It's no secret that the hospitality industry has been hit hard with the impact of COVID-19, says Jos Whettingsteel.
It's an ongoing battle, knowing whether the decisions you've made, or are forced to make in light of new restrictions, are the right ones, according to the Brother of Mine cafe owner.
"Personally, the last two years have been hell,' Mr Whettingsteel said in relation to how managing the Baldivis small business had taken a personal toll.
Regardless, Mr Whettingsteel still called himself an "optimist" and said he believed that banding together to revive hospitality would hopefully see the industry out of the tunnel and into the light.
In February, Mr Whettingsteel posted the hashtag, #ReviveHospitality to Instagram in an attempt to generate support and noise around the struggles hospitality businesses were facing.
"Revive hospitality was to take a non-biased approach to everyone going,' you need to support your local businesses'.
"There are many things that our industry suffers that maybe people don't understand that separates us from others.
He went on to give the example of comparing his café to McDonalds.
"We use a product that is of a much higher quality, and to sustain that supply requires so much," he said.
"We want anyone who wants support or help to know we're here, regardless of whether we work with you or not."
Mandurah bakery Samudera was forced to close doors last week, with owners announcing in a Facebook post that current mandates meant they could not continue operating successfully.
"We are just a small family business and due to the massive impact that the current mandates have had and the unknown impacts of COVID in the community, we have made the difficult decision to close both our Mandurah and Perth stores for the time being," the Facebook post said.
Flics Kitchen in Mandurah announced on March 12 that they would be reducing their operating hours, closing doors on Mondays and Tuesdays, due to restrictions.
"We like so many other venues are having to change our trading hours due to staff shortages due to being close contacts," the Facebook post said.
Mr Whettingsteel said hearing about the closure and impact of these businesses, who are members of the tight knit hospitality community in the area, was "heartbreaking".
"It's disheartening, you feel so much empathy for them.
"You know how hard it is to run a business?
"I've been in the industry for 25 years, running a business is the hardest thing I've ever done, let alone with all the mandates," he said.
With so many changes happening in such a short time span, Mr Whettingsteel said it put an "unlivable hurdle" in the middle of running a small business.
What had hurt small hospitality businesses the most, he said, was community members not getting out to support local.
A lack of understanding in the community around what supporting local actually meant had also impacted small businesses, he said.
"It doesn't have to be going out, I'm a dad of three, I know what it's like when products are harder to buy, inflation, things are getting more expensive.
"Life in its normal sense may mean you can't go out as much.
I've been in the industry for 25 years, running a business is the hardest thing I've ever done...
Mr Whettingsteel suggested for community members wanting to support local but unable to physically attend a venue or afford something from a local supplier, that engaging on social media was just as important, and made a huge difference.
"You just need to like what they do, engage with their social media, because that helps them reach new customers.
"That's certainly something we've seen, the more active we are on socials, the more our audience and customers grow
Mr Whettingsteel said he had contacted local government to reduce or remove the vaccination mandate for entering hospitality businesses, as he said the moment this came into effect, he saw an immediate impact on sales.
Division within the industry around how businesses had interpreted the rules, and what changes the had made, such as turning to takeaway only or remaining open as usual, had also caused an impact.
"There's a separation in the industry, people are alienating businesses choosing to stay open and those doing take away only.
"Of course people have their own opinion, but we need to look deeper into why people are doing it.
"Even if people have chosen to do takeaway, it's because they are a business and are trying to survive.
"I want people to know we welcome and support any business with anything they do, we're trying to do what's best for us and encourage people to do the same too," he said.
Mr Whettingsteel planned to launch a #revivehospitality campaign later in the month, alongside resources for those looking to change jobs or find a new path.
"I came with a backpack and $2000 and now I run a company and have 40 odd employees.
"I'd do anything to protect it. I know a lot of people are unhappy and need that nudge to give them motivation to realise there are people in the industry who will look out for them," he said, referring to employees feeling stretched thin and underappreciated.
Business fatigue and stress have been major issues many local Mandurah businesses have faced, with many claiming the last year or so had been the hardest during their time in business.
If you or someone else you know is struggling, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, available 24/7 on phone, email or chat.
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