In the few months since its launch in November of last year, Mayfair bar Fam has made a name for itself due to its dedication to top-notch drinks (we recommend the Brand New Shoes) – but even more, because of its commitment to creating a welcoming environment for both staff and customers.
For International Women’s Day (today, 8 March), the Fam team is hosting a party in appreciation of its female employees. The evening will see the bar’s male staff working and giving their wages to its female employees, who will be joining in the celebrations. All proceeds from the evening will be donated to Solace Women’s Aid.
Ahead of the big night, we spoke with Fam’s Megs Miller to get the details on the event, along with her perspective on the state of the industry for women in the UK and around the world
Since opening Fam, has it fulfilled your vision of creating a friendly atmosphere for all?
It definitely has! My favourite bars in the world are the places that I walk into, get a hug and feel like family, so when we got the space I wanted to make everyone feel welcome. I think that’s what we are doing. You get people in and get them their drinks, but they also pick their own vinyl and we do as much as we can to make them feel welcome.
You’ve got a strong lineup of female bartenders working at Fam. Can you tell us more about them?
Zoë [van der Grinten]has been one of my closest friends for many years now. She’s super creative and has an amazing palate. She started as a pastry chef, and when it comes to flavours and creating drinks she’s badass and really creative.
Virginia [Guenette] comes from retail and got back into bartending after that, and customer service is one of her favourite parts of the job. She’s very much a people person, and was working at Happiness Forgets before. She’s proved herself an absolute weapon behind the bar.
How are you making efforts to create a positive culture for your employees?
We’re one team, and everybody does everything – nobody’s just a server or just a bartender or the manager. We all rotate on the bar, on the floor, opening and closing. Everyone’s opinions matter, and if we’re choosing a new cocktail or deciding on anything in the bar, it’s as a team.
Instead of bringing brand ambassadors in for trainings, we take Fam field trips every second Monday of the month and experience something different in London.
Every staff member that works here has a profit share. Without adding money to the business, they get a percentage of it and they learn the ins and outs of running it. We have meetings with shareholders to go over stock takes and GPs, and it gives them ownership of the bar. I fully know you’ll get the same service from every member of staff because everyone has a piece of the business.
How did the idea for your International Women’s Day celebrations come about?
We were thinking about how we could involve all the badass ladies in the industry. There’s a lot of female brand ambassadors and brand reps, so we asked brands to donate a bottle of booze. You’ll be able to order whatever you want from that selection off the back bar all night, and all profits from the evening will go to Solace Women’s Aid.
But the girls having the night off and the boys working was actually [Fam bar manager] Bruce [Govia]’s idea. We were discussing who should work that night, and Bruce simply said, ‘It’s a day to celebrate the women, so you shouldn’t have to work. I’ll work and I’ll give you my pay for the night’. It was his idea, then Zoë’s husband and my boyfriend Rhys [Wilson] also wanted to get involved. It was lovely to see the boys jump at the opportunity.
In your time in the industry, how have things changed for women?
I think it’s changed drastically in the years I’ve worked in the industry. When I first started out, the girls always started as waitresses, and that was how it was. Girls had to wear skirts and low tops and heels, and as a manager your heels had to be even higher. It was much easier for a guy to get on the bar. But that’s changing.
More and more, people are speaking up. Campaigns like #MeToo and International Women’s Day and Balance for Better are, year on year, showcasing how much support there is in this industry. And it’s not just for women – it’s also for the gay, lesbian and trans societies as well, for people of colour. It’s got to be equality for everyone.
You’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit. Have you noticed a gender imbalance in the industry in other countries? How do they compare to the UK?
I think it’s much better over here. We used to live in Colombia and Indonesia, and women in those cultures are meant to get married and have babies and stay at home. To be a female who wants a career is hard to do. Here it can be easy for a woman to have a career, and in other parts of the world they’re way behind. That chauvinistic attitude is apparent there. One of the reasons we loved working with different women in those countries was because we could try to be role models for what this industry can give you. If you work hard and are determined you can do whatever you want to do. But there’s the determination of wanting to do it, and then there’s the culture. The culture in those places still makes it difficult.
What more can be done to improve the situation for women in the industry?
I’m lucky that I work in a place that supports its women employees. I’ve had bartenders come in from other jobs and tell me about how their male managers speak to them, treat them and tell them how they should dress, and it’s infuriating. And I try to support them and let them know that’s not right.
There needs to be more men who will stand up when they see other men doing those things and say it’s not okay. It’s still happening every single day.
It’s bigger than just our industry, but we do have some pretty badass ladies in our industry who are speaking up and getting louder.
Fam’s International Women’s Day celebrations run from 4pm to 3am tonight, 8 March