Facing Crisis with Creativity – meet Joe Exotic

During hard times like COVID-19, staying in the public eye is a crucial factor in helping your business to thrive. Confined indoors or at minimum to the local area, keeping locals happy is of prime importance, as is an online presence to spread the word a little further. How to gain attention? Well, that’s another story…

Enter Joe Exotic, infamous star of the Netflix documentary Tiger King. Not Joe in person, obviously, but Custard Canteen’s manager Dan, dressed up as Joe Exotic, serving customers.

It’s a creative move by the restaurant, whose owners Ursula and Ben Watts founded Paddock Bakery (since sold), then Bam Bam, Cubby Bakehouse, and Custard Canteen.

Ursula tells us about how their businesses have dealt with the COVID-19 crisis: “The health of our patrons and staff is our highest priority,” Ursula tells us. “Soon after the lockdown began, we set up a ‘drive through’ concept at our venues to allow safe social distancing. Now, about 80% of people are purchasing their Custard Canteen and Cubby treats via our drive through which opens each morning and evening.”

Things took a huge upward turn when the team decided to find humour in the face of adversity. In a stroke of genius, Joe Exotic, together with his dog Chook, his tiger-painted companion, greets diners who come to Custard Canteen’s drive through pickup station. The public response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

However, such fun-filled creativity should not be a surprise because it has always been the foundation of their restaurants’ appeal, with each dish a unique take on a world favourite.

Wildly popular since opening, their businesses felt the force of COVID-19 stress: “It’s been a tough time for everyone,” she says, “but we decided it was important to keep a positive attitude for our community and our staff,” she says, “a glass half full approach no matter what.”

“For us, it’s about serving our local community. We are continuing to trade to keep our staff members in jobs, our regulars caffeinated and to keep smiles on local kids’ faces with Joe Exotic as well as the sticker packs we gift them at the drive throughs,” she says adding that, as a mother of two herself, she understands the challenges faced by parents of kids during isolation.

For many, it’s a bright spot in their otherwise dismal ‘iso’ week, giving them a laugh, with Dan’s antics brightening their day.

“A lot of locals continue to support us and we’ve also had people travelling from all across the Gold Coast for the food and to see Joe Exotic and his antics in the flesh. Laughter helps us all as well, so that’s been a nice distraction.”

Custard Canteen, 1525 Gold Coast Hwy, Palm Beach

Open daily from 6am – 2.30pm & 4.30 – 7.30pm. Ph: 0474 008 562 to order ahead.

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