Industry Insights #1 – Hospitality with Wes Lambert

Business Management

Recently Cosmitto’s Co-founder interviewed Wes Lambert, an influential hospitality industry leader who since May 2019 has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association, and is the author of ‘Saving Hospitality, One Venue at a Time – The 7 Pillars to Pivoting Your Business Through a Crisis”.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the hospitality sector across Australia, Wes and his team passionately and with strength advocate for the industry’s best interests. Hear what Wes has to say further with his industry insights interview & leadership tips below.

What are three characteristics you feel are important for hospitality leaders to adopt to navigate the current climate?

Well, there are three extremely important characteristics that modern or the post covid restaurant leaders need to have. They need to be flexible, they need to be patient, and they need to be driven. When it comes to being flexible, hospitality leaders must understand that when it comes to a pandemic, when it comes to a crisis like this, things change very quickly and they’ll never go back to the way that they were. For patience, everything is out of their control and it is not their fault that it’s out of their control. And in fact, when it comes to things like viruses, it’s really out of everyone’s control. Lastly, leaders must be driven, you must wake up every morning believing that the ideas that you have to ensure that your business survives and drives through a crisis is right for your business. There are 2.4 million businesses in Australia, so you are the biggest champion and the biggest carer for your business – you absolutely have to be driven for the outcomes that you want.

Can you share insights to impact numbers COVID-19 has had on the restaurant and catering industry

One of our partners let us know that on average the entire country was down 60% in revenue. We also know from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) that at the peak of the crisis 441,100 jobs were lost in Accommodation and Food Service, which represents a third of the jobs in the industry. In addition, The Australian recently released a report stating an estimate of 71% Business Confidence level for accommodation and food service businesses who believe over the next three months they’ll have difficulty paying bills. For business closure, we’re aware of a 10% permanent closure rate and we won’t know the actual number until the ABS report is released in February. And even then, that document is dated to June 30 2020, so we won’t know the true impact number until later next year.

What’s one of the most inspirational business pivot’s you’ve seen during this pandemic in the Restaurant and Catering industry?

Mercer’s Restaurant in Elsom Victoria owned by husband-and-wife team, Stephen and Ute Mercer. They’ve created a fine dining take out experience where you’re invited to watch Stephen Mercer via social media plate the entree, main and dessert in a way that makes it feel as though you are getting the fine dining experience in your home.

Any business that immediately pivoted to grocery or COVID-safe ways of operation, such as QR codes for their menus, were the kind of change businesses needed to make straight away in order to be seen as pivoting.

What are some considerations for business owners who may still need to pivot? And do you believe the Australian dining behaviour will change for good?

It’s really important for businesses to weigh up all of their options and explore what trends they need to pay attention to. As an example, pre-COVID there were 4 million people using some type of delivery app, today there’s now 8.7 million people registered. And that right there is habits and behaviour changing by the consumer. And what we’re seeing is in the states that are open, their delivery rate has gone from 8% to about 30%. We know people are ordering takeaway to their house at lunch time now, they’re not walking into the coffee shop at the bottom of their building in the CBD or industrial areas. Habits have changed and businesses need to reach outside of their immediate market. A valuable lesson I’ve learned is to meet people where they are.

What type of recovery strategies might the industry consider once the pandemic ends and business can return back to normal?

  1. Firstly, with the landscape changing and staying changed, if you haven’t pivoted your business you need to pivot. There are lots of resources available and people can certainly join their industry association, including Restaurant & Catering Industry Association.
  2. There is always a risk around eligibility of grants so it’s important you do not create a business model that relies on federal and state stimulus packages.
  3. Get your financial affairs in order. By this I mean completing a forecast and understanding your profit and loss. You’ll need to have your financial position at hand on a regular basis and better than pre-covid. Especially if you’re a small to medium business, because you can’t make decisions if you don’t know what your financial position is.


We’re a very resilient industry – and we pivot well

Interested in learning business strategies to pivot your business? Saving Hospitality, One Venue at a Time – The 7 Pillars to Pivoting Your Business Through a Crisis book is available at