From pop-up bakeries to make-your-own banh mi kits, COVID-19 restrictions have led to a wave of innovation from Sydney bars and restaurants as they try to survive lockdown. A rising number of hospitality venues are launching drive-throughs that go beyond burgers and beer slabs.
At the Bella Vista Hotel in Sydney’s north-west, customers no longer need to leave the car to pick up their daily bread and afternoon cocktails.
“We sell a ridiculous amount of cocktails each week,” says the pub’s marketing manager, Emily Sedgman. “Last week we made a [Cadbury] Caramilk-inspired one. Tap beer is also super popular, with people missing their [draught] and filling up growlers.”
When lockdown was announced in June, Sedgman’s boss was most concerned about keeping staff employed and what the pub could do for the community. A contactless, COVID-safe drive-through that provided essential groceries, family meals and booze seemed like the best idea.
“Our chief executive, Marcello Colosimo, is full of ideas and wants to make the best out of a terrible situation,” Sedgman says.
The Bella Vista Hotel is part of the six-venue portfolio of Momento Hospitality. The group has combined elements from menus at its other pubs, such as The Governor Hotel in Macquarie Park, to create new specials each week for its Bella Vista drive-through.
Best-selling family meals have featured beef ribs, lasagne, garlic bread and sticky date pudding. Recent pop-ups from Gelato Messina and Boost Juice have also been a success with locals.
“Before the lockdown we were hoping to do a collaboration [with Messina] in our Italian restaurant, so we presented them with this opportunity and they were keen to get involved,” Sedgman says. “Their items sell like crazy and they’re introducing their fans to our venue.”
Meanwhile, in Brookvale, Bucketty’s Brewing Co has flipped its beer garden to function as a drive-through while coronavirus restrictions are in place.
“[On the day] we found out lockdown was happening, punters were out by 6pm and we had our first car in drive-through an hour later,” says Bucketty’s co-owner Nick McDonald.
With tap beers, takeaway cans and a taco truck on site, the only thing missing was live music, which McDonald was quick to fix.
“Friday and Saturdays we have a live musician,” he says. “There’s no singing because of COVID, but we have a pianist or someone on decks playing loops. People might only be here for five minutes, but we want them to enjoy themselves.”
Inner-west locals searching for a caffeine-fuelled drive-through can head to Black Market Coffee in Marrickville for skinny-lattes and piccolos. Owners Angus Nicol and Jess Hol will deliver specialty coffee and pastries to customers in their cars.
“We offer a chocolatey Honduras cold brew paired with our dulce de leche cake because the flavours go hand-in-hand,” Nicol says.
The barista also hopes Black Market’s $69 Father’s Day special will bring more drive-through customers in.
“Everyone’s dad tries to make coffee … but they aren’t always very good,” he says. “So the special includes a bag of beans and a barista course voucher for dads to make better coffee and latte art swans.”