Chris Cheung, MD of C!NC, is currently in self-isolation after returning from a recent trip to Italy. The nation has been hit hard by the spread of COVID-19, and is currently under a total lockdown. Having experienced it himself, the operator suggests venues should be preparing for a similar scenario.

Cheung is in self-isolation as a precaution only, having been tested for COVID-19 and showing no symptoms. However, having experienced a nationwide lockdown firsthand, he thinks the scenario is not too far off for Australia if the spread of the disease is not contained, and that venues should be preparing accordingly.

He believes that the 100+ indoor ban is just to soften the blow “before the knockout punch of a full lockdown”, which he forecasts will come within the next 10 days or so.

Regardless of what happens, Cheung is preparing C!NC venues for all scenarios.

“We’re doing a 30-, 60- and 90- day sensitive analysis on what it means if this is a lockdown, and effectively that triggers certain actions at each point. With so much uncertainty, everybody is in the same boat. This is new, nobody’s got any experience with this.”

As part of that analysis, the managing director is also looking into what this will mean for the group’s casual workforce.

“My HR team is looking at scenarios, in terms of looking at consolidating process and looking at what’s available. Certain people will be offered leave, but we’re looking at various situations.”

Stimulus packages are likely to come into play in offering relief to the casual workforce, with Cheung citing the recent example of French President Emmanuel Macron, suspending rent and utility payments.

Regardless of what is to come, Cheung is preparing for all scenarios, and keeping his staff informed of all possibilities, and is expecting that most businesses will and should look to the Federal Government for assistance.

“I’ve spoken to my staff about how we are no longer in growth mode, but survival mode, and what that looks like and what we have to do. So without a doubt talking to the team, the front of mind for everybody is certainty, and that’s not very clear at the moment because there are a lot dynamics to be considered. The Government is a key part of that solution.”

At the end of the day though, and particularly seen through the lens of self-isolation, Cheung thinks extreme times indeed call for extreme measures.

“The irony is that hospitality is a people industry. This virus is spread through people, so we’re in the heart of it. So I can understand why the restrictions are on gatherings and socialising. So I don’t think you can have half-measures in this if this is to be managed.”

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