Dani Valent’s 8 Tips For The Latest COVID-19 Support
Melbourne food journalist Dani Valent is a trusted voice in the hospitality sector, both as an observer and an advocate.
In the darkest days of lockdown, Dani has cut through the onslaught of government information to give restaurants, cafes and workers the latest, most useful facts. She also volunteered alongside chef Ben Shewry on the Attica Soup Project, offering free meals to overseas workers refused access to Jobkeeper.
In short, Dani deserves a medal… and she keeps on giving with her podcast Dirty Linen, lifting a lid on issues the industry finds hard to talk about in public.
We asked Dani for the latest advice on getting support, and she delivered… again.
“COVID-19 isn’t just a virus,” Dani says. “Dealing with it has also caused an overwhelming flood of information. For hospitality business owners and employees, it’s been a rollercoaster of announcements, restrictions, rethinks and resets, so much so that it’s easy to miss potential sources of assistance. With that in mind, we’ve gathered together some handy resources, tips and pointers.”
COVID Disaster Payment
During Melbourne’s latest lockdown, the Federal Government instituted the COVID Disaster Payment, an income support package of $500 a week for workers who have lost more than 20 hours work, and $325 a week for workers who have lost fewer than 20 hours. Payment kicks in for the second and subsequent weeks of a lockdown and is dependent on the locked down area being designated a COVID hotspot.
For the first time in the pandemic, employees on temporary visas are eligible, which is welcome news for international students and sponsored chefs. The payment is administered by Services Australia which oversees Centrelink and there are a few hoops to jump through. Anyone without a Centrelink account is advised to call 180 22 66 rather than navigate the website.
Small Business Digital Adaptation Grant
If you’re wishing you had a better online shop, website, digital ordering platform, stock management system or accounting set-up, the Victorian Government’s Digital Adaptation Grant is worth a look. The program provides rebates of up to $1200 for small businesses to access nominated software products for a year, plus workshops and training to make the most of them. Partners include Mr Yum, Xero, Shopify and Squarespace.
Plan for Award Flexibility
In response to the impact of the pandemic on hospitality, employment groups have argued for the simplification of Restaurant Industry Award categories and flexibility in payment provisions.
On June 3, the Fair Work Commission gave provisional approval to a proposal from the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association to exempt senior chefs and managers from some conditions if they earn more than $82,000 a year. If the plan sticks, staff paid 170 per cent of the award (the Exemption Rate), would be allowed to work up to 57 hours a week without incurring penalty rates, allowances, meal breaks or overtime. Counter submissions close in early July. It might be time to start doing the sums…
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is delivering free, tailored business mentoring and guidance for restaurants and other small businesses with up to 20 employees.
Business owners may receive up to four two-hour sessions and topics can include cost reduction, debt and cashflow management; understanding COVID-inspired market transformations and how to work with them; digital literacy; diversification (can you have a stream to your business that’s ‘unlockdownable’?) and reskilling for owners and employees.
The Partners in Wellbeing Helpline is a support service tailored specifically for business owners. The telephone service is free, confidential and one-on-one. Wellbeing coaches will provide advice and support and suggest coping strategies, as well as connect you to financial counsellors who can offer support in managing debt and other financial issues. Call 1300 375 330 seven days a week.
COVID Test Isolation Payment
The latest lockdown has reinforced the need for anyone experiencing the merest sniffle to get tested for COVID-19. To encourage and assist workers who miss shifts to take a test and isolate while awaiting the result, the Victorian government’s Isolation Payment of $450 softens the financial blow. This payment is available to temporary visa holders too.
No staff? Workarounds…
Everyone is struggling to find staff but if you can’t fill positions, there are other things you can do to keep the doors open and money coming in. Make sure your rostering is tight and responsive: there are some great suggestions here from hospitality consultant Ken Burgin. You might also consider in-house ordering and payments apps to free up precious floor staff for essential tasks. me&U reports a 27% increase in spend when customers use the platform, boosted by features like ‘another round’ which prompts customers to repeat a table’s drinks order. Nurturing and retaining the staff you have is crucial: there are some good onboarding suggestions here.
Finding budget for a PR agency is tricky for many businesses right now. Local start-up CONVO aims to empower hospitality owners with no experience, time or budget to create effective marketing campaigns via Facebook, Instagram and Messenger with – let’s hope – tangible sales results to follow. Founder Eleena Tan is offering free trials and $250 worth of ad spend to eight new customers. See more here.