Wingham cafe Bent on Food makes plea for small businesses to advertise with local media

Menu tasting day at Bent on Food: Donna now has to employ five staff to run the cafe plus keep up with COVID-19 health regulations. Photo: supplied
Menu tasting day at Bent on Food: Donna now has to employ five staff to run the cafe plus keep up with COVID-19 health regulations. Photo: supplied

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been tough on everyone, not least the hospitality industry.

Bent on Food proprietor Donna Carrier survived lockdown by providing takeaway and home delivery of meals from the Wingham cafe, plus online cooking classes through Zoom, which kept her businesses afloat.

While financial stressors are very real, it's her mental health, and the mental health of staff, that worries and tires her.

We're used to being hospitality workers and now we're like police.

Donna Carrier

"We can't really complain financially, it's more the stress of the every day having to deal with patrons who may not understand why they have to sign in or they just don't want to.

"We're used to being hospitality workers and now we're like police," she said.

Donna and her staff are experiencing frequent abuse from those people who do not understand or stubbornly do not want to comply with regulations.

Bent on Food is now requiring digital sign on for contact tracing at Bent on Food. Photo supplied

Bent on Food is now requiring digital sign on for contact tracing at Bent on Food. Photo supplied

"Most people are good, and most people want us to keep going. But there are others who don't want to sign in," she said.

"We know, too, that some people were putting down fake details. One lady, a lady who thinks (COVID) is a conspiracy theory, was bragging about putting the wrong number down. We heard her so we told her to go and she went somewhere else."

Use us or lose us

Donna recognises the toll the pandemic has taken on local media, particularly newspapers, with the loss of advertising revenue seeing many rural and regional newspapers temporarily suspend operations, or close down completely.

She says the temporary shutdown of the Wingham Chronicle made her realise the value of local media, much as lockdown made people appreciate local cafes and restaurants.

You can buy a paper and that's helpful, but advertising is the financial support that you need to keep the paper running.

Donna Carrier

"I've always valued it, but we really need to value it by supporting it financially. You can buy a paper and that's helpful, but advertising is the financial support that you need to keep the paper running," Donna says.

One of the NSW government's economic responses to the pandemic was to give recovery grants of up to $3000 to get affected small businesses 'back to business'.

We don't want to go down the road of almost losing the local newspaper again.

Donna Carrier

"I guess the whole thing was for putting the money back into the local economy, especially in light of advertising with the newspapers and what position they've been in, instead of spending it all on Facebook marketing," Donna says.

"You can get free marketing through Google so there's no point spending all of your money on it, you may as well spend your money locally and take the free stuff from the bigger places.

"If anyone has been able to gain access to the $3000 grant that can be spent on advertising, it would be good to support the local media," Donna suggests.

"I urge all local businesses to support their local media, especially the newspapers that have done it so tough. We don't want to go down the road of almost losing the local newspaper again."

Also in the news: