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USBG Leaders Discuss EdWeek 2022 Opportunities

By Amira Ansari posted 07-21-2022 11:39


USBG Weekly IGTV broadcast 7/6/2022 has been condensed to emphasize highlights and relay information relevant to this blog.

Earlier this month, USBG President, @T. Cole Newton spoke with USBG leaders, @Justin Gray - Tampa Bay Chapter President, @Nancy Hall - Cleveland Chapter President, and @Bradley Stephens - Chair of the USBG Education Committee, about the many industry opportunities that await those who get involved in this year's National Education Week, October 2nd - 8th!

T Cole: “[Bradley] since you’re the Chair [of the USBG Education Committee], can you tell us a little bit about EdWeek: how it started and how it's structured? I want people to understand right off the bat that they can and should be involved in this.” 

Bradley: “Yeah, I mean USBG kind of debuted it in 2016. It was a national education day and it went so well it got expanded to a whole weekend. 

I like to think of EdWeek as kind of being like the Super Bowl for the Bartenders’ Guild.  It's an opportunity for all of us to celebrate our entire year and everything we do, and also to kind of show off, you know. You have this thing where you do four seminars and one hands-on lab; it’s what we ask people to do, but really it is your opportunity to take all those ideas you've been thinking about for a long time that your members have maybe told you, like, hey, it'd be cool if we did something to show off, not just the community and networking - but really highlight the educational opportunities that our Guild brings available to our members so that we can be the best versions of ourselves.”

T Cole: “So, I know that right now we've got, give or take, 25 chapters that had submitted forms to participate, but is it too late for more chapters to get involved?”

Bradley: “No, no… we wanna have all of our chapters that are participating to select a chapter lead by August 1st, and as soon as you get that lead chosen send to us that person’s name, so we can start communication with the chapter lead and get moving. But you don't have to wait to have a lead to start thinking about what you wanna do for EdWeek . If you've got some ideas, keep brainstorming with your team but then get that lead selected by August 1st.”

T Cole:  “Can you talk a little bit about what a chapter lead will have to do if anyone here is interested in becoming a chapter lead? They might wanna have a handle on what that entails.”

Bradley: “Yeah, I mean it's pretty easy if you decide that you wanna be more involved with your community, your chapter has the perfect opportunity to become a part of helping form these events… a chapter lead is basically just a liaison from us at EdCom to your local chapter. So, if you know your officers or if you have an EdWeek committee that you’ve put together for your chapter, a volunteer team can come to me and the rest of us at EdCom and ask any questions that you have. It's not a really huge responsibility as far as the workload, but it's a really important role that allows us to make sure that if you guys have any needs or any questions that we're here for you.”

T Cole: “That sounds great! What are the benefits for chapters thinking, ‘I don't wanna do that.’ Why should they?”

Bradley: “Well, you know, honestly one of the biggest challenges since the pandemic has been member recruitment. You know a lot of people have been kind of struggling for obvious reasons and we're all starting to get back to normalizing things, right? Doing an EdWeek is a great way to recruit new members and also show your current members the value of why they're part of our community. You can kind of reinforce all of these wonderful benefits that we have from just being a part of the Guild.”

T Cole: “What sort of programming should chapters be considering?  Are there are any guidelines on the national level about what individual chapters should be doing for that week?”

Bradley: “You can honestly do anything you want, you know, as long as you're following the same guidelines that we all, you know, have to follow to be a member, to be a leader, to be part of the Guild. As long as there's nothing hateful, right? Getting involved is gonna get a thumbs up from us because you know me over here in Portland, OR - there's gonna be different things that our members need here in Portland then maybe in Atlanta, GA, right? Every chapter has different members and each member has different things they want to learn, so I would say to go to your chapter, go to your people, talk to them about previous comments you remember people making in the past and work with your team to bring education opportunities to them. That's gonna help that community.”

T Cole: “That sounds great! It may be too early to share some of the 2022 program. I know people are still getting their ideas fleshed out, but what are some of the highlights that you've seen from past EdWeeks, nationwide? What are some of the real hits?”

Bradley:  It's really great! There's such a diverse amount of things, you know, like, you talked about self care - that's a big one right now. A lot of us have to remind ourselves that our job is hard on the brain and the body sometimes. And so giving some self care, you know, people have done yoga, people have done things about training us to take breaks for ourselves and remind ourselves that our body is more important than anything else… well, and our family, right? In the past I've seen people fly out, you know, @Camper English came out to Indianapolis a few years ago and talked about cocktail safety… and that was really cool 'cause it was like talking about ingredients that sometimes bartenders use that are not always safe. Last year, Silicon Valley visited a distillery and got to drink American Single Malt, which is a whole new category. Let's all get excited about a new category getting recognized by the TTB. Let's see, Pittsburgh last year did zero ABV cocktail education which is really important right now; that's the fastest growing category in our field and… San Francisco went to Farmer’s Market last year and they all bought a bunch of stuff from the farmer’s market, and then they went back and they labbed the ingredients … You can do anything you want, but try and be creative, try and do something outside of the normal box.”

T Cole: “...Let's talk about how people can learn from what the other regions have done. So, is there like a clearinghouse on the website where people who might be looking for ideas can find some things that might have worked?”

Bradley: “Yeah, I mean if you just go to the [www.], search for “EdWeek,” you'll find a bunch of stuff: slide shows from previous years where you can see what other chapters have done. You can also just send me a direct message. I'm the Chair. Come talk to me, and I'll answer all your questions… August 15th is when the coordination form is due.”


T Cole: “[Justin] can you share some of what Tampa has executed in the past and what's in the hopper for this year? What do you got planned for us?”

Justin: “We have a general membership meeting that occurs once a month. Our entire membership comes together to talk programs, competitions, job opportunities, etc… Our chapter has kind of come to expect educational programs from us, so when it comes time for education, we - all of a sudden - we're starting to kind of champion education. This is a message that we delivered, you know, throughout the entire course of the year, so I think that's a huge service to us. It's super important to do two things: I think it's important to navigate what your chapter wants to do, so one of the things we did was we made a post on social media - Facebook. Outright, we asked our membership what would you like to hear more about? Is it about Amari, is it about Scottish gin, is it about saki? We basically encouraged feedback from our membership and from that we were able to kind of inform or create a short list of topics that could be potential talking points for education week. So, as we're stepping into Education Week, we're taking topics that have been given to us by our membership which they've actually communicated are of interest to them…

The second part of that is with us being USBG leadership, it's important to understand what's relevant to membership. What's relevant to the industry now, but also to think about what's going to be coming down the pipeline. So one of the big programs we did last year; we bought in a variety of brand ambassadors from the supplier side with liquor reps. The whole seminar was basically geared towards people in the industry that want to move from being a bartender to being a brand ambassador. So, now, we bonded with people that were able to have conversations about: ‘What does your resume need to look like? What types of things are going to help you prepare for making that transition out from behind the bar?’ So, in addition to talking about using education week as an opportunity to talk about, hey, these are technical skills that are necessary for understanding the production or the trends that are happening in the industry but also taking it a step further and saying, hey, these conversations aren’t conversations that are common right now, but they are conversations that no matter what they are, will be important to all of us at some point in the industry. Understanding how to manage the trajectory of food and beverage from a career… so, balancing on topics about what our membership wants to hear about with topics that maybe haven't been requested, but will still prove to be important down the line. And those are kind of what inform the sort of programs that we use for education.”

T Cole: “That sounds really great, and I've always been a fan of the Tampa chapter, you know, you all do great work and are one of the stars of the southern region. I love the idea that you're getting this member driven feedback and then using that to align a brand - not to not incorporate the brands, but you don't want them driving necessarily - so, being able to align the resources of the brands with the interest of the members; I love that. I think that's a great way to sort of bring everyone to the table, so to speak. Do you have any other advice for building these programs that other chapters might be able to use as they're developing?”

Justin: “I mean, definitely important to have input of the chapters. Now, we obviously don't want it to turn into something where it's exclusively branded, but at the same time markets are different and sometimes different brands are available. Some of these brands have different resources available for activation as well. That's a green pasture that definitely shouldn't be overlooked. There's a profound amount of potential there. So, definitely using the local resources available to you from the supplier or the distributor side on that as an opportunity to kind of inform programming that you might do, even if it isn't necessarily them coming up with the programming; maybe they have access to bars that you don't have a USBG representative present at, but they can still talk about ideas that might resonate with those bartenders there…”

T Cole: “Thank you very much, Justin.  I really appreciate the work that you're doing out there in Tampa.”


T Cole: “ Nancy, thank you for being here! In Cleveland, education week is a big deal but you guys are so freaking super committed to education year-round. Can you talk about the importance of EdWeek?”

Nancy: “I would reiterate the fact that providing education is one of the major things I think bartenders who joined the Guild are hoping to get out of their experience. And there are a lot of unique opportunities. We are very fortunate we have a great brand liaison within our chapter - @Cassaundra Hollaway, and I'm gonna say her name because she does such great work for us, but she also has a great relationship with so many of the brands that come into Cleveland and into Ohio. And so we like to have events on a very regular basis. We have one every quarter. We have monthly meetings, but once a quarter one of those meetings will be dedicated to education. We do one meeting as a business meeting, one meeting is social, and then one meeting is education. So, the membership can count on one supporter getting an education event as their regular chapter and then in addition to that, everybody can make it the days we have our chapter meetings which happens to be Sunday. We schedule at least one additional education event every month, I’d say, and usually that's an educational event based on spirit education, so it’s a tasting opportunity. Most likely it could be something that's either new to the area or maybe just coming to the area and then it gives bartenders who are attending an opportunity to know what's on the horizon. So, we feel like that we make those open to everybody. You don't have to be a member to attend that, so that's a great opportunity to invite friends, invite a colleague, and let them see this is the kind of opportunity that you’ll get when you join the Guild.

T Cole: “So, yeah, I think the educational opportunities are a main reason that people are drawn to the Guild. And Education Week is a real pillar to that, considering. Consistently you're having educational programming, so at least one of your regular meetings every quarter is educational based. In addition to that, there's a monthly educational program on a different day that more people can attend. What are you doing to separate out, to, distinguish Education Week and that kind of educational programming from your more routine monthly and quarterly educational offerings?”

Nancy: “Right, I mean it'll be a specific week and we'll get to do these events as a group. We’ll expand out more from the spirit-focused education. I mean, I think we'll probably do almost very little spirit-focused education. We tried to do things in very different areas in our lives. One thing we've done before is financial planning. We had a financial planner come in and talk to them to help them understand what's the importance of budgeting; how do you budget, what do you think about saving and well, you know, get ready for your future. So that's one kind of area of the self care like Brad mentioned. We might do a yoga class or something like that or teaching mixing techniques or shaping techniques that keep you from repetitive injuries - something like that. We're talking about doing a food and spirits flavor tasting; how to put them together, how do you put the flavors together… so we're using one of our members who's very active in catering and activities, and we'll blend some cocktails to go with that. It's also a chance to maybe look at some other issues that are industry things like diversity and inclusion. Some things like safety in the workplace and other issues that you might get affected by. We look to expand more into different topics and those is bar management, you know, sometimes people don’t always want to serve, sometimes you wanna be moving up to the front. How do you plan a cocktail program? So those types of things.”

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To learn more about how to get involved in National Education Week, please click HERE.

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