The speedy escalation of the coronavirus crisis has meant challenging pressures for the whole hospitality industry, so we have begun asking some of Kaddy’s supplier partners and customers how they’re adapting and coping with the changes. This week we spoke with Andrew Fineran, co-founder of Batch Brewing in Sydney.
“We were all guns blazing going into this so we had plenty of stock,” laments Fineran. “Then we had to backtrack on some of our production and our packing.”
When the coronavirus pandemic resulted in pub and restaurant closures as part of the Stage Two lockdown on March 23, the keg component of the Batch Brewing business promptly disappeared. “It’s a huge portion of our business that we might not see any money from for a while,” acknowledges Fineran. “We’ve just produced a lot of kegs and now we can’t sell those kegs.”
“Which is fair enough,” he adds. But it does present a challenge, so decisions had to be made fast. “We’ve had to shift all of that into cans and then realised we have way too many cans.”
Andrew says at that point it meant shifting their focus onto small runs. “We’re trying to reduce what we’re brewing overall. Not everyone can do it because their limited run might be like 600 cases, but for us I can do 40 cases if I really have to.”
Batch’s main operation in Marrickville is still open and functioning purely as a bottle shop - curbside collections and local deliveries included - while their ‘Small Batch’ premises in Petersham has closed. “The [Marrickville] brewery has a decent amount of space in it, people can still come in and we have a big roller door that opens so it feels airy.”
However, if the Australian government puts further measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Batch is prepared. “If no one could come into the shop, we would have window or counter service. We could easily still serve people without them coming into the building.” Fineran is also getting ready to expand their delivery service, which currently only services the immediate surroundings (6km radius).
They’ve managed to keep three of their brewers on staff (also thanks to a fourth brewer’s timely resignation for other reasons) but they’ve had to let go around ten casual bar and production staff. It’s proving tricky to weigh up whether to offer casuals a couple of hours here and there. “We’re still trying to get everybody in where we can. But also at the same time, they probably get more from the government than the hours we can give them at the moment.”
Andrew acknowledges the mental pressure that his team and the hospitality industry workers far and wide are currently experiencing. “For my staff, it was hard. I think they were just kind of seeing the world fall apart. They’re a little younger than I am. But I’m seeing a massive difference in all of them now. They’re happy that they’ve got something that they come to work and do and they know that we’re fighting to keep it all going. The government’s JobKeeper initiative has enabled Batch Brewing to keep everyone at work and contributing, something Fineran feels grateful about. “Everyone’s really rallied and has done a great job coming out of it.”
Andrew’s aim is to survive now through the tough times and then get ready to bounce back.
“You can get caught up in thinking, ‘Oh crap, sales are down!’, he says. “But, yeah we all know that, so we just need to survive and then come out stronger. Think about the future. This will end. Make sure you can survive now.”
Kaddy is one of the mechanisms that is helping Batch get through. “At a time like this, when it’s tough for a business to collect money - and it’s tough for businesses to collect money regardless - so having Kaddy pay you within 72 hours is a great benefit to a small business like us because it means we have access to cash faster.”
When approached for any advice to offer his fellow industry comrades, Andrew reflects on the bolstering effect of positive thinking and helping to build local morale. “Become a business that contributes to the community now and continues to contribute to the community going forward. I think that provides a lot of positivity and keeps your eyes focussed on the future and the other side of this. How can you come out of this better and stronger and be in a position to grow and hire more people? There will be an end to it. So what are you going to do when it ends?”
In the meantime, Andrew and his co-founder Chris are focussed on keeping their customers excited about the continued new releases of their small batch beer runs. “They’re at home, they want something different! This is a bit of an outlet for them,” Andrew says. “‘This new beer’s coming out!’”
So for the time being, the new Batch directive is clear. “Stay innovative and small. We can package up these small runs of beers to keep things new and interesting.”