Hospo CheckIn: Tobias Sherson

Former hospo professional, Tobias Sherson has founded the restaurant delivery app, Local Restaurant, with his wife Lauren and a ‘techy’ neighbour, after a discussion about how to help the industry when lockdown kicked in. It’s a restaurant delivery platform that takes no commission, 100% goes back to the business, so we checked in with Tobias to find out more.

1. Tobias, tell us about how Local Restaurant came about? Can any hospo business sign up?

Local Restaurant was born out of necessity, if the truth be told. As soon as the lockdown began my wife Lauren and I started looking for new ways to help the wider community and not just our ‘backyard’, so to speak. Local restaurant owners are really struggling to make ends meet given the paralysing restrictions that have been put on them. So we began thinking about what we can do to help stimulate the local restaurant economy and help businesses keep their doors open during and after the lockdown. I know a lot of venue owners personally, both from my hospo days and now because I rely on them whenever I want to eat somewhere new as they are part of my recommendations crew! It was painful to watch the industry I love be brought to its knees by something we have no control over.

Lauren floated the notion that what is needed is an ordering platform that doesn’t rob the restaurants of their hard-earned revenue. After a brainstorm and a quick venture pitch to one of our neighbours who happens to be in tech (from our front garden, in keeping with social distancing regulations), we had formed our team of three, and www.localrestaurant.com.auwas alive! 100% of the revenue goes straight back to the restaurants who work hard to supply the customers, unlike Uber and the like who take up to 30% of each transaction from the restaurant’s bottom line.

As a result of people ordering through Local Restaurant and not directly from the venues, the owners are not having to answer the phone constantly which is saving them both time and money. It allows them to get on with other important tasks while still ensuring orders are coming in.

There is also an opportunity to purchase an extra serve, as we call it, that is donated to a local in need. We have partnered with a local charity to facilitate that for us. The money goes to the restaurant and the meal to someone in need so it’s a really great option.

We want to help as many businesses as we can. It is free to sign up and any hospo biz can join—the more diverse, the better! That way we can keep the industry alive and kicking.

2. You’ve had years of experience in hospitality, how do you see the industry on the other side of this?

I have learned over the years that the industry is made up of some of the most resilient and creative people you will ever have the pleasure to know. We all have the uncanny knack of reinvention, whether it be the Sommelier who morphs into a wine rep so they can spend more nights with their families, or restaurants completely revamping themselves to keep up with food trends. There is no greater need than now to use this power of reinvention. Of course we can’t just sit back and say ‘she’ll be right’ sadly there will inevitably be casualties as a result of the lockdown, but the bright side is that the industry will come out of this closer together than ever before. To draw on an example Lauren gave, in regards to the end of the gold rush: The only people to come out on top of a bad situation were the publicans and market gardeners. We have done it before and we will do it again.

3. How are you and your family?

Lauren and I and our Pomeranian, Foster, are doing really well at the moment. We have projects on the go and are loving all of the Zoom calls with friends (as well as business ones of course). Our front garden has been our saviour as we can sit on the porch, work on our laptops, and watch the world go by. We often have little chats with the passers-by which is so lovely. For me, an extremely social person, it was difficult to adjust at first as I’m used to going out several times a day for walks to shops, catching up with mates, and dining out. But now I’m embracing the new normal and we are all making it work for us. Poor Foster the fuzz ball is confused as to why he is not getting his 25 walks a day and catching up with his Pug girlfriend, but he is also adjusting! I do venture out most days to go and chat with the local restaurant owners to make sure they have what they need, which adds to the energy driving us forward right now.

Interview: May 6