Here, Chris Lucas shares his thoughts on how coronavirus has affected the industry.
Within 48 hours of the industry being shutdown, a decision was made to move to the takeaway model and we were open and operating. I was determined to keep the restaurants open for as long as possible and to keep as many staff employed as possible; especially our visa holders. We employ roughly 200 international visa holders across the group who had nowhere to turn. They had been shunned by the government and could not get home due to the travel bans or financial restrictions.
Obviously, our restaurants are not geared to operate as takeaway models, so there was a great deal of work to be done to modify kitchens, websites, point of sales systems, etc and working out how we could operate in a manner that was safe for the health of our staff and guests.
To close an entire global economy down is something I don’t think anyone could have anticipated. I feel the most dramatic effect has been psychological and the damage it is doing to our confidence.
As many have pointed out, our industry works on small margins and such a disruption has really rocked our confidence and caused severe financial hardship. Like many challenges in the past, we will again rise.
The restaurant industry and tourism have been the hardest hit, and conversely needs the greatest support from government and the community to ensure we can re-establish our restaurants successfully.
We are currently working on reopening plans [Victorian venues can open with 20 diners from 1 June, NSW venues are allowed 50 diners from 1 June] and will follow guidelines set out by the authorities. The government will need to stimulate the economy to restore employment numbers and stimulate confidence in spending. The current momentum of the various groups working together should continue and new workplace reforms should be put in place to make employment easier.
Check out Hospitality’s June/July issue to read Lucas’ thoughts on how the industry might reopen and the steps Lucas Group restaurants are taking to keep their guests and staff safe.