Back in March 2020, iconic Melbourne restaurant Atlas Dining made a tech pivot that paid off in a big way. Two years later, it’s pivoting again to cater to post-lockdown tastes.
Atlas Masterclass allowed locked down Melburnians to receive a high-end meal box, with each week’s offering based on a different cuisine from around the world.
The boxes came with instructions and ingredients for three restaurant-grade meals, and also with live online masterclasses with Atlas co-founder and chef Charlie Carrington himself.
Within two weeks of launch, the new COVID-inspired offering had led to two of the businesses most lucrative days on record.
Two years later, it has turned over more than $10 million in revenue. Some months have surpassed $1 million in turnover, and some days have surpassed $100,000.
The business has also employed 50 staff and expanded to regional Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra.
All in all, what started as a COVID-19 side-hustle is now worth about $7 million on its own.
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And even with lockdowns behind us, Carrington and his brother and co-founder Ben Carrington expect to see double-digit growth over the next two years.
Atlas Masterclass is now rebranding to Atlas Weekly, becoming a premium meal subscription service to take on the likes of Marley Spoon and Hello Fresh.
Adapting to changing times
Speaking to SmartCompany, Charlie Carrington says one of the things the team were able to do well at the onset of the pandemic was to create a sense of community around the masterclass experience.
Using Instagram Live and other live-stream services meant people could chat to each other throughout.
“It gave people a way to connect at a time where we were all very disconnected,” he says.
Two years later, while Atlas is still seeing demand for the boxes, there is less need for the community aspect of the offering.
After introducing step-by-step recipe cards, engagement on videos has decreased, Carrington says. People still want high-quality food at home, but they don’t have as much time on their hands, and they’re looking for simpler recipes.
Of course, they are also able to experience the ambiance and community of in-person hospitality again, he adds.
“The actual masterclass element of our business — because obviously we came up with the name on day one — was a lot less relevant.”
A resurgence in hospitality
Atlas Dining has also been able to reopen its doors. The restaurant changes its menu every three months, serving up cuisine from different nations each time.
It has just launched its Italian menu for the season.
And while Atlas Masterclass allowed the business to weather the storm, and then some, it has also changed the way many businesses approach hospitality in general.
“A lot of people are way more inclined to diversify, to look at new ways of servicing their customers,” he says.
“That new style of thinking really leads to a lot of innovation.”
This means the customer experience is better than ever. And the customers themselves are ready for it.
A great dining experience is about the ambience, the service and the environment as much as its about the food, Carrington notes.
“People have really missed that,” he adds.
“When those lockdowns lifted, I’ve never seen guests so happy.”