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Ivy Woo has been in the F&B industry for over 25 years. When she saw the havoc wrought by Covid-19 on her bread and butter, she was inspired to do something to help. Her online initiative, Tools for Tough Times, gives F&B operators the knowledge to weather these tough times.

SINGAPORE (June 12): When it was announced that restaurants would have to close their doors to dine-in customers due to the Covid-19 virus outbreak, it was no secret that the food and beverage industry was hard-hit. As sales dropped, many small-to-medium restaurateurs had little recourse; financial help was available but many did not know how to access it, nor did they know how to ride out the storm.

For Ivy Woo, director of Food News, an integrated marketing agency specialising in the F&B business, it was truly difficult to watch as many in the industry struggled to stay afloat. “When the pandemic happened, obviously our industry was one of the worst-hit. It was very difficult seeing a lot of our friends in the industry thrown into a limbo,” she says. “We really wanted to be able to help, and we were observing that there were a lot of smaller operators in the industry who were feeling the impact but did not necessarily know how to react.”

Many of these small operators wore many hats, meaning they were often chef, accountant, social media manager and owner at the same time. “When you’re thrown into a situation like that, you may not know what the right path is,” says Woo. “A lot of times, you are simply reacting to the day-to-day. So what we really wanted was to put together a resource platform, to share knowledge and some of the best practices from some of the more experienced or bigger operators.”

Thus, Tools for Tough Times was born. The initiative features a series of webinars on Facebook Live, hosted on Food News’ Facebook page. These webinars, which are available to the public to watch, are aimed at helping these operators — and anyone in the F&B industry — to weather the pandemic.

“We wanted to provide counsel and support through what we do best, by producing content and driving conversations,” says Woo. “To date, we have put together six episodes tackling different challenges that the industry is facing in this pandemic — from business crisis strategies, to digital transformation plans and mental wellness programmes.”

The speakers for the webinars were all experienced players in the F&B industry, and topics included how to prepare for the economic recovery and the actions or steps to take. “We even talked about mental wellness, as well as how to maintain the team’s mental wellness,” says Woo, adding that all topics were “very considered”, keeping in mind the potential challenges that F&B operators may face.

In addition, Food News organised the Singapore Cocktail Festival at Home, or [email protected] HOME. The physical festival, an annual affair that brings together all the best talent in the cocktail space, has been postponed to October, but it was imperative for Woo and her team that they found a way to help drive business for cocktail bars during these times.

So, they brought the festival to participants’ homes instead. “Since most of [the bars] are dependent on cocktail deliveries as a means of revenue during this time, the team decided to put together a campaign that would help further drive their sales,” she says. “So, we gathered the bars and had each of them create a cocktail inspired by the words ‘positivity’ and ‘unity’.

From there, tapping our expertise in driving campaign awareness through public relations, as well as SGCF’s reach across our social media platforms, we promoted the sale of these cocktails — and 100% of revenue goes directly to the participating bars.”

Woo feels it is important to do her part for the industry. “Our friends in the industry are going through a hard time, and we need to step up and do what we can to help,” she says. “I have been in this industry for over 25 years, it has given me everything I have: knowledge, experience and a network of long-time friends. So it is very important that we stand by the industry in such difficult times, and do what we can to help our friends emerge from this crisis.”

“We are stronger together. If we are lucky enough to be in the position to help, we should,” she adds