Gary Collard from Coffs Harbour Cafe Palate and Ply says there is an overriding sense of uncertainty among small business owners and the community.
Gary Collard from Coffs Harbour Cafe Palate and Ply says there is an overriding sense of uncertainty among small business owners and the community.

Uncertainty remains the house blend at cafes

WITH a recent survey showing cafe owners are predicting a long road to recovery, there are growing calls for extended support.

According to a Harris Coffee report, 80 per cent of small business owners in hospitality - the majority of which are cafe owners - say they won't recover without third party assistance.

And there are growing fears in the business community that when the Job Keeper payments stop in September, a number of small businesses won't survive, prompting a fresh round of economic pain.

Coffs Harbour cafe owner Gary Collard said with the help of his loyal customer base his business, Palate and Ply, had been able to pivot toward a more takeaway focused operating model at the height of the restrictions.

Though even with the added support of Job Keeper he still had to let some staff go.

The relaxation of restrictions have now prompted the reopening of his kitchen, however he said there was a general feeling of uncertainty as the end date drew nearer.

"September may be a bit soon and we are hoping they extend it a few more months - maybe until the end of the year," he said.

"If they do chop it in September, my feeling is there is going to be a lot of pain for everyone throughout the industry.

"It is going to have quite a big impact."

Recent developments in Victoria have also served as a reminder of the rapidly evolving situation business owners find themselves in and Mr Collard said he was trying to plan as best he could.

But that's hard when even a spike in cases 1300 km away had the potential to impact business.

"When Victoria (initially) had a rise in cases and it was all over the news, the very next day our cafe was drastically quieter," he said.

"Everybody is still a little bit wary, thinking where is this thing going to go?"

The research released last week prompted the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell to issue a warning.

She said it was clear cafes had been among the hardest hit by coronavirus restrictions with more than 40 per cent of respondents not expecting to be able to stay open for longer than six months without additional support.

"More than half said they had lost 50 per cent or more of their revenue over the past few months," she said.

"What it tells us is there will be a prolonged period before these small business owners are back on their feet.

"Job Keeper has certainly been effective in keeping many of these businesses afloat, but some additional targeted support will likely be required to help these once-viable cafes get to the other side of this difficult time."