When the coronavirus pandemic forced cafes and restaurants across Canberra to shut their doors six weeks ago, Three Mills wholesale bakery lost 80 per cent of its clients overnight.
Director Jarrod Deaton was devastated at having to stand his delivery staff down - until he found a way to get that fresh-from-the-oven experience to people at home, at a time when baking has never been more popular.
"A day or two into [the shutdown] it we knew we had to do something very different to what we were doing to keep our team on," Mr Deaton said.
"That was the only thing driving us for the first couple of weeks. What did we have at our fingertips we could use to keep going?"
Since Christmas, they'd been thinking about launching a range of bake-at-home croissants.
"Insert COVID-19 and that definitely accelerated," Mr Deaton said.
Months of product development was condensed into just weeks. They've since launched a range of bake-at-home family pies and sausage rolls. Almond croissants and danishes are on the way.
Mr Deaton has been able to bring his delivery staff back on and they're run off their feet delivering kits all across Canberra.
"It's super labour intensive. Driving around to people's homes takes a long time. Packing orders, troubleshooting over the phone, we weren't geared up for that," he said.
"We thought it would be similar to the business model we had already but it's so different. Before we were doing a limited number of drops per day to condensed areas with more product. Now we're doing more drops spread everywhere across Canberra."
Home delivery has kept the business going. Now they are taking the opportunity to go back and be more innovative, Mr Deaton said.
"We're going back and thinking what is like to unbox from Three Mills, what's it like to bake from home?" he said.
Stories of innovation and resilience like this are surprisingly common across Australia's hospitality sector, which has borne the brunt of the sweeping restrictions on movement and gatherings necessary to slow the spread of the virus.
Australia will look to start easing restrictions from Friday - earlier than planned - because the rate of infection has dropped off, but it has come at a price.
Australia Bureau of Statistics data shows one in four accommodation and food services jobs disappeared (25.6 per cent) between March 14 and April 20.
Seventy-eight per cent of businesses in this sector made changes to their workforce due to the virus, including temporarily cutting staff hours (78 per cent), placing staff on unpaid leave (43 per cent) and paid leave (29 per cent).
Despite the restrictions, though, 69 per cent of accommodation and food service businesses are still trading.
Jeff Borland, a professor of economics at the University of Melbourne who specialises in the analysis of labour markets, said a recent Alpha Beta survey showed Australian were still spending 50 per cent of what they would have ordinarily on cafes, despite the virus.
People are saying it's almost like a gift to themselves, it turned up and made them happy, and that's the whole reason why we're in this game.Jarrod Deaton, Three Mills bakery
"The fact the cafes are shut down and people are still spending 50 per cent of what they were before, to me that's a sign of how we eventually work out ways to adapt," Professor Borland said.
However the impact of the shutdown may reverberate long after businesses reopen.
"You've kind of got to think of this recession as having two drivers," Professor Borland said.
"The first driver is the health-related business closures and that's basically wherever government says something can't happen. There it's quite likely that businesses are going to have to - to a greater or lesser degree - lay off their staff if they're doing those activities that government says can't be done anymore.
"But then as time goes on you'll get a second order effect which is more like a regular kind of recession, in which people have less income to spend because lot of people have lost their jobs, people have lost wealth on the stock market, people are concerned about what the future holds so they're probably going to save a bit more, that's when you get these second order effects which are probably going to be broader-based."
What was initially about survival has become an unexpected opportunity, Three Mills' director Jarrod Deaton said.
He plans on continuing with the kits, even as business returns to normal. Mothers' Day is expected to be massive for them. People have been calling from interstate to buy kits for their mothers and the Three Mills team have even been writing handwritten notes to send out with some of them.
"We didn't expect that actually. We started in cafes and restaurants so it's nice to be able to come back and have that direct connection with customers again," Mr Deaton said.
"People film themselves unboxing it, people are getting kids involved with eggwashing croissants in the morning, people are saying it's almost like a gift to themselves, it turned up and made them happy, and that's the whole reason why we're in this game."
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