nick strangeway


06 July, 2021

Nick Strangeway on the pros and cons for bartenders taking on an ambassadorial role in post-Covid times.

Bartending has never been a secure career path, which is why a popular route for experienced bartenders is to embrace the lavish lifestyle as an international brand ambassador. Now, given the hardship of the past 15 months, bartenders probably feel more vulnerable than ever, possibly feeling less valued by their employer following the hardships of Covid, therefore making it more tempting than ever to switch to the corporate side of the industry.

The promise of a guaranteed salary, healthcare and pension schemes is hard to ignore, but before grabbing the first available opportunity there are things to consider.

First off, the idea that brand ambassadors will be flying business class around the world is now just a pipe dream. Even the big players have slashed their travel budgets in light of the pandemic and, while restrictions will eventually lift, the days of luxurious and frequent travel are over for the majority – this was starting to happen even before Covid hit.

Big companies also don’t necessarily guarantee security, because the bigger they are the less important you are to them and therefore the more cut throat they can be. I’d argue that a regional brand ambassador unable to host masterclasses in Covid-restricted bars is just as vulnerable to unemployment as the bartenders working in them.

Integrity is also important. You should love something about the brand, whether it’s the liquid, the employers or the ethos behind it, but there has to be a legitimate reason to take the employment otherwise you could risk cheapening your hard-earned reputation behind the bar, appearing like a sellout. Sure, you will gain in the short term, but if you aren’t fully behind the brand then you won’t last long and all those promises of a pension scheme and health benefits become irrelevant.

I’ve only ever worked with brands I love or admire. Some have been multi-national but if you’re happy to talk highly of them then it’s a win-win. Working with a startup could be a sensible alternative in today’s climate. If you help grow a product to the point where your face becomes synonymous with the brand then it makes you far more valuable, and if you truly believe in its potential then buying into it is another good idea. Ultimately, if you work for a big company there is an upper limit to how far you can go. You’re never going to become the chief executive of Pernod Ricard, regardless of how good you are at running a bar, whereas if you drive the growth of a small brand then there could be a much brighter future in the long term, beyond just ambassadorial roles.

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