Creating a farm tour in a box, launching a new restaurant, building a coffee plantation farmstay and developing an entire virtual festival are some of the innovative ways Tweed businesses have responded to COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: Ryan Fowler.
Creating a farm tour in a box, launching a new restaurant, building a coffee plantation farmstay and developing an entire virtual festival are some of the innovative ways Tweed businesses have responded to COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: Ryan Fowler.

How businesses thought outside the box to survive COVID

CREATING a farm tour in a box, launching a new restaurant, building a coffee plantation farmstay and developing an entire virtual festival are some of the innovative ways Tweed businesses have responded to COVID-19 restrictions.

"We've tried to remain very positive and worked at coming up with interesting products," said Michael Simmons of Mount Warning Tours whose Farm Tour in a Box has been selling across the country.

When his business could no longer take customers on a culinary tour of the region they boxed together a selection of non-perishable goods and combined it with a 45-minute video.

"It's all the products we would normally visit," Mr Simmons said.

The video includes explanations of the products, demonstrations from local chefs and snippets from Tweed Shire Council showcasing the region.

"If you can't visit the Tweed you can experience it virtually," he said.

Launching the Taste Tweed Farm Tour in a Box,an innovative new virtual tour which incorporates farm visits and interviews of farmers and business owners plus actual products and produce to sample are Allan's Seafood and Asian Restaurant owneer Allan Singleton, Mount Warning Tours' Michael SImmons and video producer Ryan Fowler. Photo: SCOTT POWICK
Launching the Taste Tweed Farm Tour in a Box,an innovative new virtual tour which incorporates farm visits and interviews of farmers and business owners plus actual products and produce to sample are Allan's Seafood and Asian Restaurant owneer Allan Singleton, Mount Warning Tours' Michael SImmons and video producer Ryan Fowler. Photo: SCOTT POWICK

The Farm Tour in a Box has proved so popular Mount Warning Tours are expanding the range with a Northern Rivers Vegan Box and a bush tucker box called Wollumbin Dreaming Box.

"It's finding a way forward and that's what we've done," Mr Simmons said.

When the Taste Tweed Festival looked destined to be cancelled Jayne Henry searched for an alternate way to make it happen.

"I thought nobody's going to be doing anything," she said. "It's the perfect opportunity to create a series of virtual events."

She enlisted the help of photographer and videographer Ryan Fowler and them embarked on a series of zoom events.

They visited chefs, indigenous elders, brewers and distillers and went on a Blue Ginger picnic on a pontoon.

The wide range of virtual tours includes drive tours of the region, a talk on ocean turtles, fashion, culture and plenty of food.

There is even a wine tasting event that involves sampling a selection of Brown Brothers wines while watching a zoom event in the luxury of your home.

"There's quite an extensive series of zooms," Ms Henry said.

"The Tweed is an amazing place if you like the beach, if you like to dine or if you just want a tranquil place to go."

The Taste Tweed Food Festival will run from July 3-12 with Zoom events scheduled throughout the festival and available to book at tastetweed.com.au

The PLB Group was just about to launch its Mexican restaurant Lolita's Mexican Cantina when COVID-19 forced a shutdown of all eateries.

PLB general manager Mark Wilson said its range of restaurants, cafes and wedding event providers acted as a group and took a co-ordinated approach.

He said their main concern was a group of migrant workers who were not eligible for government benefits and were forced to remain in the country.

"We had to keep them employed."

The group launched PLB at home, working from just two of their businesses, Bombay Cricketers Club and Lolita's, and delivered Indian and Mexican meals and essential items to residents' homes.

Mr Wilson said their profits dived from about $200,000 a week to about $10,000 a week and without Jobkeeper they wouldn't have survived.

However restrictions have lifted and Lolita opened to customers about four weeks ago.

The new business is growing in popularity and with restrictions on guest numbers lifting Mr Wilson hopes it will soon achieve a busy, high-energy environment for which it was designed.

Zeta Grealy was also about to launch a new endeavour expanding on a successful coffee bean growing business when COVID-19 delayed her coffee plantation farm stay.

Ms Grealy had just completed Origin House at Wirui Estate to cater to tourists and industry training groups who can stay in two-bedroom house with views over the coffee plants.

Guests can take industry tours, learn about the process and techniques of coffee production and sample the delicious coffee.

While Origin House sat idle for a few months as restrictions lift the farm stay business has returned and Ms Grealy has booked her first visitors.

Articles contributed by Margie Maccoll are supported by the Judith Neilson Institute of Journalism and Ideas.



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