Hospo Hero # 5 – Jon De Fraga
September 16th, 2020 / #hospitality, COVID-19, Global Hospitality, Hotel industry, Industry Insights /
The Kingston Hotel, The Swan Hotel & Public House
Like many in our industry, Jon De Fraga has felt the pressure of the last 6 months. As the publican of 3 top venues in Victoria, we spoke to him about his story and views of the current challenging times and this is what he had to say.
“I’ve been in the hospitality industry since the age of 17, starting at Naughton’s Hotel across from Melbourne University whilst studying. Since then I’ve worked in kitchens, behind the jump, managed several venues within the inner eastern suburbs and bought my first pub in Richmond at the age of 27. I’ve been in the Richmond pub scene ever since and have operated the Kingston Hotel for the past 20 years, The Swan for the past 13 and Public House for just on 7 years.
The COVID-19 restrictions have been devastating for our business, our valued team across our venues and of course the wider industry. We have been effectively closed since the end of March 2020 with the exception of the few weeks we were able to trade after the first lockdown. During this period the public support was great with people eager to come back and support local venues however the limitation on numbers meant it was very difficult to make ends meet. Without the Job Keeper payments and rental deferrals, it would have been impossible to do so.
We have attempted to provide takeaway from one of our more food focused venues throughout the lockdown period with minimal success. Initially we felt people were more focused on helping out the struggling hospitality scene as there was a large part of our community that hadn’t felt the full effects of the pandemic and were in a position to put their hands in their pockets and help out for which we are very grateful. Unfortunately, due to the subsequent increases in restrictions of the second lockdown the wider community has been deeply affected and we believe most people now simply don’t have the means to assist as they did earlier in the year. We’ve also noticed that significantly more businesses are giving the takeaway model a go in an attempt to get any revenue they can through the door. This has meant more competition and the flooding of platforms such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo with the overwhelming amount of options causing businesses, like ours, to get lost in this shuffle.
In short, the second lockdown has exacted a significant body blow to our industry which employs hundreds of thousands of people in Victoria. We have been hamstrung through no fault of our own, and in fact our industry has been one of the most responsive to the pandemic with hand sanitizer stations, PPE and COVID safe plans rolled out across thousands of businesses and integrated into daily operations (at our cost) with little to no notice period. It is very disheartening during the recent announcements in Victoria, that the capability of hospitality to deliver in this area has not been recognised.
We believe that it will be a long road back to anything near normal for our business and for the hospitality industry. We can only assume the unwinding of restrictions, means our numbers will be limited and with the high rental prices and expensive penalty rates it is going to be a road that many in the industry will not make it down. We believe that the forecasts of around one third of hospitality businesses being forced to close their doors is a fair estimation of what the industry as a whole will see by early next year.
In Victoria, we in the hospitality industry have been utterly battered by the second lockdown. It seems even once the case numbers are down and our doors are open (with limits), we will still be facing the fight of our professional lives to survive for years to come.
I believe it is essential that there has to be further significant financial assistance for the hospitality sector from the government. And this is urgent if we do not want to see one of the industries that defines our city’s culture decimated.
Hospitality is truly the cornerstone of our state and by nature, the people within this phenomenal industry are resilient. As such, hopefully most the good operators will be able to navigate a way through these current and unprecedented times to come. Fortunately for us and our team, our venues have large floor plans and outdoor areas that should allow us to maximise any capacity limits during the unwinding of lockdown.
We are proud to also have an extremely capable, experienced and optimistic team behind us, and no matter the challenges that lay ahead, we are committed to getting to the other side and sharing in new successes together.
Good luck to all in hospitality. Stay positive.”
At Clipboard we thank Jon for his story and wish him all the best for the coming months ahead. We cant wait to share a drink at one of your amazing venues very soon.
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