The Inside Word: Frank Van Haandel

Published on 30 June 2020

Photo: Frank Van Haandel (credit Carly Ravenhall)

If you’d like to see restaurants back to normal as soon as possible, this leading restaurateur has one recommendation for you. And it won’t cost you a cent.

If there’s one thing I can ask you to do right now to help restaurants get back on their feet, it’s this: download the COVIDSafe app.

It’s my belief that a greater number of downloads of the app will give greater confidence to government that they can quickly identify anyone exposed to the virus and get them tested. This in turn will speed the containment of the virus in Australia and bring us closer to getting everyone back on their feet.

Everyone’s feeling nervous out there, so something like the COVIDSafe app, which can bring us more comfort and confidence, is a very welcome thing. I’m confident that it works. As far as I’m concerned there’s no downside to downloading it. It’s the advice of all the chief medical officers, and Brett Sutton, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, has just said that the app will be increasingly important as restrictions are eased and people become more mobile.

Everyone is screaming for a bit of normality. No one has been unaffected by these last three months, so I think that if people were able to come and enjoy restaurants, bars and cafés again, they’d not only be helping those businesses and their staff, they’d also be helping the farmers, the growers, the fishmongers, the vineyards and so forth. It’s not just a selfish move on my part to get our restaurant going (although that is critically important); there’s a whole lot of people down the chain that you’re also supporting. Everyone’s forgotten the farmers, and everyone’s forgotten about the beekeepers and the oyster farmers that the restaurant industry was supporting during the drought and the bushfires.

I think hospitality workers and diners want to do everything they can to help restaurants get back safely to normal trade. I think they want to help everyone connected to hospitality. This is one very easy step you can take to make that happen. If you don’t have the app, you can download it right now, even before you finish reading this. If you’ve got it already, next time you’re talking to your friends or family, ask them if they’ve got it, and let them know why you think it’s a good thing to download. Start the conversation. If you’ve got any connection to the food trade at all, I urge you to champion this. You’d be crazy if you didn’t.

It’s all about consumer confidence, and I think the app will help people feel more at ease. Whether that’s for restaurants, for pubs and clubs, for travel or for theatres or sporting events, there’s a lot of people depending on this. Without commitment to change, there will be no festivals, no clubs and no travel.

It's time we took control of our own destiny. 

Frank Van Haandel is a veteran Melbourne restaurateur and co-owner, with his wife Sharon Van Haandel, of the Van Haandel Group of restaurants, which includes Stokehouse St Kilda, Stokebar, Fatto, Paper Fish, Pontoon, and, in Brisbane, Stokehouse Q.

For more information about the COVIDSafe app and to download it, visit the Department of Health website, or search for it by name on Google Play or the iOS App Store.