Part of a series focusing on Tasmanian hospitality workers and their experiences during the COVID 19 outbreak.
Two weeks ago I was in Salamanca chatting with the Chef at a popular establishment. He talked about how well they were doing, how many staff he had on, about the bright times ahead. Now they are closed, along with almost every restaurant in the area.
I’d heard rumours of tough times approaching, of supplies becoming low. A combination of effects of the bushfires and the situation in China, more than one sales representative told me. ‘Stock up on dairy and garlic while you can’. Now most of these reps are out of work or forced into taking early leave.
Many businesses were hopeful at first, organising takeaway menus for those wishing isolation, considering home delivery, Uber Eats salespeople were kept busy. It saddens me greatly that such a company is profiteering from all this, one that continues to destroy the industry. I optimistically published a list on how you can continue to show support for your favourite eatery. Most of those suggestions are redundant now.
I’ve spoken with many suppliers recently. Many are dropping down to core staff only, to try and ride it out, even the big players. Nothing is scarce or overpriced at the moment but I feel it is only a matter of time. My favourite grower told me of the day restaurants were made takeaway only and everyone cancelled their orders at once, the influx of messages received, and the income lost . He’s composting most of the current crop, and likely the next, but with a chin up tells me that he’ll keep planting the same amount as one day everyone will be calling again wanting more and he wants to be there for them. One of the hardest things for me has been cancelling orders, knowing the effects it has on the supply chain.
Telling staff they have no more hours is similarly heartbreaking. I was fortunate in that my sous chef made the decision to return to QLD before I had to make that decision for her. Casual staff had all too little warning before being let go. We quickly went from a family of workers to just me, last man standing. I don’t blame my employer, there really was no choice.
I’m one of the lucky ones, for now. So many places have closed, so many are out of work. It’s devastating to think about, it’s so saddening hearing the stories.
But the hospitality community has been amazing. It really makes me proud being part of it. Discounted feeds and drinks for members struggling from one of my favourite wine bars, offers of free haircuts from a local saloon, businesses making it clear that no one in the industry will be turned away, even if all they need is a chat. My inbox is full of messages with the same theme, “if you need anything just let me know’. There really is a lot of good in the world.
One of the truest things I’ve seen was a comment that all the Chefs will have to get normal jobs for a while, and realise how much easier life is working 9-5 away from the pressures of the kitchen.
I feel for my employer. He opened the business he’d always dreamed of to great acclaim six weeks ago. So much of his heart has gone into this. So much money. He remains optimistic, but the CBD is a wasteland. Today I cooked five meals.
I wrote this two days ago, since then things have gotten even harder for the industry. We need rent relief for our traders so they can reopen when it’s safe. We need the public to keep supporting our primary producers so that they are still there when the restaurants come back