An equivalent to the Michelin Guide has been a long discussed omission within the bar industry: why does such a clear, universally recognised system not exist? Well things are about to change. Hannah Sharman-Cox and Siobhan Payne reveal all
The challenge felt like ours to take on. Creating a platform that speaks directly to discerning drinkers across the world, celebrating everything that is brilliant about cocktail culture, seemed such an honour.
But here’s the thing, every way we looked at it the challenge was bigger than us. So rather than launch a fully formed business, all dolled-up and ready to go, we decided to take a step back. Because how the best bars in the world are judged, who is responsible and what they should be looking for really should have the input of the people on the receiving end.
The Pinnacle Guide launched exclusively to the drinks industry in February 2022 on Zoom – big-time sign of the times! Since then, we’ve been in the ‘consultancy phase’, asking all the questions we could think of in front of anyone in the bar industry, from anywhere in the world, and welcoming their ideas, feedback and opinions on how The Pinnacle Guide should be shaped. We’ve made new friends, and heard fresh ideas, united in the desire to celebrate all that’s brilliant about bars.
We won’t be shouting about The Pinnacle Guide until we’re ready to start awarding PINs, but that’s not to say we can’t be excited about what’s to come, about how our platform might help you make an informed choice about where you drink, wherever you may be in the world.
So with that in mind, here’s the story so far…
We have accepted that good things really do take time (patience is a virtue we’re feverishly working on). But we also know there are instrinsic elements that will shape our criteria and ensure we become an essential part of planning your next bar visit.
Taste is important, but thoughtfulness is key
Ahh the drinks list, inevitably the highlight in this process of rewarding excellence. We went into the consultancy phase thinking we may need to teach reviewers how to taste. But all our conversations led to the same conclusion: drinks of course have to be delicious, but more important is the overall menu, which has to be thoughtful and inclusive – appropriate to the concept of the bar as a whole. How modern! By championing this approach, we’ll be able to reward all types of bars because who’s to say a beach shack isn’t just as wonderful as a five-star hotel destination? Our reviewers will be primed to see their experience in a venue through the lens of the bar itself.
What does it mean for you? The Pinnacle Guide will be a platform you can use to find the very best of the best places to drink across all types of venues. The style may vary, not the quality.
The main marker: how people are made to feel
We spent six months asking as many people as possible “what makes a great bar?” Ultimately, there’s no right answer. But what is clear is the feeling of hospitality is universal and the number-one most important asset. So how on earth do you measure that? Step forward some new experts, psychologists, who will create a tangible way of training our reviewers to non-subjectively understand what it means to feel welcomed. We also spent time discussing the possibility of criteria for speed of service, greeting or mise en place – touch points that would go some way to determining whether a bar receives a PIN, but this increasingly felt dated. Does it really matter how many times someone checks on your table if the one time they do it’s appropriate and handled with care? Authenticity is pivotal to this whole process.
What does it mean for you? Hospitality is crucial. You can be sure any bar that receives an accolade from The Pinnacle Guide, does so primarily because of how it makes their guests feel.
Perfection is unrealistic, but everyone has to do their best
If we’re to be a business for the future, we should be proactively rewarding operators that consider their environmental impact, and take care of, and are inclusive to, all people (staff and customers) without exception. No venue can achieve 100% perfection in all aspects, it’s just not possible, but there should be a visible, genuine attempt. When a bar starts the application process to be considered for a PIN, we’ll ask about their hiring policies, how long the team have been employed and their career progression. We’ll ask about considerations for waste streams and how the bars interact with their local communities. By asking these questions, we’re reminding operators of their imortance. We won’t be awarding a specific Green PIN – you just won’t get a PIN at all if you’re not trying to be ‘green’ – and while we understand that not all global markets have the same access to support, especially when it comes to environmental matters, we’ll take each bar at face value, determining whether they’re doing their upmost within their own parameters.
What does it mean for you? The Pinnacle Guide is a platform for the future. We take social responsibility seriously and will ensure that the bars we recognise do the same.
The next steps…
All these learnings are banked in The Pinnacle Guide archives and the first few months of 2023 will be spent finalising the first-look criteria to which all bars everywhere will be marked against. True to form, there will be a chance for anyone to wade in with opinion and, much like a blue A4 planning application tacked to a lamp post, there’ll be 30 days to submit objections. Recruiting reviewers (this privilege is open to all, not just bar professionals, do you have what it takes!?) and accepting submissions from bars that would like to be considered will follow. Our aim is to award the first PIN in Autumn 2023.
As drinks industry trend reports for 2023 have zoned in consumer habits, spending patterns and how to authentically connect with Gen Z,- it’s a great time to focus on the positives and take note of where The Pinnacle Guide can add value. The brilliant Cause A Stir report (created by Hue & Cry with the help of The Cocktail Lovers) cites a fundamental insight for next year;
“As people will be take more time planning where to go out, in 2023, having a unique proposition will be crucial in standing out and adding value. Drinkers will seek bars with a distinctive vision. Not only that, they’ll be looking for spaces with inclusive menus, and environments that showcase just as exciting low-alcohol and no-alcohol options as the expected alcoholic varieties, will be key.”
This backs up our plans for The Pinnacle Guide perfectly. We love distinctive vision! We’re cheerleading for inclusive menus and venues! So a discovery platform for the best bars in the world, not just focussing on capital cities, with an easy-to-understand scoring system, feels well timed. Especially when the stats are telling us people are prepared to spend more time researching their night out and are then prepared to pay more for a higher quality experience. What a positive note to end on.
The consultancy phase is ongoing until April 2023 and all the round tables are available to watch back on thepinnacleguide.com. If you have any feedback for us and would like to lend your voice to the outcome, you are invited to be part of the process. You can reach all three of us via firstname.lastname@example.org – we love to set up a Zoom meeting!
What is The Pinnacle Guide?
- A ‘Michelin Guide’ for the bar industry, which currently doesn’t exist!
- A one, two and three “PIN” system, set to become a go-to guide for discovering the best bars in the world.
- A reserve of factual, impartial information alongside multiple visits from anonymous, local reviewers and transparent criteria.
- Inclusive. Every bar will be subject to the same standards globally, with no limit to the number of bars that can receive a PIN.