Passion and ambition drove Stefano Deuscit away from the medical field and towards a brilliant career in the spirits industry. Today this ESCP alumnus is chasing his dreams as a Brand Ambassador Coordinator for Bacardi – Martini France in Paris, and is enjoying every step of his journey towards his goals. Learn how Stefano’s hobby became his profession, and how studying at ESCP gave him a competitive edge and some strong foundations in his chosen field. Read about the industry’s latest trends, how the beverage sector is responding to the COVID pandemic and what he predicts will happen in the future.
You started your professional career in the medical field, graduating with a degree in radiographic diagnostics from the University of Turin. But then you moved to London and started working in the bartending industry. What prompted this 180-degree shift?
When I graduated in 2011, competition in the radiographic sector was fierce and jobs were scarce. So my curiosity and personal ambition prompted me to move to London, which at the time was a bustling metropolis that felt like the center of the world. Up until then, bartending had only been a hobby of mine. I took a course just for fun, inspired by the movie Cocktail, a passion for juggling and my mum, who worked in the industry for over 30 years.
So while I was waiting for my medical degree to be validated in the UK, I started bartending out of necessity, but I was immediately struck by the level of satisfaction that I got from educating my customers about the world of spirits: from the history behind certain cocktails to the techniques used to blend colors, textures and flavors.
Working in the hospital started feeling repetitive. I was missing the buzz, the excitement, the opportunity to meet people from across the world on a daily basis. I knew the time was right to make a bold step and leave my old life behind, because I was conscious that I was headed in a direction that would make me happier.
Soon after, I took the plunge and switched from hospital to hospitality, and discovered a fascinating sector that looks easy on the surface, but requires a lot of attention to detail, skills and strong ambition to be carried out at a professional level. Despite the many sacrifices, my family was super supportive of my decision. I decided to follow my passion because I knew that forcing myself into a career that did not stimulate my curiosity and ambition would eventually make me feel incomplete.
Why did you choose to continue your education with a MSc. in International Food and Beverage management at ESCP?
I’ve always been fascinated by the management aspects of the hospitality industry. My medical training did not provide me with any fundamentals of marketing, economics or finance, so I looked for a degree that could complement my field experience with some theoretical aspects.
The Msc. in international food and beverage was the perfect fit for me: it boosted my career and allowed me to stand out versus the competition. I got the opportunity to live and learn in Italy and France, two countries that are world renowned for their history, resourcefulness and excellence in the food and beverage industry.
The cherry on the top for me were the company visits: I was able to meet speakers and representatives from the most reputable businesses in my field, and I started to build a network of contacts while still a student.
Looking back at your academic path, which course did you find most useful to your current profession?
Without any doubt, Marketing Principles in Food and Beverage was the course that better prepared me for my career at Bacardi. I learned new marketing methods, how to organize a business and the importance of keeping track of projects and deadlines. Some of these lessons I still apply in my day to day activities. The group projects we worked on were also very useful: teamwork, human relations, and the ability to express creativity in a constructive way are essential skills in a role like mine, and some of the most sought after abilities by companies in my sector.
Today you work as an Advocacy Brand Ambassador Coordinator for Bacardi – Martini France, one of the most respected brands in the spirits industry. Can you tell us more about your experience working for Bacardi, and what your day-to-day responsibilities entail?
My current role focuses on three pillars: Education, Engagement and Experience. I ensure that our team of brand ambassadors engage our clients with a thorough knowledge of our portfolio, spirits production and brand values. It’s important that they create long lasting connections with hospitality staff, particularly bartenders.
My job has a really wide scope, and needs to adapt to the constantly changing reality of our sector. Organization, budget control and responsiveness are the key words to my success. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, trade fair shows and the organization of industry events such as cocktail competitions occupied the majority of our time. Today, we engage the bartending community with new digital approaches, which include masterclasses, products’ formation and constant online engagement with bartending schools and associations.
The best part of working for Bacardi is the opportunity to seize business opportunities, share ideas and goals right with my managers, and to be directly involved in guiding the future of our company. It’s a job that is based on lots of human interaction, so I have a lot of chances to go out of the office and meet people in person. Our crew of 15 is very diverse in terms of experiences and knowledge, but it’s the strong team spirit that really sets us apart.
How is the world of spirits evolving and what advice can you give to someone who’s interested in working in this sector?
While alcohol consumption is experiencing a general slowdown, the industry is also constantly evolving, with many new trends and innovations.
Today, there’s a growing interest towards healthier ways of drinking without compromising quality and most important of all, flavor. Consumers have become more aware of where ingredients are sourced from, and the importance of sustainable practices in packaging and in the management of the resources used in the production process. From a brand perspective, we are also experiencing an increase in brand premiumisation. Quality has become a core purpose for many players in our field, and companies are not willing to make any compromises on this.
My suggestion for someone who’s approaching the beverage industry is to look out for these elements in prospective companies, start-ups or agencies that are competing in this sector.
How has Covid affected the consumption of spirits? How will the industry be able to recover from this shock?
This pandemic has severely impacted all the actors in my industry, with bars, clubs and restaurants suffering the most. Many spirits companies have tried to supplement the governments’ help with long term investments and projects. After a severe reduction in consumption in the first stages of the pandemic, we saw a huge spike in home consumption of spirits, augmented by an extension of Covid related restrictions and a preference towards online sales.
I predict 2021 will still be a transitory period for many businesses in the hospitality sector, and a true recovery won’t happen until at least the summer of 2022. One of the main challenges in this industry is the ability to respond to sudden and unexpected changes like this one, but successful brands are keeping in touch with industry professionals and engaging clients digitally. I believe that investing your time in getting a Msc. in international Food and Beverage management in this period of cooldown is a very strategic move, that can help students and professionals find new, innovative solutions as the industry prepares for an inevitable post pandemic growth but also a total reorganization of this sector. I would also keep my eyes open for digitalization strategies and new environmental practices, as these are the future of the food and beverage industry.