As cases continue to rise within NSW and Australia in general, state governments are taking ever increasing steps to curve the rate of infections. And amidst one of the worst pandemics since the 1918 influenza outbreak, the Australian hospitality industry has begun to experience mass cancellations and low dine in rates statewide.
Initially, bars, cafes and restaurants were not advised to close by the Australian government, but as of the 26/03/2020 new restrictions will see the shuttering of many bars, cafes and restaurants throughout NSW. However, many will likely continue to operate in a food delivery capacity as they are deemed ‘essential services’, alongside delivery company counterparts like UberEats and Deliveroo.
But UberEats and other food delivery services have come under fire for the high surcharges (35%) being levied on businesses during the crisis. The complaints about high surcharges aren’t new; but the current conditions have shined new light on the exorbitant fees food delivery companies charge.
High fees or not, hundreds of new restaurant listings have appeared on food delivery apps, signaling a massive shift to take away from businesses that otherwise would rely on walk-ins. 1’700 new businesses signed up on Deliveroo over the last month, and given a recent fortnightly increase of over 400%, that number doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon.
The surge in new businesses signing up for online delivery highlights that they’re eager to stay open; but whether they’ll be able to manage to remain profitable with the huge amount of increased competition remains to be seen.
Other businesses have turned to exploring new and different ways of reaching their consumers. ‘New and different’ is the only way to describe what Townsville’s fine dining restaurant ‘A Touch of Salt’ has begun offering – ‘cook like a pro’ food boxes with recipe cards, a slew of fresh ingredients and video tutorials. “Changing our business model and adapting, hopefully that generates income and keeps us occupied and busy,” chef Michael Brine said, “…with cooking shows and people’s excitement around the cooking phenomenon… that’s the angle (we’re going with).”
The COVID-19 crisis also highlights the red tape around home delivery that can heavily impact a businesses bottom line. Owner of Shorehouse restaurant, Jamie Fitzpatrick, began offering takeaway as customers began to self isolate. But current laws surrounding home deliveries don’t allow for the delivery of alcohol, which is a major earner with dine in customers. While he’s confident they’ll still be able to turn a profit, he says their overall profit margin is significantly reduced.
During this pandemic it’s important to do a few things. We need to self isolate as much as possible. Practice social distancing. Not give in to panic buying. But we also need to remember that for those of us with the privilege of still having a job and working from home, ordering food from your favorite local restaurant or cafe can make the difference between them still being open for business after all this is over.
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