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Covid-19 has impacted hospitality particularly hard – however there are a number of options available to those working within the industry. We run through the implications for business and the opportunities moving forward.
COVID-19 (coronavirus) is the health pandemic that has recently brought the world to a standstill, but what exactly is it?
According to the national Health Department, COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China and is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus.
The Health Department has advised that the common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath and it can spread:
When looking at how fast the virus can travel, the first case was documented in December 202 and by mid-April there were over 2.57 million confirmed cases and 177,602 deaths across the globe.
Closer to home in Australia, on 2nd May we had reported 6,801 confirmed cases, 95 deaths and 5,817 recovered.
Despite the large numbers, Australia doesn’t have a widespread community transmission of COVD-19, unlike other countries. This suggests that the majority of our confirmed cases have been acquired overseas.
After the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Victoria in late January, the fear of the rapid rate of infection prompted Australia to implement measures to limit the risk.
As cases increased and more Australians became vulnerable to the situation, the government initiated gradual shutdowns across the country in late March.
Unfortunately, the hospitality industry was the first victim and so far, has been the hardest hit.
“It has been a roller-coaster of a ride…We were impacted earlier than the shutdown with the changes of how many people you were allowed in with the four-square rule on the Friday (March 21),” owner of Sydney’s Beppi’s Italian Marc Polese told Goodman Fielder Food Service.
“We had to measure out the restaurant and work out how many people we could have and then it changed on the Sunday (March 22) and we were told we had to close on the Monday.”
“It happened so rapidly.”
That was when we said goodbye to the industry as we knew it, as venues either shut up shop or switched to takeaway only.
And with these restrictions in place, jobs were impacted.
By the first week of April, more than a quarter of jobs in hospitality were lost – with the majority of those impacted coming as a result of venues being compelled to close, the ABC reported.
“As a small business that has been going for 64 years, the financial side hasn’t been too much of a consideration for us,” Marc explained.
“For me, it’s more about continuing the name on, continuing to service our customers and more than anything giving our staff a little bit of income and purpose, especially psychologically.”
It’s not known when restrictions could be lifted by, however Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said measures will be reviewed on a monthly basis.
So, as the buzzing noise of restaurants packed with customers comes to a halt, businesses have begun to find ways to stay afloat.
While some have decided to close their doors to the public and stand down their staff, others have amended their business to fit a takeaway model with the use of pick-ups or delivery.
Celebrity chef, Adrian Richardson is one of the many business owners who has worked with his staff to bring a new offering to his customers.
“[La Luna] decided to go for an online food portal and do mostly pick-ups and some deliveries,” Adrian told Goodman Fielder Food Service.
“Basically, we [can now] sell some of the food that we make here, like our small goods and our meat that is dry aged.
We’ve also been able to do pre-packaged, pre-cooked meals that are ready and easy to heat up and enjoy at home and that seems to be working really well,” he explained.
In Sydney, Marc has also amended his Italian menu to fit the new way of food delivery.
“The mandatory closure meant [takeaway] was really our only option other than closing,” he explained.
To ensure he was ready, Marc developed a website, “investigated sales platforms so people can order online” and began to engage with customers through social media.
But it didn’t stop there.
The business owner explained he had to find the right containers, labels and bags, as well as develop a travel-friendly menu that still consisted of some of Beppi’s classics.
To do so, they’ve removed their seafood dishes and kept their famous homemade pastas, which are available either as a meal or raw.
And instead of signing up to a delivery company, Marc said it was “important to keep my staff,” so he decided to employ them as delivery drivers.
Restaurant empire, Merivale Group have also made changes to their offering by launching Merivale At Home, which offers takeaway from Fred’s, Mr Wong, Totti’s, Bert’s and Vinnie’s Pizza.
The group are also selling fruit and vegetable produce boxes in partnership with their suppliers.
The current environment has prompted innovation for some businesses and despite the circumstances of being restricted to takeaway dining, Marc admits he has found it exciting to see Beppi’s evolve.
“We’ve never had any of these resources [website, delivery, social media] before and what’s been amazing to see is the enthusiasm with my staff towards this,” he said.
“They want to be here, even if there isn’t much to do because there’s that other side of just wanting to be involved and having a purpose, which is really great.”
In Australia, your online delivery options are limited, with only three major players and a handful of newcomers.
And since COVID-19 sign ups to these food ordering apps have boomed.
Data has shown that sales through delivery services increased by 63%.
And in the wake of coronavirus, the online delivery services have made amends and scrapped their usual 30 – 35% service fees to assist venues.
Looking for ways to keep your business moving in the right direction?
To help the economy and businesses during COVID-19, there’s a number of government grants available that can help you keep afloat.
For more information about support available, visit:
The hospitality industry is already prone to mental illness.
So, in a time when things are even more stressful than normal, it’s more important than ever to check in on your mates.
And for Adrian, it’s those chats that’s allowed him to think positively about the future.
“My chef buddies and I may speak once, maybe twice through the year, but we’ve been on the phone every week [since COVID-19], even if it is just a text message of something silly,” he explained.
“It’s been really good for me because I feel like these guys are watching out for me, they’re looking after me and talking to me.
“It’s been really good to have that network tighten up and really shown up.”
Adrian added that while the phone calls are a simple gesture, they’ve been really important to him over the last few weeks.
“I have also had a few phone calls from people in moments where I really needed someone to talk to and it’s been really helpful for me because it’s pretty dark and you have some pretty dark thoughts,” he explained.
“Like, everything’s been shut down, so what happens? Like I’ve got houses, businesses, kids and all of a sudden it could all be gone.
“And I have 30 employees who rely on me for their well-being and they need me to be up and come up with ideas to keep it all moving, and the thought that I have is what if I can’t open up again? What if this goes on for a year or two, I will be shutting everything down; I will have to sell off.”
Adrian went on to explain that “the responsibility and the burden” COVID-19 has put on chefs and business owners is “heavy but having people around with similar burdens has helped make it a little easier.”
So, as the days and months roll by, the restaurateur has developed himself a mental health plan to get through the dark clouds, including exercise.
“I’ve been getting up early and walking the dogs for about an hour, sometimes two hours and I’ve found that that it’s been giving me the mental capacity to deal with things and process things in my head,” he said.
If you or anyone you know needs help, please contact the below helplines: