'It’s just not worth opening': restaurants in Australia can trade again, but will they?

Lines of locals waiting for all-you-can-eat Sri Lankan rice and curries threaded out the door. “As long as we get a lot of customers, that’s how we make a profit,” says Ravindu Somaweera,who co-owns the restaurant with his parents. But the AHA now claims the recovery plan announced is inconsistent with social distancing rules, and many venues willbe forced to remain closed until phase three, or shut down permanently. • All patrons must have the CovidSafe app or record their name and number at the place they dine in so they can be contacted later if needed. • Staff practising WHO and state/federal health guidelines – ie wiping down tables and chairs between each patron; no bar service. When the pandemic hit, executive chef Jacqui Challinor made the difficult decision to put the business into hibernation. It seems to be more of a model that would suit casual, franchise, takeaway kind ofvenues.” As businesses prepare to adapt yet again, restaurateurs and chefs are saying it is unlikely this three-step road to recovery will boost the already stretched industry. “Financially, it’s just not worth opening with 10 or 20 people,” says chef Peter Gilmore of his Sydney harbourside fine diners Quay and Bennelong. “Those first one-step and two-step situations aren’t viable for most restaurants probably to open.” In line with the luxury offerings and up-to--a-head menus, Gilmore says both venues are lucky enough to have generous floor spaces, so separating the tables by 1.5 metres will still allow them to bring in enough revenue to operate viably – but only once Sydney reaches step three and the gathering limit extends to 100. “This is not a money-making exercise at all; it’s just about continuity with staff and engaging with Hobart people.” Restaurateur Jerry Mai says keeping her five Melbourne restaurants open during lockdown was impossible until jobkeeper payments began. The volume of conversation is pushed higher by the music; diners tussle over shared plates of pipis and falafels; and servers bend over backwards, sometimes almost literally, to provide recommendations, pour tasters of South Australian wines, and top up glasses.