Monday Musings #1 – The Importance of the Restaurant
This afternoon we learn whether the nation will continue in its viral vassalage or whether it will be released by our governing doyen into the makings of a brave new world. We pen some thoughts on where we’ve come from and the importance of supporting restaurants in a post-Covid world.
We’re not going to lie…. The past six weeks have been extremely tough. Over summer when we first heard of this aggressive pathogen emanating from within the depths of China’s mainland we said to ourselves, “I hope this doesn’t affect our travel too much this year,” but never believed it would be so severe and omnipotent in its grasp on health, politics, business and the macro-economy. The timing could also not have been worse with the swift-acting Labour government commanding a nationwide lockdown right on the eve of our 2020 harvest. The stresses of a whole new layer of compliance designed to stop transmission, an ever-present threat of industry shut-down and worry about the pandemic’s impact on all of our lives made for one of the most stressful vintages we’ve ever experienced.
Now that, thankfully, all our wine from this year is safely in the winery door and tucked up in the cellar it is time to think about what lies ahead for us all, with a focus on the hospitality business.
The past six weeks we’ve attended all sorts of webinars, chatted with our importers and customers all over the world and read paper upon paper on the science behind this pandemic as well as the political and economic situation engendered by it. For us, our Blank Canvas sales are certainly hurting as we are primarily an on-premise brand, used to being snuggled in the forearm of sommeliers around the world displaying the label, story and wine inside each bottle to patrons desiring a gustatory dining experience. Almost overnight, that has gone, and we’ve had to instantly adapt our focus to the channels that are open and still selling wine.
But we are not drastically changing our model. We are not abandoning the on-trade by any means: we are not switching our product lines, packaging or price-points to suit an off-trade, online retail existence. Because we are small, we can hold on, but it’s going to be a rough ride. The restaurants will be back, it is just a matter of when and how many will survive. Our heart aches for all our friends and colleagues in hospitality around the world who have lost jobs or have had to make drastic cuts to their businesses in an attempt to subsist. While there will certainly be casualties, and the furlough and wage subsidy schemes in many cases only serve to prolong the inevitable, it is axiomatic that there is always going to be a need for restaurants.
Restaurants are a place of sensory pleasure, entertainment, and social connection. They are a place where business gets done, milestones are celebrated and relationships are cemented. Restaurant is derived from the French word, ‘restaurer’ which means ‘to restore’, ‘to revive’. Society has a whole lot of healing to do after this traumatic event, and that’s precisely what restaurants can offer – restoration and revival of business deals, celebrating life events and the many suppliers who help to make a great restaurant great. It is indisputable there is going to be a severe economic recession and spending is going to be a mere trickle of what it was, but we will continue to spend our (definitely reduced) disposable income on dining out. If we collectively stop spending and adopt a tighten the purse strings attitude, many of our favourite eating houses will cease to exist and the many bright talents in the restaurant world will be lost to other industries.
So, support restaurants where and when you can. They are the lifeblood of our culture and society, a source of great inspiration and are a fundamental destination for many products and ingredients with quality at their heart.