Michael Harrington and brother Peter are just two of the people who operate three significant restaurants in Canberra: Sage, Kokomo's and Akiba. When affected by the restrictions, rather than moaning, they looked for possibilities. They recreated their business plan to operate within the COVID-19 restrictions. They stood down their staff and then re-contracted those who wanted to transition under a new business model of food delivery. Wait staff have become drivers and they’ll deliver anywhere – a first for Canberra.
“We’ve gone to Wallaroo and even taken a request to deliver to Goulburn!” said Michael. Other staff are manning the phones and kitchen staff are now cooking for take away rather than an in-house dining experience.
Their restaurants would normally serve 500 people on a Saturday night. They are now delivering on average 315 meals a day, each meal serving 2.5 people. They're only open for delivery between 6pm and 8:30pm, so that's one order every 1.5 minutes. Catering to around 800 people in a smaller window of time has taken adaptability. They are now producing and serving MORE food than ever before. Michael says they have more work than they can handle.
The transition to take away meant re-organising everything. But it also means the business will survive until COVID-19 passes. He says they’ve had discussions with the banks and the landlord and are awaiting answers. Regardless, they have moved to transition despite a significant downturn in turnover. While the amount of food going out is up, prices for takeaway are significantly lower. It’s not been easy to quickly transition to a new business model, and it’s probably not sustainable in the long term. But in the short term, it will assist the business through the restrictions and allow it to be ready to bounce back when the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
This post is part of a series of positive stories about small business in the time of COVID. We endeavour to post one story every week day. If you have a good story, let us know!