Australia has a Europe fetish. Travellers return with tales of Old World debauchery (Cycling without helmets! Sunbaking topless! Staying up past midnight!) and every year plans are made to escape a Sydney or Melbourne winter for the Greek Islands; The Amalfi Coast; Capri.
Last year was different.
Rather than giving Australians a suntan, all Aussies have received from Mykonos and co. is a severe case of FOMO.
There is one upside to the pandemic though. As ‘hard’ social distancing measures give way to debates on how many feet our towels will be away from each other this summer at the beach, Australia is also – thanks to the work from home revolution – learning to embrace some of the ‘cultural’ habits we typically go to Europe to experience.
Australians have finally cottoned onto Europe’s oldest lunch trick, and all it took was a pandemic…
That habit? Eating lunch at a slower pace – a habit, broadly speaking, seen all over continental Europe.
Spaniards, for instance, have been eating late lunches ever since 1940, when the fascist general Franco put their clocks forward to match Germany’s.
The three-course lunch tradition has also been attributed to Franco, who in 1965 brought in a law requiring restaurants to provide a “hearty and affordable” lunch to workers.
Though he will always go down in history as a despised dictator, the tradition stuck.
The Sydney Morning Herald last year reported lazy lunching is now catching on in Australian suburbia.
“In the midst of the pandemic, suburban restaurants are booming,” (SMH).
Mosman fine-dining restaurant Ormeggio at The Spit was reportedly poised to open for all-day dining “to cope with the demand,” with co-owner Anna Pavoni telling The Sydney Morning Herald, “We’ve been at The Spit for 11 years and we’ve never had a winter like this.”
“We’re doing better than we were at this time last year, we’re finding our weekdays are almost as busy as our weekends because people are working from home and keen to come out to lunch or they’re able to make a six o’clock dinner because they’re not commuting,” Ms Pavoni told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Speaking as of February 2021, and after a summer of many such lunches, DMARGE can confirm we too have been well and truly corrupted by this delicious trend.
The Sydney Morning Herald also cites restaurant booking platformTheFork statistics which show Lunch reservations had jumped up to 41 per cent of all bookings (at the time they wrote the article) in Mosman, up from 31 per cent before the lockdown.
“In Curl Curl,” meanwhile, “lunch reservations have increased to 43 per cent of all bookings since April, up from 21 per cent at the beginning of the year, and in Katoomba, they make up 37 per cent of bookings, up from 27 per cent,” The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Adam Carr from Seven Miles Coffee Roasters in Manly Vale, a suburb in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, tells DMARGE customers are having more leisurely coffees too.
“One of the key trends we’ve seen at the roastery is the shift in volume from CBD to suburban cafes.”
Though Seven Miles Coffee Roasters has experienced “regrettable losses” during 2020, Mr Carr tells DMARGE “we’ve seen a remarkable recovery.”
“We have seen an increase in the overall number of coffees served in our café window, We are also seeing a trend towards people sitting down and enjoying their coffees more and more, which is great.”
As for whether the trend will be maintained into the future, Mr Carr says: “We do believe that suburban cafes [will] continue to do well.”
“We think that supporting a local community in this way is an incredibly healthy thing, and while we do hope that business returns to the CBD businesses soon, we hope that patronage in local areas continues!”
Associate professor in work and organisational studies at the University of Sydney Angela Knox told The Sydney Morning Herald this pattern could last for years after the pandemic.
“People working remotely are still taking their breaks and going to local restaurants and pubs instead of doing that in the inner city where they were working.”
Ms Pavoni told The Sydney Morning Herald lifestyle changes have also played a role.
“Because no one’s in the office, they’re able to come in at 4pm for a negroni and start their night, it helps us spread out the business to the floor and kitchen. Before COVID-19, people coming in before 6pm was impossible.”
“We’ve just made the decision we’re going to open for all-day dining on Friday and Saturday, as well as Sunday, so we’ll take bookings throughout the afternoon,” said Ms Pavoni.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, this comes in a slightly more downbeat broader context: “Overall, restaurant bookings in NSW are down 25 per cent since before the lockdown, while they are down about 50 per cent nationally.”
Food for thought.