A $25 million cash splash encouraging Victorians to support the state’s hospitality and tourism sector is most welcome, the nation’s peak restaurant industry body says, but governments could do more to aid businesses in the long-run.
Victoria is now two days into a four-day long weekend, allowing many diners and visitors to take advantage of the revived Victorian Dining and Entertainment Program.
It allows customers to claim up to 25% of each dining and entertainment venue purchase over $40, with cashback capped at $125 per person for the life of the scheme.
The measure has been warmly received by the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association of Australia (R&CA), whose CEO, Belinda Clarke, called the scheme a “fantastic way to bring customers back into their favorite cafes and restaurants”.
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“The past two years have just been so incredibly tough and we know that schemes like this work,” she said SmartCompany.
With hybrid work policies cutting down on weekday trade in built-up areas, hospitality venues “really need more schemes like this to encourage customers back to dining-in,” Clarke said.
However, a new tide of cashback options for customers won’t cure all that ails the sector, she added.
Speaking ahead of the long-weekend period, which has tested businesses already dealing with thin staff numbers, Clarke said the government could even promote the sector to would-be workers.
“[The] State government should really work with industry to help bolster Victoria’s workforce to look for jobs in hospitality,” she said.
“They’re well-paid and rewarding and we need to get that message out there.”
Cutting “red tape” around outdoor dining, live music, and liquor licenses could also empower the sector, she added.
The Victorian Government committed $190 million to programs helping restaurants serve customers outdoors in late 2020, with Premier Daniel Andrews declaring: “I think that that will become, in many respects, a lasting feature of the way the city, and the suburbs, and indeed the whole state functions”.
However, The Age reports the City of Melbourne is now considering a proposal to reinstate outdoor dining permit fees after a stint of pandemic-era leniency.