Whilst the panic around COVID-19 has eased, life still hasn’t returned to normal, especially for the hospitality industry. Many venues still remain closed and alcohol suppliers are still pursuing initiatives born out of the pandemic. This week we spoke to Ami Roberston, the Trade and Events Manager at Archie Rose Distilling Co about how the forward thinking distiller quickly adapted to the changing tides.
Ami, talk us through how Archie Rose has navigated COVID-19
Like the majority of businesses, the last few months have been really challenging. Thankfully we were able to shift to the production of hand sanitiser early on, which allowed us to redeploy our fifteen-strong bar team to date, as well as create new employment for an additional twelve hospitality workers, following the government’s full shut down of bars on 20 March. It’s been a massive effort but we managed to release our first batch on 23 March, since then producing well over 100,000 units.
Are there any initiatives you’ve undertaken to help adapt to these changing times?
We already possessed the required federal licences, dangerous goods approvals, access to raw materials and expertise required to make the switch from whisky, gin and vodka to neutral ethanol and hand sanitiser.
Securing a steady volume of ethanol and packaging to support the production switch has been very challenging, as has adapting our warehouse to meet the demands of packing and shipping an unprecedented number of unique products that differ in format to our usual spirits.
We’re really thankful for the support we’ve received from suppliers, customers and the government, and for people’s patience as we’ve navigated the transition from being a spirits and hospitality business to producing hundreds of thousands of bottles of hand sanitiser.
And what about staff? How are you keeping morale high during this time?
As mentioned, this pivot to hand sanitiser production has allowed us to save around 25 hospitality jobs as we moved our bar team to the packaging line, alongside 12 new recruits. This has been a massive morale boost internally as our team feels valued and it really shows how important each person is to the Archie Rose team.
How has COVID-19 impacted how you talk to your customers?
Like so many businesses, COVID-19 has brought about some extraordinary circumstances. Our customer care team have in turn dealt with over 1,000 enquiries. As always, we continue to be as transparent as we can with our customers - in relation to our products and through social media, email, our website and where possible, face to face.
Talk to us about how you had to evolve on social media?
In times of immense upheaval, acting swiftly and communicating with clarity and empathy is something we all expect from our politicians, but the same goes for brands. During these crazy times, we've really discovered the truth in that. Our customers were looking to us for regular updates and clear direction, but also for a sign that we were taking our responsibility to the community, and to our staff, seriously.
Our owned channels - that's Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, website blog and eDMs - were indispensable when it came to communicating with our customers in real-time. That's where the real difference came in.
With the constant stream of government announcements, we had to remain alert and up our responsiveness time. We tightened our regular two-week social planning window to one week, touching in daily to tweak content and messaging where needed.
Because our social channels received a massive uptick in enquiries with the release of Archie Rose's Hand Sanitiser, we also made sure we invested more into community management. Keeping the lines of personal communication open with your customers is always important, but especially during times like these.
Do you have any advice you would like to share for how operators can adapt during these tough times?
We’ve been fortunate to be able to keep operating in some capacity purely due to having existing materials and licenses, but so many businesses are simply not in this position. It’s been really amazing to see how some businesses can adapt whether it be restaurants and cafes switching to home ready meals or gyms putting all their classes online.
I think the only thing we can do is support each other, buy and use local when you can and at the end of all this, I’m pretty sure everyone will have a new appreciation for businesses and operators and hopefully the support will remain.