Grapevine Vic 2018

The following series is filled with valuable insights from the country’s leading operators on everything from milestone moments to the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, what they’re tipping will be big in 2024, and the current staffing landscape.

The next op-ed comes from Australian Venue Co Executive Chef Telina Menzies.

2023 WAS A big year. As a team, we had some big wins including major openings and reopenings covering Morris House and Studley Park Boathouse in Melbourne under Executive Chef Christian Abbott, and Riverland in Brisbane under Executive Chef Justin Wise.

The experience of unveiling a renovated venue changes each time because each one is different, but we have such a great team and a really strong process that allows us to work efficiently while giving everyone room to be creative and deliver unique venues and customer experiences.

With some of the larger-format venues, we’ve enjoyed experimenting with new food concepts alongside familiar pub classics. Louey’s at The Espy is a great example of this where we added an Italian American-inspired concept to the former Espy Kitchen. This added more variety and diversity to the food offering at The Espy and gave customers another exciting reason to visit.

The focus for our renovated venues in 2024 is to deepen our relationships with customers and continue to give locals reasons to keep coming back for more well after the opening buzz has quietened down. We will continue to survey local communities before renovations start to better understand what they love currently and what they hope to see. This gives us such an amazing
insight into what works and what might need some attention.

We have noticed lots of changes in consumer patterns over the last year. We have customers who are always excited to try new concepts and are ever-evolving in what they do and don’t like. We keep things fresh by testing new dishes on our chefs’ rotating specials menus to find what customers love before making them a permanent menu item.

At the same time, we have seen the pub classic is here to stay, and we are seeing continuous demand for classic and nostalgic dishes. Pubs offer familiarity, nostalgia, and comfort through classic menu items customers know and love.

This year, value will continue to be top of mind for many customers, and we’ll be working hard to make sure we can deliver great value without compromising on experience. We regularly review pricing alongside customer feedback and sales data to ensure we are offering value, particularly with our
pub classics.

We also like to find fun ways to add value by coupling our food offers with entertainment such as ‘parma and trivia’ nights or free kids entertainment on Sundays as it helps to make the experience memorable for our customers.

In terms of trends, it’s clear strong menu diversity isn’t going anywhere. It will continue to be crucial to offer menus that cater really well for a wide range of preferences and dietary requirements that offer a great mix of classic and innovative or on-trend dishes and cater well to all market segments, including kids, seniors and corporates. The days of a single vegetarian option are well and truly behind us.

Watch this space, there are a lot of exciting things to come in 2024 for Australian Venue Co.