The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, the way we think, and the way we do business.
As a business owner, I must admit it has been difficult to find the balance between being defensive in salvation mode and getting on the front foot to attack and chase opportunities.
I’m the sort of business owner that loves a challenge. I’ve always believed ‘nothing is impossible’, but even this situation has at times felt overwhelming.
Being in regular contact with other business owners, I’ve been exposed to many different mindsets. What has stood out are the businesses that are fearless in their willingness to pivot, evolve and embrace the new normal.
This is a rare time in history when we can embrace slow. We can breathe. Create. Experiment. Reinvest.
Like all other hospitality venues in the country, buzzing Civic restaurant Akiba was forced to close their doors to dine-in customers on March 23. But within just one week, more than 1,000 customers enjoyed an Akiba feast in their own homes thanks to the restaurant quickly pivoting their business model and launching home delivery.
Akiba co-owner Peter Harrington and the team had considered offering takeaway once before – delivery giant UberEats had approached them to act as a test case when the service first launched in Canberra in 2017. They declined the offer at the time, but as COVID-19 spread across the globe and the news from other countries indicated what was to come, Harrington and the team started working on a home delivery system.
“We could see the situation unfolding over a few weeks, and we were expecting the worst, hoping for the best. We predicted that the most likely thing with all the restrictions being proposed was going to be that we’d be restricted to delivery, so we set up the infrastructure and got planning so that we would be in the best position to keep on moving forward,” he said.
By Thursday they had their delivery model up and running, offering both their full menu, with a 20% reduction in prices, and their hand-picked range of alcohol, all home delivered. On the first night of deliveries, orders were initially placed online, but with 300 orders through in the first hour, it crashed the system.
“We didn’t expect the amount of support and response we’d get from the public. So we had to quickly pull it offline and stop everything and get out all those orders,” he said.
“We realised the system wasn’t going to cope or give our customers a great experience, which is our brand value. So we set up a switchboard system with six phones, each manned by a person with a point of sale system, and a payment system, so they’re working independently.”
On Saturday night, after opening the phone lines up at 5pm, within five minutes each phone had eight people in the queue waiting to place an order. That night alone over three hours they delivered to 312 households, which works out at 1.5 households per minute. And they haven’t capped the delivery area – so far they’ve delivered orders as far as Wallaroo and Braidwood.
Deliveries are made possible through Akiba’s in-house delivery team, made up of former Akiba staff who had been stood down due to the government restrictions, and drivers retain 100% of the delivery fees.
Akiba is now building an app to manage their orders and wait times, and while government measures still allow them to trade, Harrington says this delivery model will allow the business to continue.
“It not only means the business can stay alive, but that we’ve got jobs for people. We’re taking on the socially distancing responsibilities, but it keeps the team a part of something, and I think for most people, having a purpose at the moment is important,” he said.
And hospitality is far from the only industry affected by the wide-ranging restrictions. The way Australians buy and sell property drastically changed this week, with open home and on-site auctions banned, March 25.
The real estate industry was forced to quickly adapt, and Canberra’s newest property listing site and Coordinate client Zango responded by introducing a range of new features to not only support agents, but also buyers, sellers and renters.
All Zango listings were upgraded with new functionality so buyers can directly book in a time for either a one-on-one home inspection or a Facetime or Skype virtual tour. Zango listings also now allow users to click through directly to register to bid or follow, and Zango’s social media channels mean users can keep their finger on the pulse of the property market without even leaving their couch.
And Zango went even further, creating tools to help agents power ahead and thrive despite the ever-evolving circumstances.
“What we’re doing at Zango is we’re skilling up our agents on how to operate in this new world,” said Matthew Herbert from Zango.
“For example, people still want to look at properties but they may want to look at it in a new way. So we’ve given all our agents an instructional video on how to do their own video walk-throughs and we’re supporting them however we can to put these new technologies into practice.”
No one is clear on what the future holds, but there lies the exciting part.
New will be born. Risk takers will thrive. Those that invest now will come out stronger.
And while the present is a challenge, those who see the reinvention possibilities may discover a brighter, more rewarding future when we come out the other side.