Jason Loucas

The following series is filled with valuable insights from the country’s leading operators – think Lucas Restaurants, Solotel, House Made Hospitality, and six other groups 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 final piece comes from House Made Hospitality Director Justin Newton.

Opening Promenade Bondi Beach, Easy Tiger Bondi Beach, and Martinez in the CBD — two of which earned hats — was an achievement last year while [facing] market challenges and continuing to grow our existing venues. Also, the development of many of our teams and providing them with new opportunities to grow.

Our major challenges have been the increase in costs (rents, cost of goods, labour, general operational costs), the decline in spend per head, and increased competition. To compensate, we are looking to use our scale to bring down some costs and allow us to produce more in-house.

We are also expanding our offerings to allow more opportunities for guests to engage and spend with us and continuing to evolve our business’ products and services, so they stay fresh and remain popular.

While we’re still getting great numbers of people through the doors, there has been a marked decline in willingness to spend, particularly on drinks. People are seeking out value and are willing to extend beyond their regularly frequented venues to achieve it. So, the pressure on venues to continually meet these demands is increasing.

We’re still expanding, but we need to consistently adapt our current offerings to ensure they remain successful. We believe in quality over quantity, and a basic business principle is achieving more from less — so getting our current sites and people to their maximum potential is the primary investment focus for us for the next period.

There are definitely more people around looking for work — the number of international travellers back in the country is encouraging. However, the skill level has dropped markedly as the more experienced staff have either returned home overseas or been deterred from the industry after the lockdowns. New people to the industry obviously still need to develop their skills.

Seek is not returning the enquiries it used to, but newer job platforms including Indeed are becoming much more effective (in terms of producing candidates) and efficient (in terms of cost).

But word of mouth has been our biggest source of new employment, so the experience our team members have while working for us is
more important than ever. This year, we will continue our expansion with some big multi-venue projects — watch this space!