Like all hospitality folk, Kate Bartholomew, co-owner of CBD restaurants, Coda and Tonka, has been on one helluva ride in the last few weeks. A speedy pivot has created a strong takeaway offering but there’s the ongoing conversation about international workers and the lack of support they are experiencing from the Government. We checked in with Kate to see how she and her teams are going.
1. What was your timeline in turning Coda and Tonka into takeaway and delivery options, was it difficult operationally or emotionally (or both?)?
Hil, you will never believe this but it took 3 hours to have Tonka’s first take home dishes cryovaced and labeled ready for sale. Our CFO Emma, the love of my life, was in busting our balls about something and she freaked out noticing that we only had 3 customers (I think was hiding out the back rocking in a fetal position). Emma, our Head Chef Kay-Lene and our HR legend went straight to the cool room to save the food. They had packaged most of the cool room, had dishes labeled and photographed and ready for sale by 4pm that same day. Frankly, if it wasn’t for these three women, our future would have looked very different.
2. How do you see the industry on the other side of this, eg will takeaway and delivery become part of a restaurant’s business plan?
I can’t help but feel the industry will be decimated. Although I keep thinking of those stunning images of new growth springing from hundred year old trees destroyed in the bush fires. During these these hard times there has been such light, our loyal customers who are ordering ridiculous amounts of food. Then there are people like Lydia at Boccaccio’s who dropped everything to stock us, with any luck this might be a long term venture.
3. How are you and your teams?
I am pissed off. I am furious at the Government. So often there is news of another subsidy which gives us all hope until we read the fine print which excludes most restaurants. There is this illusion that there is money coming in.
The Government creates these initiatives, good in theory, the reality of which is a total joke.
Job Keeper – WTF? It doesn’t protect our international workers. These workers are the cornerstone of our industry, they are the flavours, the colours, the reason we have such an amazing industry. We rely on our Indian-born Tandoor Chefs and they need to be protected.
Job Keepers ingenious structure requires companies to pay UP FRONT which is reimbursed a month later. Brilliant! We will just withdraw the $150K we need to pay our team from our account which is now empty having been forced to close over a month ago.
Then, when you are at your wit’s end, the Government informs us the banks will lend us the money. So, we join the long list of restaurants who have also received a big fat “No” from the banks. What a load of shit. The government needs to pay the individual worker, not the company, cut us and the banks out of the transaction and most importantly support those in our community who are so desperately in need.
Interview: April 27