As the number of venues closing around the country continues to rise, Zara and Michael Madrusan — the duo behind Melbourne group Made in the Shade — are encouraging the hospitality community to band together. 

While the past week has seen daily changes to operating conditions, culminating in a nationwide shutdown of dine-in trade across restaurants, cafes and bars, business owners are trying to stay on the front foot with a raft of initiatives. 

More relief has been announced, in the shape of loan deferrals and a further $66.1 billion in economic stimulus, but business owners will still need to diversify in order to stay afloat. 

Despite the turmoil, operators, including the Madrusans are quickly pivoting to new revenue generating strategies. Across the Made in the Shade group (The Everleigh, Heartbreaker, Connies, Bar Margaux and The Everleigh Bottling Co.) the Madrusans and their team have moved to home delivery services. 

“We’re really thinking on our feet,” says Zara. “[The team] managed to get recipes and a menu together in 48 hours. I think that just shows everyone understands the urgency. Plus, all the other planning and menu development people normally work on has stopped.” 

The group’s newest venue, Bar Margaux, will offer a range of French family-style meals, for Melburnians to cook at home, with the freshly prepared meals delivered across the metropolitan area by the Margaux team.  

The same strategy is in place at The Everleigh Bottling Co, which is introducing ‘Happy Hour at Home’ hampers featuring single-serve bottled classics, glassware, a copy of the Madrusans A Spot At The Bar, and venue gift vouchers. Special release bottled ‘medicinal’ cocktails will be made using fresh citrus, a first for the group, by The Everleigh bartenders and delivered in larger format bottles, for parties of two, four and six. 

Connie’s Pizza will also begin managing deliveries in house, making a variety of pizza styles and flavours available direct to your door, as well as in venue at Heartbreaker on Lonsdale St for eat in or pick up.

Implementing in-house management of deliveries will “keep cocktails fresh and also keep our workforce in a job”, says Zara. 

Michael adds that every business is thinking about how to protect their staff. “I think it’s really important to just be as creative as we can to ensure we can get as much revenue in the door so we can keep paying our people,” he says. “We had a big chat with our teams yesterday to get them involved in thinking about how we can create new revenue ideas as a team and pitch ideas.” 

While the weekend before trade was good — Zara suspects people were out for a “last hoorah” — the past week saw a dramatic drop off in patronage as more social distancing guidelines were announced. 

“The hit to the industry is going to be pretty incredible,” says Michael. “There’s inevitably going to be job cuts and shift cuts and all that stuff in the future; that’s absolutely undeniable, to say that’s not going to happen would be incorrect.”

But, it’s been encouraging to see operators share ideas with each other, he added saying, “Look, at a time like this, the more communication the better. We will be a lot more equipped for what’s [coming] if we are all on the same page and we are talking to each other. It’s a much better feeling, knowing you’re not in this alone and that everybody is facing the same threat. It helps with the emotional burden that every business owner is experiencing right now.”

In the face of ever-more challenging conditions, the Madrusans are maintaining a positive outlook.

“As we process this, we’re trying to be positive,” says Zara. “There is room for a bit of open mindedness. We are all in this together. A bit of acceptance around the issue means there is less panic around it.” 

Ultimately, they’re focussed on pushing aside the doom and gloom, creating space to instead focus on creative approaches like those they’re now implementing. “We will absolutely come back stronger from this,” says Michael. “I’m looking forward to that.” 

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