On Monday 31 July, Hospitality magazine hosted the 2017 Restaurant Leaders Summit at Randwick Racecourse.

More than 275 delegates attended the event which featured panel discussions, Q&A sessions and in-depth presentations.

Joleen Booth from Tourism Australia kicked off the Summit with a case study on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and spoke about the success of the Restaurant Australia campaign.

Hayley Hardcastle (Bombini), Mark Stone (Stones Patisserie) and Claire Van Vuuren (Popla Bellingen and Bloodwood Newtown) sat down with MC Alex Herbert to share their experiences around opening restaurants in regional areas — both the challenges and successes.

MC Ken Burgin and Palisa Anderson from Chat Thai discussed everything from Anderson’s upbringing in the restaurant industry to managing standards and maintaining the Chat Thai experience across all stores.

Alessandro Pavoni (Ormeggio), Nino Zoccali (The Restaurant Pendolino and La Rosa) and Natalie James (Fair Work Ombudsman) debated the impacts of the 457 visa changes without Assistant Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke MP, who dropped out of the panel due to family sickness on Monday morning.

Mo Wyse welcomed delegates into the vegan world of Smith & Daughters, encouraging the audience to put a vegan offering on their menus that equals meat dishes.

Ramzey Choker (The Grounds), Lisa Hasen (OpenTable), Matt Fickling (Huxtaburger) and Mark McEnery (Oracle Hospitality) touched on innovative ways to drive revenue including utilising technology and the importance of a quality POS system.

Alex Herbert and Josh Niland talked about the success of Saint Peter since it opened its doors in Paddington just one year ago and discussed the journey Niland and his wife Julia experienced after setting up their own business.

Keeping costs in check was a popular topic at the summit, with Campbelltown Catholic Club’s Paul Rifkin, Rational Australia’s Mark Sweeting, Numeric Eight’s Trudi Yip and The Restaurant Pendolino’s Nino Zoccali providing practical tips and personal insight to delegates.

Andrew El-Bayeh (Example), Dan Mylonas (The Grounds), George Redmond (Wasamedia) and Catherine Slogrove (Papaya PR) provided a wealth of knowledge on the benefits of social media and how venues can keep the fire burning in a competitive landscape.

Jason Jelicich from Barmetrix showed attendees how they can increase bar venue during peak trading hours during his 30-minute presentation, which demonstrated how to maximise productivity and boost profits.

Franchising was another topic covered in a panel with Palisa Anderson (Chat Thai), Matt Fickling (Huxtaburger), Clovis Young (Mad Mex) and Suzanne Jarzabkowska (DC Strategy). Franchisors Fickling, Young and franchise expert Jarzabkowska shared the benefits of franchising your business while Anderson championed the notion of maintaining brand integrity and spoke about why Chat Thai chooses not to franchise.

Addressing the Chinese market and identifying opportunities was discussed by Lawrence Brown (Complete Retail Services), Tara Sullivan (Lotus Dining) and Jay Yip (Trippas White). From menus written in Chinese to private dining rooms and live seafood, a number of opportunities for venues were addressed.

Tony Panetta from ICC Sydney touched on running one of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest kitchens and how ICC has formed strong relationships with Australian producers.

Black Star Pastry’s Chris The and MC Alex Herbert talked about the infamous watermelon cake and the rise of Black Star in Sydney and the potential of a return to Melbourne.

Justine Baker (Solotel), Suzee Brain (Brain & Poulter), Jeremy Courmadias (Rockpool Dining Group) and Josh Niland (Saint Peter) all looked into the future and predicted 2018 trends. Niland tipped the rise of single-focus venues and the panel discussed the importance of work-life balance and placing more emphasis on promoting wellbeing in the workplace.

The Summit concluded with canapes and drinks courtesy of Scotchmans Hill, where delegates were able to network with peers and reflect on the day.

The Restaurant Leaders Summit will return in 2018, bigger and better than ever.

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