How do you feel about the future of Australia’s bar scene?

Last week Bars and Clubs, along with Australian Hotelier, Hospitality and The Shout, hosted the Road to Recovery webinar were almost a dozen of the country’s top operators and industry experts gave their insights into the future of Australia’s hospitality sector.

Bars and Clubs hosted a panel discussion featuring three operators with different business models and each from different states to share their experiences and predictions. From Victoria, Zara Madrusan of Made in the Shade was joined by Mikey Enright of Barrelhouse Group in New South Wales and Dap & Co’s Andrew Baturo, in Queensland.

The webinar took place just days after Melbourne was placed into lockdown for the second time, and Madrusan told the audience that the industry’s resilience and adaptability are crucial to how it returns from this.

“As an industry, and the people who thrive in this industry, we are so incredibly resilient and I think that the shape of the industry will definitely change. We talk about the new normal, but the shape of the industry, it’s going to look different. The shape of the bars and restaurants we’ve known over the last decade is going to look different,” she said.

“I think the more OK we get with that, and the more we can use our resilience to adapt somewhat, and keep our sense of integrity and identity to best bits of what our businesses have been, then more success we are going to see.”

Enright agreed: “It is going to be different. We don’t know the outcome from this; will there be no distancing? Will we ever have a packed bar on a Friday night like we used to? Maybe not. People are going to be nervous from the pandemic, so it is going to look completely different.”

In Queensland, Baturo is much more optimistic about the overall state of the industry, both from a business and from customer perspective.

“Zara, I feel terrible for all you guys down in Melbourne, but all I can say is on the other side, and with what I am seeing up here. I am extraordinarily optimistic, tempered with realism.”

He added: “I feel like there is going to be a lot more opportunities for the great operators, people like Zara and Mikey. There’s going to be a real difference in the way landlords approach good operators.

“I think they will want to have the longevity of tenants who can sustain a lease for a long period of time, as opposed to the fly-by-nighters.”

And in terms of how customers feel about the country’s bar scene, Baturo added: “I think we’re on the cusp of an understanding of our industry by our customer base that we haven’t had before. They are very empathetic towards us and people are more understanding than they have ever been.”

For Madrusan, the pragmatic realities of second lockdown are more challenging, but her advice is to adapt.

“I don’t think there’s a chance that we are going to be going back to a time we have known, so we just wrap our heads around what the future does look like and move with it, because it is out of our control, that’s my tactic right now,” she said.

In terms of what it takes, right now, to get through the restrictions, Enright added: “I think it’s all about staying alive, and being smart with how you are spending your money, if you can reduce costs then you should do.

“We take every day as it comes, and we keep our eyes open to see what is going to happen.”

Baturo closed the discussion, by enforcing way we can be optimistic about the industry, and its future.

“Hospitality people are the worst combination of optimist and gambler, so we will continue to rally around the community and it’s been wonderful to see the support for each other. But coming out the other side up here? It has been good.”

To find out all the advice that was given on issues from finance to operations and from people to marketing, register to watch the webinar here.

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