This is part of SevenFifty Daily’s 2023 Drinks Innovators series. You can learn more about the rest of our award-winners here.
Alex Jump knows firsthand the challenge of balancing one’s health with a career in the beverage industry. She got her start in the business working behind the bar, and “realized exercise made me a happier person,” she says. “I struggled with anxiety as a kid, and learning techniques to manage it, like meditation, yoga, and breathing, made all the difference.” As Jump moved up the industry ladder, into a management role, the need to move her body corresponded with the increase in hours and responsibilities. “If I wanted to be a pleasant person and a pleasant manager, I needed to stay active,” she says.
In 2019, that practice hit a roadblock when she developed tendonitis in her wrists. The pain reached a tipping point, forcing her to quit yoga and, eventually, withdraw from bar work. However, a silver lining emerged from her predicament: her experience led her to launch Focus On Health, an idea conceived during Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition in 2020. Around that time, Lauren Paylor “LP” O’Brien started to prioritize her own mental health during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. When she saw the work Jump had started, she reached out about teaming up and “the rest is history,” says O’Brien.
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Today, the organization provides health and wellness programming and training for hospitality staff and establishments. This work is much needed in an industry that has the highest rate of substance use disorders and third-highest rate of heavy alcohol use in all employment sectors, according to a 2015 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study. Stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout abound among hospitality professionals, exacerbated by the demanding nature of the work, long hours, and intense pressure to meet customer and employer expectations.
However, a positive trend has emerged in recent years toward better health and well-being practices, with more employers providing access to health benefits, counseling services, and workplace training. Focus on Health is part of this movement, with Jump and O’Brien using their platform to advocate for the physical and mental well-being of bar industry employees.
The company helps bars build non-alcoholic and low-alcohol programs to promote mindful drinking, and they develop and facilitate training programs for industry workers that address multiple aspects of health issues. These include: Harm Reduction 101; Overdose Prevention and Response; Fentanyl Test Strips and Narcan; and Conflict Management. They also offer event production and speaking engagements to promote health advocacy in communities nationwide, and fellow collaborator Joshua Grandee, a specialist in the non-alcoholic category, hosts a podcast on the subject, No Proof. “We’ve set up Focus on Health to be versatile, offering many different types of training courses, classes, and certifications to ensure that everyone could find something that suits their needs,” says O’Brien.
Most recently, the company launched their inaugural No/Low tour in collaboration with bar consultancy Mover & Shaker. Seizing on the sober-curious zeitgeist and growth in the low-alcohol and alcohol-free product categories, the No/Low tour, which started as a pop-up in July 2022 at Tales of the Cocktail, leaped firmly into the cocktail world with a six-conference commitment in 2023. The No/Low tour debuted at Seattle Cocktail Week in March, moving to Bar Convent Brooklyn and the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June, and then Tales of the Cocktail in July. The tour will continue at Portland Cocktail Week in October and DMV Black Restaurant Week in November.
“We’re thrilled that it has turned into an opportunity for us to represent no/low culture on a major stage at national cocktail conferences and give attendees something different than they’re used to,” says O’Brien.
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