How small producers are hanging on
Life changed for hospitality professionals across the country when the industry was effectively shuttered by the government. With venues initially restricted to takeaway and delivery, the demand for high-end products vanished, essentially leaving artisan producers in the lurch.
Two such brands are East 33 and Game Farm in New South Wales. The oyster and poultry suppliers had to think quick when foodservice tabled dine-in trade, rethinking their business models in a matter of days. Some products are intrinsically linked to the restaurant experience, and oysters are definitely one of them. The average person doesn’t chow down on oysters at home; instead, they order them at restaurants.
Before COVID-19 hit, East 33’s sales were heavily anchored to the foodservice sector, to the tune of 75 per cent. When news broke dine-in trade would cease, restaurant sales immediately plummeted. “We were gearing up for the off-season in March, but after the Prime Minister made the announcement, wholesale channels went from 100 per cent to 10 per cent that day, and was effectively nil a few days after,” says James Garton, executive chairman of East 33. “We didn’t see any signs of recovery until the Easter period where retail picked up a little bit.”
It was a similar story for Game Farm. The poultry and meat producer/supplier experienced a drop in sales from restaurants in the Chinatown area a few weeks before the rest of the industry began to spiral. Game Farm primarily services high-end restaurants such as Icebergs and Tetsuya’s, but these venues aren’t cut from the takeaway cloth.
Like East 33, Game Farm’s sales primarily took place in the foodservice sector, comprising 80 per cent wholesale and 20 per cent retail. “We saw an immediate effect on Asian restaurants, but we weren’t sure what impact that would have on our business,” says Daniel Jalalaty, national sales and marketing manager at Game Farm. “Two weeks later, it started to impact the rest of foodservice. It was a gradual decline based on the government putting out policies.”
Read the full story in Hospitality’s June/July issue.
Image: Armenio Bento