The 2019 Australian Liquor Industry Awards’ Bar Group Operator of the Year, Applejack is showing why it won recognition, as it begins the process of reopening its venues.
When the Federal Government locked down, Applejack put the business and its venues into hibernation, in a bid to plug every expense hole in the company and make sure the business had cash to bounce back when the restrictions were eased.
As Co-Founder Ben Carroll told Bars and Clubs in March: “We made the conscious decision to go into an induced coma straight away. We discussed options of trying to change business models, be nimble and look at different revenue opportunities, but to do that as a company with 200 employees at the time, would have meant a high level of risk.”
Carroll said in March that with the JobKeeper payment Applejack was starting to look forward and plan its reopening strategy. That started in May with the reopening of June’s Shoppe takeaway café in Sydney’s CBD, but later this month will see the group’s first major reopening with Neutral Bay bar and restaurant SoCal once again welcoming guests.
Carroll and business partner Hamish Watts, said: “The past few months have been tough for everyone, and hospitality has suffered considerably along with many other service industries. Applejack went into full hibernation mode to ensure we had a business to come back to and venues to reopen, so that we can continue to bring joy to the community.
“Supporting our Applejack employees has been a key focus in our strategy because without them, the heart of our business would not exist.”
And that key focus sees Applejack adopt a great initiative for the opening nights of each of its seven venues, as well as SoCal, these include The Butler (Potts Point), The Botanist (Kirribilli), Endeavour Tap Rooms (The Rocks), Bopp & Tone (CBD), June’s Shoppe (CBD) and Table Sixty (CBD).
The group will be running a ‘Food Sales For Staff’ initiative which will see Applejack working with customers to help staff who missed out on JobKeeper payments.
Carroll told Bars and Clubs: “For the first night/s of trade at all restaurants, the food portion of the bill will be on-the-house (drinks will be paid for at full price), allowing patrons to choose what they wish to pay for their food as a TIP for the staff. We will let them know the value of the meal and recommend what they ‘tip’, and from the research, we’ve done we think our customers will be generous as they’ve missed everyone so much.
“All monetary contributions for the group-wide ‘Food Sales For Staff’ initiative will be pooled and shared equally, going directly to all returning Applejack employees that lost their income and weren’t eligible for the government’s JobKeeper Payment scheme.
“We wish we could’ve supported everyone through the JobKeeper scheme but unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, so we thought it would be fair to use this opportunity to help those Applejackers that we couldn’t support financially over the past few months.”
SoCal reopens on June 22 and for the first three nights will operate as a Taqueria, serving up Baja Fish, Pork, Smoked Brisket and Tofu Tacos, along with all-time favourites Guac and Black Corn Tortilla Chips and Churros with Dulce de Leche sauce.
All food sales will be on the house and all ‘Taco Tips’ left by patrons will go to staff.
Watts and Carroll said: “There is no hidden clause, no catch – we’ve ensured our business is in a financially stable position to cover the costs and we just want to give back to our employees who have done it tough. Each restaurant will have its own spin staying true to the offerings that you’ve grown to love, and all the food served will be on the house to allow customers’ contribution to go directly to the people who serve them.”
All Applejack venues will adhere to the group’s updated CV-19 policy and health & hygiene plan which sees the introduction of new digital menu options (via QR code), digital check-in for walk-in customers (bookings highly recommended) and table service only, for the foreseeable future.
Applejack said it aims to have all its venues reopened and operating by mid-August. Following in the footsteps of SoCal, the group is planning for The Butler and The Botanist to in July, both with new menus in tow, and Bopp & Tone and Endeavour Tap Rooms to follow in August. Booking enquiries for SoCal and The Butler will recommence from June 9.
Watts and Carroll said: “We’re ecstatic to welcome Sydneysiders back to our venues this winter, kicking off with SoCal later this month, and are proud to be launching our new Food Sales For Staff initiative. This is Applejack’s way to say thank you to our people, and hopefully help revive the livelihood of our teams so we can continue to deliver exceptional experiences.”