Takeaway model buffers restaurant industry, but is it enough?

Rising Sun Workshop in Newtown is delivering ramen noodles via motorcycle in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Rising Sun Workshop in Newtown is delivering ramen noodles via motorcycle in response to the coronavirus crisis. Photo: Supplied

Sydneysiders don't live on takeaway and home delivery alone, with many upmarket restaurants pivoting to the new takeaway model amid drops of 80 to 90 per cent on usual takings.

"We're 70 per cent down," says Somer Sivrioglu, chef-owner at Balmain's Efendy restaurant. "Once you include all the commissions for delivery et cetera it's 80 per cent." 

The award-winning chef says he's thankful he operates in a supportive community, otherwise the figures could be worse. But Sivrioglu has discovered what restaurants in early lockdown metropolises such as Manhattan did: takeaway isn't the financial panacea in this testing environment.

'We're 50 per cent down overall on a good week': Nick Smith, Rising Sun Workshop.
'We're 50 per cent down overall on a good week': Nick Smith, Rising Sun Workshop. Photo: Supplied

Brent Savage, the owner-chef at Bentley Group, agrees: "The first two weeks [after introducing Bentley at Home] we were doing about 10 per cent of our usual revenue." And that's an award-winning restaurant group with a high-profile and consumer cut-through.

"I think we're all just trying to do what we can to get through this and keep staff on," says Vacanza Pizzeria owner Nick Gilbert. Despite making takeaway-friendly pizzas and introducing a lockdown-savvy heat-at-home version, Gilbert is desperate to fully reopen: "We're 50 per cent down in Bronte and 75 per cent in Surry Hills."

With Vespa-riding jacketed waiters delivering food, Paddington institution Lucio's has done everything it can to successfully pivot, offering a takeaway and home-delivery menu for the first time in its 37-year run.  While Friday and Saturday nights are still good, Lucio's Matteo Galletto is conscious of not wanting to push the novelty factor. "But it helps us keep paying the bills," he says.

One of the major hurdles for restaurants is the depressed numbers on alcohol sales, usually a shining light for restaurant balance sheets.

"We're 50 per cent down overall on a good week," says Nick Smith, owner of Newtown's hatted Rising Sun Workshop, which has tackled the home delivery market with its own fleet of riders.

"We're thankful we have a compassionate landlord. Thanks to the good grace of government and a supportive public we're just hopeful we can ride this out until we can reopen properly."