The challenges of increased demand on food outlets

Merimbula RSL

The recent school holidays and October long weekend highlighted a new range of issues facing our towns, the increased demand on our remaining food outlets.

In the last 12 months five food outlets have permanently closed in Merimbula including Subway, Hungry’s, Booktique, Waves, and Double Shot. These closures have dramatically decreased the towns ability to delivery food services as have the Covid Restrictions which limit the number of people that can be seated at restaurants.

Sally Daily from Merimbula Wharf said “Our capacity has been reduced from 120 to 50 and that is even with the changes to the square metre rule so we are serving at less than 50% of capacity.

Michael Mutsch from Merimbula RSL said that “Under current regulations we can only have a maximum of 300 people on the premises at any one time and that includes people in all areas of the club, not just the bistro. That means if people are sitting in the bar watching the footy or having a drink, that is one less person that can be seated in the bistro being feed. The limits really restrict our food service, and unless the cap changes and the per m2 rule is reduced, we will continue to have very limited capacity.”

The same applies to most restaurants and cafes, which means the town is only able to service about 50% of it’s normal capacity, but our accommodation was booked out over the long weekend, which meant many visitors went away unhappy.

Merimbula Chamber of Commerce President Nigel Ayling said, “We are now facing a new dilema. After the fires and Covid we thought the problem would be how do we get people back here, but that isn’t the problem now. Even with the Victorian border closed the town was full, but the problem is now we can’t service all of our visitors needs.”

The Chamber is trying to help address some of the issues and is an organising a crisis meeting for the hospitality industry. This will be an opportunity for all the business owners and staff to discuss some of the issues they are facing, and see how the Chamber and other agencies can help work with them to find solutions. Some issues already identified include

• Skills and staff shortages
• Range of Opening Hours
• Space restrictions
• Reduced capacity
• Increased demand
• Lack of public understanding
• Stock shortages
• Housing shortages for staff

The Chamber will be inviting representatives from Council, Employment agencies and other business support groups to provide input and assistance.

“We certainly don’t have all the answers” Mr Ayling said, “But if we can get everyone in a room together talking about the issues, hopefully we can help find some solutions or support.”

The meeting will be held at Merimbula RSL on Monday 2 November at 5.30pm. Anyone interested should RSVP via the Merimbula Chamber of Commerce Facebook group so we can manage Covid Restrictions.