Montgomery County, Md. based husband-and-wife duo Josh and Alyssa Ammerman dreamed of launching a spirits company. After all, the high school sweethearts had a shared love of craft cocktails, passion for collecting vintage cocktail glasses, and fascination with the magnificent color-changing properties of butterfly pea flower, a brain boosting herb known for its luminous indigo color.
In 2019, their efforts gave way to the brand, Butterfly Spirits. To help develop a go-to-market strategy for what was to be their first two products, a botanical liqueur and floral flavored vodka, they approached creative marketing firm, Streetsense. Excitement was at at all time high.
The Butterfly Spirits brand was all set to launch … in March 2020. Unfortunate timing that coincided with a global pandemic and the devastating closure of bars, restaurants, and events.
The team at Streetsense wasn’t about to give up. It set out to push the brand forward with an innovative strategy which didn’t include in-person tastings, pop-up events and event sponsorships. Clearly, it was also going to be a challenging time to sell an unknown brand to bars and restaurants. What’s more: The Black Lives Matter movement had added a new layer to the national conversation and Butterfly felt called to use its debut platform to give back to the suffering hospitality industry and BIPOC people within it.
The revamped strategy included a series of socially responsible activations and community-based partnerships in addition to traditional marketing tactics. Partnering with Bartenders Against Racism — in which the proceeds from a designated “Butterfly for BAR” cocktail at a number of establishments was donated to the organization’s legislative and mentorship programs — was an especially timely way for Butterfly Spirits to connect with the community.
This was a success, but as with any food or beverage product, trial is everything and the brand needed to figure out how to get more exposure in the safest, most responsible way. To provide a socially distanced summer escape in the middle of the city, Streetsense worked with Hook Hall, neighborhood bar, outdoor beer garden, and event space situated in the heart of Washington D.C., to transform their outdoor patio into The Butterfly Spirits Garden: an Instagram-worthy space curated with planter boxes, live trellises, touchless menus, socially-distanced seating arrangements, and a whimsical Butterfly-branded bar cart that allowed us to “bring the bar to the guest” with Butterfly-based cocktails that reimaged the cocktail-ordering experience in a safer way. The bar cart concept reimagined the bartender experience in a way that maximized safety — reducing customer anxiety.
Creative Tips For Struggling Bars & Restaurants
The guidelines and practices from the outdoor Butterfly Spirits Garden event were shepherded by the Streetsense Pandemic Reopening Toolkit, which has already helped dozens of emerging brands, along with beloved community bars and restaurants, navigate the challenges of trying to get back to business.
Jay Coldren of Streetsense shares three tips that can help restaurants and bars around the country get creative, streamline operations and safely reopen within their communities even as outdoor options become trickier as winter approaches.
- Prepare For Less Seating
Work with an interior designer or space planning expert to rework your floor plan with flexibility for adding back in furniture and equipment as the crisis wanes. Restaurants will likely need to make arrangements to store some furniture and equipment. Consider renting an off-site storage facility for a few months to keep your operation neat and clean.
- Reduce Consumer Anxiety
Overall, the key to getting people back through the doors is to make consumers feel safe and reduce their anxiety. This can be done through delivering a lower-touch style of service with single-use menus or QR code menus, eliminating self-service components like buffets or beverage stations and considering a reservation system to control the guest count during peak times.
- Streamline Your Menu
Through some thoughtful shifts, bars and restaurants can offer great service without sacrificing their brand. For example, restaurants should consider creating a smaller, more focused menu that features best-sellers to remind guests why they love this restaurant. To maximize profitability, especially with reduced seating capacity, chefs should focus on only items with high margins.
Managing Director, Streetsense
Streetsense is a multidisciplinary design and strategy firm specializing in retail, restaurant, hospitality, and real estate solutions. For more ideas on how to safely and profitably reopen your business, check out the full Pandemic Reopening Toolkit on Streetsense’s website.