Just like the times we’re enduring this year in Australia, this brand is proof that in times of difficulty, you can come out on the other side if you adapt with the support of your fellow Aussies.
Susan Plath and Kevin Lamont own ‘The Chicken Shop’ a family run restaurant in the Alpine town of Bright. Back in January, they had to shut shop when they were told to evacuate as there were bushfires nearby at Mount Hotham threatening the town also.
The fire, deterring their customers and business away, forced them to think about what they could do to stop them from becoming bankrupt. Then came ‘Empty Esky’ a campaign on social media supporting small businesses directly affected by the fires.
A post shared by ‘Empty Esky’ asking their followers to purchase 100 bottles was exceeded within the hour.
Here’s their story…
Tell us where the Alpine Sauce Co’s story begins…
“Customers started asking if they could buy our BBQ sauce which was used in our restaurant. So, I went to a course and found out how I could start bottling it. The subject matter expert at the course, Dr Hazel MacTavish-West (owner of Seedlab Tasmania), offered to help me get our product to the market. I actually posted Hazel the very first bottle to say thanks - because if I hadn’t met her, The Alpine Sauce Co wouldn’t have started. We had only made 20 bottles to sell at the restaurant when bushfire evacuations happened, and it all went crazy soon after returning.”
Whose recipes are used for the sauces and how did they come about?
“My husband, Kevin, is from Canada and grew up exposed to the North American BBQ scene. These are all his creations based on his knowledge and experience from his home, and also what he thinks appeals to Australians.”
Social media has played a huge role in the success of your business, how did Empty the Esky effect this for you?
“Empty Esky started it all for us by asking their followers to buy a bottle of sauce from us. It was a huge success, and then the snowball effect of media interest came along with it. TV radio, newspapers, financial magazines, food magazines and celebrity endorsements. At one point, we received over 1000 orders in a 48-hour period. It was very overwhelming. The media interest is still happening now as we are now a story about resilience and success. Everyone loves a good news story and ours keeps on going.”
Community support and ‘mateship’ helped you and your family stay afloat, why do you think this is important?
Two days before Susan and Kevin were set to reopen their fire impacted restaurant, non-essential businesses including their own, were forced to shut down to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Mateship saved our business from bankruptcy,” Susan said. “Without Empty Esky, we wouldn’t have been able to put food on the table. It’s that simple.”
To date, with the help of Empty Esky, Aussies have purchased over 10,000 bottles of their sauces.
“It’s not only the financial assistance that people all around our country helped us with. The supportive messages really did help us a lot from a mental health perspective,” Susan said.
Do you think the pandemic will change the hospitality industry for good and how will this affect your restaurant?
“I think the hospitality industry is one of the most resilient and will make a strong comeback. Some changes which I think will remain for quite some time are contactless payment and social distancing.”
Are there any new projects or products on the way?
Susan and Kevin have a few top-secret projects set to come out before Christmas, however they’re quite tight lipped about it. “We also have a new project involving the restaurant which is equally exciting - we just need tourists to come back to Bright before we can start work.”
What would you like to say to other businesses doing it tough in today’s climate?
For what would be considered one of the toughest times in their lives, hope, support from friends, family and those who have supported their business are some of the things which have helped Kevin and Susan along with their young daughter.
“Sometimes the adventure of life gets a bit too wild, and isn’t much fun at all, but you have to remind yourself daily that it’s not forever. If you can roll with the hard stuff, you’ll come out the other side saying, ‘we got through it!’, and we really look forward to that day.”
Susan believes that simply being a good listener and checking in with those who might be struggling can make a world of difference. She says that even if you can’t relate to what someone is going through, something as simple as offering a listening ear, or asking someone if they’re okay, can help.
“I would also suggest being kind on social media. Businesses and families are doing it really tough and we’ve unfortunately experienced a bit of mocking recently for our restaurant not being open yet. It was really upsetting and humiliating to see it. If you’re tempted to give a business or person an unkind comment, think about how your action will impact the people behind that business. Be kind and be supportive, because we’re all in this together.”
Picnic Street is proud to be supporting small Aussie made and owned brands like Alpine Sauce Co.
You too can support them by purchasing their sauces we have on offer. Order it today and have it delivered straight to your door.