What a crazy 24 hours it has been for us still trying to make in hospitality. After posting on Facebook last night the support from friends and strangers has been overwhelming. Though this is very moving it unfortunately does not help me to pay the bills or keep the staff employed, and as such after meeting with my remaining employees today we made the radical decision to diversify our offerings and create an emergency action plan on how to keep the restaurant alive until we can reopen as normal. As well as the blog we have a range of items and products and will be setting up an online store soon, in less than a week we will be moving from a restaurant business to an online store which will sell a range of products from t-shirts to bottle openers as well as our pre-prepared meals and maintaining our takeaway business, without sacrificing the quality of our current offerings. At the moment the only priority we have is keeping our current staff employed and attempting to bring back a fraction of the staff we have had to let go through any means necessary.
Today I had to endure the heartbreaking conversation with an employee who is not a citizen and has been loyal and hardworking since we opened. He has never missed a day and has never complained and yet I had to explain that until we can figure out a way to make money through other channels (or the government provides even a morsel of support) we can not afford to keep him on board. Though this was difficult for me I cannot imagine the difficulty he is experiencing at the moment knowing that he cannot leave the country and that he does not know when or if he will be getting paid in the near future. The sad reality of this is that this is currently happening all over the country and is not in any way unique to our situation. I have been blessed with amazing staff who have all accepted their reality, with another of my full time staff offering to step down temporarily and be made redundant, as he will be eligible for centrelink while the remaining full time staff will not.
The unfortunate reality of the situation is that we are only a couple of months away from being forced to close unless we can figure out a way to make money, and we have many options in the pipeline for this to happen. The dream of a restaurant built to serve both staff and customers is slowly slipping from my grasp as I desperately employ all the skills I ever acquired to rebuild a business model from scratch, a business that only one week ago was going strong and looking like it had a bright future. The only thing on our minds at the moment is making it through the next 12 months and coming out the other side stronger than ever to fulfill the potential that we have shown over the last 7. Never in my life did I believe that when I finally opened a restaurant would we go from where we were to where we are so quickly.
I will continue to try to update this blog daily posting as much as I can to keep anybody reading it updated with the reality of what it is like to own a business in this current situation, though my time at the moment is split equally between deploying new ways to run a business and maintaining the reputation we have worked so hard to build. Over the coming weeks I would encourage you all to try and support your local businesses no matter what industry they are in, and keep updated here for any and all of the things we will be doing to adapt to the new reality that we are likely to be trapped in for almost a year.
The main positive from today's meeting is our pre-packaged meals. Similar to HelloFresh or Marley Spoon we will be creating meal plans with instructional videos and attempting to deliver the ingredients straight to you (though this may end up as takeaway for the beginning). I am looking forward to sharing my passion for food, in particular simple and hearty Italian food, with all our customers, and the remaining chefs share my sentiment.