By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Dandenong’s centre is like a “ghost town” but diners like SWAT75 are adapting to the coronavirus crackdown.
Like other restaurants and cafes, the eatery’s tables are closed under stage 1 and 2 restrictions but home delivery and takeaway remain live options.
Co-owner Ajay Kestwal – who topically used to chef on cruise ships – is cooking alone in the kitchen.
He is still offering the full lunch and dinner menu of slow-cooked ribs, steak, wings and burgers with Mexican, southern USA and Caribbean sauces.
For now, he’s keeping on a part-time helper to prepare take away coffees in the middle of the day. That modest role is being shared by SWAT75’s five staff.
“I’ve got all the ingredients already prepared. It’s better to keep the menu the same,” he says.
“And the suppliers are happy to continue to provide everything we need.
“We’ll do the best that we can do and play our part. Even if I make $200 a day from selling coffees, at least I’m not a burden.”
Mr Kestwal was unsurprised by the public health crackdown, given the lockdowns unfolding in numerous countries including China, the US, France, Spain and Italy.
“Why would a country do a lockdown and ruin the economy unless it’s very serious?”
Since Stage 1 restrictions came into force on 23 March, there hadn’t been a huge drop-off in customers, he says.
In recent weeks, customers had been reluctant to dine-in in any case. In the case of complete lockdown, he expects to maintain a home delivery service.
“It’s nearly like going through a ghost-town situation.
“I’m assuming that (takeaway and delivery) orders might increase a bit more.”
He keeps up with news from trusted sources, shies away from social media. As a mental health break, he’ll watch a movie with his kids at home at night.
His advice in the meantime is “follow the rules and be safe”.
For details on health advice and business restrictions, go to coronavirus.vic.gov.au