It seems that we now live in an age where everybody who works in a creative field probably has an agent. If you’re a model, you have an agent. If you’re an actor, you have an agent. If you’re a director, a writer, a singer, a voiceover artist or even an ‘influencer’ (whatever that actually means …) then you, like everyone else, will have an agent. Everybody that is except bartenders.
Or at least that used to be the case. Seeing a gap in the market, Dan Dove, the former World Class Manager for Diageo, has started the Global Bartending Talent Agency – the world’s first dedicated talent agency for the most influential bartenders on the planet.
“What I was seeing was just a huge inconsistency in the way that brands were dealing with bartenders and bartenders dealing with brands,” Dove explained. “And that was from many different angles, including the scope of work, right through to the day rates that bartenders were choosing to charge.
“The idea for the Agency was something that had been in the back of my mind for quite a while,” he continued. “And therefore I did my research and found that there was not one singular talent agency for bartenders, not in the same way that we know modelling agencies exists or sports management agencies. There was a real gap in the market.”
While it sounds like an obvious idea, starting the agency was not as simple as it sounds. As there was nothing similar in place for bartenders, Dove explains that they had to start from scratch in terms of understanding how the structure for the business would actually look.
“Specifically from a legal perspective, all those contracts were never really in place anywhere,” he said, “so, we had to start looking to modelling agency and sport management set-ups as the basis of how the framework for a bartender’s agency should be built”.
Yet for the Agency to work effectively, offering and managing talent in the bartending space was not the only issue that needed to be addressed. Dove believed that brands, through no fault of their own, were misunderstanding not only how best to utilise talent in their overall strategy but also the actual skill sets that each individual bartender could bring to the brand.
“So our first job as a business was to identify the skillsets to each of our talents that we feature openly on our website. On their profiles, we have four featured skills that are ones that each bartender genuinely specialises in and enjoys doing,” said Dove.
This is where Dove believes that strategy is vital, not only for the brands but also for the talent that they use. With strategy, events and talent all going hand-in-hand, Dove saw the need for the Agency to have a three-pronged approach – for talent to work effectively, long-term strategy, as well as events from the ground up needed to be part of the plan.
While the talent side of the Agency has only just been launched, the events and the strategic sides have been running since January 2018. “We really didn’t shout about that on a global lens because my aim was to build a substantial business by the time we launched the talent half, which was really important for us.”
“Working in this way was always part of the strategy where we were not just being seen as a talent agency or a one-trick-pony, but instead a place where all the work can be pulled under one umbrella, allowing us to have a 360 strategic view for brands,” said Dove.
As Dove tells it, the strategic part of the business focuses on the on-trade strategies, all the way from brand ambassador training to drink and menu development in bars on behalf of brands. Through the event production part of the business, the Agency is able to develop events from concept through to production.
“We work as a creative agency on many different levels, but our absolute main focus is the talent agency. That’s what we’re known for in the trade and that’s what our absolute main focus is for the business. But we believed it was very important to set the stepping stones of the business and have the infrastructure to be able to deliver the events as well as supply the talent.”
Dove points out that not only for brands but also for talent that he and the Agency are attempting to present the whole package. “We want to drive true value, not just by offering the correct talent to a brand; a face they can put to their campaign, but then also work with them on a broader sense. It’s about getting the most value for both the talent and the brand out of any project.
“A brand might initially come to us to say, we’d love this X-talent to work on a guest bartending shift, we could then look at other opportunities that this event could present for them. It’s not just about providing the talent but maybe also the social platform that they’re able to offer to expand the event out.”
With over 20 years of industry experience in the luxury drinks sector, the Agency will work on everything from social content design to competition design for brands, future trend insight and product innovation. “We work very closely with brand ambassadors. So all the way through from recruitment of brand ambassadors, through the training of them and then how they then feed into a business of any scale. So I think there are lots of areas of strategy that we can add advice to build value brands.
It’s about getting the most value for both the talent and the brand out of any project.
“What we’re trying to do is help build the drinks industry into what we’ve seen the food industry and chefs become over the past decade. And that is our biggest goal; to build the bartender in the mind of the consumer. We want to televise them, expand sales and ultimately make bartenders into household names.”
So while the most obvious channels to do this would be through those that already exist within the industry, such as alcohol brands, bar tools and glassware, Dove believes that there are a lot of other opportunities outside the industry for his talent.
“So we have many areas of focus outside of the drinks industry,” Dove explained. “One space that we are looking at is the luxury consumer area, and within that, specifically fashion. I’ve already talked to many fashion houses across the globe to seek out opportunities. There is an unbelievable amount of opportunity for drink partners, from a talent perspective and from drink brands perspective, to get involved with tens of thousands of events that happened around the world led by fashion brands.
“The yachting industry is also a key area for us,” Dove continued. “So the super-yacht industry is an untapped area where on multiple occasions we see Michelin-star chefs and some of the best chefs around the world, flown onto their yachts to cook. We want to replicate that model and look at how we can fly out the best bartenders in the world to the super-yachts for private clients.”
Of course, running a talent agency can be a challenge at the best of times but with the rise of COVID, new challenges have been raised for the Agency. “It’s something that we’ve had to adapt to as a business over the last two to three months. Like almost every business out there, we are watching the almost weekly changes that COVID brings to assess what that then means to insurances and health & safety. Especially within the hospitality industry, we need to look at the safety of both the talent and the brands.”
No matter whether you are talking about COVID or anything else, Dove and his team are attempting to assess every situation and opportunity from a global perspective. “We are very much a global talent agency and therefore we have talent all the way from Australia to the US, through Asia and across Europe.
“We’ve all seen great glassware and barware companies out there do small collaborations with individual bartenders, but for us, the opportunity is to now look at how we can truly bring scale to those collaborations on a global level. That’s an important part of our business model,” Dove explained.
“We have an unbelievable amount of global insight from our talent and we can become a very strong forced when we work collectively.”
At present, the Agency has a diverse core collection of bartenders with a wide range of experience, including but not limited to:
● Joe Schofield – Multi-award-winning bartender and co-author of the award-winning SCHOFIELD’s Fine and Classic Cocktails.
● Camille Vidal – Founder of La Maison Wellness, a multi-media platform that advocates mindful drinking and inspires people to live like a healthy hedonist. (Lo & No presenter for C4: Sunday Brunch)
● Merlin Griffiths – Britain’s best-known televised bartender (First Dates)
● Varilis Kyritsis & Nikos Bakoulis – Co-founders of the world-famous Clumsies
● Lynnette Marrero – Cocktail Evangelist, Philanthropist, co-founder of Speed Rack (all-female high-speed bartending competition)
● Deano Moncrieffe – Multi-award-winning consultant, agave spirits bar owner and creator of Timeout cocktail of the year 2020
For more information on the Global Bartending Talent Agency go to globalbartending.com