Have you been wondering how local businesses have been able to stay afloat during unprecedented times? When the Australian Governments restrictions on licensed venues fell into place last month, many business owners saw the curveball as an opportunity to rebound and re-adjust.


Welder’s Dog Bar and Brewer business owners and UNE Alumni, Tom Croft and Dan Emery, and business partner and Head Brewer Phil Stevens, had made the tough decision to close their bars three days prior to the restrictions coming into effect.


Tom recently spoke with us on the journey they have taken as business owners during the closure of the bar.


“We thought the seriousness of the situation warranted us to close and we respected the decision to close licenced venues and places of gatherings. It was tough but the right thing to do.”


For Tom and Dan, they saw the impact of the restrictions as an opportunity to pivot their business in a way where they can utilise local produce, help those at home from the dreaded supermarket errands, and most importantly, keep their business afloat.


Their business pivot is better known as the Welder’s Dog ‘Bunker Box’.


The Bunker Box hosts a variety of ‘essential’ items for local residents in Armidale, Guyra, Inverell and Tamworth to have delivered to their front doors (contactless of course).


Within the box you will find local Peel Valley Milk, fresh sourdough bread from the Goldfish Bowl, other fresh bread or baked goods from Moxon’s Bakery or Baker Delight, a healthy selection of veg and fruit from Get Fresh Wholesale, fruit from local GreenHill orchards, local free-range eggs, a variety of meat from a rotation of suppliers including Dale’s Downtown Meat and Milly Hill, and even the option to include a bottle of local wine… oh and of course Welder’s Dog beer!


The Bunker Boxes are not only as delicious as they sound, but they have been a way for the business to continue making revenue and maintain their wonderful team of staff.


“Our biggest concerns were for our employees. We’ve worked so hard to create and maintain great teams and cultures in our small businesses and we didn’t want this to simply vanish overnight.”


The closure of their physical bar was seen as an opportunity for Tom and Dan to rethink not only their cash flow, but also other local businesses who have been impacted, “we have always had good relationships with local and regional producers through our attendance at festivals and being customers to them in our venues. The idea for the Bunker Box really manifested the day after we closed the venues.”


“We were toying with the idea of home deliveries for our beer, but we thought why not expand it to staple and local offerings and it soon turned into what we thought was a win-win-win.”


What is a ‘win-win-win’ situation you may ask?


Welder’s Dog were not only were able to redeploy their staff into the project, but were also able to support local business in the same situation, and provide customers with something they desperately wanted – local fresh food without going to, or reducing the need to go to the supermarket in all the madness. 


Although, there is a fourth win to the scenario, and one that is vital to most businesses – finding a sustainable revenue from their pivot.


“The contribution to business revenue had been great. Receiving payment upfront from customers is really beneficial and a nice change to chasing accounts. This has meant we’ve been able to pay our suppliers upon delivery which has been a real bonus to everyone in the supply chain.


Although the margins are very small in each box, essentially enough only to cover fuel and delivery/staff costs, it’s relatively sustainable at the moment.”


Tom and Dan have demonstrated the importance of resilience in business, “in the best of times, business continually throws curve balls. We think it’s important to always be flexible in our approach to business workings.”


“It’s so true now that nothing in the day to day operations of your business should be taken for granted. We see our business life as a giant chessboard and having the mental and physical flexibility to make different moves allows us to make quick changes to the way we do things.”


The event has given them an opportunity to reflect on their current business operations “our distribution model at the brewery, efficiencies in processes and even the realisation that efforts in areas or our businesses that are simply not needed.


These realisations are really positive for us. Being able to identify improvements and reset our business goals and direction is really uplifting and helps to shield us mentally from lots of doom and gloom out there.”


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