AS an owner-operator-chef, Neal Jackson has established a formidable reputation in Perth and Bunbury, but it hasn’t been without hard work and some tough lessons.
Mr Jackson’s first establishment, the Anchor and Hope Inn at Dunsborough, was by his own admission a run down, out-of-the way venue. But it was going at a bargain price.
“It was an absolute bargain to get in there [the Anchor and Hope Inn]. Business was bad but that was why it was going cheaply. I thought I could turn it around, no problems.
“We got there got it sorted out and prepped up and then opened the doors. No-one came in the door that first night. It was like that for the next five nights. On the Friday night we had four people come in.”
And despite the unfavourable location and less-than-auspicious start, Mr Jackson managed to turn the inn’s fortunes around in a matter of months.
He exited the business after accepting an offer to work as the executive chef at the Lord Forrest Hotel, which was being built at the time.
“I stayed there five years and built up the establishment. It improved my reputation no end and it gave me good profile,” he said.
“I left there and went to Bunbury and opened Louisa’s.”
Louisa’s was the result of a business partnership with the owner of the motel premises, where the restaurant was located.
“We worked at that for nine years and it won numerous awards. It was a successful little restaurant,” Mr Jackson said.
“But the partnership deal went sour, so I learned something else along the way. We got burnt pretty badly and we gave it up and came to Perth.”
Once in Perth, an opportunity arose when friends of Mr Jackson’s wife invested in a new restaurant venture in Highgate.
“They are three silent partners and they really are silent. I learned from previous dealings,” Mr Jackson said.
“We have a good business arrangement. We learned by misfortune, but this has worked well for five years.”
While his profile and reputation five years ago wasn’t what it is now, Mr Jackson was sure the venture, Jackson’s, would do well.
“The site felt right. It was a gut feeling. I’m not a businessman and I am fortunate my wife is good with that [administration].”
Another gut feeling prompted him to pull out of plans to open another restaurant last year.
Mr Jackson believes his restaurants work because they offer a “total package”.
“Food alone isn’t enough; I wish it was. But you need good service and people need to feel comfortable,” he said.
“Consistency is the biggest and hardest part. People need to know that when they come here it is going to be as it was before, or as they have heard it would be.”
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