Danielle Austin - 27 Apr, 2020

How are restaurants and bars adapting to new COVID-19 policies?

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From delivery drivers being considered essential personnel and government restrictions encouraging us to drink at home, 2020 is a whole new world. 

Hospitality, like many other industries, is looking to find new ways to adhere to government regulations while maintaining income streams. As a result, the industry is going through a period of extreme change.

How are restaurants and bars adapting to new COVID-19 policies? 

The ongoing COVID-19 situation has seen the Australian government implement a range of reactive regulations that have forced the closure of small businesses across the country. Among the hardest-hit industries is hospitality, who have had to find ways to quickly adapt to restrictions on public gatherings.  

As of late March, a number of restrictions were placed on hospitality venues, including the closure of pubs and clubs and a halt on table service in restaurants and cafes. In response to this, the Federal Government has also moved to make a number of financial initiatives available to small businesses, business owners and employees who are not able to stay financially viable under these rules.  

One such initiative is the JobKeeker Payment scheme, which will allow hospitality employers to keep their workers in jobs – despite not being able to operate as usual. Under the scheme, eligible businesses are able to access a fortnightly payment from the Government of $1,500 for each employee they keep in a job. 

The Jobseeker scheme also allows businesses to retain a workforce which can be redeployed in new ways during the temporary halt of usual operations. This could mean utilising staff to undertake admin or maintenance jobs instead of their usual roles, or using hospitality servers as delivery drivers while table service is not allowed.  

Other financial assistance schemes available to hospitality business include the tax-free Boosting Cash Flow for Employers grant to assist in retaining staff and continuing operations, and the Coronavirus SME Guarantee scheme that allows businesses to take out new unsecured loans for working capital.  

Hospitality businesses and hospitality industry landlords may also be eligible to access deferred loan repayments and waived fees from their telecommunications providers.  

While a ban on non-essential indoor gatherings by the Government has seen many hospitality outlets close their doors to the public, a range of temporary regulations are allowing for innovation in the industry. Savvy business owners have found a range of ways to continue serving food and drinks to the public, and in some cases, even introduced new revenue streams to existing business plans.  

Related: Bunnings DIYs to get you through self-isolation

Hospitality industry rising to the challenge

While the hospitality industry took an early hit as the COVID-19 crisis emerged in Australia, the effects are easing off thanks to the support of the local public and the innovation of hospitality businesses.  

Around 60,000 Australian venues, including many cafes, bars and restaurants, were affected by the measures taken to prevent social gatherings, with some initially reporting a 90% loss in business. These same venues are now finding creative ways to breathe new life into the industry, while those at home support the cause by looking to their favourite venues to provide a comfort meal and sense of normality.  

While many cafes and restaurants have been able to quickly make the move from dine-in venues to doing takeaway and delivery, others have been taking a more unique approach.

How are restaurants and bars adapting to new COVID-19 policies

Gourmet delis and provedore-style offerings

Restaurant owners who felt their dining room offerings wouldn’t translate to a delivery service have moved to grocery and provedore style business models instead.  

One such venue is The Heritage Wine Bar in Perth’s CBD. The restructured version of this high-end restaurant offers take home, oven-ready meals that include gourmet pies, roasts and travel-friendly sides. The new online storefront is also selling select produce and offers a range of wines.  

Related: How to Host Your Own Wine Tasting at Home

Similarly, Theodore’s, a self-described “snack and refreshment” business based in Melbourne’s inner-city suburb of Brunswick has reinvented itself as Ted’s Grocer. The new iteration offers a range of produce including baked goods, coffee, produce and pantry basics.  

Having teamed up with other local venues, Brisbane café Felix for Goodness has also launched an online grocer’s, offering ready-made dinners and a selection of pantry, fridge and freezer staples alongside baked goods and drinks. 

Online workshops with Australia’s top bartenders

Simply Cocktails Australia are using their online presence to offer out-of-work bartenders a space to share top cocktail recipes through a series of free online videos. Viewers can join a masterclass with a renowned bartender to learn how to recreate their favourite tipples in their home bar. You can join a mini masterclass from the comfort of your own home every Tuesday and Friday.  

Thanks to the temporary relaxing of licensing restrictions, bars have also been able to implement alcohol delivery services. Sydney’s Dulcie’s has launched Dulcie’s to Your Door and is offering a range of bespoke, bottled cocktails that come complete with serving instructions, drink trivia and a coaster, while their website offers punters a ‘Songs of Corona’ playlist to really set the mood. Also in Syndey, Continental Deli is offering a range of retro tinned cocktails including the Mar-tinny, a Cosmopoli-tin, a Can-hattan and an Ameri-can-o.  

Drive through groceries

Fast food outlets like McDonald’s and Hungry Jacks have also been forced to close down their die-in restaurant spaces and rely exclusively on drive-through patronage. McDonald’s has begun to offer basics like milk and bread rolls through their drive-throughs.  

Repurposed distilleries

While many already consider distilleries an essential business, many beloved distillers have repurposed their premises and are swapping out spirit production to produce alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

This includes Brisbane Distillery’s hospital-grade 80% ethanol sanitiser; Grandad Jack’s botanical-themed lemon myrtle, grapefruit and rosehip sanitiser; Archie Rose’s waitlist-only sanitiser based on the 100% natural stock used in their gin; a rectified gin head and tail sanitiser from Husk Distillers; a vegan hand and surface sanitiser from Cape Byron Distillery; a tea tree, lavender and eucalyptus-infused recipe from Tambourine Mountain Distillery; and a navy-strength sanitiser from coffee liqueur makers, Mr Black. 

Noosa Heads Distillery is also taking an environmentally-friendly approach, having its customers provide their own containers. Meanwhile, Margaret River’s Wise Wine is serving its 70% ethanol sanitiser up in wine bottles filled by a local family while Manly Spirits Co is offering a free gin-scented sanitiser gift with any alcohol purchase.  

Supporting the industry

If you are in a position to support the hospitality industry, the good news is that they are making it pretty easy.  

Many restaurants are not only moving to takeaway options but are also stepping up their game with new takeaway menus and specials. A little comfort food can go a long way in times of stress, so check your favourite locals to see what deals they might be offering (and don’t forget to tip your delivery driver if you can).  

Gift cards to your local mainstay cafe or to that up-scale restaurant you’ve been wanting to try also make great gifts for friends and family, along with a promise to use them when they reopen. Or pick a venue and gather your friends for a virtual takeaway brunch catch up – social distancing doesn’t have to mean you miss out on your weekly smashed avo.

Related: How to help your go-to businesses and services survive the COVID-19 shutdown

Words by Danielle Austin

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