Summer Presents New Horizon for Melbourne’s Foodservice Industry as Roadmap Progresses

Oct 21, 2020

Victoria’s Roadmap is underway and will bring big change for the hospitality and foodservice industry—we see what Summer trading might look like in Melbourne.

As the hospitality industry has digested the Victorian State Governments Roadmap to Reopening and easing restrictions continue to be brought forward, operators are planning for a summer unlike any other.

Anthea Loucas Bosha, CEO of Food and Wine Victoria tells Hospitality Unites, the industry is bursting to reopen and diners are close behind.

The industry is very keen to open, naturally, and outdoor dining presents opportunities for many venues. But, not all venues will be able to make the most of the opportunity,” says Loucas Bosha.

“There is a growing groundswell of support from patrons to get back in to their favourite venues and enjoy a Melbourne summer in our cafes, pubs, restaurants and bars – when it is safe to do so – and venues are trying to remain positive that they will be able to trade in summer, albeit potentially in a limited way.”

But what will the roadmap mean for the industry? We look at the current circumstances for businesses as well as some industry trends and changes we’ll see as the pandemic impacts how we interact and socialise over food.

 

Long wait to reach COVID normal

With the latest numbers and updates over the last week, Melbournians and operators are hopeful that dine in options can begin to return as we move to the Third Step after a challenging year for the industry. 

Operators and businesses are feeling the brunt of the closure, among them is boutique hospitality group The Speakeasy Group.

“Based on the announced Vic RoadMap, the entire Melbourne business would have been closed for circa eight months before we are allowed to reopen. Turnover is down more or less 100 per cent except from a tiny amount of revenue coming in from some delivery sales,” says group director Sven Almenning. 

When we launched Nick & Nora’s on the first week of July we could only have 45 guests or so in a venue with a capacity of 250 due to social distancing.”

Fortunately regional Victoria, have been offered a reprieve with early entry into the third step of the roadmap and have reopened to dine-in customers with social distancing measures enforced. 

 

Silver linings for the industry

There is much to be optimistic for the—albeit brief— seven week period between lockdowns showed Victorians appetite for supporting the hospitality industry.

In Beechworth, Michael Ryan of Provenance says his adjoining accommodation venue, was the busiest it has been in 11 years.

Similarly new businesses have forged on and opened, even during stage 4 lockdown. The industry has innovated with takeaway options, sharing commercial kitchens, gaining traction on Instagram and reinventing themselves to stay afloat. 

 

Safety a paramount concern

Guy Grossi, one of Melbourne’s most lauded restauranterus says the industry needs to play it safe when reopening and be serious about their COVID-Safe plans. 

“We are not saying we want to go open slather. We want to open up and be safe.” Grossi says. 

It’s a belief that Loucas Bosha shares.

“The key is having a watertight COVID-safe plan with razor-sharp contact tracing capabilities and an understanding from both the venues and the public on what operating/dining in this new COVID-normal landscape requires on both sides.”

Though the safety challenges and pivot to outdoor dining may be initially difficult, an industry led commitment to a safe environment for staff and diners will help the industry reopen and stay open, as shown by the fast acting of Kilmore cafe owner after a customer tested positive and led to a small cluster of cases.

Loucas Bosha knows that the changes will ultimately benefit the industry. 

“Regardless, it is a positive move towards us finding a way forward and will potentially provide confidence to the public that we can emerge from lockdown and start to open up the city.” she says. 

 

What will Summer have in store? 

Challenges still remain for hospitality businesses in limbo, says Almenning.

Unfortunately I think we’ll lose a large percentage of venues. Most people I speak to are estimating we’ll lose 25 per cent or more of hospitality businesses, which is just brutal.”

Almenning also believes that we’ll see a shift in people’s habits, with more suburban venues in populated areas flourishing. Venues in the CBD may languish under high rent and reduced foot traffic—especially if office workers continue working remotely from home. 

Cafes with coffee windows will become more prevalent and the food truck industry is prepared to collaborate and capitalise on their outdoor nature.

Foodservice and beverage suppliers who have seen a downturn in business over the past six months will be able to pick up as restrictions ease and may benefit from the state government provided assistance in the form of business grants and relief on liquor licensing fees. 

Through all this, both Loucas Bosha and Almenning remain positive for the future of the industry. They agree that hospitality, and venues, are a bastion of real-time social interaction—something we’re all pining for. 

“Bars, restaurants and cafes are social sanctuaries where we interact with friends and colleagues in real-life and I think there will always be a place for us,” says Almenning. 

It’s pretty simple; restaurants, cafes and pubs need diners, it’s their revenue stream and as soon as they are allowed to trade again, as soon as it is safe for them to trade again, the better for the recovery of the industry and the flow on effects from that including jobs for their staff as well as their suppliers,”

How is your business preparing for summer and the Third Step? We want to hear from you. Submit your story here.


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