by Dominic Rolfe
What does the word hospitality mean to you and how has it changed since you started?
It means making customers our priority, looking after their every desire and taking care of them, making sure their expectations are not just met but wowing them. Treating all guests in a warm, friendly and generous manner.
I think the younger people in our industry don’t always see it this way. Sometimes it’s more about themselves and their egos rather than putting customer’s first.
Did you have a mentor?
We had a number of older restaurateurs who had been doing it for a long time as our mentors. We’re an Italian restaurant so it was a lot of the more senior members of the restaurant game such as Armando Percuoco and his wife. And we’re a husband and wife team as well so we looked to them as a way of doing things.
We used to spend a lot of time with them and they were great with advice. As you get going and the business matures you obviously make your own mind up about things but in the beginning they were really inspirational because you go in blind.
A lot of the young restaurateurs that we interview for the Appetite for Excellence program are so green and a bit naïve to the realities of running a business. It’s not all doom and gloom, we try and make it positive but it’s always good to have someone there that has done it before.
What was the goal when you opened and is it different now?
The goal was always to just continue to improve. We always wanted to be really successful at it, we didn’t want to do it just to pay the bills. We wanted to be an example for others in the industry and to create a place where people were proud to work.
That’s something that evolved. When you open it’s really about keeping your head above water. We’re at the stage where we want to give something back and really nurture a new generation. And to hand things on and create more opportunities for the next lot coming through.
Do you have a piece of advice for restaurateurs starting out? Did you have a piece of advice that you’ve carried through?
The previous generation always said: “Work really hard and don’t spend a lot of money.” They drum it into you that it’s going to be hard, it’s long hours but that it was really enjoyable and if you didn’t do it for that reason then it wasn’t worth doing.
In this economic climate, the best advice is to have a plan, having working capital is really important. Having a passion, having ideas and the creativity is great but you really need some money behind you! That’s the reality of it. And be prepared for things you never thought you’d have to pay for like Workers Compensation and strata fees – it’s more than the food and wages. That’s where people come unstuck.
Be a leader who is respectful, motivating and encouraging of staff – firm but fair, and you will get the most out of your team.