Current Issue #488

Resetting the table:
COVID-19 restrictions slowly roll back for cafes and restaurants

Sia Duff
The Lost Deli owners Josie and Gen Parisi

As South Australia moves into the first stage of relaxing COVID-19 measures, many Adelaide café owners are embracing the incremental return to normality.

When Josie and Gen Parisi made the leap into café ownership a year ago, they knew hospitality was a precarious trade. But they could hardly have anticipated a pandemic like COVID-19 striking just before the first anniversary of taking over Norwood plant-based cafe The Lost Deli.

“For 40 years we had a manufacturing business, making aluminium windows out at Parra Hills,” Josie tells The Adelaide Review. “I just fell in love with the place.”

“It’s been okay but slower – probably about 30 per cent of what we were doing,” Gen says of the COVID-19 downturn. “We’ve picked up a few extra customers because the lady down the road closed, and then a few other people going around looking for something to eat while other cafes are closed. So we’ve picked up some more.”

But those gains are small compared to the Lost Deli’s lost clientele. So, like many hospitality businesses, the restrictions on dining in and wider shutdowns introduced in March have forced them to make many changes, from whittling down their menu to contracting to a skeleton staff.

The Parisis certainly aren’t alone; around the city cafe’s like Minestra in Prospect and Exchange in the east end completely pivoted their business model to takeaway-only, with many supplementing their usual trade by selling essentials like bread and other wholesale items.

Sia Duff
From the city to the suburbs, cafes like Minestra (pictured) and The Lost Deli have been dusting off their outdoor dining tables this week

But it isn’t simply the trading restrictions that have forced businesses like The Lost Deli to adapt – cafe owners have observed the broader paradigm shift across society to social distancing and working from home take effect from a street level.

“We lost a lot of business; the majority of our trade during the week are workers,” Josie says. “There’s a lot of production companies around the place, offices and IT companies, they’ve all stopped.

“That was a big hit for us, those regulars not coming in, but last week they started coming back and it was so nice to see some of them again. Then there’s the groups of friends who would come in for lunch, or the father who’d catch up with his daughter every Friday.”

On Tuesday, that started to turn around on their first day of trading since South Australia’s restrictions began to gradually unwind on Monday. With 1.5 metre social distancing measures still in place, most cafes have only been able to add three or four tables at most. But, with more seated dining options to be unlocked in June, it’s a tentative step in the right direction, not only for the health of their books, but the communities these businesses are an important part of.

“It’s nice. Before it was dead – the street was dead, like it has been everywhere,” she says.

“Today we’ve been getting bookings, the phone’s been ringing off the hook,” she says of the handful of newly available outdoor tables – prized real estate once again. “I’ve had bookings for next Friday – I said, ‘you know it’s outside, and it might be raining?’ They say ‘that’s fine’. It’s been good; I have one gentleman who comes in every morning for a coffee, and he was so excited that he could sit outside and actually have breakfast this morning.

“The only thing I haven’t missed is having to drag the tables and stools outside and back in,” she laughs.

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer, editor and broadcaster living on Kaurna Country. His work has appeared in Rip It Up, Broadsheet, The Saturday Paper, The Guardian Australia, The Thousands, dB Magazine, Jetstar Magazine and Royal Auto. 

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