The Bendigo community has once again reached out to their trusty locals to support them through Victoria's fifth lockdown, but hospitality owners' morale is low as they count their costs of pivoting to takeaway-only services.
"Each lockdown keeps getting harder and harder," she said. "With each lockdown comes a drop in consumer confidence and people get more and more hesitant and scared to come out.
"To be frank, it's not worth re-opening but we've had such a supportive community around us and it's somewhere for people to come and have a routine. It gives us routine as well so we don't fall into a black hole at home.
One thing that has gotten Mrs Bahen through the pandemic is the support of other hospitality businesses who have banded together.
"Across most venues there's a feeling of we're all in this together," she said.
"Last year there was a hospitality group created out of Covid and even with Thursday's announcement, straight off the bat people in the group were asking how everyone was feeling.
"It's been really great to know there is an industry group that we're all in the same boat and we're all there together."
Cafe Essence owner Mynette Richardson said one of the positive impacts of the coronavirus pandemic was the sense of comradery felt between across the community.
"The support from everyone is fantastic," she said. "In the country everyone likes to help out and while Bendigo's a city it has a country town mentality which has shone through.
"I actually think Covid has done wonders to bring Bendigo's hospitality venues together.
"There's a group of us who've known each other for a long time but now we have meetings and a support page focussing on mental health and information sharing when times get pretty tough.
"This lockdown, I'm hoping for some sort of relief package because we're still paying back bills from previous months as well as keeping up with current ones and there's no JobKeeper.
"This time around if you don't have money in the bank it would be very hard."
Mrs Richardson opened Bluebird Patisserie in September 2020 and said the takeaway-only mentality of the Mitchell Street shopfront had kept her tow business afloat.
"In the initial lockdown for Café Essence we tried takeaway and it pittered off and in the end it wasn't worth it," she said.
"This time around we ramped it up but it's still not great. We're not in the minds of people for takeaway, because you're working against the big businesses like Maccas and Grill'd who do takeaway all the time and are in that mindset.
"The patisserie opened as a takeaway business right in the middle of the pandemic and that was always it's intention. It's not really slowed which has been our saviour."
Revamping business in an instant
For central Victorian hospitality venues, they have two options when a lockdown is announced; shut up shop for a few days or the duration of the unknown lockdown period, or pivot.
Mrs Bahen said opening takeaway options for her Hargreaves Street venue is not as simple as swapping plates for containers.
"Each lockdown we've taken the bull by the horns, we've now got the packaging and the images for social media ready to rollout," she said. "But it's still hard to get the information on a Thursday night and change everything before a weekend.
"We certainly have busy periods in the lockdown, we still get early morning walkers and some kind of lunch rush. But in lockdown our rush might have five people waiting, it's no where near what we're used to.
"Last year we tried to use Covid to our advantage as much as we could; we made big changes including closing on the Sunday, changing trading hours and smartened up our menu.
"We saw it as our new normal and that it would continue to change until the world had control of Covid. Until that happens, we just have to keep adapting until we float through.Mynette Richardson
Mrs Richardson said the wastage was large every time a new lockdown was announced, but the café now had a track record of changing its dynamic to cater for the situation.
"We have got better at it for sure," she said. "There is a lot of wastage with function bookings and groups.
"We've adapted and we change the structure of our café slightly for takeaway.
"We do more meals that can be re-heated like curries rather than anything else. It's tricky because you can't necessarily deliver hot meals all the time; we only have a short period of lunch and Bendigo is sparse. So we decided to make cold options as well.
"I think takeaway options have remained the same in popularity throughout the pandemic, it's just a third of what we would normally take so we're not covering costs but at least we're doing something."
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