Adapting and surviving: Wharf Bar & Restaurant 

Head chef, Stefano Farese, and supervisors Akeyla Roberts and Charlotte Lee, taking a break in between service at the Wharf Bar & Restaurant in Ballina. Photo Tree Faerie.

Eve Jeffery

Situated in one of the most enviable places on the far north coast, Wharf Bar & Restaurant in Ballina was one of the businesses who changed the way they served food during the pandemic.

Even though they had to lay off about 80 per cent of their staff, they developed some new restaurant lines to do as takeaway.

Director of Wharf Bar and its sister Fishheads in Byron Bay, Ralph Mamone says the public were great. ‘They were, and still are, very understanding and supportive’, he says.

Ralph says the greatest challenge was to support and maintain as many staff members as they could afford to. ‘From a humanitarian point of view, no employer wants to get rid of its most important asset – its staff. 

‘The other huge and most important challenge was that we needed to ensure that our staff and customers were all safe from contracting the virus. We had staff that needed to work, but were also concerned about their wellbeing.

‘You also can’t afford to lose all your staff and the skills and knowledge of your business. The aim here was to ensure that we had core staff left for when it was time to open again, and we didn’t go broke in the process.’

Ralph says the good that came out of this period was that the environment got a break from society’s pollution. ‘This time gave us all an opportunity to spend more time with our families, and reflect on how we live, and what we value in our lives. I now Skype and see, as well as talk to, my elderly mother in Sydney.

‘From a business perspective, we reviewed our menus, our business models, systems and procedures, and the culture we are trying to develop within our business.’

Ralph says they are doing a few things differently post-pandemic with the focus at both venues being to make more restaurant food available for takeaway. ‘The whole menu is new – my favourite is the crab lasagne.

‘We do breakfast lunch or dinner seven days a week. You can come and enjoy one of the best views in town for a full meal or just a cup of coffee or a cold beer, wine or just a cocktail. We don’t dictate, we try and be hospitable at all times.’

Ralph says that it’s been a tough time for everyone. ‘The staff had a huge challenge adapting to the ever-changing rules and processes, and I am grateful to all of them for persisting and supporting both Wharf and Fishheads. 

‘To our amazing customers, thanks for your patience and understanding, and let’s hope we can all get back to the normal as it was pre-COVID-19.’

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