Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex Jump.
Hi Alex, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I started working in restaurants when I was 16 or 17 as a hostess. At the time, it was just a job that made me some money while I was in school. I hosted into college as well, where I studied Religion, Classics, and Art History. Right after I turned 21, I decided that I wanted to finally make the move from hosting/serving to work behind the bar. I had some close friends in Denver that ran a bar, and I was dating a chef at the time, so I had started to explore the world of F&B in a more intimate way and was very interested in the culture of bars and restaurants.
Not long after stepping behind the bar in my first bar back position, I knew that this was a career I was meant to be in. I ended up rising through the ranks of the small industry where I was working, Chattanooga, TN, quite quickly and was managing two bar programs for a restaurant group by the time I was 24. I moved to Denver in 2017 with the hopes of managing the bar at the soon-to-open Death & Co, and ended up getting the job!
The rest of my story is personal but I happily share it because I think it’s important. In 2018, we opened Death & Co Denver, and then I went through some of the most challenging times of my life. My long-term six-and-a-half-year relationship fell apart, and I ended up moving into my own apartment and living by myself for the first time in my life. Over the course of 2018 and 2019, I spent a considerable amount of time really getting to know myself in a way that I never had before. I started posting online about what I was going through in an open way. If I was having a bad day, if I was going to my therapy appointment, etc. I shared it on social media and just started talking about what I was going through.
Through these couple of years, I realized a few things: 1. I had really lost a big part of myself to my work. Bartending had become an all-consuming passion and I no longer had really any part of my personality that wasn’t related to it. 2. I wasn’t alone in this feeling at all, and I wasn’t alone with my struggles in depression and anxiety that I’ve struggled with for most of my life. I realized that one of the most predominant issues in the hospitality industry, especially those that work in bars and restaurants, is that we lose sight of our own wellbeing for the sake of others- be it our guests, our employers, our or coworkers/employees.
In 2019, I ended up competing in a bartending competition called Most Imaginative Bartender and part of the competition was that you had to pitch a company that you would start if you won the $20,000 grant money that was part of the grand prize. I decided to take my experiences in learning how to take better care of myself holistically, and my journey trying to live a better life while working in hospitality and find a way to translate that into a company that could provide a better life to others that work in this field. From that idea, I founded Focus on Health, and my business partner LP and I have worked over the last year and a half to provide programming, outreach, and resources to our community.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
The whole career I’ve called myself a bartender. I started bartending when I was 21 years old, and by the time I was 26, I was managing the second outpost of one of the most highly regarded cocktail bars in the world. But outside of creating cocktails and working behind a bar, which I actually had to step away from this year because of repetitive motion injury from bartending, I’m also a manager of people. I get to lead an awesome team of bartenders, barbacks, servers, hosts, cooks, etc. I get to share my expertise in the world of spirits and craft cocktails with them. I get to teach our bar team how to be more efficient and I get to lead them towards being the best that they can be. That’s incredibly cool.
I’m also an advocate for those that work in my industry. I speak out against poor working conditions, the status quo of our industry and I get to help be a part of making it a better industry to shape a career from. I feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to use my voice, ever so small in this massive world, to help make the F&B industry a better place to work.
I’d say I’m most proud of the drive that I have that has gotten me to where I want to be. I’ve learned to not be afraid to speak out for what I want. I’ve become my own biggest champion and I am so proud of myself for that.
What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
I hope to see a lot of change in the hospitality industry in the next 5-10 years. Some of those changes are internal changes that will happen over time. Some of them are changes that will challenge our guests. And some of them are changes that will require new laws and a new way of thinking about the services we provide in hospitality as well as the value that is put on those services. A lot of these changes are intertwined, complex, and will require more than just one group of people in order to happen.
1. I hope to see bar and restaurant owners start to prioritize ways that they can take better care of their employees. This includes things budgeting for healthcare/time off, etc. when writing a business plan or a yearly budget. I hope that owners start finding ways to invest in their employees and start to see the financial benefit of reducing staff turnover by being better employers.
2. I hope to see guests and patrons of bars and restaurants start to treat hospitality works with more respect and empathy. On top of this, I hope that bar and restaurant owners and managers no longer abide by the “Guest is always right” mentality and stop allowing abuse from patrons. For years I worked for employers that allowed guests to mistreat employees because of the notion that hospitality means always saying yes. Abuse is abuse and it’s time that we stop allowing abusive behavior. End of sentence.
3. I hope to see tipping eliminated from the dining culture in the United States. This is a very complex issue that will require governmental changes. But needless to say that issues 1 and 2 above are directly affected by the issue of tipping in America.