Bendigo's hospitality industry needs its customers now more than ever, according to The Dispensary's Finn Vedelsby.
The Dispensary is one of a number of Bendigo restaurants that is re-opening its doors this month after closing in late March.
Mr Vedelsby, a 20-year industry veteran, said the unexpected pause in trading has been challenging.
"We are about to reopen but will have limited capacity in the restaurant," Mr Vedelsby said.
"It is imperative that restaurateurs turn over tables and maximise the income we can generate."
Mr Vedelsby said the size of his Chancery Lane eatery means that to comply with the government's social distancing requirements, he will be able to serve about 20 people per evening.
This is a near four-fold reduction on his regular trade.
"Hospitality is a cost heavy industry," he said.
"We are buying alcohol and fresh produce, preparing, cooking and cleaning, which is labour intensive."
Mr Vedelsby said his struggles amid the pandemic are not unique.
"I have joked hospitality is a mugs game," he said.
Mr Vedelsby said there has never been a more important time to support the hospitality industry.
"Margins in hospitality, at capacity, is between four and nine per cent," he said.
"It takes the chefs just as long to cook for eight people as it would to cook for 80."
Chef and owner of The Woodhouse Paul Pitcher said his business closed on March 23.
Having worked for 32 years as a chef, Mr Pitcher said the steakhouse's relaunch felt like he was starting his restaurant from scratch.
"I have to go back to working a 70-hour week," he said.
"I still have the passion, but the pandemic has definitely kicked me and my family.
"We have built a brand where people are guaranteed a great meal and service and we will continue doing that."
Mr Vedelsby and Mr Pitcher both said customers have been eager to make reservations at their restaurants.
They hope customers who have gift cards they're ready to use will save them for a later date.
"Suppliers in Melbourne are saying about one third of Victoria's cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs are not going to come out the other side of this," Mr Vedelsby said.
"The challenge is only just about to start when we reopen.
"We appreciate people buying gift cards, but they don't provide new income and will make it very difficult for venues to balance the books."
Mr Vedelsby did have some parting advice for diners.
"Remember when you're umming and ahing about getting the chips, get the chips."