August 12, 2020

If your cafe business was like ours in March 2020, we were booming; literally having our best year yet in our CBD shop, Black Velvet Espresso. Our team members were working fantastically well; we had a wonderful group of customers, the vast majority of whom were regulars and our product was at the highest quality as it has ever been.

Then COVID19 hit, and what a bombshell it has been ever since.

We began lockdown thinking it was for 2 weeks, Australia would hit this pandemic on the head and then we’d get back to normal. It’s currently been just over 19 weeks since the first lockdown was announced, with little reprieve since.

Our plan was to use the lockdown wisely. We needed to renovate our shop to update it and make it more user friendly, ready for opening at the right time. We envisioned opening to all of our regular customers, as before, with a beautiful, fresh shop.

Then the lockdown continued. The pressure was immense and many, many tears of fear and confusion were shed. Thankfully Jobkeeper was announced and we knew we could keep our team employed. Our bank was happy to halt our loans, so the pressure subsided somewhat; all we needed to do was bunker down and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We created video and written content for online publications to stay connected; we worked hard on building up our online sales and eventually, we started to rest (unheard of usually).

The COVID positive numbers dropped and the days before life went back to normal felt numbered. We started to plan our new menu, calculated how many people would be working in the city and when, worked on arranging opening hours to suit our customers and developed a financial plan to see us through to when our beautiful Melbourne City was back to “normal”, possibly by the New Year?

We all know what happened next. Rising COVID numbers left us in a Stage 4 lockdown and our CBD in a state that none of us could have imagined. Our vibrant, dynamic city with its incredible art scene, world-class restaurants, stylish and welcoming people, fabulously multi-cultural tourists and a sporting culture unrivaled in any other Australian state, is on hold. The traffic is gone and people are few and far between. The sight is absolutely surreal.

We know now that life as we knew it is not coming back for a very long time. International travel is on hiatus for an unknown amount of time; ‘work from home’ orders are in place indefinitely, and some of these city workers may never come back. When offices re-open, many people will be wearing masks, be unable to enjoy close contact - a handshake or a hug, and some may be fearful of leaving the safety of the office.

Cafe owners in the CBD, we need to embrace these changes and adapt our businesses, those that do not, will simply not economically survive. What do our new customers look like? Will less people congregate around tables for meetings, preferring take-away options? How can we service our customers safely and keep our staff safe? What do our clients need to know to feel safe in our businesses? How can we make best use of our food budgets by reducing wastage? Every benchtop/shelf is prime real-estate in the fight to make it through to better days. What do our customers need? How can we work our opening hours and days to ensure the best spend of our payroll budget? Do we need to review our suppliers? We simply do not have the luxury of trading as we did before March 2020.

The good news is that this is our time to get out of our comfort zones! We are business owners for a reason; we thrive on challenges and are passionate about what we do. Let’s embrace this! Let’s get our brain cells firing, get back to basics and be proud of our efforts to find our way through a most incredibly challenging time. We at Black Velvet Coffee are always here to help, vent and be a listening ear to other business owners. Please reach out, we are in this together.


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