CASH-STRAPPED BUT CREATIVE
Like numerous other F&B companies, Il Lido had to let go of a number of employees and initiate pay cuts for those that remained. Borrowing money, something he’d never had to do before the pandemic, suddenly became a stark necessity.
De Vito joked, “I finally had to see what it looked like to borrow money from the banks. Which is not so bad, after all.”
To generate cash during the first few months of the pandemic, the company sold its multi-million-dollar stock of wine at cost. “We sold about S$800,000 worth, which could have generated another million, which means we lost a million right there. We practically gave it away because we had to monetise the stock at that time. So our friends got some fantastic wines at a steal!”
With events no longer viable, the Sky Lounge’s light-filled dining overlooking the Padang sat languishing. Transplanting Art to this gorgeous space was a no-brainer but it still left the company with an empty restaurant on the fifth floor.
“We couldn’t just wait and see what would happen, so we looked at our options and thought about what we could do that wouldn’t cannibalise our existing brands. We wanted something that’s a destination, so that the cheques could be higher,” he explained. “So we came up with the idea of good Italian steakhouse.”
And that’s how Gemma Steakhouse was born.
THE GEMMA INCIDENT