As they look to keep staff employed, beer and hospo businesses have been quick to find new roles for people who can no longer carry out their normal activities. Brewers have become delivery drivers, sales reps are running pop-up brewery drive-thrus and bartenders have gone virtual to keep serving drinks to people in their home.
In the case of Big Easy Drinks, it's the last of these where they've focused their attention. The team behind NOLA Adelaide, The Stag Public House and Anchovy Bandit have created an impressive online bottleshop that aims to bring as much of the experience of a physical bottleshop to people without the need to leave your home.
While you can still buy takeaway pizza from Anchovy Bandit and fried chicken from NOLA, co-founder Josh Talbot says they felt launching the new venture was the best way to provide work for as many staff from their three venues as possible.
“It’s a pretty big pivot but it felt like the only option we had really to actually reach the amount of people we wanted to,” Josh says, taking time out from making deliveries across Adelaide.
A cursory glance at the website shows a pretty slick and well developed interface, yet it's one developed at speed; Josh says they moved to get it ready to launch during the week prior to March 23 – the day venues were forced to shut across Australia.
“We saw the writing on the wall there and we just wanted to find a way to keep staff in a job and support our producers as well,” he says.
One of the main concepts behind Big Easy is the idea that any interaction with the online retailer’s staff should recreate going to any one of their venues as much as possible. Staff picks can be bought as packs or you can pick up the phone and the bartender on the other end will walk you through what’s in stock and what they think you’ll enjoy.
A widget that’s built into the webstore connects directly to the Big Easy staff's phones, too, so they can reply instantly with recommendations.
“It’s pretty fun to be able to use that knowledge you’ve built up over so many years behind the bar and be able to use that to help people online,” Josh says. After all, he says it’s the staff that make the trio of Adelaide venues what they are.
The changes haven't come without a cost: switching to takeaway inevitably meant they had to let some staff go, mainly from the kitchen but also from front of house. However, Josh says the Federal Government’s JobKeeper Payment announced on Monday means they’ve got a better chance of redeploying staff to their new venture.
“It’s been amazing, we’ve managed to hire back a lot of our full-timers," he says. "We’re just working through the logistics of it now.
“The whole reason for launching the [virtual bottleshop] was to support our staff by giving them something to do. As we get bigger, we’re hoping we’ll be able to get more staff back involved.
“The other side of it is just supporting local producers. Now, more than ever, it’s pretty important to keep a focus on supporting the local producers and those doing it – there’s a lot of it who have had a rough couple of weeks.”
As part of the #keepinglocalalive campaign we're running Postcards from the Edge stories, highlighting the ways in which people are adapting to survive. If you've got a story you think is suitable – or have something to add to the campaign resources online – get in touch.
For more examples of how SA businesses are adapting to the current crisis, check out the state's page in our campaign resource.