Hospitality Sector in Australia amid the Covid-19 crises

Shaun, founder of Open Pantry Co. (Image: Supplied)

The hospitality industry in Australia, along with many others, has faced unprecedented crises amid the coronavirus crises. However, there are a few restaurants that have managed to pull off – not only keeping their head above water but also helping it thrive. This industry is constantly evolving and considering the next steps towards remodeling their businesses approach.

Recently I had an opportunity to chat with Shaun, the founder of Open Pantry Co. Shaun, who has worked in Melbourne’s hospitality industry for over 20 years, is an industry expert. During my conversation with him, he shared his thoughts and views regarding the current scenario in Australia’s Hospitality Sector amid the Covid-19 crises.

Speaking about the future of the hospitality industry in Australia he said:

“I believe that the future of hospitality is bright.  In the short, to medium term, it will be very challenging. There looks to be anywhere between 20-40% of venues that will not trade again, especially in the high-end venues.  

In the long term, I believe we will have an industry which can be better supported by customers due to increased demand, but it will take us a while to get there and there will be many casualties along the way.”

Do you think the industry is ready to be flexible to tweak their business plan to accommodate the present situation?

“I believe the brands that aren’t controlled by legacy ideals and systems will survive and pivot.  Arguably we have seen brands who have never offered takeaway or pick-up offering it. The question will be when Job-keeper funds are lowered by the government, and discretionary spending goes down, will people be forced to support local businesses as they find it hard to gain work in a crowded market?”

With strict restrictions of social distancing imposed in March, many businesses were shut down overnight, leaving various business leaders in this sector with challenges never seen before. The food and beverage sector employs approximately 800K people and is a foundation of modern-day Australian life, where families and friends enjoy going out for a drink or a meal. Social distancing is considered to be the answer to containing the virus and is expected to stay for a long time, but it has also brought the industry to its knees.

Do you see any potential for the industry to grow? And how?

“I have been saying for the last year that brands that concentrate their menu and offer less but specialize more will be the brands that will win over in the long term.  Having less raw ingredients to buy and a simplified menu just makes sense.  You don’t want to be a ‘jack of all trades and a master of none’ at this time.  

I also think smaller venues will generate better revenue per square metre moving forward.  You will see many collaborations and shared leases during this time.

I also believe that delivery will remain strong as people want to continue to feel safe at home, therefore dark/cloud kitchens will gain market share.  Even brands doing 4-7 brands under one roof on delivery will begin to normalize.” 

The international education sector has played a vital role in the Australian economy representing Australia’s third greatest export at a value of $33.9 billion. The industry has witnessed a year on year increase of 10.1 percent on figures where admissions were focused in the Higher Education, and Vocational Education and Training. Several students among this enroll to study Hospitality & Management with the hope to work and succeed in the industry.

Would you like to give any message to these international students who are currently pursuing Hospitality courses in Australia?

“I would say to believe in the industry. We will get through this with a stronger industry in the end.  It just may take 2-3 years to recover in some sectors. The hospitality industry is such a joy to be a part of and you may not have great experiences all the time, but you will learn so much and become a humble and better person for the skill or serving others.  

Hospitality is all about the community.  We need to stand up as one industry, listen, and help each other as we grow again.  I can’t wait to see students as part of that growth as you will make it even better in the future, especially around issues like mental health, working conditions, and sustainability. “

The hospitality industry, during the recent bushfire emergency, was successful in mobilizing various groups to support those in need. We witnessed many restaurants, pubs and cafes across the country raising funds for firefighters, and many others who lost their homes. This dynamic industry is much more beyond just food and comfort, it is a compelling driver of community and belonging. COVID-19 has certainly changed years and years of behavioral change in just a few weeks, transforming businesses, lifestyles, and behavior. This unprecedented time has proved one thing, that Australians are resilient and adaptable.

About Shaun:

Shaun, co-founder of Open Pantry Co. (Image: Supplied)

Shaun, Open Pantry Co’s founder has been an industry leader in Melbourne’s hospitality industry for over 20 years. Shaun has been a venue owner himself, he knows the commitment, effort, and experience required to develop a concept into an award-winning, and profitable venture. He also knows how to develop a process to get there that’s enjoyable and rewarding for all involved.  

Today, Shaun hosts the Open Pantry Co Podcast an initiative set up in 2018, to give hospitality leaders a voice on an international platform. The insights shared by Shaun’s network of hospitality pros have helped thousands of people in the industry. With over 80 episodes so far, the podcast has become one of the most listened to hospitality podcast in the world.

Mahima, the interviewer, is a passionate communications strategist with 10+ years of experience in Public Relations & Communications, and 3+ years in Human Resources. She has worked across industries that include – Research & Development, Information Technology (Product & Solutions), Non-for-profit, and Education.

Mahima has completed a Master’s degree in Mass Communications, Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management with a Bachelor’s degree in English Honours.  

Mahima enjoys writing and telling stories in the form of short anecdotes and is passionate about traveling, dancing, and singing. She was a member of a local rock band, is a trained Kathak dancer, and practices mindful meditation.