Powering Forward with Blayne Bertoncello
Key learnings from Blayne include a willingness to embrace change, maintaining customer loyalty, and putting your spin on things.
Hospitality venues have been forced to pull out all the stops to keep their businesses afloat, and even highly-awarded restaurants aren’t impervious to uncertainty, as Blayne Bertoncello can attest.
Bertoncello, head chef and owner at celebrated Beaconsfield restaurant O.MY, has been integral behind the scenes in helping the venue find ways to keep its doors open for its devoted customer base.
Doing so hasn’t been easy, though – for a restaurant so lauded for its food and service, meeting high expectations through multiple lockdowns has at times been a fumble in the dark.
Key lessons for adapting to sudden industry change
Don’t be afraid to change your approach – the same successful solution won’t necessarily work twice
Customers are loyal for a reason – people won’t easily forget your business if you remind them why they love you in the first place
Consider new spins on old concepts – adapting your brand can be an effective way to present the same high-quality goods and services you’re already known for differently
Customers have always been the priority at O.MY
Rather than shut up shop in the wake of the first lockdown, Bertoncello and the team went straight to the drawing board.
Their goal was simple: allow customers access to the same high-quality produce that they were accustomed to when dining in.
A range of boutique farm boxes designed to transport the unique O.MY dining experience into the homes of hungry patrons.
Each box contained a loaf of freshly baked sourdough and a range of seasonal ingredients straight from O.MY’s 2.5-acre farm in Cardinia, so there’s no surprise that customers found them hard to resist.
“Success of the boxes was really good and it showed a great amount of support from all the customers we’ve had over the last seven years,” says Bertoncello.
A refreshed approach to old services
Despite being a huge success at first, the farm boxes only worked for a short while – it was clear that customers were starved of the traditional restaurant format.
“The farm boxes started really well, but they did decline towards the end as customers knew we were reopening – that’s why it was important to open again.”
Thankfully for Bertoncello and the rest of the O.MY team, it quickly became apparent that customers were saving their stomachs for an authentic restaurant experience.
“When we reopened it was amazing – a huge influx of people wanting to spend money, it felt like they were wanting to alleviate their frustration of being cooped up for such a long time. The customers were respectful and abiding by the new COVID rules and adapting with all the changes.”
Interestingly, time spent away from their favourite restaurant also shone a light on the way diners approached their restaurant experience.
“All in all, it was very positive and made people more aware of how they dine – it improved the mentality of how they treat the staff and the business.”
The importance of connecting to customers in new ways
Although success was found the first time round, Bertoncello knew that the same approach wasn’t going to cut it when news of the second lockdown dropped.
“Originally people were excited to spend time at home, but they are not in the same mind set this time around. They want normality and that isn’t going to happen for a while.”
Shifting expectations introduced uncertainty into the O.MY team’s strategy, and for a moment it was hard to gauge what would benefit them the most.
“Our first thought was to go dormant and keep our costs lower - the potential is that deliveries from state to state could break down - so going dormant was our game plan.”
Although innovation has always helped O.MY succeed, Government stimulus has had a steady hand in keeping the business alive.
“Essentially, this time we are leaning on government money.
“All the packages that we have they have been a life saver – we would not have been able to survive without either the JobKeeper or the BAS stimulus.”
Isolation requires customers be related to in unique ways
With some time carefully considering their options, there was still a strong desire to connect to their loyal customers.
The solution was the O.MY Market, an opportunity for customers to purchase the restaurant’s boutique produce and a wide selection of beverages every Sunday.
The decision also helped the team make the most of their staff.
“We’re doing one day of trade - with a grocery store and market day, so using our staff more effectively and dropping their hours down as previously our staff were all working full time.”
And so far, the proof’s in the pudding; a consistently loyal customer base has helped the O.MY Market regularly sell out of produce, showing that support is as strong as ever.
What the future holds for O.MY
Although times have been tough for Bertoncello and the team at O.MY, uncertainty has provided the unique opportunity to better prepare for speed bumps in the restaurant’s future.
“I think one thing for sure is to be more adaptable to the new situation – not piling the place full of people and changing hygiene standards.
“We know that people are going to want to go and eat – there will be limited time for people to come out in the near future and our numbers will be limited for a long time, we want to make sure the structure is set up right for them to have the optimal experience when they dine with us.”
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