Coronavirus update for business: Grocery restrictions relaxed, restaurant chatter in your own home, and Netflix eyes up $1 billion


A wave of panic-buying sees shelves empty of toilet paper at Coles. Source: AAP/Kelly Barnes.

Back to normality?

While social distancing restrictions are still in place, things could be starting to return to normality in the supermarket aisles, as Aldi, Coles and Woolworths start to tentatively relax purchasing restrictions.

In the earlier days of the COVID-19 crisis, panic-buying forced major supermarkets to impose restrictions on popular products.

Now, however, Aldi has lifted restrictions on purchasing UHT milk, microwave rice, canned foods and sugar.

The limits are still in place for products such as flour, dry rice, dry pasta and — of course — toilet paper and paper towels.

Woolworths chief Brad Banducci also said in a statement the supermarket has removed product limits on canned vegetables and legumes, as well as most baby products.

While Coles hasn’t released a statement, a spokesperson from the supermarket giant told Business Insider it has removed limits on products including meat, UHT milk, tissues and nappies.

Coles has also re-opened its online shopping delivery service to all customers, but will continue its priority service for elderly and vulnerable customers.

Clean energy boost

Clean energy startup accelerator EnergyLab has secured $1 million in funding, from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and other industry partners, to launch its new scale-up program.

The new program is designed to support later-stage renewable energy startups, and help them reach scale as quickly as possible.

And, while these startups will help tackle the environmental crisis, EnergyLab chief James Tilbury says they also have a role to play economically.

“We strongly believe the companies that will benefit from this funding will play an important role in helping us move beyond the current economic crisis,” Tilbury said in a statement.

“Now, more than ever, we need to support start-ups and entrepreneurs.”

Pitching from a distance

Talking of accelerators, Startmate ran its first online demo day last night, showcasing the 11 startups of its latest cohort, as they pitched from their respective lounge rooms. And by all accounts, the new format proved successful.

Startmate chief Michael Batko said this morning that almost 2,000 people tuned into the digital event, including 400 investors.

More than 100 potential customers or investors also put in connection requests during the live stream alone.

Netflix can chill

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise, but Netflix memberships in the Asia Pacific region reportedly spiked by 3.6 million in the first quarter of 2020, as more people stuck inside coughed up for entertainment.

The streaming giant is also out to raise US$1 billion ($1.6 billion) in new funding, The Australian Financial Review reports, to further invest in original content, and capitalise on the momentum it’s seeing in the current global climate.

Take me back

EatClub, a dynamic pricing platform for restaurants, has launched a series of new app features, providing would-be diners with yet another way to support local businesses by purchasing gift cards and voucher for future use.

Consumers can also choose to donate directly to businesses’ bank accounts, to help keep their favourite foodie spots alive.

However, EatClub has gone one step further to help would-be diners capture the magic of eating out. It has also released a new ‘The Sounds of Restaurants’ simulator, bringing the ambient background noise of chatter and clinking cutlery right into your own kitchen.

Listeners can choose from two tracks, close their eyes and be whisked back to the bustling world of pre-COVID hospitality.

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