As most of you know COVID-19 is having a significant effect on all of us, hospitality is one of those industries hit hardest. As we look to completely change our business model one of the things that I believe will help is breaking down the barrier between the customer and the business. To do this and to give those who are not involved in the industry an inside look into how this is affecting all of us I have created this blog.
Let me start by describing a little about myself, the owner of Crento. For the last 10 years I have honed my skills in hospitality. Starting as a pizza chef and working my way to a kitchen hand, washing dishes and all the way up to head chef, I then made the decision to move into front of house and consequently management. The whole time my plan was to fulfill my goal of setting up my own restaurant. Many years ago I worked in a restaurant in Canberra, one that I learned a lot of my skills under many talented chefs and close friends. As the restaurant began to see signs of distress we did everything we could to make it succeed but just as things looked up were unable to do so. I tried to purchase it then but based on my lack of experience at the time and my young age was unable to gain approval from the landlords. Since then I have been trying to revive the concept - a friendly, casual dining experience with a difference. Somewhere where everyone was welcome and that had something for everybody, but most importantly something that did not use trickery with the dishes, did not do anything fancy, just provided great freshly made food at a reasonable cost.
Based on my own experience within the industry one of the most important things i wanted to change was how staff were treated. I wanted to create a workplace that broke the mold of abusing staff and their passion, somewhere where people wanted to work. The first few months of Crento were some of the most stressful of my life. Bills were tight, I was working 7 days and still not managing to make ends meet, despite not being paid, luckily unlike others I had the support of my amazing parents who allowed me and my partner to stay with them rent free until we could start making money. As 2020 rolled around December was finally a month that looked like we really could succeed, despite not making a profit every month we had done better than the last. As a pragmatist I did not get my hopes up, and knew that it could be down to Christmas parties and the general uptake in business experienced everywhere, so did not hold my breath and kept trying to push the business forward. By the time February finished we were still on the up and up, our team was working well together and we had a strong front of house and kitchen team. We opened for lunch and knew that we needed to expand the team to take some of the pressure off me and my partner. We started hiring and found some fantastic people to add to the team who shared our passion and experience. Organising a couple of weeks for them to settle in before both they and us committed to the position we were very positive. By early March things were still looking up, and we were ready to progress. Then we heard of Coronavirus and how it was affecting the world. In our little slice of heaven on the Northern Beaches we were not too worried, and even as the rest of the world started shutting down we were still going strong.
Here we are now, only one week since then. Restaurants have now been ordered to close with takeaway only, we have had to let go of 85% of our workforce, and are in panic mode. Rather than planning for the future and riding the wave of business picking up we are desperately searching for any way to survive till the end of the month. Writing this before our first day with the doors closed and takeaway only I am desperately shutting down non-essential services and creating an action plan, as are most businesses in a similar position to us. Where we will go from here there is no way to know, but I will be sure to add to this blog frequently as we learn how to run a restaurant with no customers. Hopefully we make it to April, and hopefully we can survive until the government can provide support, but most importantly we hope that we can keep the remaining staff we have left employed.