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The Rise Of The Pop-Up Bar With The Shack Revolution

Shack’s Richard Manning on taking the pop-up bar world by storm

Take two enterprising siblings, an old horse box and a couple of blenders, and what do you have? The humble yet promising beginnings of The Shack Revolution, the Hertfordshire-based boutique mobile bar company on every party planner’s wish list.



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The brainchild of twenty-something brothers James and Richard Manning, the rustic cocktail, juice and espresso pop-ups are a favourite among festival goers and also in hot demand at weddings, corporate events and private shindigs across the country.

A full-time team of seven, in addition to hundreds of summer staff, ensure sated punters, while for those seeking something more substantial, the Manning empire also includes a pizza, beer and cocktail restaurant in Hereford. Not bad for what started out as “a way to have a fun summer and sell a bit of juice”.

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“The reason we’ve done so well is because we were so different in the beginning,” explains Richard. “There were very few pop-up bars around at the time, let alone ones that were quirky and fun. We were one of the first juice bar companies out there. All the fruit is from our family farm, whereas most people buy it in.”

After graduating, Richard joined James in producing apple juice before the duo decided to explore more lucrative ventures. “There wasn’t much money in apples, so we started making fruit juices and smoothies at festivals. We borrowed mum’s horse box and made a bar out of loads of old crates and pallets from the farm then took it to a food festival in Edinburgh. Our mum walked past while we were building it and said it looked like a shack. The name stuck.”

As the juicing scene exploded, the brothers realised intoxication was the way forward and branched out into cocktails and real ale.

"The whole pop-up bar market became saturated, so we thought we’d try to diversify into other areas.” It was a move that paid off. “The last two years have been crazy – we never thought we’d be where we are today.”

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Shack serves up all manner of cocktails, from the crowd-pleasing mojito to the hipster-certified elderflower and rosemary gin fizz, plus the company’s signature rhubarb vodka – made from Hereford-grown potatoes and, of course, apples from the Manning farm.

With such seriously tempting tipples on offer, does the team ever run out of booze? “All the time!” laughs Richard. “In the early days, it happened frequently, though not so much any more. We’d have to either pop down to the shop or be creative with what we had left. You’d run out of vodka one weekend then never run out of vodka again. The next weekend you’d run out of rum, so you bring more rum next time. Eventually, you get to a stage where you never run out of anything. It’s a massive learning curve with events.”

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What other issues have they encountered along the way? “One of my biggest mistakes was serving a brand of gin at a wedding that was being held at a competitor’s distillery. It escalated into a huge issue for us with that particular distillery. We resolved it in the end, though.”

So, it’s been no plain sailing then, but working with family eases the challenges of running a business, says Richard. “James and I are very lucky – we have a great relationship. We never argue because we know each other so well. If one of us has a really strong point of view, there’s heated discussion and you get quite annoyed. But the best part of working with your brother is that you move on within five minutes. Yes, there are times when we both want to throw a bottle at each other’s heads, but that’s normal.”

A second Shack restaurant is due to open later this year (“probably in Bristol”) with more in the pipeline. Does this ambitious pair ever enjoy any downtime?

“Anyone who owns their own business would be lying if they said it didn’t take over their life. Four and a half years in with a good team behind us, we can finally have the occasional holiday. You get to a stage where you appreciate the importance of a work life balance.” We’ll raise a gin fizz to that!

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Richard’s top tips for hosting the ultimate summer party

  • The key to any successful party is atmosphere. The drinks and barman could be rubbish, but as long as everyone’s having a good time they won’t focus on the detail. Creating the right atmosphere is all about a decent playlist, so spend time on this.
  • Don’t be afraid to be different. If you’re serving G&Ts, don’t just go for Gordon’s – look around for a craft gin. It’s all about being creative and unique.
  • Have fun! If you’re enjoying yourself, your guests will have a good time, too.

If you want to know the recipe for Shack’s signature rhubarb martini, check out The Edit This Friday! 

 

Posted in Spotlight

by Alix O'Neill
on on 01 August 2016

 

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