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March 18, 2020

Down but not out: Inside a small food & beverage business right now

Three simple questions we sent through to our friends at Hello Sarnie to see how they are doing right now. Have you checked in with your favourite hospitality friends?

  • Interview: Josh Fanning


With advice from the world’s oldest robot and foremost advocate of indoor ponies being that “we don’t go to restaurants” anymore, it’s understandable the food and beverage businesses on our streets in Adelaide are also feeling the effects of COVID-19 and people’s choice to take the Governator’s lead in lieu of a viable alternative.

We called up co-founder of Hello Sarnie, Andrew Pearce to see what it’s like on the inside of one of our favourite businesses right now.


CityMag: Have you felt the impact of coronavirus on business?
Andrew Pearce: Yes, since Monday we’ve had around a 20-30% decrease in store sales and with a significant drop in catering orders and order cancellations, as businesses cancel events and meetings, we’re down about  40% in sales for catering. We’ve also noticed a huge difference in our customers, as unease and uncertainty spreads throughout the community. People are coming in to support us where they can, which I can’t stress enough how grateful we are for this, but are also changing their buying habits, with people just grabbing and going. The social interaction and in-store dining has definitely reduced significantly, which is obviously understandable.

Hello Sarnie has a great track record with digital systems and success. What are you guys doing with your app to give customers options in-store?
We are fortunate to have pre-ordering available through our app, so we will be encouraging our customers to order via the app and pick up in-stores during less busy periods or at their convenience, to avoid lunch crowds and adhere with social distancing advice. As the crisis escalates, we will adjust our business to ensure that we can keep providing meals to our loyal customers, by reducing our selection of products and using the app for ordering and contactless pick-up only from our stores. To further promote social distancing and as the situation escalates, we have plans to remove table and chairs and reposition fridges, so we are purely a grab-and-go eatery.

While we have always offered individualised products, we are noticing a downturn in the demand for shared catering trays, so we have adopted new individual catering lunch packs for our catering clients.

We have also implemented contactless catering, which means our delivery person will place the catering orders down, rather than handing them over to the person, or the catering customer is able to pick them up directly from the catering van or trolley, to minimise contact between people.

We will also be using all available marketing options to us, outside of social media, through our app and digital system, that allows us to communicate with customers via push notifications, geo-locations and direct mail.

Any thoughts you’ve had for long-term solutions to situations like these? You guys are full of ideas.
At the moment, we are in the thick of dealing with the short term – adjusting our business, trying to give our staff as many hours and support as possible, and looking at ways we can service our customers while there are still customers on the streets to service. As a small business, we are able to pivot quickly to adjust to demand and service our customers, while maintaining strict health and safety precautions. Thankfully we do have the established technology to allow us to use all available means to talk to our customers and plead them for their support during this difficult period.

Long term – we hope we never see a crisis of this nature again and our thoughts are with all small businesses at the moment, as together, we all ride this challenging wave of uncertainty and economic difficulty.

You can download the Hello Sarnie app for android and iPhone via their website.

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