Road to Recovery Webinar offers great advice for the industry

15 July, 2020 by Brydie Allen

This morning, industry-leading Food and Beverage Media titles The Shout, Australian Hotelier, Bars and Clubs and Hospitality Magazine hosted a free ‘Road to Recovery’ webinar.

Hundreds of people tuned in to hear from experts from across Australia’s hospitality sector, discussing their opinions on the long hard road to recovery that operators are facing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, sponsored by Hostplus, McCain, Paul Kelly Design and Bunzl, was full of valuable insights and advice for pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants, all who have faced extremely tough challenges in recent months. 

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The quality of such insights have seen the event labelled a success by Paul Wootton, Group Publisher at Food and Beverage Media.

“We’re in the business of providing information to the hospitality and liquor industries and there’s never been a more important need for that information than now. With our own face-to-face events sidelined because of COVID, it made sense to move some of that content online with a webinar. I’m so pleased with the outcome,” Wootton said.

“It’s a very challenging time for all those working in hospitality but I’m sure the insights, advice, and experiences shared by our brilliant speakers today will benefit others in the sector and help them feel they’re not alone. Certainly the several hundred attendees who tuned in for nearly two hours suggests that’s the case.

“I’m very proud of my team for pulling the event together, collaborating across four mastheads and bringing this event to the small screen.”

The webinar was kicked off with insights from Morgan Kelly, Partner in Restructuring Services at KPMG, who gave expert tips about keeping on top of the books in a pandemic to Vanessa Cavasinni, Editor of Australian Hotelier. Following this was the first panel discussion of the webinar, hosted by Cavasinni and featuring Stephen Hunt, Managing Director of Hunt Hospitality, Jennifer Russell the Group GM of W. Short Hospitality and Andy Mullins, Director of Sand Hill Road.

The panel as a whole gave some really useful insight about how to react to changing operating restrictions throughout the pandemic. Mullins had some particularly actionable points from the perspective of Sand Hill Road, a Victorian group currently dealing with the state’s second lock down.

“The strategy is changing by the minute, because each time we get an update on what we can and can’t do, we’ve got to be flexible and adapt to it,” Mullins explained. 

“The first time around, we responded by getting all the owners, founders, executives and key management team and asked everyone to sit down and draw up 50 ideas for: one – how we were going to get through the situation we were in back then, and two – how we might improve the business. So, trying to see the positives immediately.

“We ended up with a list of about 850 or 860 things that we could do, and for anyone out there listening – it’s not too late to be doing that, to sit down with your partners or your managers, and rather than just sitting in one room with one voice talking, just sit on your own. Please do it, it’s so valuable, and then share those ideas.

“As I said, we came up with about 860 different ideas that formulated 10 to 12 different strategies, and we’re constantly pulling the different levers of different strategies at different times. The only thing that matters right now is survival.”

Following this panel, the webinar crossed back to the studio for a talk lead by Hospitality Magazine Editor Annabelle Cloros with Applejack Hospitality Co-Founder Hamish Watts, and a panel hosted by Hospitality Magazine Journalist Madeline Woolway that featured Judith Hurley, General Manager at Gerard’s Bistro and Dash Rumble the Co-Owner of Pilot. These speakers discussed strategies surrounding things like set menus, bookings, supporting staff and being agile.

The final roundtable of the morning was hosted by Editor of The Shout and Bars and Clubs, Andy Young, and featured the likes of Zara Madrusan, Director of Made in the Shade, Andrew Baturo, Director of Dap & Co and Mikey Enright, Director of Barrelhouse Group. With experiences spanning across three states, the panel spoke about how the different venues within their groups have pivoted in reaction to the pandemic, and the future they see for the industry.

Baturo, for example, spoke about what things were like in Queensland, and how he sees the industry progressing because of that. 

“From what I’m seeing up here, I feel extraordinarily optimistic, peppered with realism of course,” Baturo began.

“There’s going to be a real difference in the way the landlords approach good operators. I think they want to have the longevity of tenants who can sustain a lease for a long period of time, as opposed to just the fly by nighters. I think that we are on the cusp of an understanding about an industry from our customer base that we haven’t had before. They’re really very empathetic towards us and it seems that people are more understanding than they’ve ever been.

“So there’s some really good positives to take out of this. Heaven forbid we have to shut down a second time because I think that would be really difficult, but I think once we weather the storm… we will continue one of the great things about this community and rally around each other.

“It’s been fantastic to see the support, nationally, that everyone’s been giving each other and and propping each other up.”

Closing off the event was a discussion with Trish Barry, Managing Director of Mastermind Consulting who gave advice about digital marketing, and a presentation from Bunzl. 

This has been just a brief taste of what the webinar had to offer – the full 90 minutes were jam packed with insights across a range of useful topics like cash flow, marketing, people management and business flexibility, to name a few. 

If you missed the webinar this morning, or want to look back again at the expert advice, the video will be available to view later today. The free resource will be available here this evening –  you just need to register.