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March 18, 2020

Grow Assembly’s restaurant gift voucher auction to support the hospitality industry

Grow Assembly is running rolling auctions of $150 restaurant gift vouchers in an effort to provide income to hospitality businesses suffering a downturn in trade and potential closure due to the coronavirus.

  • Words and pictures: Johnny von Einem


Like many people with close ties to the hospitality industry, Banjo Harris Plane watched with trepidation as the escalation of the coronavirus news over the weekend mounted pressure on food and beverage businesses.


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The Federal Government has urged Australians to practice social distancing, good hygiene, and to work from home where possible, but this advice has left the hospitality industry at large in the lurch.

Not only has it resulted in a sharp downturn in trade for many restaurants and cafés, the latter part of the advice – working from home – is an impossibility in the food service game.

It’s also difficult to know how to help these businesses in need, while also reacting appropriately to the threat to public health the coronavirus presents.

Banjo and his wife Meira Harel, who moved to Adelaide last year, spent the weekend brainstorming ways to help their beloved industry.

The two have worked as sommeliers in Adelaide CBD venues, like Leigh Street Wine Room, and they also hosted the first Adelaide edition of Grow Assembly – the hospitality industry symposium they founded and had previously run in Sydney and Melbourne.

With the next Grow Assembly event now in doubt (it was scheduled to run in Tasmania in June this year), Banjo and Meira decided to use the money they’d set aside for the event to help out restaurants in need.

They bought 10 gift vouchers from restaurants around the country, including two in South Australia: Leigh Street Wine Room and The Summertown Aristologist, and have put them up for auction.

Each voucher is worth $150, and all the money from the auction will be put back into buying more gift vouchers from other restaurants in need.

“We took a little bit of inspiration from what was happening over the bushfire crisis period. A lot of people were auctioning things off… But we wanted to put money directly into the bank accounts of the restaurants as well,” Banjo says.

“It’s going to be tricky, vouchers obviously have a set value, so I’m not sure, to be honest, how it’s going to play out and how people are going to respond to possibly paying more for these vouchers than they’re worth, but if they do, any money that we get back from these, basically we’re just going to do it again, pick another set of restaurants, and just keep buying gift vouchers for places.

“For this first round, we’ve focussed on independently owned restaurants, so either owned by a family or a couple, or smaller businesses, I guess.”

In a little over 24 hours, the auction has amassed $2,290 of its $3,000 target. One voucher, for Brae in Birregurra Victoria, has attracted a $510 bid, as of 9am Wednesday, 17 March.

The auction is happening on website 32auctions and can be accessed here, and this first round of auctions closes at 10pm on Friday, 27 March.

Meira Harel and Banjo Harris Plane


The Prime Minister today announced that all indoor gatherings will be restricted to 100 people, which is likely to have further implications for the hospitality industry.

“This is a turning point for the entire industry – not just in Adelaide, not just in Australia, but around the world,” Banjo says.

“Every day we’re reading reports about restaurants that are closed. It is really hard to tackle and to approach. The only way that businesses are going to be saved, to be honest, is with government stimulus.

“Hopefully [in] three months things will be back to semi-normal, in terms of people being able to go out and interact and things like that.

“I think when that time comes, people are going to want to go to restaurants and bars and cafés. They’re going to need to, to have some degree of normality in their lives. If half the places are bloody closed, it’s going to be pretty scary.”

Visit the Grow Assembly website for more information on program, or head straight to the auction website to place a bid.

You can also visit your favourite restaurants, bars and cafés to ask about purchasing a gift voucher directly, or if you’re practising social distancing, check their website or make contact via phone, email, or social media.

If you are a restaurant and would like to be involved in Grow Assembly’s auction initiative, reach out to banjo via

“If people know of places who could use a bit of a hand, whether it’s through marketing or just bringing attention to them, of course reach out,” Banjo says.

“But otherwise, we’ll just be talking to people and keep chatting about it and try to find places that we can hopefully contribute a little bit to.”

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