What is Try January?
Try January is an initiative to spark positivity at the start of the year and encourage people to try new food and drink in pubs, bars and restaurants rather than stay indoors or stick to ‘the usual.’
How did it begin?
It all began in 2014, after a meeting with cocktail bar Be At One, who had launched a marketing drive called Try January to encourage people to order its new cocktails via the bar’s app, there formed an idea to get people to try new things in pubs across the entire trade. From that point, a ‘call to arms’ to the industry began with the intention of helping pubs and also helping lift people’s mood at the start of the year by getting experimental with food and drink.
Confusion with a similarly named campaign called Tryanuary
A similarly-named campaign called Tryanuary (losing the J) had also begun to support the independent brewing industry predominately across bottle shops, aiming to encourage people to seek out and try new beers. And, although there was talk of aligning the two to avoid confusion, the Tryanuary folks wanted to only focus on beer, whereas Try January spanned all food and all drink to encourage people to expand their repertoire whatever their eating or drinking lifestyles. The two co-existing campaigns stayed separate but supportive of one another’s success in each of their efforts to raise positivity during an often bleak time of year.
Involvement from pubs
Through individual emails, calls and chats, a collective of operators grew. All of them interested in supporting the initiative in their venues. These ranged from Craft Beer Co, the Laine Pub Co, North Bar Ltd, Oakman Inns, Dark Star, Punch Taverns, Charles Wells, M&B Country Inns, Meatliquor, New World Trading Co and Cheshire Cat Pubs as well as hundreds of individual freehouses across the UK bringing the number of venues offering their clientele new things to try into the many thousands across the nation.
All of them marketed Try January in both their venues and across social media. It has been incredible to see such positivity within the trade, reviving custom during a hard month. With the impetus of a plan to reboot the quiet month and turn it into something fun, each began to offer something different.
Through the Twitter handle @TryJanuary there is a way for pubs to communicate about what they are doing. Operators can also use the hashtag #TryJanuary to alert people about interesting food and drink they have on. The @TryJanuary account retweets a lot of the activity and can be followed to see some amazing food and drink available in various places. It has been an enjoyable process seeing the trade come together and do something positive during a month that many had previously given up hope on.
Supporters of Try January
Support has come from all corners of hospitality. Main supporters over the years have been The Craft Beer Co, North Bar Ltd, Oakman Inns, The Laine Pub Co, The New World Trading Co, Cheshire Cat Pubs, Charles Wells, Dark Star and Punch Taverns. But many more freehouses and brewery-tied pubs add ‘Try January’ options to their chalkboards and menus as well as share pictures of what’s on offer throughout the month.
Try January vs Dry January as well as other abstain campaigns
There is no versus, not really. Removing or adding anything to your life will always be a personal choice.
With the best intentions, many of the abstain campaigns encourage people to remove things from their life. They take hold of the New Year mind-set and link eradication with charitable virtue. But there is an incredibly impassioned and inspirational well-meaning side to them too and, sure, reconsidering what we imbibe is always a good thing – it gets us to engage with what we consume.
But pubs do suffer in January, because January is tough. And it often gets overlooked how it is pubs that generate an unbelievable amount of money for charities across the entire year and their community value is enormous for social interaction and good mental health in general.
A lot of abstainers feel that it is easier to avoid the pub for an entire month and end up staying indoors or not socialising with friends as a result. Try January works across food and drink. It supports people who may also be cutting back and it doesn’t suggest you need to raise money (although we support it if venues or individuals do want to link their month of food and drink experimentation with any fundraising) and that is why it is a fun campaign – there’s no pressure heaped on about the right or wrong behaviour and it needn’t hurt your pocket either – showing up and trying something small is hugely appreciated by most.
Try January also doesn’t suggest that you need to consume more or imbibe more or that instead of alcohol you should drink soft drinks. Instead, it puts the control back into people’s own hands and encourages them to use the month to create new favourites in food and drink for the rest of the year. The choices needn’t be wacky, or even completely new, but they should, perhaps, add a little more excitement to your usual order. And that is all we ask.
What can you do?
If you’re a pub, bar or restaurant and want to sign up then get in touch – email for ideas: Jessica@drinksmaven.com – find out what others have done, what has worked well and also help your team feel a part of something positive for the start of the year.
If you are someone who simply wants to embrace Try January, then tell your friends you are doing it. Convey that for a month you are going to try new food and drink when you go out or ask for recommendations. Tweet or Instagram images of drinks or dishes you ‘try’ on social media and use the hashtag #tryjanuary to share them.
The most important message is: Have fun. Life is exciting. Expanding your repertoire of food and drink for a month shouldn’t be a hardship, it should be something you can flex to your lifestyle – whatever your selections.
Motivate yourselves and each other to do things rather than not do things and the results can also be rather good.
During January, if you know of someone who is skulking indoors alone and seems reticent to go out and seek the company and warmth of their local, please give them a call. Invite them out. Listen to them and remind them what it means to have friends, neighbours and people who care. Loneliness can be addressed if we all work towards doing more. Together, we can turn January into a time for actively embarking on things.
In the darker months we don’t need more things to make us feel bad, we need to work harder to make ourselves feel really REALLY good.
Please get involved.