truly appreciated and sought out by customers missing the pub vibe.

  • Get into the grocery business

    A few small cafés and bars have taken the chance to pivot and operate as grocery stores. Many of them were already selling food and started by selling their own inventory. Since then, they’ve continued acting as a support for their communtiy, reducing trip time to supermarkets for ederly and helping to connect the community, often with locally produced fresh food, whilst also opening up an additional revenue stream for the business.

Takeaways and considerations


It is clearly a challenging time  for small cafés and bars that can’t enforce new stringent regulations to re-open to stay afloat financially. It may be even harder for them to be able to play their essential role as social mixers and equalisers.

Yet there are some alternatives that can help with cash flow before re-openings. They may also help future-proof businesses, by diversifying their revenue streams and preparing them for the long game in case something similar were to happen again or if re-openings take longer than expected. Lastly, it may even help imagine, and shape, the future of social mixting: 

  • Consider organising online educational activities (wine tasting session, cocktail tutorial, coffee degustation). Pair these with a takeaway or a hand-delivery service to incentivize sales. 
  • Keep the conversation with your clients going. Engage online and talk to your clients through virtual apero, live quiz or virtual concert. Use those engagements as an opportunity to get support for your staff, local musician or health organization. 
  • Think about what makes your bar so unique. Pack it in a box and bring it to your community. 
  • Consider pivoting to grocery delivery If you are serving food or if your café serves an aging population, consider helping your community by selling grocery. 
  • Offer takeaway Keep takeaway and drive-through schedules short and condensed over a couple of days a week. 

Nothing will quite replace the feeling of sharing a pint or glass of wine with a group of friends and strangers at your favorite bar. No virtual quizz, snack box or virtual tasting session will compensate for the loss of these places. But in the face of things we can’t control, we can at least try to shape our social future as we want it.