More people at home, more at the local
While CBD’s and town centres across Victoria have been hamstrung by the 97 per cent drop in international visitor spend through the 2020-2021 financial year (approximately $50 billion in revenue), some of the city’s suburban businesses have thrived, even during the state’s hardest lockdown periods.
Whilst going out for brunches and lunches was banned, getting a coffee or roll from your local bakery or café was not – and the people came in (socially distanced) droves.
Before the pandemic hit, the suburban lunch spot was usually relegated to stay-at-home parents or tradies on their lunch break during the working week, before hopefully picking up trade on the weekend.
In the latter stages of 2020, 46 per cent of Australians were newly working from home, compared to 12 per cent before the pandemic began, resulting in a major shift not only in the routines of people, but commerce.
With working from home ‘the new normal’, lines have been out the door at the local during lunchtime. In areas such as Melbourne’s Bayside and Maroondah regions, there has been a 40 per cent and 60 per cent respective increase in café spending since the pandemic began.
A new beginning
One such bakery that received an influx of a new kind of customer over the pandemic has been The Continental Bakehouse in Melbourne’s Oakleigh South - a suburban bakery known by locals for their award-winning pies. Owners Sam and Stella have been able to tap into a previously non-existent market for the daily rush.
However, even with the influx of the new work-from-home clientele, their approach remains the same – to be the neighbourhood bakery that knows your name, how you like your coffee, and gives you a ribbing about your chosen football team.
That said, being in hospitality over the pandemic has hardly been rosy. Sam and Stella had the odds stacked against them, opening their business just as the pandemic took hold in March 2020.
They had travelled to Australia with qualifications in medicine and pharmacology respectfully, but due to the language barrier, were forced to look at alternative modes of employment once they came to Melbourne. Luckily, with family in the bakery business, Sam found he had a real knack and passion for baking, and realised he loved making new creations that kept both him and his customers happy.
When the impacts of the lockdown first took hold, they noticed a sharp decline in foot traffic from customers who would normally stop for a coffee on their morning commute, or from parents and families who would come by on weekends from the nearby netball courts. It was disheartening for the couple who were looking for a fresh start with their own business.