Creativity and community are helping them overcome COVID-19

By Juliano Oliveira

The gently-slow-prepared Italian Bolognese sauce perfume inebriates the mere mortals eager to experience the nourishment of their soul and stomach.

This unmistakable smell stems from an old “Mama’s” recipe forged in the region of Lazio.

“I usually cook my Bolognese every second day, well, night, and I use four slow cookers as I believe the sauce needs to cook slowly and for a long time. That is why, usually I do it during my sleep. When I enter in the truck in the morning, I can smell the fresh cooked Bolognese from miles away”, says Daniela Restaldi, the chef behind “Flavours of Eatly” food truck.

What chef Restaldi did not expect was a wrong ingredient in her recipe that would be introduced last March. As the initial effects of COVID-19 started to harm the local economy, Ms Restaldi saw her full schedule of events plummet to zero.

“Before COVID-19 struck in, we had a fully booked calendar. From festivals to weddings. Everything went from 100 to zero in 24 hours the day of the lockdown”, she says.

Chef Daniela and her traditional Italian Gnocchi

“Now we have six small services per week. Before the pandemic, we were serving only once a week and having wonderful results. But then the whole world changed and, to make enough money to cover our financial commitments, we had to grab smaller services to support the whole mechanism.”

Marissa Bercolli runs a local family-owned cafe in the new Harvest Rise Estate, Greenbank. Just like the chef Restaldi, Marissa has been impacted by COVID-19 and noticed a considerable drop off in business.

“We had been open for about a year before the pandemic and were building a consistent customer base with a strong social media presence. We were hoping to continue to grow our business”, she says.

The two C’s: creativity and community

Despite the instability and uncertainty around her café, Marissa continued to make sure she had a strong social media presence, ensuring she reached out to the local community.

“[We needed] to let them know we were still open for business under the new restrictions with all our items able to be made to take away. We also undertook giveaways to give back to those who have supported us and attempt to continue to drive our business forward”, explains Marissa.

Throughout the last months, she admits, the members of the community where her café is located, played an essential role in its maintenance.

“There has been a large amount of support from the local community both on social media and in-person, which we are greatly appreciative of. Everyone has been very receptive to the changes put in place and have continued to support us in every way they can.”

“We do our best to support the local community around us by buying locally sourced products and serving great quality food and coffee at reasonable prices.”

On Daniela’s side, the combination of creativity and community goodwill produced promising results.

“We had the opportunity to grab few Moreton Bay council spots and operate on weekends as takeaway only. We also have been very blessed as the community in Newport, Scarborough and Redcliffe supported us every single weekend. On our part, we have changed our menu every single week to maintain the customers interested and not bored. And it worked,” celebrates the chef.

Continue your business

A piece of paper and a pen are vital to assess the damages caused by the pandemic so far. Start with a business plan to identify the critical areas and the next move.

The first step to take to get back on top may consist of seeking expert advice, finding tax support or government funding. Currently, business owners can have early access to superannuation, relief for commercial properties, and support for apprentices and trainees.

Keep in mind to contact your bank to review the finances and manage the debts. Might be the time to run the business from home and avoid undesired expenditures.

The communication with the customers has never been more critical. Social Media channels are essential tools to keep clients supporting local business.

According to Business Australia, “effective marketing gives your customers a reason to purchase from you instead of your competitors. Under the challenges of COVID-19, it can also help you to keep your customers loyal to your business. Find out how to market your business under COVID-19.”

Hope

Both Daniela and Marissa are unknown of their future but still motivated that a well-thought strategy embracing their expectations may be the formula to go through tough times.

“Do your research on finding new and unique ways to push ahead with your business methods. Whether it be through marketing or offering different ways to engage new customers or even just continue sales but through a different medium. Try to stand out from the crowd and don’t give up,” suggests Marissa.

It is not a secret, according to Daniela, but a matter of being flexible.

“Try your best to keep going, never give up but be ready to be flexible and reinvent your life and business around the news that life throws to you. Keep yourself safe and stay close with your family, which is always the most important in life”.

By the way, the only secret that the chef forbids herself to share is her blue cheese sauce.

“It is the only sauce I do alone as the recipe is 100% secret, not even my partner know it.”