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Quadrant Australia , an Armidale, NSW, travel business that organises agribusiness study tours and trade missions to rural and regional Australia, has been caught short more than once when overseas clients have expected to taste the best of Australian food and wine.
The culprit is weekend penalty rates, which can add 100 per cent to the hourly wage rate on Sunday and can make the difference between opening and closing for most small businesses in country centres.
Quadrant executive director Peter Lloyd says escalating wages for casual employees on weekends means that when Quadrant takes tour parties through regional towns and cities, many cafes and restaurants aren’t open, much to the bemusement of overseas visitors.
“When an international [tour party] comes to Australia, to them, whether it’s Saturday, Sunday or Monday makes no difference. If they want to have lunch or a cup of coffee they expect to be able to do so,” he says.
“We have some delightful coffee shops in Armidale but on Saturdays they close at noon and on Sundays they don’t open at all because penalty rates make it too expensive for them. It’s impacting on regional centres across the country.”
It may not create quite the same impression but one way around cafes and restaurants that choose not to open on weekends is to make arrangements with volunteer groups such as Red Cross and the Country Women’s Association to put on a country lunch or afternoon tea for visiting parties.