As someone who has worked as a chef around Australia for almost 30 years, I have seen plenty of food venues come and go, both good and bad. But the impact of the pandemic is devastating and indiscriminate, leaving a trail of destruction across the entire hospitality industry.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 78% of Australian hospitality businesses reduced staff working hours during COVID.
For an industry that engages around 8% of Australia’s workforce, the flow-on effects this has had for our society and economy are enormous.
We opened our bistro, Luna’s Food and Wine Bar, in tourist mecca St Kilda four weeks before Melbourne’s first lockdown. We did our best over summer to recoup our 2020 losses but now find ourselves facing a fourth lockdown.
Thanks to all our initial experience, the team was able to move quickly to a takeaway-only service when the new lockdown was announced, but it can’t compensate for the almost $50,000 in revenue I have had to write off in cancelling events and private functions.
Of course I agree with the decision to put public health first, but I am surprised that the Victorian government took a few days to announce its latest lockdown support package.
We have been down this road before, and this may yet happen again, so surely it makes sense for lockdowns and support packages to be announced simultaneously.
This will provide some measure of continuity and stability that businesses have been calling for.
I would also like to see the Victorian government offer dining vouchers, similar to the scheme the New South Wales government has in place, that extend beyond the CBD when it is safe to do so.
The federal government, meanwhile, could at the stroke of a pen restart JobKeeper for industries such as hospitality when snap lockdowns are called in specific states and cities.
It would also be good to see workers encouraged back to offices as soon as possible as they are great supporters of their local coffee and lunch spots.
We found in the past couple of months of office work, our dine-in morning coffee trade increased by 25% and our business lunch trade increased by 30%.
Overall, governments need to think more holistically about when and how they ‘plate up’ lockdown announcements and responses.