The COVID-19 shitstorm is wreaking havoc far and wide, and from all accounts, Hospitality seems to be in the eye of it all.
While there's a plethora of on-the-ground, in-the-trenches reporting that is revealing the impact on individual brands, businesses and people, the numbers are revealing an even wilder impact.
These last few days, weeks and months haven't just altered the numbers that we have learned to know, to rely on, to strategise around, they've imploded them.
January to Early February: Australians Start to lose their taste for Chinese Food, and Asian restaurants across the country feel the incidental racism that follows.
Wuhan in China is believed to have been the home of the first COVID-19 outbreak, and through the first two months of the year, it became the epicentre of the yet-to-be-deemed pandemic. Its location became a focus for more than just scientists and epidemiologists though, awareness of the Coronavirus epicentre prompted a large party of Australians to show their true xenophobic colours, shunning Chinese food and strong decline in customers of Asian restaurants across the country. By Feb 9th, Melbourne's 30-year-old institution Shark Finn House had closed up shop for good, reporting an 80% drop in customers in a matter of weeks. The cards had started to tumble when knowledge of the virus was still relatively minimal.
Australian search activity for Coronavirus in the last 90 days.
Mid-February into Early March
Mass-hysteria (a lot of it driven by the media.
Delivery Apps cash in.
Deliveroo arrived in Australia in 2015, signing on their 10,000th restaurant in March last year, roughly around 278 new restaurants each month. In the last four weeks, they've had nearly 2000 new restaurants sign up to join the ranks of the delivery service. To break down the urgency of those numbers even further for you, Business Insider Australia reported a 435% increase in the number of restaurants signing up compared to the two-week period before that. Their commission is still around 30% of each order.
Likewise, with UberEats. Where there is a delay in processes applicants the demand to sign on to the platform is so high. UberEats has waived their sign-up fees for now, but their 30-35% commission still holds true.
And reservations Drop.
According to OpenTable, reservations in Melbourne were down 38% by March 15 compared to the previous year. Sydney saw a 46 per cent decline, with reservations, continue to plummet until there were none to be taken.
Early March to Mid March
For Catering and Events, things were even grimmer by wid-March. Worksmith surveyed 12 events and catering businesses, and each had been dealt with cancellation blows of 85%-100% up until November. The number of employees for each business ranged from 5 to 800. All were let go for the foreseeable future.
On March 17th, Broadsheet published an investigation into the financial impact that COVID-19 was having on restaurants. A lot has happened in those 10 days since, but at the time, 88% of surveyed restaurants (363 in total) reported a 30% decrease in covers. One of the participants quoted "I think this survey maybe a week too early". They were right. Today, no venues are open for dining in, and that number is Today, (March 27th), that number would look more like 100% of restaurants reporting 100% drop in covers. Takeaway and Delivery may be an option for some, but it is an unsustainable option for most.
Groceries reign supreme over venues:
Stockpiling ingredients swiftly became the norm, and with whispers of further falls in the markets to come, self-sufficiency came into place. People were literally punching on in supermarkets, and the preparation for a future of self-sufficiency. Google searches for 'How to make Bread' rose by over 300%, and maintained a stark lead ahead of people searching for local bakeries:
Two weeks ago, 'Quarantine Recipes' didn't register on Google's search radar, In Australia alone, that search term has risen by 850%.
Google trend search for 'Quarantine Recipes'
Where we used to be guided by ingredients, seasonality and chefs, food trends now are about as easy to predict as the circumstances with which we find ourselves - next to impossible.
March 20th - 27th
The torturously dragged out period of restaurant and bar shut-downs has had owners, operators and team members scrambling since the first 'social distancing' blow smacked us on the chin.
March 20th: The Prime Minister announced that while indoor gatherings of fewer than 100 people were still allowed, new guidelines were to be introduced saying that at least four square metres must be available for every person in the area.
March 22nd: The Prime Minister announced that from noon on March 23, restaurants and cafes would be restricted to takeaway and delivery only. Pubs, bars and clubs would be forced to close.
March 22nd: The Federal Government announce its second stage $66.1 billion financial stimulus package to help small and medium-sized businesses, and assist workers who find themselves unemployed as a result of COVID-19.
March 23: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced these measures will be in place until April 13.
March 27th: We brace for the next step of the lockdown, the next bout of the restaurant, bar, cafe and industry casualties.
It remains to be seen how the restaurant industry will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. How long it will take (or if it will at all) for numbers of customers, orders, employee to return to some form of normalcy. For this industry, particularly small businesses, to survive this crisis we must think and act drastically. A number of campaigns and fundraising initiatives may help us along in the short term, in some small way, but when the entire world is hurting the way it currently is, it's hard to say for how long those funds will be able to help us. It's hard to say anything about the future really. The best we can do is hope for the best, but continue to plan and strategise for the absolute worst. Numbers aside, that is our best bet at surviving this thing.