SSS@Home Hooks Guests On-line

Bringing in over 12,000 guests a year, Sydney Seafood School (SSS) inspires people from all over the globe to eat well together through their dynamic cooking classes. But even this mature 30-year-old couldn't avoid a quarter life crisis - COVID-19 hit it the same way it hit the hospitality industry. The business became a start-up overnight and this sparked the beginning of SSS@Home. Navigating through this crisis with a brand new product, Roberta Muir is leading her team diligently - the hardest she's worked in the last 10 years but she is also the most excited she's been.

Moving from King Island Dairy, Roberta landed her dream job 22 years ago. Led by her passion for food teamed with a fondness of writing and reading, Roberta loves writing about food, creating recipes and cooking and is now the author / co-author of five food books. Roberta also excels in creating order out of chaos, she likes creating structure and enjoys working with people, so to manage SSS, she is living her dream.

With the redevelopment of Sydney Fish Market underway, Roberta has been busy planning for the new SSS. In one moment she was planning for the future, but in the next, the future became all fogged up. The COVID-19 pandemic crippled the world and Roberta was faced with losing a dozen of her casual operational staff. It was a huge blow - face-to-face classes that have been delivered repeatedly for 30 years were no longer permitted. 

However, giving up was not an option. "If people can't come to us, we can go to them."

With their unwavering passion and enthusiasm, Roberta and her team found a way to keep fulfilling the SSS mission. They started videoing classes, packing up recipe kits full of ingredients, and shipping them out to people. Since the launch of SSS@Home, every week has grown way beyond their expectations.

The first trial was 9 weeks ago - Moroccan Tagine. The CEO of Sydney Fish Market, Greg Dyer suggested capping the trial at 100 to ensure quality, Roberta was happy to have 20. They had 85. The following classes had 200… then 250… and on Mother's Day, they had 610! 

The amazing feedback about SSS@Home was flooding in and the team realised that this project that they created out of desperation to save jobs was creating synergies like never before. SSS@Home enabled them to maintain connections with guests through this isolation and also support regular business partners, suppliers, and sponsorship partners.

"Please keep doing this after COVID-19." Guests can't get enough of the flexibility and the ease of the SSS@Home kits. The team releases them on Mondays and they are ready for distribution on Fridays - kits packed up with everything you need to create the perfect seafood experience at home. With a 7-10 minute video covering essentials, a detailed printed recipe kit and fresh ingredients plus pantry staples, they can be picked up directly from Sydney Fish Market or delivered within 15 km through tenants at SFM. Additionally, SSS has commenced a new partnership with Sydney Fresh Seafood, so now customers can collect kits from seafood counters at select Harris Farm stores. 

Advocates for SSS@Home include families with young or unwell children who require full time care. As getting a babysitter isn't exactly an easy task, these families can now create and enjoy beautiful seafood meals without leaving their homes.

The most memorable guest for Roberta is an 85 year-old lady who used to come to SSS classes. She doesn't come anymore because driving at night can be a challenge and most of her friends aren't motivated to go. But this lady loves learning new things, and trying new flavours. With these SSS@Home kits, she can keep learning about cooking in the comfort of her own home.

Over the course of Roberta's journey with SSS, she has witnessed the impact of SSS on people and the growth of cooking as a hobby. When reality shows like MasterChef started, cooking became a fun pastime for people who never thought about food as recreation. People realised how easy it is to cook fresh, fabulous food at home and there was increasing demand for guest chefs at SSS. Masterchef expanded the SSS audience demographics from 5% of the population to 15-20%. And now with Harris Farm / Sydney Fresh Seafood connections, SSS is expanding their scale - reaching people in Newcastle, Orange and Bowral.

The success and excitement with SSS@Home has been substantial, but it has also been the steepest learning curve for all. "No one would have anticipated that all the systems, processes and things we were once very fond of and relied on would become obsolete and many of us had to start again."

Roberta says the biggest challenge is being prepared to make a lot of mistakes. Learn every week - figure out what went wrong last week and what can we do better next week. She is grateful that the majority of her team have embraced the new wave and been energised by it.

Part of what Roberta's been able to achieve in the last 9 weeks has come about through the mentoring, the nurturing and the support - from her SSS team and from her "tribe", that is Syndicate 79 at The CEO Institute. Despite having only been with her tribe for 18 months, the learnings have been invaluable and the isolation has not weakened these connections. 

"It really is one of the best things I've ever done in my career." The only word Roberta used to describe her tribe was "inspiring" - incredibly supportive members who don't fail to put a smile on Roberta's face by ordering the SSS@Home kits.

"If there is any advice that is going to get people through a crisis, and through something that comes out of left field like COVID-19, it's the fact that you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable." A sound piece of advice Roberta received from her previous Chair, Daniel Davis, when she first joined The CEO Institute.

"It's not that you're not uncomfortable, it's not that you're not scared, it's not that you don't wish things were just back to the way they used to be. It's accepting that it's not going to feel great and move on with that. Adapt to the reality. If you can do that, then you're in the 5% that are going to lead the way."

Roberta Muir is as inspiring as her tribe and she will keep inspiring more people to eat well together.

Anyone interested in SSS@Home, jump onto their website and have a look.

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