Hospitality in a new contactless world

10 September 2020

Hospitality is really all about connection. Connection with our customers, employees and suppliers is the core of our business. It therefore seems unfathomable that we can survive in a world where connectivity has been made so difficult to achieve.

We are all dealing with a new normal - life as we know it has almost definitely permanently changed. Many of us are now working from home, some are not working at all. Children are in and out of care and school and let's not forget that many are battling with their health and trying to stay safe in a very unpredictable environment. Businesses are having to change according to advice and altered behaviours on an almost weekly basis.

It's taken this pandemic for many of us to realise how important connectivity is and what a huge role our lively local dining scene plays in that. Connection is essential for not only a successful business, but also for physical and mental well-being.  Our local cafes, bars, pubs, restaurants literally house that connectivity. As stated by KPMG in an article written in May this year we have experienced "10 years of behavioural change in just six weeks, and when the economy reopens, habits formed will be changed forever".

The hospitality industry is made up of a myriad of business operations and structures, all of which will be affected.  When your business is about social interaction, the community, networking and engagement, it's essential to find new ways to achieve those same things, to survive. I recently read an article by restaurateur Chris Lucas and I find what's going on in Melbourne, a city built on its night life and restaurant scene, nothing short of heart breaking.  I have to admit that at times I have felt very disheartened, especially as we are celebrating 20 years next month, but I have no choice but to adapt and keep moving forward. This pandemic has changed every aspect of the equation I use to successfully run my business. I need to understand not only how to trade my way through this time in the short term, but also consider how I will recover and reimagine my business moving forward.

We have worked hard to encourage our customers, staff and suppliers to connect in different ways.  To think outside the box and create new ways of forming relationships and continuing to work closely without necessarily being in the same room. New take away offerings have been the most obvious pivot for us.  Creating experiences at home - Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Easter - re-creating all the usual special dining out experiences in peoples' homes. Pre-prepared meals and fresh produce through a pop-up grocer have also helped us get though the shut down period. 

On a personal level, this time as made Sohani and I reflect on the importance of our family, friends and our local community. It has, quite literally forced us to stop and ‘smell the roses’. It’s also made us appreciate our industry – the joy of siting in a café enjoying a good coffee, connecting with loved ones over a meal and sitting in a full restaurant soaking in the atmosphere and buzz.

Its ironic that I find myself writing this during the week of R U OK Day . A day when we are encouraged to reach out and ask the question to someone close to us.  I encourage you to do the same when you next visit your local cafe, or any locally owned and operated small business. 2020 has been a challenging year for so many, especially in our industry and all need to work together and support each other through this global crisis. I take this opportunity again to let you know how very grateful I am to my three communities where my restaurants sit - Alexandria, Oatley and Rose Bay who has so far ridden this wave with us with such incredible support. Thank you.