Frying under the COVID-19 Stimulus radar

By Thien Tran
14 August 2020

Chasing the dream after saying adiós to the corporate life, Julian is pictured standing in front of what he had left his lucrative 9-5 job for – a slice of the Gami Chicken & Beer franchise pie. Middle class and far from the riches, the all-or-nothing move represents his life savings, his eggs all in one basket and his desire to be more than just ordinary. Like the many first-generation Australian 'migrant' entrepreneurs before him, it will be the legacy Julian builds and leaves behind.

However, staring down the barrel before him and through the reflection of the windows paints a grim picture of the challenges that lay in front of him and the economy at large – a construction site on its knees due to the Victorian Stage 4 lockdown restrictions, as the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rip through the world economy. Julian knew he had to 'risk it to get the biscuit', but this level of risk was unfathomable just eight months ago.

Kicking off the journey in the latter half of 2019, Julian was poised to launch his business in March 2020. However, due to a combination of expected ‘BAU’ delays and the not-so-expected Global Health Pandemic, Julian would not open his store until July 2020. The intended flamboyant launch party had been reduced to a low-key ‘takeaway-only’ opening, topped off with a modest case of Murphy's Law. 

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, who would have known delaying the opening of the store would come at such a significant cost? Unable to show a decline in sales, or any pre-1 July 2020 sales whatsoever, Julian would become ineligible for key forms of State and Federal COVID-19 stimulus funding - this includes JobKeeper, Cash Flow Boost and the Victorian Business Support Fund. Funds that are well intended to reach those businesses in dire need of ‘survival funds’ but have somehow fallen short for the likes of Julian due to integrity measures designed more so to ward off opportunistic scoundrels.

To put it in plain terms, Julian made the leap of faith during the golden era but landed smack-bang in the eye of the COVID-19 storm without a single lifeline in sight. If he could be faulted for anything, it would be for his impeccably poor timing.

Morrison, Andrews – if you are reading, please spare a thought for Julian's struggle.

Regardless, underneath the face mask is a brave face. Julian knows that he simply has no choice but to persist and to endure with or without Government subsidies. Julian summed up his resilience, “I was blindsided, I couldn’t see this coming, but I have no regrets.” Seasoned restaurant operators may beg to differ, but this rookie naivety will keep Julian on the positive outlook.

Adapting to the Victorian restrictions, Julian has remodelled his 70-seat restaurant to focus primarily on takeaway meals. He has worked closely with Gami HQ to release an online ordering and home delivery application to improve his reach to local customers. Along with his franchisor, he has unbelievable support in his wife, staff, landlord, business banker and advisers. With the right people, values and service, he might just be able to hang on and ride the storm out.

But mostly, there is a strong belief he will make it on the backbone of a supportive local community who loves scrumptiously delicious Korean fried chicken. Or on the back of boneless Korean fried chicken. Or why not both?

As businesses scramble for more details surrounding JobKeeper 3.0, keep an eye out for those start-up businesses that need your support and awareness. Statistically speaking, there were 62,462 new Australian businesses in 2018-19, so there will be plenty of businesses in the same boat as Julian. Your ongoing support will far outdo any Government stimulus package for sustainable business prosperity and continuity.

If you live nearby (within 5km), please pay a visit to Gami Chicken & Beer Brickworks, 70 Middleborough Rd, Burwood East. If not, come by after the lockdown restrictions are lifted. Follow lovegamibrickworks on Instagram to stay updated on local happenings at Gami Burwood Brickworks.