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Restaurant Catering OCTOBER 2010 $6.95 GST incl.

Wisdom from Steve Blanco:

“Experience is knowing food doesn’t have to be cutting edge, but it has to be done well”

Fenix takes flight

PRINT POST APPROVED PP: 255003/07314 ISSN 1442-9942

Gary Mehigan on the fall of Fenix, and how (and why) he’s brought it back to life æA cut above: the business case for secondary cuts of meat, page 24 æOrganic vs local—what’s more sustainable? æBen Canaider’s Beer Manifesto æWhy you should have smarter security, page 29 æThe best online booking, page 8

Official Journal of Restaurant & Catering


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CONTENTS OCTOBER 2010 $6.95 GST incl.

In this issue ...

Upfront 4

8

From the Association: The new order in Canberra is making life difficult for everyone, including industry groups like ours

News and events: News from the I Love FOOD Awards; and more...

Wisdom 18

The tyranny of distance

22

What I’ve learnt

COVER PHOTOGRAPHY

STUART BRYCE

12COVER STORY Fenix rising

Gary Mehigan has spent the last few years contemplating the hard lessons from the past. With the doors of his prized restaurant now open again, he tells what he’s learnt from the fall and rise of Fenix

What’s better—organic produce with lots of food miles, or local produce that isn’t necessarily organic?

Adelaide’s premium caterer on caretaking public institutions, and competing with yourself

Stuff 24

Cuts above

27

New products

29

Smarter security

32

Top beer

34

Details

From brisket to pig cheek, using secondary cuts of meat not only caters for a new retro-cool dining crowd, it also makes perfect business sense

Our monthly round-up of the latest, cutting-edge stuff to tempt you to spend money

State-of-the-art security systems linked to your POS system saves you hours of trying to match footage with suspect transactions

18

22

24

29

Our drinking correspondent tells you all you need to know about beer (it’s delicious and should make you lots of money)

In Surry Hills, we find a perfect marriage between interior design and sophisticated cuisine

32

34 RESTAURANT & CATERING 3


FROM THE ASSOCIATION

War of independents Amidst the flood of legislation aimed at appeasing the independents, there’s little for business

T

he move back to governing has been a sudden jolt for the 43rd Parliament. All of a sudden, legislation is coming out of every corner of both the lower and upper houses. Each proposed new law is being given close scrutiny, particularly by the Independents at whom much of it is aimed. The laws seem to address issues that have been made as promises by both the government and opposition. All we can hope is that business does not get caught in the crossfire. Worse still, any hope of a return to a long term strong economy maybe pushed further into the future by initiatives aimed at wooing the Independents. The sad truth is that there has been very little coverage of any ‘business’ issues by the independents, despite at least two of their seats covering large city locations with plenty of enterprise. Restaurants, clubs and pubs are prolific in Tamworth, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, yet our issues seem to pale into obscurity compared to rural and regional tokenism. The reality is, even in these locations, much of the future is tourism and hospitality. The current Parliament is going to be a very difficult for us to negotiate. The forces in control are different to those we usually deal with. Lets hope that some good can come out of what appears to be all but unworkable. John Hart CEO, Restaurant & Catering

Restaurant & Catering’s mission: To lead and represent the Australian restaurant and catering industry. Restaurant & Catering Suite 17, 401 Pacific Highway, Artarmon NSW 2064 1300 RCAUST (722 878) Ph: (02) 9966 0055. Fax: 1300 722 396, Web: www.restaurantcater.asn.au Restaurant Guide: www.restaurant.org.au Caterers Guide: www.caterer.org.au Email: restncat@restaurantcater.asn.au President: Peter Doyle (NSW) Senior Vice President: Kevin Gulliver (QLD) Junior Vice President: Terry Soukoulis (SA) Treasurer: Brien Trippas (NSW) Chief Executive Officer: John Hart R&C is a federation of the following associations, working together on national issues on behalf of their members.

Restaurant & Catering ACT Ph: 1300 650 646. Fax: (02) 9211 3800 Email: rcnsw@rcnsw.asn.au President: Fiona Wright Restaurant & Catering SA Ph: (08) 8351 7837. Fax: (08) 8351 7839 Email: rcsa@restaurantcater.asn.au President: Terry Soukoulis Chief Executive Officer: Sally Neville Restaurant & Catering Tas Ph: (03) 6224 7033. Fax: (03) 6224 7988 Email: rctas@restaurantcater.asn.au President: Phil Capon General Manager: Steve Old

Restaurant & Catering NSW Ph: (02) 9211 3500. Fax: (02) 9211 3800 Email: rcnsw@rcnsw.asn.au President: Ian Martin

Restaurant & Catering Vic Ph: (03) 9654 5866. Fax: (03) 9654 5286 Email: rcav@restaurantcatervic.asn.au President: Matteo Pignatelli

Restaurant & Catering QLD Ph: (07) 3360 8888. Fax: (07) 3252 7554 Email: info@rcq.org.au President: Peter Summers

Restaurant & Catering WA Ph: (08) 9328 7266. Fax: (08) 9328 7366 Email: rcwa@restaurantcater.asn.au President: Paul Buckman

Restaurant & Catering magazine is published under licence on behalf of Restaurant & Catering by Engage Custom Media, Suite 4.08, The Cooperage, 56 Bowman Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009 www.engagemedia.com.au Editorial Director: Rob Johnson Creative Director: Tim Donnellan Sub-editor: Lucy Robertson Contributors: Sharon Aris, Nicole Azzopardi, John Burfitt, Ben Canaider, Kellie Morle, Kerryn Ramsey, Danielle Veldre Commercial Director: Mark Brown Sales Director: Steve Flatley Direct: (02) 9660 6995 ext 502 Fax: (02) 9518 5600 Mobile: 0422 208 566 Email: steve@engagemedia.com.au For all editorial, subscription and advertising enquiries, ph: 1300 722 878 Print Post approved PP: 2255003/06505, ISSN 1442-9942 ©2010 Engage Custom Media. Views expressed in Restaurant & Catering magazine are not necessarily those of Restaurant & Catering or that of the publisher, editor or Engage Custom Media.

PHOTOGRAPHY: NORTH SULLIVAN

Restaurant & Catering

7,421 - CAB Audited as at September 30, 2009 4 RESTAURANT & CATERING


Growing pains Statistics shows people are dining out more often than ever—if only profitability would keep pace!

T

he recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)-reported turnover figures showed that the restaurant, café and catering industry is in great shape—at least as far as turnover is concerned. The August result was turnover of $1,587 million, which was 19.3 per cent up on August 2009. This is an astounding result. In comparison the ‘all of retail’ result was a 0.5 per cent increase in trade, seasonally adjusted. This shows that consumers are eating out more than ever. Association estimates are that Australian consumers are now eating out between 2.3 and 2.5 times a week which is an extra dining occasion each week against seven years ago. The increase appears to be due to the aging population. Older demographic groups eat out in restaurants more often, so as the population ages, restaurant patronage increases. The mean age of the population is set to increase for another five years, so the underlying growth should continue until 2015 at least. If only levels of profitability were rising at the same rate. R&C estimates are that net profit for the average restaurant is now around 2.8 per cent. Whilst revenues will continue to grow through to 2015, wage costs will too! Unless something changes, we will have an industry in the future that consumers demand and operators view as all too hard. Peter Doyle President, Restaurant & Catering

Diamond Associate Member: HOSTPLUS

Platinum Associate Members: American Express International • Fosters Group • Westpac Banking Corporation

Gold Associate Members: Diners Club International • Fine Wine Partners • Goodman Fielder Food Services • Lion Nathan • Meat & Livestock Australia

Foundation Associate Members, and Associate Members: ALSCO • AON • APRA • Bartercard • Crown Commercial • H&L Australia • Luigi Bormioli

RESTAURANT & CATERING 5


News &events

Australians love Mexicans

This year’s winner of the I Love Food Awards comes from south of the border

X

YZnetworks’ LifeStyle FOOD Channel has announced the results of the I Love FOOD Awards 2010. According to XYZ’s general manager Nicole Sheffield, with well over 100,000 votes received, it was an overwhelming response. “The I Love FOOD Awards is such an exciting initiative for our channel,” she said. “Australians love to eat out and this is truly reflected in this year’s results. We received a phenomenal number of votes for our third awards as well as gaining some fascinating insights into where and how Australians are eating out.” “There is an amazing national flavour to this year’s results. From well-known, award-winning restaurants through to tried and true local favourites, we couldn’t be happier with the results and congratulate all of this year’s winners.” The overall national I Love FOOD Awards 2010 favourite place to eat out is Taco Bill in South Melbourne. “Winning the award is a huge honour. We are extremely happy because this accolade shows us that our Australian customers appreciate our fun, fresh and affordable Mexican cuisine and the passion we demonstrate in our restaurant on a daily basis,” said its directors. Australia’s favourite places to eat out this year are a great mix of estab-

8 RESTAURANT & CATERING

lished and award-winning restaurants, along with some undiscovered gems. Representing the length and breadth of the country, there are some amazing stories in this year’s awards: from Jus Burgers in Leederville, which source local produce and has a ‘no freezer allowed’ policy for serving up the freshest gourmet burgers; to the highly sought-after coffee award picked up by Villino Espresso in Hobart which sources, roasts and blends their own beans; and O�Sushi in Byron Bay which toppled last year’s winner by taking out Australia’s Favourite Japanese. This year LifeStyle FOOD

Taco Bill directors Stan Teschke, right and Tom Kartell.

Channel, along with Restaurant & Catering is also pleased to announce an exciting joint partnership, the I Love FOOD Dinner Series. Winning restaurants are invited to take part by hosting a unique

dining experience at their establishment in October or November. Viewers are then invited to book a seat at these exclusive dinners. The I Love FOOD Dinner Series will be promoted on and off�air by LifeStyle FOOD. ô

Book a restaurant

Website bookarestaurant.com has announced a partnership with Restaurant & Catering (R&C). For the first time in Australia, the dining public will be able to search online by time, cuisine or suburb location for available tables via bookarestaurant. com, and then book directly through the site. Bookings are free and instantly confirmed. CEO of Restaurant & Catering Association John Hart said: “bookarestaurant.com is an exciting initiative for the restaurant industry in Australia. One of our aims as an Association is to help our members improve their bottom line, and this userfriendly site will assist restaurateurs to achieve additional yield in their businesses.” General manager of bookarestaurant.com, Adam Clarke, is thrilled to be partnering with R&C in the lead up to the launch: “We believe the partnership with R&C is another step to positioning us as the leader in the field of online, real-time, restaurant bookings in Australia.” “We look forward to working together to

bookarestaurant.com is partnering up

increase the profitability and vitality of the restaurant industry in Australia,” said Mr Clarke. The website will also play an instrumental role in providing online restaurant bookings for R&C’s members through their consumer website ‘Savour Australia™. Developed in Australia by Analytical Systems, bookarestaurant.com has more than 2000 restaurants listed, ranging from fine-dining establishments, to the more casual restaurants. ô


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News &events Healthy economy One-in-four Australians are ordering healthier meals when dining out compared to 12 months ago, with one-in-five claiming an increase in their salad consumption, signaling a renewed focus among Australian diners to balance their waistline with their love of food, according to the latest American Express Dining Insights report. The report found significant increases in the appetite for healthy options and a marked decline in diners ordering gourmet meals (40 per cent), desserts (39 per cent) and fast food (37 per cent).

Healthy and popular.

Also, Western Australians aged fifty years and older are twice as likely to have increased their consumption of healthy meals (35 per cent increase over the past 12 months) than Victorians (17 per cent). John Hart, CEO of Restaurant & Catering, said, “Australians continue to see eating out as part

of the Australian way of life, and healthy eating is now mainstream with nearly all restaurants promote healthy eating options. More than ever, we are better educated about what we are eating and the area of demand is great tasting food that is good for you.” ô

Savour excellence Spend an evening savouring excellence in our industry at the 2010 National Savour Australia™ Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence. The National Awards is our industry’s night of nights—a chance to find out who the best

of the best is, as well as a chance to celebrate everything great about the restaurant, café and catering industry. This year’s awards are being held at Atlantic [V] Peninsula in Melbourne’s Docklands. Peninsula is Melbourne’s most glamorous and avant-garde waterfront event space. Its design was inspired by London’s iconic Tate Modern Museum and features nine-metre high ceilings, exposed trusses and huge floor-toceiling windows. To book your tickets go online to www.restaurantcater.asn.au, or call 1300 722 878. ô

the

private

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Your ingredients are fresh. Your business insights should be the same.

There is one essential ingredient in any business: up-to-date information. As a member of The Private Room, you can dip into reports prepared especially for owners and managers of restaurants and cafés. Customer Insights are prepared specifically for your business – revealing spending trends and profiles of the people who you’re attracting. Industry Insights show the latest industry trends and what customers are saying about their dining experiences.

To access this information and other exclusive benefits become a member of The Private Room today. Visit www.amexprivateroom.com.au/rca American Express Australia Limited (ABN 92 108 952 085) ® Registered Trademark of American Express Company.

10 RESTAURANT & CATERING

AMXGMS0008/FRESH


What’s on

October—November 2010

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15

Oct

It ain’t Munich but Oktoberfest Brisbane on October 15-17 offers reserved Bavarian VIP tables. Visit www.oktoberfestbrisbane.com.au

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A range of dinner, concert and accommodation packages are on offer at Balgownie Estate for its Opera In the Vineyards—A Mozart Gala. Visit www.operainthevineyards.com.au

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26 31

Avoid irritable customers by learning the facts at the Irresistible Gluten Free Show in Sydney on October 30-31. Visit www. glutenfreefoodshow.com.au

Winners are announced at the biennial Australian Food Media Awards presentation. Visit www. foodprofessionals.org.au

1

5

6

CALENDAR COMPILED BY KERRYN RAMSEY

9

A bit of MasterChef comes to the Brisbane Good Food & Wine Show where George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan appear at the the celebrity theatre. Visit www. goodfoodshow.com.au

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Another crack in the glass ceiling! The Telstra Business Women’s Awards gala dinner celebrates inspiring women in the business sector. Visit www.telstrabusinesswomensawards.com

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3

Twelve lucky scholars of The Len Evans Tutorial in the Hunter Valley, NSW, are exploring the great wines of the world. Visit www. lenevanstutorial.com.au

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Following the Australian Small Winemakers Show awards night on October 20, a public tasting occurs at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism in Stanthorpe. Visit www.asws.com.au

Complete this delectable European tour by visiting the Salon du Chocolate in Paris on October 28-November 1. Visit www.chocolateshow.com

8

Maitland hosts the Bitter & Twisted International Boutique Beer Festival (www.bitterandtwisted. com.au) while Canberra goes for Wine, Roses & All That Jazz (www. canberrawines.com.au)

At Young Winemaker Of The Year in Sydney, winners from the previous decade will be there to celebrate excellence in winemaking. Visit www.youngwinemaker.com.au

Queenslanders, take your culinary products to the world! Export Week on October 18-22 provides professional tips. Held at various venues; visit www.export.qld.gov. au/export-week.html

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It doesn’t matter if they’re winners or losers, everyone needs a glass of champagne and taste platters on Melbourne Cup day.

Get your toes tappin’ at the Mildura Jazz, Food and Wine Festival with the most delectable band, Hot Food Jazz. On October 29-November 1. Vist www. artsmildura.com.au

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The 2010 Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence are at the Peninsula in Melbourne’s Dockland. RSVP to 1300 722 878 or membership@ restaurantcater.asn.au

Where else would you go for an espresso trade show but Italy? Triest Espresso Fair heats up from October 28-30. Visit www.triestespresso.it

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Nov

‘Consume’ is the theme of The South Australian Premier’s Food Industry Awards; support this theme at tonight’s presentation dinner in Adelaide. Visit www.safoodawards.com.au

Melbourne hosts the International Seafood & Health Conference where human health and nutrition is the main meal on the menu. On November 8-10; visit www. ausfoodnews.com.au

Orange Wine Week in Central NSW boasts more than 100 quirky and quaffable events. Visit www.tasteorange.com.au

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Find out how to maximise your bottom line at Talk Business, a highlight at restaurant * Sydney. Visit sydney.restaurantevents. com.au

At the first Royal Melbourne Wine Show in 1884, there were 13 entries; in 2010, over 3500 entries are expected. Exhibitors’ tasting takes place today. Visit www. wineshow.com.au

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Following the Australian Small Winemakers Show awards night on October 20, a public tasting occurs at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism in Stanthorpe. Visit www.asws.com.au

Soft, hard, sharp or blueveined—Adelaide’s Cheesefest boasts plenty of gastronomic delights and nifty cooking classes. Visit www.cheesefest.com.au

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‘Go Green’ is the eco-theme for International Chefs Day, encouraging industry members to help the environment and reduce their bottom line. Visit www.worldchefs.org

Keep up with all the latest news at the month-long Crave Sydney International Food Festival by clicking on Facebook (www. facebook.com/heraldlifestyle) or Twitter (twitter.com/joannasavill).

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Dairy is New Zealand’s biggest export so it’s fitting that the World Dairy Summit occurs in Auckland on November 8-11. Visit www.wds2010.com

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The Wrest Point Royal Hobart International Wine Show on November 13-19 only accepts entries from wine that’s already bottled. Visit www.hobartshowground. com.au

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With 41 cookbook categories listed, the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards are huge. Today is the deadline for entries. Visit www.cookbookfair.com

RESTAURANT & CATERING 11


Cover story

Fenix rising Even as MasterChef made him a celebrity, Gary Mehigan has spent the recent years contemplating the hard lessons from the past. With his restaurant Fenix now open again, he shares the tale of bringing it back to life WORDS: JOHN BURFITT

PHOTOGRAPH: STUART BRYCE

t is something of an understatement to say that Gary 13 in the kitchen,” Mehigan says. “It was Mehigan has had a busy few years. As TV’s MasterChef the night I remember thinking, ‘We have juggernaut rolled out over the past two years, Mehigan this completely wrong’. It was an imposhas become one of the best-known chefs in the land. sible scenario to work with. That experience has seen him take a front row seat “That was the moment; we had all these highly-trained chefs and staff just sitting on the success roller coaster, including two ratingsbusting seasons of MasterChef. It is also a journey that as we served an equal number of customers. You can get it wrong, but this was so appears a long way from winding down. In conversation with Mehigan, he regularly calls totally wrong in every way.” himself a lucky man. There have been, he The other turning point was says, far too many highlights in the a day when some cyclists stopped by Fenix and orrecent years to mention. “That was the But there is one particular day dered a coffee to go, only moment; we had 13 only three years ago that Mehito be told by staff the highly-trained chefs gan has been spending a lot of establishment did not and staff just sitting time thinking about lately. serve takeaway coffee. as we served 13 It was the day in December “That is contrary to customers. You can 2007 that he and business parteverything I believe and get it wrong, but this ner Steve Bogdani closed their Melbourne restaurant, Fenix. how I have trained my was so totally wrong staff, but somehow, that Fenix the restaurant closed to become Fenix the full-time in every way.” function centre, and rode out the worst of the GFC by hosting happened,” he recalls. Gary Mehigan “That is just not me. At that weddings and corporate events. It was only a few months ago on July 12 that Fenix the restaupoint, I said I wanted to stop and rant did, as its mythical (but misspelt) name promises, rise from the needed some breathing space to ashes to open its doors once more. work out the best way to get it back Rather than turn their backs on the pain of the past, Mehigan and Bogdani have on track. Basically, we then turned it over instead been focusing intensely on that period in 2007, looking for answers to to functions, where for every dollar we where they had gone wrong. were making in functions we were losing And from those answers, they were determined not to make the same mistakes an equal dollar in the restaurant. “And the day we closed the restaurant, as Fenix came to life again. “Our worst night was one dinner when we had 13 people in the restaurant and we began making money again.” 12 RESTAURANT & CATERING


COVER STORY

“At that point, I said I wanted to stop and needed some breathing space to work out the best way to get it back on track.” Gary Mehigan


Cover story

feel like putting up my hand and saying, ‘Yes, yes, I am like that too!’” he laughs. “Being on the show opened my mind to all sorts of different foods and styles, and it has re-inspired my love for all sorts of food. As chefs, we can get caught up in the technique and production, and yet we are not thinking so much from our hearts about what is really the best dish.” Currently in the midst of production for Junior MasterChef, Mehigan admits he has taken pictures of some of the young contestant’s best efforts and sent them through to his team at Fenix with the comment, ‘Look at this—it is from an 11-year-old!’ Almost like a proud father, he exclaims: “The talent we are seeing is absolutely stunning. When you stand by and watch other people’s burning desire in After a series of warning signs, Fenix closed as a restaurant in 2008. food, it can not help but rub off.” Somehow, in the midst of the relentless filming schedules, the operations of the Mehigan and Bogdani had designed a business plan for Fenix when they opened the business in 2000. That plan had served them well for years, but in 2007, they Maribyrnong Boathouse and the functions at Fenix, the idea to reopen the restaurant changed direction. One change was the style of food, in the hope to appeal to a higher-end market. side of Fenix came up for consideration with Bogdani. The other was to seek industry recognition. When the prospect was finally raised, The move backfired on both fronts within a matter of months. “We had been a One Chef ’s Hat restaurant for many years and that worked well,” Mehigan says. Mehigan admitted that it was something he had been desperate to do for a long “Then we made the effort to drive the food quality upwards, but what I think we did was lose the essence of the business we started out with. The market that was time—for both emotional and practical there was different to the market we were pitching to. reasons. “In the time since we had closed the restaurant, every time I walked into “We went from being a profitable and diverse restaurantcafé into a limited fine-dining environment which was that building, even though it was very restricted. Going from being constantly busy to being successful with functions, it was selectively busy was a difficult lesson to learn. missing its heart,” he says. “We went from “But it was also the opporbeing a profitable tunity cost. For every square e were also pushing to and diverse get two Hats, and in metre we were paying rent on, restaurant-café into and every minute it was sitting hindsight, it turned out a limited fine dining to be the worst posthere vacant, was costing us environment which sible motivation. We money in lost opportunity. That was restricted.” had created a monster and then fell out of love with it. was when we realised it was very Gary Mehigan As a chef, that is the worst thing that can happen.” stupid not to be using it.” After closing the doors of the restaurant, attention Once a new business plan was in place and the team, including executive turned to positioning Fenix as a competitive function chef Tracy Robertson was assembled, centre. Mehigan’s other businesses, the Maribyrnong Boathouse, also came in for closer scrutiny. the doors opened. The result, Mehigan admits proudly, has been robust days at Just over 12 months later in early 2009, Mehigan was chosen as one of the three industry experts to guide contestants through the debut season of MasterChef. He Fenix ever since. has also appeared on the LifeStyle Channel’s Boy’s Weekend and Good Chef Bad “We did 152 for dinner the other Saturday, and while I still want the lunches to Chef. It seems the experience of working with the passion of eager and talented amateurs chefs as they were put through their cooking paces was just the tonic that pick up, we are doing well,” he says. Mehigan needed after the failure of Fenix. It also reminded him of his early days “But there was a mountain of challenges to overcome, and lessons to be learnt from working as a young chef in London at such establishments as The Connaught and Le Soufflé before moving to Melbourne in 1991. the last time. My mantra is this restaurant Any fear that he had lost the passion he once had for his craft was dispelled as he has to be a true reflection of me and the witnessed the talents of the rookie chefs he was mentoring on the show. staff, and what I believe in. It has to be “Talking to the amateurs, the people who just love what they do, just made me given with honesty and generosity.

“W

14 RESTAURANT & CATERING


Professional POS for a Master Chef

When Gary and I sat down to discuss selecting the new POS system for our flagship venue, Fenix... we wanted to be entirely confident in our decision especially after making some mistakes in the past.

OrderMate provided the perfect solution; they constantly demonstrated to all departments within our management team the ease in which information and reporting can be obtained for both front & back of house.

OrderMate have been nothing but professional. We will without a doubt install their systems in all new venues. Restaurateurs looking for an uncomplicated yet sophisticated till and software package made right here in Australia, look no further!

Gary Mehigan’s General Manager PAUL ROMANELLA Fenix Restaurant & Events The Maribyrnong Boathouse

For the experts you can turn to and trust Call 1300 667 067 www.OrderMate.com.au


Cover story

good and bad, and use that as the benchmarks to drive the business forward. “And that does not mean going with every whim, but it is a case of having your ears open and listening to exactly what is going on. I want to know what the customer is saying and, importantly, if they had a good time, I want to know what could be even better.”

The new Fenix must be a true reflection of Mehigan and the staff, rather than chasing chef ’s Hats.

“I can not afford to have any mean-spiritedness in anyway. I can not afford to have people saying, ‘oh, prams and babies again!’ There is no room for that.” Paying closer attention to the customer experience and their subsequent feedback is also high on the new agenda. Mehigan calls customers’ whims and wants the ‘benchmarks’ he now operates by. As he watched in despair as Fenix’s customer numbers drained away three years ago, he states, again, this has been a lesson hard learned. “I have to listen to customers, and take on everything

A

nother mantra Mehigan has adopted for the reopening seems to be, ‘expect the best but prepare for the worst.’ It was something he admits took him by surprise in the first incarnation of Fenix. And he has no desire to repeat the mistake. “A lot of people underestimate the worse-case scenario and don’t plan for that—and I am as guilty of that as anybody. You might think 10 covers at a lunch is as bad as it gets, but the real answer is having no diners at all. “When setting up, you really have to visualise it packed—and nothing but. You then have to ensure every area of your business is working towards making that happen. “That is my goal now—Fenix has to be full to have a life, and not just for atmosphere as a restaurant but also for the bottom line of surviving as a business.” ô

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21/5/08 1:34:19 PM


Management

The tyranny of distance WORDS SARAH PICKETTE

PHOTOGRAPHY: NORTH SULLIVAN

What’s better—organic produce with lots of food miles, or local produce that isn’t necessarily organic? he road to running your restaurant in an environmentally mindful manner is not always an easy one to travel. Set off on that journey and, before you know it, you’ll reach a significant fork in the road: should you use organic produce, and turn a blind eye to the food miles it sometimes comes with, or should you limit your food miles by featuring local produce on the menu— even though not all of it will be organic? “It really is a minefield,” says Mark Jensen, chef at Sydney’s Red Lantern. “I think you just have to choose what’s right for you.” In Jensen’s case, he and his brother-in-law and fellow chef Luke Nguyen decided that, while they would source what they could locally, they’d concentrate on using organically produced and ethically sound ingredients in their awardwinning Vietnamese dishes. “I buy organic for the restaurant and part of the reason I do is because I think that suppliers who are using initiative and producing things organically need to be rewarded,” he says. Jensen’s argument is that, yes, organic produce can sometimes travel to Sydney from Darwin or Far North Queensland, but it’s not coming from the other side of the world and 18 RESTAURANT & CATERING

racking up actual air miles. “When you’re talking food miles, you’re generally talking truck miles,” says Jensen. “Sure, diesel is dirty, but to me the fact that we’re supporting someone who’s caring for the land and farming sustainably, without using chemicals, far outweighs the food miles that are incorporated in transporting it to us.” Not everyone takes this view. Chris March is co-owner of The Locavore, a restaurant and wine bar in the Adelaide Hills, and as the name of his business suggests, he’s passionate about serving local produce. Adhering to the principles of the 100-Mile Diet (which originated in California and involves sourcing as much food as possible from within a 160km radius), he believes that buying locally is better for the environment than sticking strictly to organics. “We avoid millions of food miles every year; that’s a lot of greenhouse gases that are not being created on our behalf,” he says. “And we’re fortunate that, even if they’re not certified as organic, a lot of our local suppliers are growing their produce in a very sustainable way.” Since it opened in 2007, The Locavore has developed a business model that appears to work well on both an environmental and a practical level. March and his business partner Nathan Crudden have spent the past few years traversing the region, building a strong relationship with their suppliers. Seeking out local businesses that keep The Locavore stocked


Red Lantern’s Mark Jensen believes, “Supporting someone who’s farming sustainably far outweighs the food miles incporated in transportation”.

with everything from beer and whisky to cheese and venison can’t’. The attitude was ‘well, I’m your customer and that’s sausages has taken time and effort. what I want’. Now, though, there’s a far greater understanding, mainly through the media, about food miles and carbon Today, March has about 250 registered suppliers on his books—“The accounts department hate me!” he emissions, and their impact on the environment.” quips—and it’s not unusual for the restaurant It can still be hard to compete with “the pub down the road that serves up Taiwanese squid for a few bucks”, to go through a cheque book in a week. “We’ve had to do a lot of footwork says March, but persistence and focus does even“The fact that we’re tually pay off. “Our commitment to using local to get everything set up, but we’ve supporting someone essentially cut out the middle man. produce has become our strength because who’s caring for Most of our suppliers sell to us we’ve stuck to our guns.” the land and direct. We pay them a good price, Likewise, if you choose to put organic food farming sustainably on the menu, you need to be consistent in we’re getting amazing produce and outweighs the the money stays in the region.” the way you do so, says Melbourne chef Rob food miles that are It could be argued that part of Barbey. A pioneering restaurateur, Barbey incorporated in opened BCOZ, one of Australia’s first all-orthe secret to The Locavore’s success transporting it” ganic restaurants, back in 2004. And while it has lies in its location. Being based in the Mark Jensen, Red Lantern, Sydney Adelaide Hills means there is no shortnow closed, his latest venture, Organic Matters age of world-class wines and fine fare on Food & Wine Store, hasn’t strayed far from the fold. “Things are so much easier now than when I started the restaurant’s doorstep—quite literally. Sometimes March will open the back door to find BCOZ, every year the number of organic suppliers is on the that someone has left a surplus box of homegrown rhubarb rise. It all comes down to having a reliable source of goodquality organic ingredients to work with,” he says or a case of lemons for the restaurant to use. It’s not all been plain sailing, though. In the early days of What hasn’t got easier for restaurant owners, Barbey says, the restaurant there was some resistance from diners. “People is dealing with entrenched attitudes among chefs and kitchen staff, who sometimes oppose the idea of going organic would say ‘I’ll have a Corona’ and we’d have to say ‘sorry, you RESTAURANT & CATERING 19


Management

because it limits the ingredients they have to work with. “Cooking with only certain produce requires extra creativity, and not everyone is up to the challenge,” he adds. Another issue is cost. “Organic produce tends to be 30 to 50 per cent dearer to buy,” says Mark Jensen. “But I think there are enough diners willing to pay that premium for it to be a viable business proposition.” However, he cautions that there is a fine line between covering your costs and scaring diners away. “Sometimes when you see something organic on a menu it feels like it’s 10 times more expensive [than the non-organic alternative]. Supermarkets charge a lot, too much, for their organic fruit and vegetables and when restaurants start charging at those prices you can see why diners are put off. People aren’t stupid, they know when they are being conned.” There are, however, plenty of excellent reasons to showcase organic produce on a menu. The idea of chemical-free, healthy eating has a powerful appeal; the concept of supporting sustainable and ethically sound growing methods does too. Organic produce tends to be fresher and, while the jury is still out on whether or not it’s nutritionally superior, the general consensus is that it tastes better. “It’s obvious to me that organic food, especially fruit, tastes better,” says Jensen. Likewise, Barbey asserts that “organic food is always worth the extra money on taste grounds alone”.

It’s the pursuit of outstanding flavour and freshness that drives chef Paul Kuipers, who runs Courtney’s Brasserie in Sydney’s Parramatta, to walk the tightrope between organics and local produce on a daily basis.

“W

e’re lucky because there are a lot of organic growers right near us, in the Hawkesbury area. I’ll always use organic or biodynamic produce when I can get it, but it has to come from within 200km,” he says. “For me, taste and seasonality are what matter most.” Kuipers also finds it satisfying to purchase, say, a box of ripe tomatoes (which probably wouldn’t be suitable for sale through the markets anyway) directly from the grower and to pay him more than he’d get from an agent. “We like to buy from people who care about what they do and who care for the environment,” he says. This sentiment rings equally true for anyone who supports organic producers or who works hard to showcase local produce. And no matter which of these directions a restaurant takes, it’s sending a message to the dining public that it takes its environmental responsibilities seriously. “We want to limit our impact on the planet,” adds Red Lantern’s Mark Jensen, “because, hey, we care too.” ô

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What I’ve learnt

Steve

Blanco INTERVIEW: SHARON ARIS

PHOTOGRAPHY: DAVID MARIUZ

Adelaide’s premium caterer on being a caretaker of public institutions, and competing with yourself here I did my apprenticeship had three restaurants, a function centre and outside catering. That’s how my business has ended up. If you own a restaurant, you often only own that one restaurant. But starting off in catering, you know you can grow from there. It’s a different mindset. It’s about knowing it can be done. Twenty years ago people would go to catering as a cheap option—they always wanted it to be cheaper than a restaurant. Now they want it to be more special than a restaurant.

catering. I knew the Botanic Gardens needed a dedicated person there all the time. I felt the best way to get a qualified person, someone who wanted to be part of it for a long time, not just manager for a year, was to make it a part of the whole business. It’s the best decision I’ve made. I’m selective with the opportunities that come by. There are always opportunities or restaurants for sale. But they’re not always profitable or the right kind of venue. We want to stick to iconic places where people expect a good quality of service and level of food.

Managing iconic places comes with responsibility. The Adelaide Gardens and the Zoo are relying on you to look after It took a full 10 years to get our business to where I liked. But a lot of what my dad started—the charcoal the clients. And other people see it as their place as well— bbq of the meat—even now people rave about the public of Adelaide see the Botanic Gardens as it. Then we used to do disposable plates and belonging to them. cutlery, while now it’s full function. The food quality hasn’t changed as much as The biggest challenges are managing “Twenty years ago the trimmings. people and managing the business fluctuapeople would go to tions. In summer we might need 50 or 60 catering as a people on one weekend, but in winter When you’re working in a cheap option—they marquee or a tiny kitchen or in the everyone is looking for work. We also always wanted it to middle of nowhere, you have to be need to ensure a constant turnover to pay be cheaper than a smart about food. The food always the wages of our full-timers. The last few restaurant. But now years we’ve been more proactive about has to be top quality, that’s your chalthey want it to be lenge. The food doesn’t have to be what we’ve got in the books for the next six more special than a months and letting the staff know, so they can cutting edge but it has to be done well. restaurant.” It’s knowing that spring rolls have to be see the forecasts. And we’ve got a dedicated served straight out of the deep fryer, not sitperson to manage the people on the catering side. ting in a basin for an hour. That’s experience. We’re still hands-on. I’m more hands-on in the In the catering component of our business, 90 per kitchen and Chris is more front-of-house, but we’re there and cent of our work comes from referrals. we’re showing the mangers and they’re hands-on too, so it filters down. I didn’t realise the benefits of membership of We were doing a marketing exercise 10 years ago when professional organisations in the early days but that’s where a lot of those referrals come from. You can’t rely on networkwe started to target the higher end and that’s where our ing events to get you a job immediately. The referral comes phrase ‘we aim to exceed your expectations’ comes from. It doesn’t just refer to food or service, it’s how we answer the a month later or a year later. Or people have seen you at a phone and deal with customers, the little things. couple of things and they’ve met your staff. It’s two or three things that get you over the line. We just want to keep getting better. Our competitors are very good and we just want to keep getting better for ourselves My business partner, Christopher Horner, joined this business a year ago when we took over the Botanic Gardens and our customers. That’s our mindset—keep improving. ô 22 RESTAURANT & CATERING


RESTAURANT & CATERING 23


Special report

So hot

Cuts above WORDS LUCY ROBERTSON

PHOTOGRAPH: NORTH SULLIVAN

From brisket to pig cheek, using secondary cuts of meat not only caters for a new retro-cool dining crowd, it also makes perfect business sense nce upon a time, pig’s ears were only sold in pet shops: smoked, dried and smelling faintly of kibble. Today, they hide amidst carefully coifed piles of bitter greens alongside soft-boiled duck eggs and Sydney Harbour views. Just as the lamb shoulder used to be a bony bit not worth the bother, beautifully cooked ‘secondary’ or non-loin meat cuts are now popping up on fancy menus around the country. And for many chefs, it’s a long-overdue chance to bring sexy back to the brisket. “Loin cuts are boring,” quips celebrated Restaurant Balzac chef, Matthew Kemp — a long-time proponent of secondary cuts. “They don’t show any skill, and when it comes down to it, I’m a show-off.” In June, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) launched a campaign aimed at highlighting the myriad benefits for chefs of using cheaper cuts of meat — including the chance it gave chefs like Kemp to shine. “The use of secondary cuts has always been a strong platform for our communication with chefs,” explains MLA’s marketing manager Claire Tindale. 24 RESTAURANT & CATERING

“But we felt there was room to generate some more excitement around certain cuts and make them the real stand-outs on a menu,” she says. The MLA’s resulting ‘Masterpieces’ campaign combines information about key non-loin cuts, with a series of masterclasses featuring chefs and wholesalers. Kemp agrees that there are significant benefits to using nonloin options on a menu. “Obviously, it’s cheaper, and there’s no getting around the fact that that’s a major consideration in the kitchen,” he says. “But even more important, I think, is that anyone can cook a loin. When you can cook a fillet at home without even thinking, why would you go out for more of the same?” Chef at Melbourne’s Circa The Prince, Jake Nicholson, backs up the claim that chefs need to keep upping the ante if they want to keep diners interested. “As people become more knowledgeable about cooking in Australia, chefs need to find new ways of offering something that the average cook doesn’t do,” he says. “Non-loin cuts are a great way of differentiating, because they usually have a lot more flavour to play with and can be very versatile.” Nicholson has been using oyster blade on his menu for the past 12 months and says it is his best-performing dish. He braises the meat in stout, “long and slow”, then presses it and serves it with grain mustard, mash and creamed leeks.


Matthew Kemp from Restaurant Balzac says cheaper cuts of meat not only make sense for business, but add a point of difference.

it’s 500 times the price and I can’t get hold of it because every Andy Ball from Sydney’s much-loved Belmondo restaurant also features an oyster blade on his menu, alongside other secbastard wants some.” ondary cuts of lamb shoulder, beef cheek and pork cheek. Many chefs over the years have hung their hat on cuts that used to be considered second-rate and were priced accordingly, “All these cuts perform extremely well in terms of plate cost, eating quality, and portion control,” he exand they would no doubt sympathise with Kemp’s frustration. plains. “The beef cheek is more suited to Indeed, veal sweetbreads selling for two dollars a kilo a little more than a decade ago now fetch $24 for the same amount; winter, but the oyster blade and pork cheek will be carried through to an increase of 1500 per cent. And you only need to glance the warmer months because they at the meteoric rise in popularity of cuts like lamb shanks “I’d estimate the or veal shin to see the effect it’s had on price. way we’re cooking them isn’t food cost in a nonso heavy and we can change up “I’ve always been interested in secondary cuts and loin dish would be the garnishes.” it’s what I guess I’ve built my name on,” Kemp adds. “I about 21 per cent, might have shot myself in the foot a bit, because now Ball says cuts like oyster but my labour costs blade tick all the right boxes a it’s so damn expensive.” are more than 50 chef should be looking for in While he admits that there are significant savings per cent.” to be made for restaurateurs buying non-loin cuts, running a successful, profitable Matthew Kemp, Restaurant Balzac Kemp argues that the extra labour involved in turning restaurant. “You can’t go wrong with something that eats as well them into restaurant-quality fare usually tips the scales back into the red. as a tenderloin but is a quarter of the price,” he says. “I’d estimate the food cost in a non-loin dish would be Like Kemp and Nicholson, he says his secondabout 21 per cent, but my labour costs are more than 50 per ary cuts literally “walk off the menu”. But popularity has its own cent,” he explains. Nicholson says his oyster blade dish also offers a “huge profit drawbacks. “In 1997, I asked a butcher for beef cheek and he asked why the fuck I’d want it,” Kemp explains. “These days, margin” on produce costs, but claims his labour costs are more RESTAURANT & CATERING 25


Special report

Second thoughts You already know the techniques involved in cooking secondary meat cuts. It’s just a matter of brushing up on where to use what.

Restaurant Balzac’s Pig cheek schnitzel: out of the ordinary.

Meat cut

Technique

Beef bolar blade, oyster blade

Braise, slow roast

Lamb shoulder, forequarter

Braise, slow roast

Flat iron steak, skirt steak

Grill, braise

Oxtail

Slow braise

Lamb, veal or pork neck

Slow braise, slow roast

Cheek

Slow braise

Pig head, ears

Braise, then deep-fry

Ribs, rashers

Slow roast

Brisket

Slow braise, slow roast, cured

fixed, making the profits significantly more noticeable. “If you Richardson ages all his meat on premises, buying whole look at the cost of using something like waygu, you’ve got about animals at a time from local abattoirs or small producers. nine or $10 of meat on the plate,” he explains. “But with my oysOne of his favourite cuts is the bolar blade, which he ter blade, it’s more like two or three dollars, and the customer describes as “one of the most underrated cuts” of beef: “It’s a big muscle layered with fat and gelatine, which is wonderful goes home just as happy because it’s equally as delicious.” for slow braising.” One of Kemp’s best performers is a pig’s cheek stuffed with tongue, but the way he sells it highlights a shifting tide in diners’ One similarly powerful trend paving the way for more secondary cuts is the return of views on secondary cuts of meat. the crock pot or slow cooker, which “It’s basically a whole deboned pig’s head that we stuff “If you look at with the ears and tongue and do in a slow braise before no doubt has many retirees smiling the cost of using slicing it thinly and frying it off in a light crumb,” into their casseroles. something like Retro dishes like corned beef, he explains. “On our dinner menu, we call it a ‘pig waygu, you’ve got cheek shnitzel’, but on my monthly degustation stews and slow roasts are popabout $10 of meat on ping up on the crispest of whitemenu, I’d call it a pig’s head. I think the latter the plate, but with description works on a degustation pitched to dieclothed tables this year, but my oyster blade, it’s hard foodies, but on an everyday a la carte menu, it revitalising these traditional slow more like dishes isn’t just for winter. could be too confronting.” three dollars.” “Duncan Robertson of River Jake Nicholson, Chef, Circa The Prince, he idea that chefs can use meat that Kwai in Melbourne is a massive Melbourne fan of our flat iron steak,” says Tindale. would once have been relegated to supermarket sausages to instead create highly “He’s been using it in Thai salads and lighter spring dishes and tells us it’s evolved, artisan dishes that showcase their technical skill is not new. But it’s possibly on the verge extremely popular.” of a reincarnation, thanks not only to economic factors, but Nicholson is also planning to keep his oyster blade on the social ones as well. menu after the Melbourne weather warms up. “There has been a definite shift in thinking towards more “I’ll probably lighten up the flavours a bit by using things like environmentally aware and socially responsible ways of growing, peas and sorrel instead of the more wintery root vegetables,” he killing and eating meat,” acknowledges Tindale. says. “But when a dish is as popular as this one, you can’t afford “People are definitely more interested in sustainable and ethito take it off the menu.” cal eating these days, which not only provides another reason Tindale adds that many non-loin cuts like flat iron steak only need a light hand in the cooking process, making them wellfor chefs to find ways of marketing secondary cuts in their suited to spring or summer dining. kitchen, but also provides a whole new reason for customers to actively seek out the restaurants that do.” “A lot of chefs say it’s much easier to cook with the flat iron than it is to get an eye fillet exactly right every time,” she says. It’s part of the philosophy driving chef Adrian Richardson Which is lucky, as that extra hand could be useful when it from Melbourne’s La Luna Bistro, where nose-to-tail eating is extolled as a more sustainable and ethical way of consuming meat. comes to finding new food for the dog. ô

T

26 RESTAURANT & CATERING


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RESTAURANT & CATERING 27


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Technology

Smarter

security WORDS ANDY KOLLMORGEN

State of the art security systems take the guesswork out of tracking transactions.

PHOTOGRAPHY: ROSS EASON

State-of-the-art security systems linked to your POS system save you hours of trying to match footage with suspect transactions hen you talk about security, it’s easy to assume you’re talking about grainy camera footage of violent thugs. The more mundane aspects of security—staff offering freebies to friends, perhaps, or a till that doesn’t seem to reconcile—aren’t the first things that come to mind. But it’s precisely those mundane things that present the greatest present security threat to most restaurants. And the awareness of that has driven innovations in the security packages of point-of-sale systems. “What’s typical is that clients look at the other POS companies and say, do you have a security interface—yes or no?” says Alex Cooke of Fedelta POS. “But what’s important is how your security system works with your other processes.” That’s the key to getting a useful security system—one that integrates with other systems, rather than just providing a mute record of hours of footage—involves linking vision to transactions and individuals. That approach is “extremely new”, says Burt Admiraal of H&L Australia. “It’s just starting to happen in restaurants now. Restaurants haven’t had as much focus on stock security. Instead, there’s always a focus on front-of-house—on the desire to just ensure that everything’s going through to the kitchen.” As a hospitality professional back in the 1980s, Admiraal created the H&L system to better control profits and reduce theft and wastage in the restaurant and bars

he was responsible for managing. And many years of speaking to other restaurateurs reinforced for him the knowledge that their primary focus is almost always on point-ofsale, printing and table-tracking. As a result, he says, “All of our systems are built around the control of stock and labour.” And security is an extension of that. By integrating transactions, stock and labour, what you’re doing is buying yourself time and control. “One of our clients who has recently retired from the restaurant business had a restaurant here in Adelaide for 30 years. He found that when he put our system in he was working one day a week less—so working five days a week—and keeping the restaurant open one day a week more. Prior to then, he felt uncomfortable with the controls in the venue. When he got the system in place, he found he had better control.” “We find restaurateurs are embracing this RESTAURANT & CATERING 29


Technology

more and more,” says Cooke. “Mainly because this technology saves you time. There are lots of things that are nice to have, but the valuable things are those that save you time. This is like a dashboard for the organisation.”

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ccording to Cooke, apart from the immediate and obvious deterrent aspect of security, it’s really about finding out where something has gone wrong. “There’s the cameras and the deterrent aspect of it, but the other side is the ability to track things,” he says. “What happens is we try to take a tight control over various processes, so you can really track down what went wrong. If you don’t have a good cash management process that allows you to see who was involved in the transaction, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.” One aspect of the Fedelta system that assists with this is making balancing blind, so all the staff can do at any given till is count the notes—it becomes quite easy to know quickly if a till has come up short. “If you don’t have a system that tells you if you’re short straight away, you end up with people that have this suspicion, but it’s dif���cult to prove anything,” says Cooke. “It’s about using the full capabilities of the system. The other element is stock. By being able to see who sold what, you can view the appropriate footage for that transaction. Or you can track it by saying, we want to see Bill and John and this item.” The Fedelta system allows you to search security footage in snippets, based on names or transactions, rather than trawling through all the footage. H&L has a similar system: “We have integrated into the system some key options, one linking transactions to camera footage,” says Admiraal. “We use a 360-degree parabolic “If you have a camera, and it gives suspect item you you the opportunity just right click and to see transactions it brings back the being rung up. camera footage What’s the key to associated with that the system, is when transaction.” you go back through Burt Admiraal, H&L Australia an audit trail, if you have a suspect item you just right-click and it brings back the camera footage associated with that transaction.” Both systems also use proximity wristbands for a further level of security. “In restaurants, pin numbers are popular, but it’s easy for someone to look over your shoulder and see what your pin is while you’re entering it,” says Cooke. “With proximity wristbands, no-one can mimic another staff member. It’s based on radio frequency. When staff come within 15 cm of the screen it logs them in.” Cooke adds that the Fedelta system also protects against problems of unauthorised discounting, or removing items from a bill. “With those things, we can put limits in the system, so we can say, for example, that the maximum value of stock you can give away is, say, $100. If you want to have the proof that somebody has been in the system, it’s there.” ô


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Drinks

Top beer

It’s already quite interesting, but beer is becoming even more so, and there’s money to be made from that trend.

WORDS BEN CANAIDER

For consumers, beer offers a lifeboat of security in an ocean of uncertainty. For restaurateurs, play your cards right and it will do the same n uncertain times, we all look to the fundamental aspects of life for assuredness: Beer. The power of the draught market When posh wines by-the-glass are struggling in the face of continued economic unceris something that Barons Brewing tainty, and when cocktails only offend your customers’ alcohol intake paranoia, perhaps National Draught Manager, Greg Graham, thinks can work well for it is best to ignore red and green colours and solidly re-focus on the amber light. Beer. both brewers and licensees alike. There’s already strong enough sales evidence to suggest that this is happening anyway. Imported beer sales are growing at more than 10 per cent per With glycol lines and improved taps, and better brewery-toannum; boutique breweries continue to gain small yet vital market bar keg logistics, draught share, and enjoy double-digit sales growth too; even the big brewers—Lion Nathan and Carlton & United—are rapidly expanding their beer, Graham reckons, “It really isn’t neurois a great way to cater repertoire in an effort to keep up with a growing consumer demand for logical science: keep for the broader tastes beers with more interest and flavour. Beer is acquiring a connoisseurship. a presentable bar, And this is very much where you come in. With a beer landscape of customers. staff it well, and serve that’s more complex and much more sophisticated, licensees and bar In a ten tap bar, icy cold beer happily. managers are at the coal face of consumer understanding and sentithough, Graham knows And bank the earnment. And it is a coal face that can be very profitable if you handle that his company will ings quick-smart.” it the right way. be competing for one Phillip Miles, Publican of two uncontracted taps, To begin with, however, it is important to remember that some aspects which is why so many brewof the local beer on-premise market remain unchanged. The duopoly of the two big brewers still probably accounts for 90 per cent of the market; but, ers offer incentives to licensees if anything, the draught beer market is growing, not shrinking. Nowadays it is to get on board. “Promotions, not just pubs that have beer taps: you can find them in wine bars, tapas joints, small restaurants, t-shirts for the bar staff, bar mats, and—true story—I’ve even seen one in a winery’s cellar door. Admittedly the beer was made by the coasters, branded glassware—all winery, but there you go... of these things,” says Graham, “are 32 RESTAURANT & CATERING


pretty much expected by licensees now days. Some of them do want everything, and, fair enough; it is good exposure for us, and in some situations it is worth the cost...” But there’s a flipside to this seemingly perfect promo deal for licensees. And Graham explains it quite neatly. “In Belgium, there are over 400 beers. There’s virtually a different glass for every beer. It’s a very sophisticated beer culture. We’re a long way behind that—but it is the direction we are moving. So if licensees don’t get onto this trend and start offering their customers a more diverse range of beers, from a more diverse range of brewers, and in better quality glassware, then they’ll get left behind.” Another small yet determined brewer keen on this approach is St Arnou. Their national sales manager, Nick Allardice, sees a resurgence in draught beer, particularly in smaller venues, where small oneor two-tap systems are now the norm. “Having taps in a smaller venue completely changes its dynamic. Instead of being a splash and dash venue we are seeing patrons sit and enjoy a dinning experience as well as four to six beers. This obviously means the spend per head increases dramatically.” St Arnou also wants beer to go the way of wine: “I would encourage every owner/manager to implement a printed beer list just like they have with their wines. Although it might be a small list, filling the page with product information will enable customers to get more involved and excited about the venue’s list.”

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he only angle Allardice is down on concerns branded glassware. “There are a few pitfalls: managing six sets of different sized beer glasses is an absolute nightmare. If you are determined that you want branded glasses, I would suggest that you choose two different sized glasses from two different brands and go with them—and make sure they are in continual supply.” Trail-blazing Melbourne publican, Phillip Miles, who for many years ran the George Public Bar in the heart of St Kilda, can see the reasoning behind this move towards more sophisticated beer service, but wonders if there’s also good business sense in keeping it simple. “From a personal taste point-of-view, I’m a packaged beer man myself; it’s more reliable”, says Miles. “From a business angle, though, traditionally there’s been better margin in draught; although, if you’ve got the right sort of venue, then there’s a pretty penny to be made in packaged beer, too. You can charge an exorbitant amount for it. It doesn’t necessarily cut down your overheads, though; even if they buy packaged beer over the bar, plenty of people today want an accompanying glass.” Miles also wonders if this new sophistication of beer in Australia overleaps itself. “Call me old-fashioned—I’ve been called a lot worse—but when I hear people talking about the new “European” trend we are adopting regarding our beer “appreciation”, I wonder how long these people actually spend in Australian pubs and bars. An increased range of beer is a good thing, but otherwise, fresh and locally made lager, served icy cold, isn’t a bad beverage with which to relax after a long week. It really isn’t neurological science: keep a presentable bar, staff it well, and serve icy cold beer happily. And bank the earnings quick-smart.” How individual licensees will approach the expanding beer market certainly depends on their knowledge of their clientele. Taking advantage of brewery’s draught beer promotions might be a good and cost-effective way for you to test the waters of this new and more diverse beer drinking trend; but if in doing so you lose a sense of your bar’s own identity and brand, then perhaps it is yet just another case of a brewery tail wagging your dog. ô

Ben Canaider is a mono-award-winning drinks columnist and author of over nine books on beer, wine, spirits and other lifestyle choices.

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Details

Assiette WORDS: KERRYN RAMSEY

A perfect marriage between interior design and sophisticated cuisine is thanks to another union—interior decorator Mimi Gilmour revitalised this Sydney restaurant under guidance from her partner, chef/owner Warren Turnbull became involved with this project when my partner, Warren [Turnbull, owner/chef ] and I came to the realisation that even though Assiette was doing very well, it would benefit from a facelift after its first three years of business. When I started the project, it was still decked out with the same finishings that were in place when it first opened in 2005. Although I’m not an interior designer by trade, I have a fine arts degree, I’ve had experience working under a fantastic interior designer and was born and bred in restaurants. “After many persuasive discussions, Warren gave me three weeks to transform the restaurant. We only needed to shut it down for three days. “Warren wanted Assiette to be a restaurant where people would feel comfortable while experiencing a high level of service and food. Even though he gave me a free hand, I definitely had to run everything past him! I had always loved the simplicity of Assiette; I thought we could keep a classic look but also have a bit of fun. When I selected three Fornasetti plates [for Rosenthal], I purposefully chose the more cheeky designs. I had them photographed, enlarged and framed in box frames to give a slightly three-dimensional look. “I decided to introduce that colour into the bathrooms. At Chee Soon & Fitzgerald [www.cheesoonfitzgerald.com], I bought an amazing vinyl wallpaper, covered with 1950s bikini girls, pearls and bows drawn in red biro. I put that in the women’s bathroom and it looked so good, I used the same wallpaper in the men’s bathroom too. “The wallpaper and the Fornasetti prints are the two things that people always talk about. “The room is anchored with chocolate brown tones in the carpet, screens, entrance wall, linen press and bar. The dining room was painted white while the white tablecloths, glassware and reflective silverware add a touch of lightness. On top of this clean base, I added mirrors, candles, plants and flowers. I searched long and hard to find the perfect tealights, eventually purchasing some gorgeous fluted French glass tealights from Parterre [www.parterre.com.au]. “I also wanted to bring some silver into the room. At the South Dowling Antique Centre, I bought a 34 RESTAURANT & CATERING

Contact details: Mimi Gilmour E: mimigilmour@gmail.com M: 0421 164 201 Warren Turnbull E: warrentturnbull@gmail.com T: 02 9212 7979

collection of mismatching silver water jugs and a silver tray on which to display them. I found a beaten silver wine bucket with matching water jugs. I love the way this antique silver and our new modern cutlery have the same reflective surface; there’s old and new, classic and funky—it all comes together nicely. I love going to Assiette because it’s so comfortable, and I don’t find the food intimidating. I really enjoy showing it off to my friends and family. We will be opening another restaurant just around the corner soon. I’m looking forward to doing those interiors too.” ô


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Restaurant & Catering magazine October 2010