Without small business, we’re nothing. TheLatch— and GoDaddy have teamed up to rally behind local businesses and entrepreneurs during this unprecedented time of change.
We’re speaking to small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country to better understand how they’re adapting to stay open, how they’re keeping their community safe, and how we can support them now during this time, and beyond. We’re focused on keeping Australia open for business, even if doors are closed. #OpenWeStand
Enthusiasm can be hard to find right now, but for Edwin Chocop, his passion for Gertie’s Restaurant, the business he purchased three years ago on January 31 (“if I remember correctly!”, he says) remains a constant source of positivity.
When Guatemalan-born Chocop took over the thriving New Farm, Brisbane restaurant in 2017, he made a concerted effort to add his own flair to the place.
“The first thing I did was add some of my own personality to the restaurant — some new decorations, art, tables, a chandelier, plants. The locals really loved it,” he says. “We also introduced live music — we have a piano in the venue. I started telling musicians ‘come and play the piano, sing, and just play something beautiful.’ We get a lot of dates coming into the bar because of that — it’s so romantic and nice.”
He also spent some time to fix up Gertie’s website using GoDaddy tools and services, so customers could easily check out the menu, an option which wasn’t available before Chocop took over the venue.
Then, the familiar story of many in the hospitality industry: COVID-19 hit and business ground to a halt. “Before this, we were doing really well,” Chocop tells us. “Business is usually very strong in March and April, but then suddenly we had so many cancellations and had to close up.”
Although there’s an immense amount of pressure on Chocop and his business, he still finds room for strategies that combine optimism and community support, such as introducing deals that avoid stock going to waste, which are also aimed at helping the back pocket of his struggling customer base.
“Every week we are doing a new special,” he explains. “People within the community are having trouble — they have no income, they’ve lost their jobs, so offering a deal helps them, and helps us.”
His hope is that the community support can keep Gertie’s Restaurant, and his dream, afloat.
“I don’t want to have to close. I have staff and we have to keep going, because we need to pay the bills. And for myself too, I have a lot of bills! We want to be positive. We got some great support from customers this week. Each week it’s improving.”
Chocop tells TheLatch— about some of the measures he’s taking during this trying time to build up his business and help his customer base, too.
TheLatch— Edwin, we know the hospitality industry has been hit hard. Tell us, how much business have you lost as a result of coronavirus?
Edwin Chocop: Oh, a lot. A lot, a lot. And it seems to be also that customers have lost jobs. I have people that pass by or people that call and say, ‘If we get a job we will support you, but I wish you good luck and you’re the best. You’re doing the best thing to keep going.’
At the moment, I’m making enough money to pay my internet and phone bills. Maybe the food, my staff, some little things they need to have. But I’m not making enough.
“My goal is to improve each day.”
My goal is to improve each day. But this quarter, we are making even less than a quarter of what we are used to making. I cannot give jobs to all my staff. Some of them have a second part-time job, so I’m just trying to keep the people on who have nothing else. But it’s hard to spend money when you’re not making any.
TL: So in order to pivot, you’ve decided to start delivering some of your signature cocktails?
EC: Yes! Very soon. We’re just waiting for the delivery of the takeaway glasses and labels. We have selected 12 cocktails from our signature menu. We set the cocktail up for customers, with some instructions on how to put it together. Some just need to be poured on ice and then they’re ready to drink, and we include the garnish, too. We’ve been working very hard this past week to set it up!
“I’m just trying to keep the people on who have nothing else.”
TL: How are you promoting the change in your business? Previously you didn’t offer online delivery and takeaway. How are you promoting this now for your customers?
EC: We are using Facebook to link back to the website with different deals and offers. Then they can go directly to the website and place an order. We’re also offering pre-orders with specials. Last week we sold out really quickly (which was amazing!). We are also offering customers the opportunity to call to arrange the best time for pick-up.
I feel very happy that people are supporting us and we are even finding some new customers who have never tried us before. I noticed a lot of new people are following Gertie’s page on Facebook. We want people to order directly through our website, so we don’t have to pay commissions [to delivery services] to sell the food.
“We are even finding some new customers who have never tried us before.”
This week I will put one more staff member on to do delivery. So anything that will improve my business, I’m trying to do. Using our own delivery staff means we can save on the commissions we’d have to pay otherwise, which can sometimes be up to 35%.
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You can enjoy our delicious authentic Latin America food for takeaway and delivery in New Farm. Everyday we have a meal with a drink special. Our bottle beers, ciders and wines 20% discount with your takeaway order. Tuesday’s burrito Bowl with a drink special. #gerties #gertiesbar #newfarm #brisbane #takeaway #latinfood #burritobowl #beers #wines #ciders
TL: How can customers support your business now? Would it be ordering directly from your website and following you on Facebook and Instagram?
EC: The best support that I can get at the moment is to order takeaway. About 50% of the people who have supported me so far, they live around the local area. They know me. I’ve been there for a few years, so they call and they order with me as they go for a walk with their dog. They go for a walk and come back in 15 minutes and their food is ready. But the 50% that are ordering online, it’s new customers that appear. Which is actually amazing to see.
“The best support I can get at the moment is to order takeaway.”
I also noticed as new customers order, the next morning they start following my page on Facebook which is great. It’s great support. If I want to survive I need to think about every single thing; every single post, what is best, how to seduce customers to come into the store, because everyone else is doing the same. All hospitality businesses are suffering.
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