Melbourne is set to emerge from lockdown earlier than expected, with hospitality and personal care businesses able to reopen in time for the weekend.
For many small businesses, the phones have been ringing off the hook ever since the announcement on Sunday, as keen consumers try to book everything from drinks with friends to long-awaited haircuts.
On Sunday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that lockdown restrictions would ease from 11.59pm on Thursday, October 21, when it is expected the state will pass the 70% double-vaccination threshold.
This will allow some Melbourne businesses to reopen ahead of schedule and with more capacity than previously thought.
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Hospitality businesses will be able to reopen to 50 fully-vaccinated people outdoors and 20 indoors. Density limits will still be in place.
Hair and beauty businesses will also be able to reopen to up to five fully-vaccinated people.
Non-essential retail, however, will remain closed until 80% of the eligible population has had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, expected to be on November 5.
The curfew will also be lifted, and there will be no restrictions on the reasons to leave home.
There will also be no limit on travel within metropolitan Melbourne, although travel between Melbourne and regional Victorian is still not allowed.
Managing a boom in bookings
Speaking to SmartCompany, Madeline Frawley, director at eco-friendly salon Earth To Betty, says she and her team were ready to spring into action.
They could see the 70% double-vaccination target coming closer, but held off making any announcements until they were sure of the date they could reopen, Frawley explains.
She was also pretty happy to have four days to prepare. Some of Melbourne’s past lockdowns have been lifted at 24 or 48 hours’ notice.
Still there is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of customers to be re-booked before Frawley can start taking new bookings.
“The phones have been ringing, but at the moment we’re not taking calls,” she says.
Instead the team is actively calling to re-book customers who had to cancel back in August, as well as those still waiting from the previous two-week lockdown.
The team is focusing on those customers “before we overwhelm ourselves with new bookings”.
Communication key to a smooth reopening
What is particularly important to Frawley is communication with her customers. For those rebooking cancellations, she wants to make it clear that someone on the team will call them to re-arrange.
For new bookings, it’s letting customers know there will be a wait.
A lot of this is communicated through Earth to Betty’s social media channels, particularly Facebook and Instagram, tools that have become hugely important to the business, particularly throughout the pandemic.
Earth to Betty uses its online presence, its Instagram Stories in particular, to let customers know when it is reopening and how to book, Frawley explains. But it’s also a means to share the COVID-safe measures the business has in place.
“It’s really important that we reinforce safety with our followers on Instagram, so that they know we take it really seriously.”
It means expectations are aligned between staff and customers, and reduces the likelihood of unvaccinated people showing up for appointments.
Last year, the salon put in extra measures to ensure customers felt safe coming to the salon. With case numbers higher than ever, that’s now even more important, Frawley says.