Class’s cocktail of the year, the Mirror Margarita, has kept Hacha afloat in a Covid-hit 2020. Co-owner Emma Murphy tells us how she and Deano Moncrieffe unleashed its potential
It's the year of the pivot, or so it’s experience that has certainly kept us on our toes. While the hurdles have been relentless and it’s felt unbearably overwhelming at times, I’m grateful to say that due solely to the success of our Mirror Margarita delivery service we’ve managed to stay afloat, and even to some degree thrive, in the most challenging few months our industry has faced.
How has it been so successful? Yes it’s an absolutely cracking cocktail and yes its crystal clear appearance makes it unique and desirable (hats off to Mr Moncrieffe), but when the success equally lies in the power of marketing and PR. You may have the most delicious Margarita anyone’s ever tasted but it’s not worth jack if nobody knows about it.
By getting our shit together quickly we benefited from a huge amount of initial PR when all and sundry were writing about lockdown drinks. Having successfully launched the bottle serve for Christmas 2019 it was already our plan to build on it – so we accelerated at rocket speed. We had a bottle, a logo, photography and an award-winning cocktail, so with the help of our PR team we swiftly set about marketing it as a brand in its own right.
In the first few weeks it was mainly our local customers ordering and we did the deliveries ourselves. I was seven months pregnant, wearing a mask and gloves, dropping bottles of booze on people’s doorsteps – quite an unexpected turn of events. However, we soon realised as the press kept coming and orders increased at the same rate as my belly that it wasn’t a sustainable set-up. Within a month into lockdown we had sourced the various supplies for packaging and opened an account with DHL for nationwide delivery. Our business (and hallway) took on a striking resemblance to an Amazon warehouse and suddenly we had a viable business to keep us in the game.
We built an online shop, necessary both for growth and efficiency, having spent the first month taking orders by email, which equated to many lost hours spent answering questions. Which leads me to a key learning and word of advice for anyone setting up a similar hustle – make it idiot proof. Think of any possible question someone might have about the product or the purchase procedure and lay it out clearly in bullet points or bite-size chunks, repeated in multiple touch points of the website. A surprisingly large percentage of the British public find it difficult to read what’s written in front of them unless it's spelled out in block capitals, preferably more than once. If it’s not crystal clear it’ll lead to you either having endless stupid questions to answer or losing sales altogether.
Inevitably, as the city opened up again, the orders decreased, so we added the first of a range of seasonal infusions to keep things fresh, created limited-edition bottles, produced new photography and sent newsletters to our newly found mailing list. We tried to give people a reason to keep buying. Hacha reopened and as we continually rolled with government’s punches, the extra revenue made up for early closure and cancelled bookings.
As with all our industry friends and family, it’s been a slog and the goal posts keep moving. However, to look for the silver lining we’ve learned a host of new skills and found not only a lifeline but a fully fledged arm of our business to help us ride out the Covid storm and hopefully beyond. It’s given our customers a way to stay loyal and others further away a chance to engage with our brand without travelling to Dalston. It’s also provided us a much greater understanding of our customer demographic by seeing where they live and their buying habits outside the bar.
Between the strategic building of our brand and a close relationship with our PR team (hooray for LX PR) we’ve exponentially grown our reach and customer base outside of what previously was mainly our local neighbourhood and thankfully made enough money in the process to pay the bills. And we’re not alone, I’ve watched in admiration as some of our peers have built what appear to be solid sustainable businesses off the back of necessity.
As we enter our third lockdown, it’s going to be a lengthy crisis period for hospitality, where many bars may not even reopen. I can only hope that we, and our many friends on this blind rollercoaster ride, maintain the momentum to see us through until spring. Winter is here – wrap up warm, have a tequila and good luck.
This article was first published in Class magazine's Winter 2020 edition.