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When the going gets tough…

The people who work in Australia’s hospitality industry are genuinely remarkable. Despite the industry being thrown into upheaval due to the Coronavirus outbreak, there have been amazing efforts to keep businesses viable and to look after the workers who have slipped through the cracks.

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Written by Richard Cornish
23 April 2020
Food writer and author, senior contributor of Bidfood's appetiser. magazine

Governments on all levels have also stepped up to the plate, offering rent abatement for businesses and new grants to keep jobs. Mental health organisations have also reacted swiftly, creating new programmes aimed specifically at the hospitality industry.

Keeping the feeders

One of the most remarkable movements in hospitality has been the rapid formation of charities to feed hospo staff who are doing it tough. One of them is Melbourne Bar co-owner Henry Le who has co-founded a charity called COVID-19 Employee Assistance Directive (COVID-19 EAD).  The charity involves a broad range of restaurants, pubs and bars that have come together to cook meals for over 500 former baristas, bar tenders, chefs, security guards and waiters who are now struggling to feed themselves. Henry was moved to action when one of his former bar staff, stood down due to the State Government lockdown, came to him saying she could pay her rent but could not afford to feed herself. Henry and partners launched a Go Fund Me page and raised $10 000 in 72 hours. With help from a legal firm, they set up their charity and corporate structure so they can operate legally and with transparency. They have aligned with several food distribution charities to gain experience, knowledge, and share resources. Henry’s actions have been mirrored by another hospo identity Angie Giannakodakis. She made a name for herself being George Calambaris’ front of house manager, has a restaurant called Epocha, and has founded Eat Forward. “It’s a way of people in hospitality, to help each other,” she says. Working with other well-known names in the business, such as Scott Pickett from Matilda, Eat Forward sees top chefs and their teams prepare meals for the people who are the most vulnerable and for those on the front line,” says Angie. Eat Forward will roll out to other capital cities around Australia shortly.

Taking care of business

For business owners and managers, the biggest issue at present is stemming the flow of outgoings with rent and wages being at the top of the list. Making sense of the Government’s mandatory code of conduct overseeing retail rental agreements can be a complete maze and quite daunting for many small businesses. Thankfully, Restaurant Catering Australia (RCA) has created an impressive series of resources that can point owners and managers in the right direction. Firstly, it publishes the code of conduct which clearly states that, “Landlords must not terminate leases due to non-payment of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic period (or reasonable subsequent recovery period).” The RCA site also helps navigate negotiations with landlords and agents with a proforma rental abatement letter. RCA members can download the letter, fill in their details and send it off to start negotiations with changes in rental agreements. The site also has resources to help navigate a course around the Job Keeper grants, including letters of reengagement for staff and direct links to the ATO to enrol for Job Keeper. There are case studies from other hospitality industry members as well as other resources on profitability and loan deferral. If you’re not a member, RCA is presently offering discounts on membership and 50% off joining fees.

Mind games

Looking after the mental wellbeing of hospo staff is at the heart of the efforts of The White Jacket Effect. Previously reaching out for people suffering depression and substance abuse, the charity, run by chefs, has pivoted to create a new four-week proactive online training programme to help hospitality businesses through hard times. Founder Amber Kaba says, “There are lots of fears, concerns, worries, frustrations and stresses for those who no longer have financial security. People are feeling very unsafe and uncertain.” The course lets people understand stress and anxiety while helping them achieve calmness to allow them to gain clarity on how to create opportunities to achieve financial stability. Meanwhile, Hospo For Life, an initiative from chef Liam Crawley, has embraced isolation and is now offering daily online broadcasts at 5pm every weekday called Hospo Happy Hour. The show can be found on Hospo For Life’s Facebook page and covers subjects such as managing stress and eating well for mental health. Hospo For Life also offers in-house training sessions. Remember, if any member of staff or anyone you know needs someone to talk to, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

#inittogether

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