Just a few weeks ago Black Opal Wagyu tenderloin fillets and Southern Ranges beef were something reserved for the kitchens of prominent chefs like Neil Perry.
Today, Australians can get them delivered to their door, and about 40% cheaper.
Peter Strelitz, owner of award-winning meat supplier Milly Hill, has opened the gates on meat cuts that members of the public don’t usually see as his company, alongside everyone else in his industry, does their best to trade through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Milly Hill is based in Armidale, New South Wales, and has spent 14 years building an impressive list of wholesale clientele, including Rockpool Bar and Grill and Buon Ricordo in Sydney, specialising in lamb products, as well as beef, pork and chicken.
But with restaurants now restricted to takeaway and delivery services, the pain being felt in the hospitality industry has quickly made its way up the supply chain, decimating Strelitz’ weekly takings.
“We lost 95% of our business that was food services,” Strelitz tells SmartCompany.
“We’re geared up to supply high-end restaurants with cuts of meat the general public probably don’t use as much.”
As Strelitz’s clients try to pivot to delivery models, shaking up their menus and adopting cheaper price points, there’s no shortage of premium meat to move.
And so Milly Hill has undertaken a pivot of its own in recent days, opening up a retail e-commerce operation and reapplying its wholesale logistics network to home delivery.
“We’re introducing people to new products through our online store, reducing prices quite substantially just to move product,” Strelitz says.
“These are products you can’t usually get unless you go to a restaurant.”
With 15 staff still on the books, there’s a lot riding on the success of the new vertical, but even after surviving successive droughts, Strelitz says the coronavirus pandemic is like few challenges he’s faced, forcing him to pull out all the stops to keep things going.
“We’ve been pushing it very hard, and we’re trying to be price effective too, I’m very conscious of what meat costs in the supermarket,” he says.
But unlike the major supermarkets, Strelitz says Milly Hill isn’t running into any supply issues, and also isn’t experiencing delays with delivery.
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There are some advantages to being a small, nimble business after all.
“The supermarkets have been running out of meat all the time, our shop front has probably tripled,” Strelitz says.
A day-by-day proposition
Strelitz’ situation underscores the economic disaster unfolding across Australian industries, as partial or full shutdowns of consumer-facing firms like restaurants, retail operations and beauty services inevitably find their way upstream.
Orders have been halted, clients have disappeared and for businesses like Milly Hill, even getting an invoice paid these days is difficult.
“We’re going to struggle to get our money back,” Strelitz says.
“Not from everyone, but there’s a fair percentage who are just saying ‘coronavirus’ and walking away.”
There are a few silver linings. Delivery is much easier when everyone is spending so much time at home.
And the industry is coming together, with prominent restauranteurs like Neil Perry using their own social media reach in recent days to spotlight suppliers like Milly Hill.
“The team @millyhillmeat have been supplying @rockpoolbarandgrill with the most amazing lamb since the day we opened our doors. Now you can get the same incredible meat delivered to your place,” Perry told his 80,000 Instagram followers last week.
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Hi guys another awesome small supplier to support during lock down. The team @millyhillmeat have been supplying @rockpoolbarandgrill with the most amazing lamb since the day we opened our doors. Now you can get the same incredible meat delivered to your place. Calling on people to support our restaurant suppliers in this difficult time. Head to the link in their profile to place your order.
Underneath it all, Strelitz says maintaining a positive mind set is helping him get through each day.
“When this all happened I pretty much said to myself, ‘right o’ I don’t want to lose anyone so let’s really push it and we’ll react, adapt’,” he says.
This article was updated at 15:11 April 1 to remove the name of a restaurant no longer supplied by Milly Hills.