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COVID-19 STORIES: LOCKDOWN UNDER

How this Filipino couple saved their restaurant from closing down

Arvin and Rose Acosta held onto each other along with their family and close friends to get through the effects of the pandemic lockdown Source: Supplied

The husband-and-wife tandem Rose and Arvin Acosta concedes that 2020 was their greatest test, especially for their small business. Since the imposition of Covid-19 lockdowns in NSW, they were barely making ends meet.

When their restaurant's sales fell by almost 75% , they took strength from their own family to survive one of their greatest challenges yet.

“We really can't afford to pay the staff, that's why it was just us who would man the restaurant. We would be pleased if we had $200 sales a day. But sometimes, it would only be $98. There was even a day when we only had $57," Rose Acosta shares.


 

Highlights

  • Fears of closing down and never recovering are common for many small businesses amid the effects of the pandemic.
  • For small business owners, like Filipino couple Arvin and Rose Acosta, they cling on to their own family during these uncertain times.
  • Government assistance, such as the JobKeeper scheme has helped small businesses in some way.

 

Financial fears

From an average $25,000 a month, pre-pandemic, their sales went down to $10,000 a month during the strict lockdown in early 2020.

"There was even a time when we were only earning $7,000,” says Mrs Acosta who manages the restaurant.

“We were quite scared. We do not know what we will do. We closed the restaurant. And when restrictions eased, we opened, but with limited staff, says the lady boss.

A-Team's Kitchen
In December 2017 during A-Team's Kitchen first year in business where social distancing doesn't exist yet.

Our family, our strength

When their restaurant closed in March during the first outbreak of the pandemic, the couple wondered how they can recover.

“We worry about our payables. We have our business loans and personal bills to pay. We really struggled with that.”

When restrictions eased and take-aways were allowed, they decided to  reopen the restaurant. 

"Most of the time we have no customers, sometimes we would only get one customer" recalls Mrs Acosta.

When they resumed operations, manning the restaurant became a family affair. 

"We had a few deliveries and I would be the one delivering [food], then my mom would cook. Even Arvin did help when I needed assistance wiping the tables, washing the dishes," shares the missus.

A-Team's Kitchen
With only its core family living in Australia, A-Team's owner had to depend on themselves during the strict COVID lockdown in March 2020.
Arvin Acosta

New hope

The family tried to save all they can to keep their business afloat. 

"Whatever stocks we have, those are the only items we would sell. We also didn't restock so we can deplete our stocks,” narrates Mrs Acosta.

When they reopened, the Acosta couple brought their entire family to their restaurant.

"Because the schools were closed, we had to homeschool our children. We also brought them with us at the restaurant, given that there were no dine-in customers and only take-aways were allowed.”

"It seems like we had a day care. And at the same the same time, we also want people to know that the restaurant is open for business," says Mr Acosta, who at that time temporarily took leave of absence from his full-time real estate work.

Though it was difficult, the family overcame the challenge. "We just thought we were just at home, the children were with us," adds Mr Acosta.

 

homeschooling
During the total lockdown, schools were closed,, Arvin and Rose Acosta, set up a corner at their A-Team's Kitchen for their 3 young kids' home-schooling.
Supplied by Arvin Acosta

Extending help to others

When they got hold of the JobKeeper subsidy from the government, the couple also began letting their staff return to work.

"It was a huge help because at the time when we only had support from the government [Jobkeeper scheme]. Somehow orders gradually increased and I was able to retain one staff a day," Mrs Acosta shares happily.

“We took advantage of that so our staff could also earn and somehow help them, as well."

The couple remain optimistic. Soon enough, help from various friends and acquaintances also arrived.

"Our rental deferment also helped us get through our bills."

They were able to help their staff and other international students who lost their jobs.

"It started from a small donation of fruits and vegetables for the students until people found out about what we were doing. Some people came with bags of rice, soap, noodles."

“[Our business] has become a medium and point of contact. We advertise that there are bags of goodies for international students. It was a blessing, we did not realize that we had no income but God provided at that time,” an enthusiastic Mr Acosta.

"I was once an international student and it is especially difficult if your family is not here and you have no income, you only have $5 in your wallet, you will need to pay for tuition fees, you have rent to pay."

"At that time, we felt the essence of family and I think that’s what the pandemic did is to make us realise to go back to basics - faith, family and community."

A-Team's Kitchen
The Acosta's children helped out in packing relief good for students; one of A-Team's my staff, Rolina, was also very supportive during those difficult times.
Supplied by Arvin Acosta

Lessons from the pandemic

“During the pandemic we proved that it’s not all about money, it’s not all about what we can earn to feed the family.

"I think it's [about] spreading the word that we need to work together to overcome this [pandemic]."

For Arvin Acosta, there are really positive things that the pandemic had thought us setting aside all the negatives.

“We have our family, we may not be as blessed as the others who have their whole family here, but the good thing about that time is our family grew in terms of the people we have helped, we felt the presence of our friends."

For small business owners like them, Mr Acosta shares that "it's just a matter of keeping the faith and God will provide and at the same time, when in doubt, stop and revise your plan."

"There are so many, that we Filipinos, can do. We are very resilient when it comes to these kind of challenges, we can think of other ways of earning as long as it's the right way and it's God's way."

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