7 minute read


Expanding horizons for Hotel Sorrento

With a major expansion well underway, expert help in the kitchen, and some Australian-made software is helping the venue as it scales up.

HOTEL SORRENTO, a family-owned pub with bay views on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, is embarking on a $30 million expansion that will double its footprint.

Currently, the pub has five bars, a restaurant and 37 accommodation rooms. Now under construction are 58 accommodation suites, a pool and pool-side bar, a new signature restaurant, conference facilities, a wellness centre, and a 360-degree rooftop sundeck, all of which are expected to be completed by December 2023.

According to Hotel Sorrento’s partnerships and marketing director Myles Pitt, whose family has owned the pub for the last 41 years, four levels of the pub are heritage listed, and the new works, which are one third of the way through, aim to blend the old with the new.

A new Cantonese restaurant is being built in the old ballroom of the hotel, for instance, harking back to when the family took over at the pub when the cuisine being served was Chinese. “We’re going back in time and making it a Cantonese restaurant, think 1960s Hong Kong. You’ll get all the dishes you remember as a kid, just done our way with Hotel Sorrento flair,” Pitt says.

“We not doing high-end dining as that’s not in our wheelhouse. We’re all about the vibe, culture and warmth. We want to see ourselves as extension of people’s living rooms, where they can come in for a beautiful meal with that warm pub feel.”

A second new kitchen focusing on the wellness niche will have a totally different feel and will use produce from the local area, with a focus on organic.

Pitt, who’s been working full time at the hotel for the past seven years, says it’s an exciting time for the venue as it reaches its 150th year. “It’s an extremely exciting time. The whole family is involved in the business, and we absolutely love it. It’s been a long journey for our parents but now we are doubling our footprint and undertaking the biggest expansion yet.”

A helping hand

Hotel Sorrento is just a stone’s throw from the new Continental Hotel where publican Craig Shearer and restaurateur Scott Pickett have collaborated on a number of food and beverage spaces, and where luxury hotel rooms under the Intercontinental banner are coming online in stages as part of the venue’s redevelopment.

“They’ve done a sensational job there, and it’s great for the area,” Pitt says. “The more pubs and hospitality in the area, the better for everyone and the more the area will boom. We absolutely love what they’re doing and it complements us both.”

Similarly, the Pitt family have also teamed up with a high-profile chef – George Calombaris – who has spent eight months onsite revamping the food spaces, designing menus, and collaborating with local suppliers.

“It’s a new era, and to have George’s expertise and level of drive and access to the people he knows in the industry is helping to open doors,” Pitt says. “It’s extremely encouraging having him on the team to help drive the product we want to achieve in the end.”

A new approach

Another source of help in the pub’s mission to scale up is an Australian developed software system called Operandio. Hotel Sorrento is using the software to standardise operations in its bars, restaurants, kitchens, accommodation, day spa, and wellness facilities. It does this through the use of digital checklists that prompt and instruct staff.

Accessible via section-based iPads within the venue, staff login via their own profile and a 4-digit pin to see all relevant checklists, tasks and standard operating procedures specific to them and the location they are working at that time.

Built into the system is also a dedicated knowledge base which is embedded into the checklists as a quick reference for staff. Photos can be used to show that cannot be described in text form. There is also a communications hub that allows staff to escalate and highlight items to be actioned.

Given the growing number of staff joining such a large and busy venue, many of whom are inexperienced, this is a really important element to its success, Pitt says. “It’s a guideline as well as a checklist executed to the level we determine.”

A second application is also changing the game in the kitchen, Pitt says, and will become increasingly important as the new kitchens come online. Typically, hospitality businesses use manual temperature logs, requiring staff to regularly interrupt their day, and this has been the case at Hotel Sorrento.

The new system, also from Operandio, sees the installation of temperature sensors into appliances such as fridges and freezers to monitor these 24/7 with SMS alerts sent in case of any faults or issues with the equipment. “We’ve been very vigilant checking and logging temperatures at the end of every service, but that is obsolete now with the new software freeing up teams to focus on prep and menu development,” Pitt says.

A fresh approach

Operandio is a Melbourne-based technology company supporting hospitality and retail-based businesses to digitise business processes, and support their teams to access training and communications.

Operandio recently went on the hunt for a high-profile marquee pub client that would provide a solid workout of if software, and to this end approached Hotel Sorrento. A key requirement was active product feedback and the willingness to move everything paperbased in the business into a unified digital source of truth.

“Following a quick demo with the Hotel Sorrento team, it was pretty evident that Operandio was going to solve some key operational growing pains,” Operandio co-founder Daniel Scoble says.

“The timing was really perfect for both businesses given Operandio’s aggressive development roadmap and the significant investment from Hotel Sorrento not only in new bricks and mortar but commitment to get behind a new system to streamline their operations across the board.”

Classic challenges for single or multi-site businesses with large frontline workforces often stem from the use of static, paper-based checklists and spreadsheets to manage day to day operations and compliance.

“This can be seen in longer than usual staff onboarding and familiarisation, difficulty standardising process, unreliable ways of accessing key business knowledge and excessive pressure placed on management,” Scoble says.

According to Scoble, Operandio’s sensor technology can also helps small and medium sized businesses reduce food waste and more efficiently use existing inventory.

“Rounding out our current offering has been the implementation and integration of a range of Australian made, HACCP Certified, 4G capable temperature monitoring and logging sensors and food safety probes.

“These units are placed in every fridge and not only ensure the business stays compliant but also drastically reduce stock loss, food wastage and cost in the event of a fridge or freezer failure.

“We heard feedback from our customers that they need a more sophisticated way to monitor the temperature of their stock - but said a barrier was the cost to update their current fridges and equipment,” Scoble said.

“Our sensors mean no matter what time of day, or wherever you are, hospitality managers can closely keep an eye on their supplies and respond immediately if there are any issues.”

The new automated temperature sensors retail for around $150 and monitor equipment 24/7 with SMS alerts sent in case of any faults or issues with the equipment.

“All these features mean that we have been able to deliver Hotel Sorrento and the wider industry a holistic platform on a single dashboard that manages everything from the day-to-day standard operating procedure to compliance, onboarding and training,” Scoble says.