Over the past couple of months, and especially in the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen the world as we know it rapidly change before our very eyes, but we have put together thirteen tips to get your bakery through COVID-19.
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “unprecedented times” more than you care to count, but the evolving situation with COVID-19 is, both legally and socially speaking, just that: unprecedented.
While some countries experienced similar situations with SARS back in 2003, it did not have the same world reach and magnitude this new coronavirus has had so far, so we’re all really dealing with the constantly-changing information and advice as well as we can as it comes in.
For small-medium businesses such as bakeries, this has been an especially challenging period of adjustment. The advice has gone from practicing good hygiene, to using disposable cups, to limiting crown numbers and maintaining social distancing, to now allowing only takeaway sales.
Fortunately, bakeries in Australia do fall under the umbrella of “essential services” so they are able to continue operating. Here are some tips to following to continue operating while looking after the needs of your employees, customers, and the wider community.
Be ready to go the extra mile
As one of the few services deemed essential, bakeries are in a fortunate position to not have to close their doors by government mandate. People may therefore be more inclined to shop local and in smaller establishments now to avoid the crowds at the big grocery stores. This gives your business the opportunity to serve a potential influx of new customers. It’s hard to imagine but when this is over, you want these people to keep coming back because you’ve offered them a great product and built a relationship with them. If you can, go the extra mile for customers now because they’ll remember it in the future.
Even if it’s something as small as putting signage up in your shop window to let customers know you’re open, what you offer and how to queue up with the social distancing rules, you need to communicate with people now more than ever. It’s a period of uncertainty where people’s usual places of shopping may be disrupted, so put your name out there and make shopping at your store the easy part of their day.
Social media is an excellent way to let the community know when and how you’re trading, so if you’re not updating regularly already, get started. It can be as easy as five minutes to put up a quick post of video explaining what’s going on in your store. If you’re after inspiration, Alicia from the Golden Nugget Bakery in Ballarat has been using short videos on Instagram for daily updates on her three stores.
This virus is new, so there isn’t a huge amount of information available on it. However, we do know that washing your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and warm water is one of the best things you can be doing to prevent its spread. All food handlers know how to wash their hands, but it’s a good idea to revise this with your team. Where possible, keep hand sanitiser where both customers and staff can access and use it.
At this point, it’s a great idea to print and laminate hand hygiene signs for your bathrooms, and and wash stations. The Australian Government has free printable posters specifically for this as well as other informative signage and videos available here.
No cash (where feasible)
After hand washing, the less unnecessary touching you can get away with, the better. We know that money carries a lot of germs, so limiting the use of cash payments or temporarily banning them altogether may be necessary. Where possible, tap-and-go/PayWave/mobile payment is the best way to pay, as it takes touching the terminal out of the equation for the customer.
While customers can argue that cash is legal tender and must be accepted, there is no law preventing businesses from refusing cash payments (or taking only cash payments) – just make sure it’s clearly signed to avoid confusion and disappointment.
Make technology your friend
Whether you consider yourself pretty old school or like to keep up with the kids, technology could make things a lot easier for you and your customers in this time. Some bakeries are utilising online platforms for customers to place orders through, which not only provide a convenient option for them to come in and pick up their order, but you’ll know how much you need to prepare. Other bakeries are going a step further and offering delivery to local postcodes.
The logistics of organising that are on a case-by-case basis, but if you are delivering, don’t forget to keep your distance to your customers and take some hand sanitiser with you on the road. It’s also more important than ever to keep customers up-to-date on your social media channels with your daily offering, what you have in stock, what they can expect tomorrow and even just to let them know you’re open and what hours. There are many people who will assume bakeries are closed.
You may not have signed your business up with a delivery service or offered it before, but now may be the time if you’ve been considering it. There are a lot of options around, so do your research to find out which service could benefit you.
It’s contrary to the attempts we’ve all been making to be more environmentally friendly, but at this time if your products (bread loaves for example) are unpackaged, it may be a good idea to start bagging them while we ride out this crisis to prevent the spread of germs to food.
To minimise touching, ensure only staff are (safely) handing food items rather than having customers serve themselves. The few people touching, the more the transmission risk is reduced.
Floor markers and waiting to enter
At the moment, there must be only one person per four square metres of indoor space. Depending on the size of your bakery, you may need to ask customers to wait outside to be served and only allow a certain number in at any one time. Social distancing guidelines also mean that people must stay 1.5 metres away from each other, so using tape to make temporary markers on the floor can assist customers in sticking to this.
Utilise staff in other ways
You could find yourself in a position where the phones are running hot with people placing orders, or, you may find you’re unprecedentedly busy and need someone to perform more frequent cleaning and disinfecting duties. In uncertain financial times it may make sense to lower wage costs, but these staff performing more generalised duties could be invaluable for sales and to keep things ticking along at this time. It may seem unnecessary to have extra cleaning in place, but for the safety of the community who may attend your bakery in droves, and yourselves to stay in business, it could be imperative.
Social distancing and one person per four square metres may mean changes to your staffing levels. You will need to take into account the size of your business and determine how many workers you can have on at any one time (remember to advise staff of how many can be in a room at one time too).
If you need to reduce staff hours or even reduce employment, remember:
Small and medium-sized businesses will receive up to $25,000 to cover the costs of employee wages and salaries, paid by the Australian Taxation Office based on tax withheld.
This measure will cost the government $6.7bn and will happen automatically based on the business activity statements lodged by business, with about 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people expected to be eligible for this payment.
The government has also focused its funding to employers, with the aim to keep people in jobs which will see $1.2bn made available as a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the wage of apprentices or trainees for up to nine months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020.
Where a small business is not able to retain an apprentice, the subsidy will be made available to a new employer that employs that apprentice, whether that is a large business or a registered training organisation.
Takeaway cups only
Again, we’re all trying to be more eco-friendly, but under these circumstances take-away coffee cups are safest.
Rethink your product offerings
Drastic times call for different measures and this may mean cutting out or cutting back on the fancy stuff for now. If the panic buying waves we’ve seen are anything to go by, expect staples and essentials to be in high demand, namely bread and bread rolls. Some bakeries are doing essentials packs and selling items they wouldn’t normally sell, such as milk alongside their baked goods. Flour and Chocolate in Brisbane is really going the extra mile, selling baker’s flour, yeast, eggs and milk in basic family staples packs, as well as frozen goods like croissants and sausage rolls, receiving much praise online for doing so.
Although some are temporarily re-jigging their output for this point in time, others like Attica restaurant in Melbourne have completely rebranded to remain relevant and keep its doors open.
Call your accountant
There’s no denying that, economically, these coming months are going to be tough. Make sure you’re in contact with your accountant, who will be right across your rights, responsibilities, and any government relief you may be entitled to receive.
The ATO website is also an invaluable resource for finding out what benefits your business may be entitled to at this time.
Contact a helpline
There’s no making light of this situation, and we know the pressure many of you are facing is intense. If you’re a member of the Baking Association of Australia and need advice, call them on 02 4340 0244.
If you’re feeling down or just need someone to chat to, please don’t hesitate to call Lifeline on 13 11 14.