The owners of an award-winning French restaurant in Brisbane have been left devastated by the impacts of coronavirus, with one of their new business on the brink of shutting down after losing 95 per cent of bookings in a week.
Montrachet owner and head chef Shannon Kellam operates five venues and recently opened Lumière Events and Culinary Studio at Newstead.
He said the jobs of 60 staff members were now at risk after mass cancellations within 24 hours.
“On Friday the goal posts really changed for a lot of people,” he said.
“We had over 1,000 people cancel events in one day.
“That was only the start of it.
“We’ve worked 14 months on designing and building that business, we’ve just got on board all our team.
“Now it’s just all unravelled within a week of opening — we’ve lost absolutely everything.”
Mr Kellam’s wife and business partner, Clare Kellam, said the worst case scenario was that the well-renowned Montrachet could close.
“Going through this at the moment, it’s devastating,” she said.
“We’re looking at having to lay off staff — casual staff and full-time staff — and shut the doors of our beloved Montrachet.
“Everyday we open the doors we’re losing money.
“It’s a dream gone. It’s people’s livelihoods. It’s people with families, with children, and we’re just getting left behind.”
Mr Kellam said apart from a tax deferment there was no government assistance and the restaurant industry could be crippled in the coming weeks.
“There is no help. What’s going to happen is you’ll see a lot of bankruptcies in our industry in the next four weeks,” he said.
“And those that are able to survive will go bankrupt in September when their BAS [Business Activity Statements] is due.”
Red tape stopping home deliveries
In order to stay afloat some restaurants have come up with creative ways to maintain cashflow.
Townsville fine-dining restaurant A Touch Of Salt has offered “cook-like-a-pro” food boxes with recipe cards, ingredients and video tutorials.
“Changing our business model and adapting, hopefully that generates income and keeps us occupied and busy,” executive chef Michael Brine said.
“With cooking shows and people’s excitement around the cooking phenomenon … that’s the angle.”
Shorehouse restaurant has started providing meals in takeaway containers for customers who are trying to self-isolate.
Owner Jamie Fitzpatrick said he hoped to start online home deliveries, but red tape and regulation was not keeping up with COVID-19.
He said alcohol could not be supplied with a home-delivered meal, which would be a huge financial loss, and insurers would not cover staff driving.
“It’s important to adapt but it’s also important for the community and government to understand it’s not a silver bullet for our industry,” he said.
Businesses face ‘financial famine’
Restaurant and Caterers Association chief executive Wes Lambert said 83 per cent of Australia’s restaurants were located in CBDs and were facing a “financial famine”.
He said while innovative restaurants were trying to enter the delivery market suburban restaurants were expected to fair better amid the uncertainty, as they would supply people stuck at home in their local areas.
Mr Lambert said the association had more than 45,000 members and some had told him of cancellations between 10 per cent and 100 per cent, as well as potential bankruptcies and mass sackings.
Mr Lambert said he has written to the Federal Government begging for immediate cash injections to keep doors open.
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