11/03/2016 - 15:25

40under40: Janssen’s hospitality dynasty down south

11/03/2016 - 15:25


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Anthony Janssen has had a relatively short but eventful business career, with some stumbles on his way to building the successful Margaret River Hospitality Group.

40under40: Janssen’s hospitality dynasty down south
FLOW: Anthony Janssen has learned many things in his short business career, with delegation being among the most important.

Anthony Janssen has had a relatively short but eventful business career, with some stumbles on his way to building the successful Margaret River Hospitality Group. His achievements saw him named a 40under40 winner in 2016 and a finalist for the First Amongst Equals Award.

Anthony Janssen was just 22 years old and knew very little about running a business when he borrowed money from his sister to buy Gnarabar at the Margarets Beach Resort in 2006.

“I used to be in charge of everything, from cleaning, cooking, serving, the books, functions, front-of-house management, etc,” Mr Janssen said.

“Back then it was all about putting my head down, learning the ropes and working out where to best spend my time.”

Mr Janssen’s instincts served him well, along with some good advice he obtained as a young chef at Assured Hotels.

“They taught me the importance of having good systems, and knowing your numbers,” he said.

After several years of growth, Mr Janssen hit a wall in 2012 after taking over Morries, his third venue located on Margaret River’s main street.

“I worked out that owning three hospitality businesses was much harder than owning one,” he said.

“I hit burnout on the opening day.”

He addressed that challenge by bringing in Alex Brooks, who had been working at Morries, as an equity partner and operations manager.

“That changed my working life a lot as I no longer had to manage the daily operations and was able to focus on the bigger picture,” Mr Janssen said.

He has continued to pursue rapid growth, despite limited financial resources.

“The biggest challenge over the past decade would be managing the cash flow through numerous renovations without any investors and limited bank finance,” Mr Janssen said.

“At times I have put myself in some pretty dire positions in order to achieve more growth. 

“Last year’s winter effort was probably the biggest challenge of all.”

That’s when Mr Janssen decided to build a dining room at the White Elephant Beach Cafe, buy back Gnarabar and undertake a $250,000 renovation before renaming it The Common, officially launch Barefoot Beach Weddings, and take on exclusive catering at the five-star Willy Bay Resort in Metricup.

Over the same period, he changed the group structure and brought in renowned chef Tony Howell, formerly of Cape Lodge, as a third business partner.

Mr Janssen said he would never again take on so much at one time, but was positive about the results.

The Margaret River Hospitality Group currently has up to 100 staff and annual turnover of $6 million.

By 2018, he expects staffing will hit 140 and turnover will expand to $10 million.

Mr Janssen said each of the business partners made a big contribution in their area of expertise.

“Alex oversees all front-of-house and general management across the group and Tony is executive chef across the group,” he said.

“We’d always been looking for a strong leader for our kitchen operations.

“Tony’s biggest challenge was getting his head around the volume.”

Mr Janssen said the group had strict budgeting and reporting processes, which enabled the owners to track trends and make calculated decisions.

The owners have also instituted formal monthly board meetings.

“Since setting up these board meetings we have seen a remarkable improvement in our progress and efficiencies,” Mr Janssen said.

Mr Janssen is already at work on his next venue, after his group was named last year as preferred proponent to develop and manage the Dunsborough Foreshore Café. “We’re setting things up now with a view to being much bigger,” he said.


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