Regional Victorian hospitality leaders outline their own road maps to recovery

The road ahead: Dan Hunter pictured on the grounds of Brae.
The road ahead: Dan Hunter pictured on the grounds of Brae. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

 OPINION

Two hospitality owners have their say on current and future COVID-19 restrictions and what can be done to help the restaurant industry.

Dan Hunter

Owner-chef of Brae in Birregurra

The latest announcement from the state government about easing restrictions in regional Victoria is good news to a degree. For Brae, with one dining space, it means a maximum of 10 diners at a time. The government's previous announcement indicated that it was take-home and outdoor dining only until the end of November, so we've put all our energy into this.

Had the government shared the details about indoor dining earlier (rather than the vague "predominantly outdoor dining"), we'd have been a bit more prepared for a restaurant reopening, and perhaps have retained more of our staff.

Instead, we'll now need time to flip again from a take-home menu to a new restaurant menu, based on the new season's ingredients available from the farm, and to replace some key staff before we're able to operate.

We're hoping this won't take too long and reservations will open soon. Any sommeliers out there looking for an escape to the country?

Chef Michael Ryan, Provenance, Beechworth. Copyright Richard Cornish 2019. Single use only. Credit Richard Cornish. .dng Chef Michael Ryb from Provenance in Beechworth.

Chef Michael Ryan outside his restaurant and accommodation in Beechworth. Photo: Richard Cornish

Michael Ryan

Owner-chef of Provenance in Beechworth

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I miss restaurants. I miss bars, pub and cafes. I miss their sensuality, their socialness, their hedonism. I miss the camaraderie of my hospo friends. I wish could have all of this back tomorrow. I know this is a pointless desire. What we had is gone for now.

What we have for the next short while (I am talking "short" in terms of a life here) is a restaurant and social scene that will be a very different from what we had. There is no way around this. This is a health crisis, so health considerations are the prime motivation.

This is not to say there can't be discussions about the nuance of the restrictions, discussions at which those in hopso would have some say, or at least some input.

Our role in hospitality, for those who choose to stay in the industry (and I personally still don't want to be anywhere else), will be the same – to offer an escape, a time separate from our everyday life.

We will have to do this under conditions harder than we have ever had to deal with, and hospo is notoriously a tough gig, even in the best of times.

To survive in hospitality has always required an ability to adapt to challenges, a depth of resilience often not required in other fields, on an immediate day-to-day level and also in the longer term. We are going to need that resilience more than ever.

I have faith in the tenacity of those in the industry.