By Joyce DiMascio

Merivale, possibly Australia’s biggest operator of hospitality and business events venues is upbeat about 2021 and the recovery of the hospitality sector.

With a portfolio of 92 venues across Sydney, things are much brighter now that clients are back enjoying the style, experiences and beautiful spaces so typical of the Merivale brand.

Justin Hemmes, the empire’s owner and public face is upbeat, describing the reopening of hospitality venues as a “game-changer” and a huge step forward in the march towards recovery.

In a statement issued following the NSW government’s relaxation of operating restrictions last week, he said the changes would result in immediate and substantial increase in employment and an enormous boon for business viability, while still keeping customers and staff safe.

“I cannot congratulate the NSW government enough for its sensible, safe and nimble handling of the COVID crisis to date. Our state and our country are a stand-out in the world and all Australians should feel extremely proud for what we have achieved.”

Justin Hemmes stressed that the key to continuing progress was in rigorous adherence to QR code venue check-in and COVID-plan compliance.

“Venues are doing everything they can to open, re-employ staff and keep their customers safe, but it is up to all of us to do the right thing,” he said.

He paid tribute to the brilliant hospitality workers for their patience, hard work and unflagging optimism, and to the guests for continuing to support local restaurants and bars.

Tessa Bruce, who heads Merivale’s sales and events team, says forward bookings for business events in 2021 are strong. She says that client companies are now reviewing their policies and allowing events to be booked.

She says Christmas parties are going to extend into February as colleagues and clients play catch-up and celebrate the return to the workplace and face-to-face gatherings.

For the mega hospitality brand, which includes 16 business events-specific locations, the shut-down of venues in March had a major impact. But despite this, Tessa Bruce says 2020 has been “an inspiring year.”

The different phases of Covid restrictions challenged the staff to do things differently and come up with new ways to give clients access to Merivale’s experiences and many of these are expected to be legacy products and experiences.

“Covid gave us the opportunity to connect with clients when they want you, not just in venues. This has been a big plus,” Tessa said.

Merivale at Home has been a success and is expected to continue. It includes home delivery of restaurant food, beverages and produce boxes. In addition, the Merivale Gift Store was opened. This is expected to remain as a legacy following its popularity with Merivale devotees.

“If you can’t get into Totti’s, then you can now take it home. That’s been a great service and the take-up from most popular restaurants has been strong,” she said.

Tessa continued that the staff and company had proven that they can operate the venues safely.

“To be able to move into 2021 knowing that we can do it, provides a lot of certainly and confidence.”

That has to be a good thing. Bring on 2021.