It’s a question for every venue owner come April — to open or not to open across the Easter long weekend? Whether it’s a decision to do one day or operate as usual, people are around and looking for options during the break.

Hospitality speaks with chefs and operators about their menu plans and the perks of running service during Easter.

The Easter long weekend is always a busy time for Head Chef Paul Smart and his team at Marriott Gold Coast. Smart will host an array of events across Citrique and Chapter & Verse. “I’ve done a lot of Easter long weekends in my life, but this is my third one at Marriott and it’s getting bigger every year,” says the chef. “We have a lot of kids, especially during the school holidays, so it’s all about chocolate eggs.”

On Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday, Smart and his team will run a high tea at Chapter & Verse along with Easter egg-making classes for children. “We have high tea every day and it is most popular on the weekend,” says Smart. “We’ll be doing an Easter chocolate-inspired high tea stand with traditional bits and pieces.”

The Easter egg classes are a tradition for the hotel, with past events so well received they’ve upped the frequency to include the week before the long weekend. “There’s so much interest and we sometimes have up to 40 kids in one class,” says Smart. “We show them how to mould an Easter egg and then they decorate it and take it home.”

But the most significant event for Smart and his team is on Easter Sunday, with the venue’s annual Easter egg hunt taking place before a seafood buffet, which is also available on Good Friday. The seafood spread at Citrique is a celebration of Australia’s best, with Western Australia lobster thermidor a standout option. “There’s a big range of seafood, especially on the Friday … more than we offer on the Saturday,” says Smart. “We have barramundi and salmon and people have plenty of fish to choose from. There’s also Mooloolaba prawns, Moreton Bay bug, Hervey Bay scallops and beautiful oysters from Tasmania — there’s more seafood than you can think of!”

Easter egg hunts and seafood-centric offerings are also on the cards for Sydney’s Chiswick. Good Friday kicks off with an egg hunt on the front lawn and a coffee cart with house-made pastries for adults to enjoy. Across the weekend, the team will be offering specials that lean into a seafood theme along with chocolate-centric dishes for dessert. “Eating fish instead of other types of meat on Good Friday is a tradition that has become synonymous with the Easter weekend for many,” says Chiswick
Restaurant Manager Anna Zaganelli. “We are lucky to have incredible seafood in Sydney and there’s nothing better than fresh, locally and ethically sourced seafood. Our Head Chef Taylor Cullen really has a way with seafood dishes.”

Chiswick has opened during the Easter long weekend in previous years, with the restaurant enjoying the opportunity to be a part of the festivities. “Our Easter long weekend activity is a favourite amongst our community and is always really fun and well received by guests,” says Zaganelli. “There’s a great vibe and we know we’ve nailed it when we have lots of people here, considering how many leave Sydney for the weekend.”

When asked about the challenges associated with opening across the long weekend, Zaganelli notes that staff wages can be the reason some venues choose to close. “It can cost a business a fair bit of money, with staff wages increased to double time,” she says. “The risk of not making enough profit is probably why some venues choose to stay closed over the weekend.” In New South Wales, Victoria, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, the entire Easter long weekend is classified as a public holiday. In South Australia and Tasmania, Easter Sunday is not a public holiday, with Tasmania also not classifying Easter Saturday as a holiday.

Jack Leary from Avalon’s Alma Restaurant and Bar and Freshwater’s St Alma in Sydney plans to open both venues from Friday to Sunday. “We find a lot of out of-towners come to Avalon during Easter, so people try us for the first time over that period,” he says. “Freshwater isn’t as much of a holiday destination, but everyone tries to stay local to the beach, so we’re super busy during the day, which is great.”

While the Mexican-influenced venues are already known for their seafood-heavy menus, there will be an extra push via specials. “We just try to play off local ingredients and what Australians base Easter off and then integrate Mexican ingredients into that,” says Leary. Expect to see New South Wales Eastern Rock lobster al pastor along with a Mexican Ibarra chocolate soufflé with black peppercorn ice cream.

It’s clear the core aim across the long weekend is to help guests create memories with friends and family. “We hope that in spending Easter with us at Chiswick, people will feel that they’re at home,” says Zaganelli. “We have a really strong local community and love organising events that encourage people to get together with loved ones. It’s one of our favourite times of the year.”

Smart agrees the weekend is a special time and hopes patrons “will make memorable moments”. While for Leary and his team, it’s about bringing a taste of home to guests. “We want them to feel as though they are visiting a relative’s house,” he says. “Our staff treat both venues like an extended version of their home and we enjoy and love these types of events because it gives us the opportunity to make people feel warm and welcome.”