Order Now
0406 141 682
Hospitality family business disaster & growth in a COVID world

By Mike Jaggard & Kristina Thompson (aka The Grumpy & The Wise Monkeys)

Let’s start with The Grumpy Monkey …

Food is an important part of a balanced diet.

Fran Lebowitz

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve been captured by Monkey Business Catering. Having sold our farm outside south Canberra, we brought one up here in the Toowoomba region which lead to me working as a Chef for Monkey Business.

I’ve been in the catering industry for 40 years, seen a lot of changes in every way. Mostly the bureaucracy of it all (even before COVID we were working under a strict Food Safety Program which involves a lot of cleaning). What doesn’t change much is the food, it goes in cycles of fads with changing volumes. Most recently people are becoming  more aware of allergies and the different diets possible. I keep an eye on these. 

Catering for up to 1,200 people

I have worked in pretty much all areas of catering. Most notably for a number of years cooking for the army in Canberra catering for up to 1,200 people in a mess (not literally, the dining room where the military eat). Often I was sent out to camps to cook when they went bush for exercises (nothing to do with a gym, its military training in remote locations). I really enjoyed it; it honed the ability to work long hours, work independently & to improvise with logistical restrictions.

Prior to that I worked for 14 years catering for 20 to 1500 people, with two to three weddings every weekend. I love doing weddings and functions. You know the numbers and can put your personal touch to them. Like adding a bride’s favourite dessert to her wedding reception! 

Working for Monkey Business Catering has been great. The crew are awesome to work with. COVID-19 has been another challenge in an industry that see a lot of them. For all of you in the industry, remember we have always been the survivors, the innovators and the improvisors … and people will always need to eat! 

To ask why my nickname is Grumpy Monkey … it is because normally I’m grumpy until I have my morning coffee.

Signing off,

Aka the Grumpy Monkey

And now for The Wise Monkey …

I’m with Mike … I got awarded my nickname ‘The Wise Monkey’. If you live long enough and have enough experiences then you must get a similar surprising nickname!

My role with Monkey Business Catering is as business partner, strategic co-planner and administration backup. 

Like everyone I have been shocked, surprised, frustrated and annoyed by the COVID-19 impact. However, because of life experiences and my faith in God, I am not frightened. It has boiled down to taking sensible precautions to protect myself and vulnerable loved ones and walking each day with confidence. 

For Monkey Business Catering, it was the quickness of going from a thriving busy catering business with orders for eight months ahead to a dead stop on outgoing orders in a week was shocking. The hardest part is watching Amy who has committed the last five years to ‘Monkeying around’ dealing with the impact of what was happening. 

We come from a farming background and have spent our whole lives unable to control the outside parameters of our business; from weather to pricing to industry conditions.

Our business reality is to always be ready to adapt and flex. Previously, this was lived out in the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. I firmly believe that in every situation you can say ’this too will pass’ and that you must commit to doing the best that you can and walking one day, one step, at a time. 

Like everyone, initially we weren’t sure how long or what impact, so we had a discussion, Amy and I formed what she calls ‘The Awesome Plan’.

Step 1: Rest

Everyone had been terribly busy and was tired. This lead to the decision that for the first period of lock down we would close, Amy and our team would rest up until Easter.

Amy and I would watch what was happening from a government/business perspective and apply for anything and everything that would aid with the cashflow and future of the business. 

Step 2: Plan

We made the formal steps to that ‘AWESOME PLAN’! After Easter, Amy and I sat down and planned for 3 months, six months and ‘gulp’ to December!!! 

We started with our priorities: 

  1. Survival: personal well-being of primary importance 
  2. Staff: we love them!
  3. Future planning: where would we like to be in 2021 and beyond  
  4. Rebuild: how can we rebuild better and stronger?
  5. Long term growth: how can our long term growth be sustainable?

Step 3: Act

With Job Keeper we were able to keep our long term staff (such a relief). They were on board willing to do anything, and work the hours needed for the development projects we have been working on. They have shown passion, enthusiasm and commitment and learnt new skills as well. 

I am incredibly proud of them.

It has also had the wonderful effect of helping Amy tremendously to keep positive and lead during this time. Positivity grows and feeds into other people’s lives, and often it comes back to amplify or strengthen your own. 

During this time Monkey Business Catering has moved from the start up perception of it being Amy’s business into a culture of it being our business. With all of us a Team of Monkeys with a common goal.

We have not done takeaway meals and this was never part of our AWESOME PLAN … why?

  • There was a lot going on in this space (competition)
  • It would not be very cost effective for us (no store front)
  • It did not match our long-term business model. 

Instead we have taken the time to change our accounting software, refresh the website and menus, go electronic with recipes and ordering, test test test those recipes. And upskill on photography of new food items (go Emma)! 

In addition, you will soon see the promotion of the divine cake skills of Susan and the wonderful hire china of Elegant Vintage Hire which sets off our food for fabulous events. 

We have an ongoing strategy in place for responding quickly to any requests in a new COVID friendly way the minute the orders started. This included COVID menus with individually wrapped choices. You can download this from our Menu’s tab!

Step 4: Keep calm & stay positive

There are a few things that have enabled us to keep positive:

  • Faith: believing there is more than us and trusting God to have a plan that will work out for good even in the hardest of time
  • Family: leaning on the support available & making those phone calls! 
  • Low debt: we have always been cautious about overextending and this has been our saving in a tough time 
  • Job Keeper: enabling us to keep our staff, who have families and responsibilities of their own – a very real concern for us. 
  • The commitment of our team: flexing with the tasks, offering ideas, trialling recipes, learning new skills. 
  • Seizing opportunity and keeping compliant to Government restrictions: It is challenging work to complete government applications and follow through. Amy has had to do this, and it is difficult and time consuming to keep on top of all the requirements. To our amazement this has resulted in many opportunities from Government schemes.
  • Location: We hadn’t moved! For about four months prior to ‘the event’ we had been looking for new premises to meet the growth of the business. Fortunately, we had NOT committed to an expensive purchase or lease. Our plan is for this move to now happy in 2021 (as God wills on that one)!

For us all it has been a rollercoaster.

It is hard to be positive, and upbeat and committed. So ‘one day at a time’ is the best way to go.

Remember nothing lasts forever.

Wishing everyone happy days ahead, as we all learn to live in a new way with new experiences. 

And as soon as you can celebrate, absolutely anything … you might even consider getting catering! You can book a party via our new online store on our website or by emailing catering@mkbusiness.com.au

Signing off,

Aka the Wise Monkey

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *