Australia is a renowned foodie nation and Melbourne is our foodie capital. But our hospitality industries are facing unprecedented change due to the social and economic restrictions implemented to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus. And it’s having a massive impact on our restaurant owners, chefs, wait staff and other hospitality workers.
The commercial issues for the hospitality industry are multi-layered.
First and most obvious is the disappearance of “eat-in” options – restaurants and eateries are simply not able to open for sit down meals. That immediately means a big reduction in meals sold and cashflow. It also means, where eateries have decided to cater for take-away options, changes in menus and the type of food being prepared and sold.
Second is the massive reduction in passer-by traffic in places like Melbourne’s CBD, where restaurants and cafes routinely cater for lunch time office worker trade, for example.
Third is the massive exit of skilled and qualified staff. Even where eateries are able to cater for take-away customers, the requirement for employees is massively reduced and many may not qualify for the government’s Job Keeper allowance. Once social distancing measures start to ease, attracting these staff back to the hospitality sector could prove quite challenging and may make the reinvigoration of the industry slower than for some other sectors.
Some parts of the sector have benefited from the availability of food delivery services, although some of those services have been heavily criticised for refusing to adjust commissions, further reducing the commercial viability for already stretched restaurant businesses.