Conviviality in the time of Covid...

What is it we miss most while being in lockdown ? The company of others...? Or has social distancing led to a change in behaviour where we are finding new ways to socialise on Zoom or WhatsApp?

Necessity is the mother of invention but will we find when the time of lockdown ends and bars, pubs and restaurants reopen that we have become used to socialising online?

And will we be happy to continue?

Yotam Ottolenghi says the UK restaurant industry is facing a once in a lifetime crisis.

47,000 pubs are closed and millions of pints of beer and lager will have to be poured away.

The iconic bars in London and other UK cities lie empty. The same in the other global hubs for innovative cocktails and leading mixologists such as New York, Paris and Barcelona.

So what will it be like once we all meet again ?

Enterprising websites such as makemeacocktail.com have been rising to the occasion by providing recipes and suggested spirits and ingredients and providing delivery of them to make cocktails at home.

Some leading bars have been providing a similar service including delivery, as have brewers and some pubs.

Many people working from home enjoy Friday early evening drinks together using Zoom. These events are being enhanced by some participants providing musical entertainment and showing talents of which their coworkers were unaware (and in some cases wish they still were!).

For some people Zoom cocktail parties at the weekend have become a key event. Cocktail recipes are shared in advance and then the participants - probably up to 10 or so people - can chat about what they are drinking and how they made it and why they like it.

Zoom dinner parties have also taken place. 

Virtual quiz nights have been popular during this period of lockdown. People take it in turns to be quiz master for one event and compile the questions and answers.

Drinking of course accompanies the evening. It’s not University Challenge!

So will we all rush back to the pubs and bars once this is all over?

What will be the new normal and what do we miss most about these venues being closed? Could it be the spontaneity of just deciding to go for a drink without a lot of forward planning?

On premise outlets have been part of our lives for thousands of years. If you go to Pompeii or Herculaneum there are wine shops and taverns still standing from 2,000 years ago where the citizens would come to relax and wind down after a day’s work.

So in my view such places will continue to flourish and will continue to adapt to meet the needs of society.

They are social hubs for meeting friends  and colleagues... and for getting to know new people.

But will the virtual cocktail and drinking experience become a part of our lives too? If working from home becomes more established then maybe the Thursday or Friday drink may take place in the virtual space to include those not in the office? Or is what pubs and bars offer irreplaceable in terms of atmosphere,  spontaneity and face to face socialising.

Is the pub the real centre of the community, the absence of which during this lockdown has been noticed and missed. Will people rush back to meet friends and neighbours?

And will those iconic bars, famous the world over for, which London is famous continue to attract customers for their unique ambiance and the quality of their unique cocktails and spirits range?

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, as Joni Mitchell sang.  And as things currently stand there is a real risk to pubs, bars and restaurants if the lockdown extends to such outlets until the end of the year. We may come out of this with fewer places to go and socialise and many fewer people employed in the hospitality industry.

Life would be less rich and fulfilling if the convivial drinking and dining experiences were to become just one more aspect of online life.

We should also support the hundreds of thousands of people working in the hospitality industry who enhance our quality of life and convivial moments with their knowledge skills, sociability and service. They are sorely missed at present. 

This Thought Leadership blog is one of a series written by Marketors to provoke debate and help make marketing more relevant to businesses and society. If you would you like to share your wisdom, please click here for details and how to get in touch.

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