Surviving the crisis
Tin Tin bar
No half measures! Especially not during a crisis. Tin Tin bar in Stuttgart is now selling cocktails by the bottle. Ever since the bar itself closed, the managers have been bottling the drinks. Their unbridled optimism, their Facebook fan community and their trusted dishwashing machine provider are all playing a role.
It's ringing! Not the doorbell, though. Now it is the phone. And it is non-stop – orders are pouring in Thursday to Saturday 1 pm to 4 pm. Benji Blomenhofer is a trained tax consultant and restaurant specialist. Now he takes the telephone orders. His business partner, Jonas Hald, has already been behind the bar for three hours hard at work: cooking, squeezing juices, washing bottles and clearing up from the previous day.
Customers love Tin Tin bar's cocktails. And they especially love that the ingredients are home made with no additives and that the cocktails are mixed with such tender loving care.
Customers can order drinks with catchy names like Melissen Dissen, Rhabarberbarbara und Goosy & even more Lucy. All are served in sleek bottles and sealed with a stopper. Drinks can then be collected and larger orders delivered any day between 5 pm and 7 pm. A cocktail costs around €11. That was before coronavirus. That was when customers could get cosy in Tin Tin bar and sit in with their drinks, chatting and escaping the daily grind. Now they are staying away from the bar and ordering five times the volume for just €25 to drink at home.
‘Every day matters for us.’
Benji Blomenhofer, manager of Tin Tin bar in Stuttgart, southern Germany
Since having to close, Benji and Jonas have tried to turn to the banks but in vain. For weeks they have simply heard, ‘We're not taking any new customers,’ ‘We don't do food service,’ ‘We're waiting to see what the government says.’ That means: no financial support. If the bar had 11 employees, the government would guarantee 100% of the risk of a loan from the KfW bank, meaning the €50,000 needed to tide them over would be approved. What else can they do? Simply keep going and try to mitigate it all themselves. But they can't survive that for long without financial support.
They already had the bottles. They ordered 1,500 of them a long time ago. Around 1,000 have been filled and collected or delivered in the last four weeks. The initial motivation for setting up a delivery and collection service was simply the fact that home made ingredients like syrups, cordials and decorative items like dried fruit would not survive a shutdown of several months. These items contain no preservatives so they go off more quickly than standard supplies. The losses would have been huge. They would have lost the cost of the goods, the man hours and all of the effort they had put in.
So, without further ado, bottles were filled, promoted and distributed. Our two managers do not want to join initiatives such as ‘Pay now eat later’ and ‘Support your local bar.’ They don't want to beg. And they don't want the money to come in now but not when they reopen. Instead, they want to do something and be paid for it. However, money for rent and suppliers – not to mention their salaries – is needed now.
Using disposable plastic cups or bottles for the drinks was never an option. The bar tries to do without anything that creates extra waste, as far as possible anyway. So even before the bar opened, the pair ordered a full pallet of glass bottles, intending to sell them to bar customers to take home or as presents. Many of Tin Tin's cocktails are exclusives, after all. To start with, the bottles were not returning to the bar for reuse. Cocktail lovers were finding new uses for them at home – filling them with oil or vinegar in the kitchen.
Now that Benji and Jonas can wash their bottles professionally, they have a functioning circular system. There simply would not have been enough time if they had to wash by hand. Now, cocktail lovers can return their empty bottles and they will receive a small refund when they pick up their next order. For every bottle complete with stopper, €0.50 is refunded. A €0.50 discount is also available to customers for bringing their own bag. This way, our bar owners have been able to stick to their low-waste philosophy even during the coronavirus pandemic – solidarity and sustainability.
So Benji and Jonas set up a deposit system. MEIKO's bottle rack was the key. The rack was launched at Intergastra at the beginning of the year. Using it means that our restaurant managers can wash 16 bottles at 67 °C in just two minutes. The system meets HACCP standards and churns out virus-free bottles – coronavirus-free. Clean work. That helps. So does a gesture from a Stuttgart agency – they built a webshop for the bar free of charge. A real help in this tough time. #WithMe. Everyone is doing what they can.
Ten hour days, seven days a week – the new normal for Benji and Jonas in the coronavirus pandemic. Why do they do it? They do it for themselves and, of course, for their customers. Benji tells us, ‘We will get through this tough time together. After all, going out to a bar once a week or once a month is a part of life – just like a morning coffee for some people.’
The bar owners are looking for a touch of normality, a touch of Tin Tin, a touch of real life – for themselves and their customers. That is their motivation to keep going day after day. And to hear that ring! They are longing to hear the doorbell ring and welcome customers into the bar, take them to a table and host them for a wonderful evening, Tin Tin style.