Branxton Crib Box Cafe owner Nicole Gibson ready for latest challenge, with new services and staff on the menu

IN these challenging times, it's important to think outside the "box".

And, one Branxton business is doing just that to ensure it survives the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, currently gripping the nation.

The Crib Box Café hasn't just changed the way it operates, due to government restrictions, but owner Nicole Gibson's managed to employ additional staff, too.

In fact, the little eatery has hired 12 newcomers in the past couple of days, with a number of new services starting next week.

"We're not ready to flip the closed sign yet," she said.

"Following Prime Minister Scott Morrison's announcement on Sunday night, I put up a survey on our Facebook page, asking for suggestions from our customers and local community.

"To be honest, I was overwhelmed by the support.

"As a result, we're about to kick off night-time takeaway, as well as home deliveries.

"But, to meet that demand, I needed extra people.

"So, I asked for expressions of interest.

"Incredibly, I received more than 50 responses - and others are still contacting me.

"I then employed a dozen of them; all local, who had just lost their jobs due to the recent [government] changes."

From Monday, March 30, the Branxton Crib Box Café will unveil its updated takeaway menu, as well as walking deliveries within the township.

The usual daily trading period remains unchanged from 5am until 2pm.

Then, two days later, on Wednesday, April 1, delicious food will be ready for households throughout Branxton, Greta, Belford, North Rothbury, Huntlee, Kirkton and Elderslie at night, to coincide with the evening takeaway hours at the Maitland Street premises between 6pm and 9pm.

"This [concept] isn't just a way to keep the business running," Ms Gibson said.

"It also allowed me to create roles for residents in this region.

"That was important, too.

"Everyone I'd spoken to had lost their positions in the catering industry.

"We have absorbed four of the Royal Federal staff at Branxton, as well as employees from Hollydene (Jerrys Plains), Imperial (Singleton), Muse (Pokolbin), EXP/Fawk Foods, the Aussie Hotel and Crowne Plaza.

"So, we've turned something negative into a positive.

"And, it's a hugely experienced team, which I'm excited about.

"We're actually calling our night crew the 'Federal Express' in honour of the guys from the local hotel.

"All the produce for the home-style meals will be locally-sourced.

"We've also implemented a lot of health and hygiene measures to ensure this works, including creating a three-panel roster for the staff.

"If everything goes according to plan, the long-standing benefit from this arrangement is endless.

"So, I'd like to thank Castle Personnel, Newcastle Tech Guy, J & H Commercial and Bees Nees Early Learning Centre for their donations to help us.

"It really restores your faith in others when people - and businesses - come together at times like this."

For more information, visit the Branxton Crib Box Café's Facebook page.