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Scotland's First Living Wage Cocktail Bar: Panda & Sons

Posted: 2018-06-27 11:22:07

Scotland's First Living Wage Cocktail Bar: Panda & Sons

Panda & Sons Team

Scotland’s First Living Wage Cocktail Bar: Panda & Sons

There are a number of things that set this cocktail bar apart from the rest: the first one you notice is that the bar is disguised as a barber shop. Despite this seemingly counterintuitive approach to marketing, Panda and Sons (Panda) cannot be seen as anything other than a great success story, and have received international acclaim by way of being recognised as being in the world’s top 5 high volume cocktail bars. 

The other thing that sets Panda apart is that they are Scotland’s first Living Wage cocktail bar. 

Panda’s owner Ian McPherson said that paying decent wages has always been a priority for his business and even before he was aware of the real Living Wage he wanted to make sure he was paying better than anyone else.

“I worked on the minimum wage and I know how hard it is and I know that’s it not a job you can just show up to, you have to work hard.  I wanted to show that it is a profession.  Paying a decent wage is also a sign of respect, it shows the respect that I have for them as employees and I get that respect back. 

“Profiting by not paying staff well doesn’t sit well with me, I would rather profit on actually making profit.  I want to show that you can make your business profitable and still pay your staff fairly: well paid staff are more productive.  If you pay them well, treat them right and make sure they are happy they work harder, so it’s full circle as if you look after them they look after the business.” 

“There is an old mind-set that bar work is minimum wage work.  But actually this industry is really labour intensive as well as being creative.  The bar industry is evolving to meet consumer desires; the pay needs to reflect that. But in many cases the pay is getting left in the dark ages.”

Jono McDowell is the co-general manager at Panda.  He has been in the industry for 12 years, working in Sydney, London and Edinburgh. 

“There’s a big conversation happening at the moment between bars about the Living Wage.   Panda has been leading that conversation.  A lot of other bars do not pay for the experience you bring to a job, you will only get paid for the experience you gain once you are in that job.  Meaning that it’s very hard to move and get paid a decent wage.

Hospitality is now a career; people join us and want to progress. Employers need to look after their bartenders and other staff to help them progress and grow.  The Living Wage is part of that” 

Leon Back has been a bartender at Panda for 2 years, and has worked in cocktail bars for 6.  Leon told us that when he started in the industry he was paid way below the real Living Wage and that this is the best he’s been paid so far in his hospitality career.

We asked Leon about the importance of paying the real Living Wage and what it meant to him:

“Professionally it gives me the motivation to come in and work harder every day but it also gives you a great work life balance.  When you’re outside of work it’s important to be able to enjoy what you do, being paid the real Living Wage means you’re not in the house eating baked beans.  It means you can actually enjoy the city that you are working in, hang out with your friends or spend a bit of money on yourself by going on trips or a holiday for example.”

There is a sense of community amongst those who work in hospitality, especially in bars.  They can share war stories of crazy festival shifts and will certainly know the best places to go in any given city. But there’s also an ongoing discussion about where to go work: which bars are the best to go work at and which are the ones to avoid.   Ian told us that Panda attracts great staff, and not just because they pay the real Living Wage, and not just because of the numerous awards the bar has won but because there is a sense of family between the staff, and that they are a healthy team that is well supported by the company.

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