Small businesses using innovation in isolation

Small businesses are bearing the brunt of the pandemic recession. We spoke to three South Australian companies who are innovating their way through pandemic restrictions. (Image source: Forbes)

By Lara Pacillo | @LaraPacillo and Lauren Thomas-Nehmy | @lthomasnehmy

Businesses across all industries have had to adjust their business models to stay afloat amid COVID-19 restrictions, and for some, the change is not such a bad thing.

Lockdown constraints forced businesses to adapt their services and cater to emerging demands.

In doing this, many companies have shown off their creativity.

From gin brands making hand sanitiser to real estate offices taking inhouse auctions to Zoom, innovation has proven to be the key to survival.

While South Australia continues to ease restrictions, some business changes are no longer necessary while others are here to stay.

We spoke to three small businesses who took advantage of the new way of life during COVID-19 through innovation:

Perfecting home-delivered pizza

For RoccoPizza, the lockdown meant upping the standard of home-delivered pizza.

Restaurants and cafes across Australia were restricted to only takeaway and delivery services to stop the spread of COVID-19; Rocco DeAngelis of RoccoPizza wanted to make sure this did not mean food quality was compromised too.

His Kidman Park restaurant decided to begin creating a mobile pizza oven on the back of a truck to make sure home-delivered pizza stayed fresh and hot rather than cold and soggy.

 “We thought, ‘What’s the best way to deliver a pizza and give the customer the best experience?’” Rocco said.

“We realised that is to woodfire it in our restaurant oven and then transport it in a heating oven that allows us to keep it hot all the way to the customers’ door.”

There are two types of delivery vehicles in the works; a pizza truck for catering and events that will carry up to 250 pizzas, and a nimbler vehicle for local neighbourhood deliveries that can be filled up, deliver, and circle back to the restaurant throughout the night.

While the concept of the pizza truck is something Rocco has had in mind for about 20 years, he could not figure out the best way to do it until now.

Janis Luks and Rocco DeAngelis of RoccoPizza (Image source: RoccoPizza/Facebook)

COVID-19 led the way for his team to dedicate more time for the project.

“The capacity opened up for the people we needed to work with on this project, which is a great thing for us and for the future of hot delivery pizza,” he explained.

Rocco said the problem with regular food delivery is it compromises the pizza’s quality.

“Pizza that’s delivered doesn’t travel warm very well, and when it’s put in those thermal bags it sweats so it becomes soggy,” he said.

Rocco hopes to change the whole experience of home-delivered food by making sure pizza is hot, fresh, and crispy.

 “It will be the way you’ve always wanted pizza to arrive at your home, but no one ever worried about.”

The RoccoPizza trucks are set to be up and running by the end of July, but in the meantime, RoccoPizza has begun its own delivery service.

Rocco said while the restaurant is already active on the third-party food delivery platform Deliveroo, the in-house delivery service within its local area offers customers specials as well as alcoholic beverages.

Another business change RoccoPizza has made is not cutting takeaway pizza to minimise contact and maximise quality.

“We’ve stopped cutting our pizzas because one, we don’t want to touch them because of the coronavirus and two, the perfect way to travel a pizza is for it not to be cut,” he said.

“When you cut it, you contribute to the sogginess because the liquid from the very hot pizza seeps into it and as you’re travelling it just slushes around and you get horrible results.

“The best thing is not to cut the pizza so while it’s travelling it has a chance to reabsorb the steam into the crust that hasn’t been cut yet.”

In adapting to the landscape of COVID-19 restrictions, RoccoPizza has also tapped into the new growing market of sourdough bakers.

We’ve all seen the online memes about quarantine baking, however, the rise in aspiring bread makers is hardly a joke.

That’s why RoccoPizza began selling its own sourdough starter.

Sourdough starter from RoccoPizza (Image source: RoccoPizza/Facebook)

“There was just humongous demand with people being at home and wanting to make their own bread,” Rocco said.

RoccoPizza uploaded videos on how to make bread from their sourdough starter, put the recipe online and was selling the starter every weekend.

Since restrictions have eased, RoccoPizza has put a halt on selling the starter but are still offering a halfway solution where it makes the sourdough loaf that customers can take and bake themselves.

“The dough is already shaped and made and is in a tray,” Rocco said.

“You literally put this tray in your oven, and you will have true sourdough bread in half an hour.”

Pizza lovers can find dine-in, pickup and delivery options through the RoccoPizza website and keep up to date with RoccoPizza on Facebook and Instagram.

Isolation happy hour

Australians love a good drink, so when restaurants and bars shut down across the state, Behind Barz Cocktails came to the rescue.

Earlier this year, Mariah Mittiga and Daniel Scorsonelli were in Bali enjoying Mai Tai’s by the pool when they thought how amazing it would be to have a similar, affordable cocktail experience back home.

Founders of Behind Barz Cocktails, Mariah Mittiga and Daniel Scorsonelli. (Image source: Behind Barz Cocktails)

A few months and many cocktails later, they launched Behind Barz Cocktails.

Mariah and Daniel originally planned to launch Behind Barz as cocktail making classes at home or events.

As COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing guidelines were introduced, the pair were forced to adapt their concept.

“We were still super eager to launch our business and start getting our name out there, so we established our cocktail delivery service,” Mariah said.

Customers can place an order via the phone, the Behind Barz Instagram and Facebook pages or the Behind Barz website ‘contact us’ feature.

The website also showcases all of the Behind Barz cocktails and customers can view frequently asked questions and reviews.

“Our customers have been extremely happy with our variety of cocktails, how affordable they are, and how easy it is to place an order,” Mariah said.

“We did not expect to be as busy as we are this early on. We are so thankful!”

Behind Barz offers an extensive menu, from a minty mojito to a snowflake martini as well as shots and mocktail alternatives, all delivered to your door. And if you’re struggling to pick, Mariah says you can’t go wrong with the fruity classic, ‘Sex on the Beach’.

There are various glassware sizes to choose from in addition to personalised options and bartending services.

“We want to provide an all-inclusive cocktail experience, which means we not only provide the cocktail, we provide the garnishes, glassware, straws and anything else you might need to ensure your experience is exceptional.”

During COVID-19 restrictions Behind Barz has catered for a range of occasions, from an ‘Isolation 18th’ to surprise birthday presents and Friday night drinks at home.

One day, Mariah and Daniel hope to have their own establishment in the city.

“We would run our cocktail classes there, but I’ve also always wanted my own café, so I would love to combine my two passions,” Mariah said.

“Ideally, customers could grab their caffeine fix and some tasty treats during the day and a few delicious cocktails at night … or during the day as well, if that’s what they’re after!”

Until then, customers can look forward to more catering options, including grazing and dessert boxes as well as a limited edition ‘cocktail of the month’.

Creative with colours

Going to the hairdressers is something that many of us look forward to.

It’s an opportunity to relax or create a new look, and who doesn’t love the head massage?

However, COVID-19 restrictions forced salons to limit their services and for Cathy Zotti of The Hair Lounge with Beauty, this meant getting creative with colours.

When COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, The Hair Lounge with Beauty could only cater for a small number of clients, placing a strain on the salon’s income.

Additionally, the hairdressers and clients were confused by the mixed messages sent by the Government.

“One day appointments had a 30-minute limit, the next day a person per square metre limit applied. Everyone was scared and confused,” Cathy said.

“Client’s didn’t want to come into the salon … it was not worthwhile being open.”

Before the salon closed, clients rushed to book in their appointments.

“I realised most people were concerned about re-growth. They were happy to go without haircuts, but they were really worried about grey hair,” Cathy said.

Following her client’s concerns, Cathy developed a creative solution.

Cathy delivered DIY packages with salon colour and a mixing ‘recipe’ to her clients in isolation.

A DIY hair package. (Image source: Cathy Zotti)

“The packages had just enough colour, so they couldn’t go wrong,” Cathy said.

Cathy also wanted to deter clients from turning to store-bought box colours.

“For clients that weren’t going to wait, I gave them our salon colour so when we re-opened their colour wouldn’t be damaged.”

Now that restrictions have lifted, the salon has re-opened with strict sanitary and social distancing standards.

The salon is disinfecting surfaces every time a client is moved throughout the salon and in between appointments. 

The salon has also removed all magazines and ensures there is sufficient hand sanitiser and air circulation.

“We aren’t required to wear face masks, but we always ask the client, so they have peace of mind,” Cathy said.

The salon also offers various beauty services that have been affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

“With social distancing, we [hairdressing staff] were lucky that we could take care of all of our clients before beauty services re-opened,” Cathy said.

“Clients weren’t competing for appointments, it actually worked out quite well.”

The Hair Lounge with Beauty salon. (Image source: Australia247)

While COVID-19 is responsible for many inconvenient and challenging realities, The Hair Lounge with Beauty has welcomed one change.

Cathy and her colleague have chosen to keep the salon well-spaced.

“We like the atmosphere better and clients do too,” Cathy said.

“It’s all about cheering people up and trying to keep happy in these uncertain times.”

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