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The Importance of Inclusive Hospitality

Updated: Feb 18

Since embarking on this journey in creating Somm Zero, the question I’m asked most often is...Why?


Well, that's a big question.

In many ways, it's a question that involves a long and detailed answer. Yet at the same time, the answer is actually pretty simple. It's all about inclusivity.


It kind of neatly sums up my motivation for starting this new venture. It's a word that's fairly easy to understand in theory, yet in practice can often be overlooked.


For me, that realization began a couple of years ago. Like most people, I have close friends, family & loved ones who have embarked on personal journeys with sobriety - in a variety of ways and for very different reasons. It is something unique to all of us, after all.


Yet it was the start of one journey in particular, that really changed my understanding of this subject. It involved one of my very best friends. My partner in crime. A friend who I love like family, who I've lived millions of moments with - many of which included a bottle of wine or gin & tonic (or two). When they shared with me that they were quitting booze entirely, I was supportive, of course! But also a little surprised, to be honest.


Naturally, I wondered how best I could be the friend that they needed. I also thought about how things may be different for them (and between us) - what may change?


Well, safe to say things did change...a lot.


The bravery, strength and determination of my friend navigating their new path has left me humbled, whilst my love and respect for them has grown even deeper. These feelings were compounded as they shared with me some of the more difficult sober moments they have faced.



Moments at parties. Weddings. Reunions. Date nights.


Times when they felt less than included. Where 'not drinking alcohol' became a barrier for this amazing person. At times it caused anxiety and awkwardness - which nobody deserves to feel in social settings.


Now, whilst my friend embraces change and challenges with relentless positivity (and triumphs in these moments) it pained me to hear about the need to battle through certain situations. The 'pre-event' anxiety, having to face immediate questions about what's in their glass, wondering what the vibe will be, what the drink selection may look like, and whether they'll feel included.


This raised big questions for me about when and where those social, business and family events wouldn’t be punctuated with a level of exclusion? This also happened at a time where I had embarked on a new career in wine, where my new roles, training and education were inherently rooted in great service and hospitality.


Hospitality.

That's another big word. Just as big as inclusivity in fact.

For me, these two words have become inseparable.


In gaining a deeper personal understanding of how and when sober preferences can clash with alcohol expectations, I've learned to appreciate the importance of inclusive hospitality. Put simply, whoever we're serving, or have invited over, or are hanging out with, deserves to feel included. And for that to happen, we need to extend the same consideration for preference and quality choices to everybody.



So that is why I started SOMM ZERO, and also why we're launching SOBAR - to join in the good work that many people have been doing in sharing the meaning of inclusive hospitality.


Utilising our team's professional skill-sets to showcase great alternatives to alcohol, with the hope that we can inspire each other to think, and drink, more inclusively.

Yes it's a challenge, with plenty of unknowns. But when I ask myself where and how I can make the biggest impact, as a person and professional, the answer is obvious. And the response so far has been amazing. I have enjoyed every minute of connecting with the huge variety of people who care about this topic in different ways and for different reasons. From customers to family and friends, producers, winemakers, entrepreneurs, retailers and distributors, the list goes on. So many amazing people contributing to the conversation and making hospitality more inclusive.


So, I guess we'll see where it goes from here. But for now, I'm certain that starting Somm Zero was a step in the right direction, and our whole team are excited for what comes next.



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