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How I’m coping: “Our locals appreciate us being open. We’re trying to provide a safe environment for them to still have a little pleasure each day.”

- March 31, 2020 4 MIN READ

When did you start your business? 

The business started in December 2017 and I was just an employee at that stage. I bought the business last year (2019).

Have you always run a small business? (If not what have your past careers/jobs/skills brought to this one?) 

Prior to this I was a freelance graphic designer and prior to that I worked in Insolvency, I had a small practice for a few years with another friend and about 8-10 staff so its not my first business venture but the first on my own.

What makes this suburb a great place to run a small business? 

It’s a small suburb and the neighbourhood is very supportive of locals. As I live in the suburb I think this also gives me a natural advantage.

Best part of the business before all of this COVID-19 craziness? 

Getting to know your customers, making new friends, connecting people that wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Best part of the business now? 

The overwhelming support and thanks we are getting from our locals who appreciate us being open and trying to provide a safe and convenient environment for them to still have a little pleasure each day.

In the past week you’ve made a pivot to home delivery (including food) to keep your business up and running.  Who came up with that idea? 

I did, when all of the shutdown threats started to happen I thought we need to be quick to get onto delivery if we want to survive, I contacted Uber Eats to try and setup pickup and delivery on 19 March, I’m still waiting to be setup. On Saturday  the 21st of March I was doing something in the backend of my POS system (SQUARE) and noticed the option for online store. Four hours later I had a proof of concept website up and running and by the Monday I’d launched it. The Saturday night was my partner’s birthday, the social distancing rules had just come in so instead of going out we spent the evening testing the site.

How does it work? 

Customers go online, select pickup or delivery and then pick items and pay via the website. The site sends an order directly to the POS system and it automatically prints out a docket for the chef / barista to make.

How is the new process going so far? 

So far so good, we’ve had a lot of pickup orders and enough deliveries that we haven’t been overwhelmed.

What are the main challenges? 

The main challenges are that the customisation option are quite basic and if we get a lot of orders at once we have no way of notifying people of a delay via the system. We get around this by calling or texting them though and as most people know us they’re cool with that.

Any  unexpected upsides of the pivot?

When I do a delivery I still get to see customers (from a safe distance) that I would ordinarily have seen every day but they might be stuck at home schooling their kids so can’t get out.

Do you think you’ll keep doing  home delivery after these restrictions are lifted? 

Maybe not the delivery but definitely the order ahead for pickup. We are using our own staff for delivery so it takes someone out of the shop for the duration of the delivery. But the good thing is it means we still have work for them.

What would be the best thing that could happen right now for your business? 

The government could give us rental assistance so that we don’t have to make the tough decision between staying open and closing down. They could also give more support to casual staff by paying them support based on their average earnings not just the job seeker’s allowance.

How are the relationships between you and the other businesses on this street – do you talk much?

I talk to the newsagent and the supermarket everyday. There’s another café across the road and we talk every few days too. The supermarket is still busy so it keeps up foot traffic for us but we’ll see how this changes this week with the new restrictions. The supermarket is finding it difficult to get in stock.

How has your working day changed – if it has?

I’m working more, I need to be around to make sure the online orders go through and also sourcing ingredients has been challenging so I’m constantly running around between deliveries looking for stock.

Has “rush hour” changed with everyone working from home? 

Yes, rush hour has become later, it used to be from 6:30am to 8:30am but now its more like just 7:30am to 11:00am.

What’s your most popular order? 

A large Coffee and a bacon and egg roll.

Any strange requests…? 
Double shot latte, half full, extra foam on top. We call in “The Frothy Pop” and we call the customer who orders it “Frothy Pops” (to her face, its all in good fun)

How are you feeling about what’s coming next? 

A strong feeling of uncertainty. The last week was ok, we survived, staff and suppliers were paid. But its very hard to plan in the current environment. You don’t want to order too much stock in case you get stuck with it but you still want to be able to service your customers. The mixed messages from the government are frustrating, they are telling people to stay at home unless absolutely necessary but then haven’t told shops like us we should be shut. They are putting the onus back on small business to close themselves down but haven’t offered any support to pay the rent and most of the stimulus funding doesn’t kick in until late April which could be too late for us.

I will stay open as long as it is safe and economically viable to do so. Some of my staff live week to week and that is the toughest part, I know the impact it will have on them if we close.

What are your customers saying about the change in your business? 

They appreciate how we’ve rearranged the shop to make it clear where to order and how to behave to keep everyone safe. They are very thankful that we are still here and that they can get their daily fix. The website ordering system has is working well mostly, although we still have some issues with orders not completing which are possibly down to internet issues at the customer end. Lucky most people have my mobile number

And what are your customers saying about what’s going on right now? 

There’s a lot of confusion and frustration at the mixed messaging from government. Most of them are not too concerned about the virus itself but the impacts on their lives and their friends / family who have lost jobs etc.

Check out St Lucifer’s website and Instagram. Or order a coffee (if you’re local!).