There is no question that COVID-19’s impact on Australia’s hospitality industry has been profound. Following the government-imposed shutdown of restaurants on March 23, 2020, some firms have pivoted successfully – offering takeaway, selling groceries, alcohol and holding online events to keep their customers – while others have permanently closed their doors. Those who have continued trading for takeaway orders report a drastic drop in turnover—an 80 per cent decrease in some cases. Even as restrictions are easing there is no way to simply ‘return to normal’. Strict regulations and limits on numbers of diners mean that even the most resilient venues who have rapidly changed their business model may struggle to survive.

Researchers from Griffith’s Business School together with the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association are conducting a project to investigate how restaurants, cafes and bars impacted by COVID-19 may attempt to recover and survive the pandemic. Dr Sara Ekberg, Dr Carla Riverola and Dr Julienne Senyard from the Department of Business Strategy and Innovation, along with Dr Shannon Colville from the University of Queensland and Dr Morag Kobez from Queensland University of Technology make up the research team which aims to assist the firms in this industry on their path to recovery.

This project evaluates the impact through multiple approaches. The first stage of the project is a survey of Australian restaurants, to be followed by face-to-face interviews with restaurateurs. By unpacking challenges and recovery strategies, this project will provide insight into resilience-building, the types of support hospitality businesses need during a crisis and the innovative business-model changes required in order for them to survive. 

The results are expected to help businesses in this industry become more resilient for the future.

Prior to the shutdown in March, Australia enjoyed a vibrant, diverse hospitality industry supporting hundreds of thousands of workers. It is a valuable part of Australia’s tourism industry, with our cities’ food and drink offerings an increasingly important element of destination marketing. Alongside economic benefits, our research highlights the important cultural role of restaurants, cafes and bars – as a fundamental element of what makes our cities the liveable, vibrant, diverse places in which we live and connect with one another. The aggregated findings will uncover trends and challenges that restaurants, cafes and bars face connected to Covid-19 and provide new insights on strategic changes. Ultimately, through our research we seek to assist the firms in this vital industry on their path to recovery.

Are you operating a restaurant, cafe or bar in Australia? Do you want to participate in this study?

Please click here to take the survey.

The survey is available from now until the end of August. If you are interested in participating in an interview or have any questions, please contact Dr Sara Ekberg