People and Places
28/05/2020
Hospitality crisis stretches creative minds

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How much has business changed over the past couple of months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? Well, how long is a piece of string? During the shutdown of many of our much-loved restaurants, cafes, wineries and distilleries before restrictions were eased this month, it certainly wasn’t a case of business as usual for these venues, but that didn’t mean they weren’t functioning. Far from it. 

After speaking with a handful of our original-thinking hospitality movers and shakers, Mornington Peninsula Magazine has come to understand that one thing rings true, even though we already knew it deep down in our #mornpenmagbizlove bones: where there’s a will, there’s definitely a way forward, even when your doors are shut tight. 

Jetty Road Brewery built and launched its online store within 48 hours of lockdown. Then came a ‘virtual tinnie tasting’ with its head brewer via Zoom and the repurposing of the restaurant as a warehouse with a takeaway bottle shop open seven days a week. 

Just around the corner, the guys at JimmyRum were getting their creative juices flowing after identifying the need for hand sanitiser for frontline workers and the community. They also linked up with artisanal producers to sell their product through the JimmyRum cellar door, and joint online masterclasses appeared. 

Along the road, Hickinbotham of Dromana converted to takeaway drive-through wine, beer and food sales to maintain its two chefs and front-of-house manager with the help of the JobKeeper subsidy, while the team at Montalto introduced an online satellite shop where clients could order their favourites from the Piazza Café to heat and eat at home. Laneway Espresso began thinking way outside the box by creating music platforms on Spotify so customers could still listen to their ‘fave’ Laneway music while dining out.

So what’s next for these brilliant business chameleons as restrictions ease? Laneway Espresso is excited about expanding its takeaway platform and getting more creative as in-house trading begins. Hickinbotham will continue its drive-through service and supplement it with small numbers of dine-in guests, while Montalto is looking forward to looking after its customers as soon as it is safe to do so. JimmyRum will produce soaps and candles and change its cellar door into an intermittent cocktail lounge, while Jetty Road Brewery will continue to collaborate with other Peninsula breweries and offer virtual brewery experiences. 

Will hospitality ever look the same after COVID-19? Maybe not, but there have been some positive outcomes. High on the list is the sense of connection with community that the aforementioned businesses have experienced and the meaningful interactions they’ve had with loyal customers. Support has been strong. Time to review business models, explore new ideas and collaborate with other businesses has also been a bonus.

We take our hat off to all our hospitality haunts that continue to come up with the delicious goods even when the odds are against them. You know where to find them.

LIZ ROGERS

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