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What Are Distilleries Doing During The Pandemic? - Dingle Distillery


It’s a hard time for distilleries right now, but they are finding different ways to power through. In our conversation with Elliot Hughes, he shares with us his plans for Dingle Distillery.

“Support local people and local business in these tough times. They’ll always remember and will support you when they can” says Elliot Hughes, Business Development Director at Dingle Distillery, Ireland.

Hughes, just like all other distillery masters, has spent a good amount of time building Dingle Distillery. To him, it’s his love and passion, just like for everyone else as well. During these times, a lot of people are struggling, and as Hughes has said, Dingle Distillery is no stranger to the struggle.

During the busy times that are right now, the London Spirits Competition got to chat with Elliot Hughes from Dingle Distillery - where Elliot took us on a journey and shared with us what him and his team are up to during these unfortunate times.

Safety First

“For us it’s the safety of everyone who we come into contact with in the distillery; not just our staff but our suppliers, our business customers as well as our consumers” said Hughes.

For any leader, the first thing that comes to their minds is the safety of their team. Without a team, the distillery wouldn’t be in the works anyway - so of course, the number one priority is safety in each and every aspect. In fact, what Hughes says resonates with us very much. A team involves everyone, including customers, so for a distillery, it’s very important to put in measures to ensure safety of everyone involved in the ins and outs of the distillery.

The Sale Struggle & Retail Pickup

“The outbreak has, like for many others, had a significant negative impact on sales. Our on-trade business as well as all export sales have stopped which is a significant part of our business” Hughestold the London Spirits Competition when asked about the state of Dingle Distillery’s sales right now.

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With almost all on-trade establishments shut down right now, sales for a lot of distilleries and brands have been dropping. In fact, for a lot of distilleries, on-trade is the dominant part of the revenue generation for the business. Right now, the one thing keeping things together is retail. With social distancing taking place, people are still drinking, therefore, they are stocking up as well. So the retail sector is one which has an increasing demand. However, for most distilleries, it’s not enough to pull themselves up, and doesn’t account for a large amount of their sales.

“Retail demand has increased significantly but not to nearly the same level to match the level of orders we would usually see in the on-trade. On our website, people can order online and it will be delivered to you which has been doing some good business. However our focus is more with traditional retailers and supporting them” Hughes added.

In the end it all boils down to support, and Hughes is a big advocate of that. Like he said, support is one thing that will bring people together right now, and make you remember them. So as Dingle Distillery is moving on, they’re trying to work with more traditional retailers, and finding a spot to support them during these times. Of course it all works as a give and take thing, whereas retailers will definitely give distilleries their support as well.

And how can we forget the delivery sector. Deliveries are what is making it big as well. Dingle Distillery is delivering through their website, and a lot of other distilleries are doing the same as well. In fact, Naked Wine and other third party websites are also opening up and starting deliveries to their customers. So, we’re hoping for business to pick up once again, slowly, but definitely.

The need to minimize costs

With sales dropping rapidly, and a very less place to generate revenue, cutting costs has become the first plan of action for every distillery out there - as it should be. To keep the business afloat, or to hold it up as much as one can, cost cutting is key. It’s only then things will start fitting into place.

“We are focussing on minimising our costs wherever possible. Only essential repairs & maintenance are being carried out and all other spend is being closely monitored” Hughes shared when we spoke to him about operational costs.

Another way that people are reducing costs is by laying off employees - and yes, this is something that might hurt the emotional side of a leader, but after a point it has to be done. “Unfortunately, we have had to temporarily let go of some staff who were operating in a role that the Government deemed “non-essential” for example the tours within the distillery”Hughes added, with pure intensity in his tone, portraying that Dingle Distillery will be ready to jump back in as soon as things get better.

Generating Revenue & Gaining Visibility

For everyone out there, figuring out a way to generate revenue has become a challenge. Owners and managers are taking out their old idea pads and wondering what to do next and how to get some income flowing in to sustain the business.

“We are always looking at new ways to generate revenue. NPD is an important part of what we do. This current break has given us time to have a more in depth look at this and new interesting projects” said Hughes, not revealing much about the new projects, which only left us with curiosity. But of course, just like any leader, Hughes is set to test the waters first before launching new projects and generating revenue to pick the business back up again.

Another thing that distilleries are focusing on right now is increasing their visibility within their consumer base. Of course, no one wants consumers to forget about them once things are over. And it’s so important to stay in touch with customers, especially when digital media has made it so easy for everyone to do so.

“We are using this time to refine how we see ourselves and how our consumers see us as well” said Hughes when we spoke about how digital media and visibility for the brand is so important, especially right now. We also came to the conclusion that this time granted has proven to be an excellent way to create solid content and attract a high line of consumers towards the business.

Supporting The Community

For most distilleries, production is still on, and Dingle Distillery is no different. However, Hughes and his team are strong advocates of supporting local businesses, and their community - and for that, Hughes and the Dingle team is also producing hand sanitizers during the crisis.

“We are trying to do our bit by producing Hand Sanitizer for local hospitals and businesses that are still operational. We of course are concerned about the market for our products in the short-medium term but our concern is very much with people both local to Dingle town and further afield” said Hughes, expressing his strong concern for the society he resides in.

What’s Next?

Planning for now is one thing, but you always have to plan for the future as well. It’s necessary to know and predict what could happen next, and when that happens, what are you as a distillery going to do?

“We hope to get back up on our feet as quickly as possible. I think there will be a small element of NPD but mainly the first few months back will see us focusing on bringing our core products back to the level they were and continue to move in a positive direction” said Hughes, his tone being positive, and we couldn’t help but think how he’s spoken like a true leader. 

As a successful leader, and a strong team, Hughes has already thought of what’s next, and with the new projects coming in for the distillery, the focus will keep building one by one.