21/10/2010 - 00:00

Breaking new ground

21/10/2010 - 00:00


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The family that operated the Hillarys tavern for 20 years has created something very different at The Breakwater. Aimée Sargent reports.

Breaking new ground

STANDING on one of the decks on the top level of The Breakwater, owner-operator Sean Reid is showing no signs of tiring of the sparkling ocean views. In fact, the Hillarys local is acutely aware of how special the location is; on one side, the Indian Ocean and on the other, a bustling marina.

Mr Reid says that, up until The Breakwater opened two years ago, Perth “had been starved of anything like this.

“Obviously there’s been a surge in the small bar market, but there’s nothing like this multi-purpose venue,” Mr Reid explains.

“I don’t think we have created a whole new market for ourselves, but maybe the people who weren’t going out have been given a reason to come out again because the venue is here.”

The Breakwater sits at the end of Hillarys Boat Harbour; it’s impossible to miss. On the ground floor sits the main bar, or Lower Deck, which offers a casual drinking and dining space. Then the top level is split into three separate areas: the Akoya Suite function room with harbour and ocean views; a more subdued bar called Reid’s Lounge; and the “sophisticated yet relaxed” Ishka Restaurant.

And it’s hard not to notice the growing number of awards lining the walls. Most recently, The Breakwater took out the ‘best overall hotel’ in Australia at the Australian Hotel Association’s 2010 Awards for Excellence, which was held in Sydney last month. It was also rewarded with the ‘best restaurant award’.

“In some ways we’ve done exactly what you’re not supposed to do: being everything to everyone, but I think the design of the building complements that because it’s separated on two different levels,” Mr Reid says.

“It’s almost a natural segregation, and we do run the sections as if they are four businesses in one; each space has its own personality.”

Mr Reid says The Breakwater concept moved completely away from the traditional tavern that his family operated in the area for 20 years, and it wasn’t until the second year of operation that customers knew what to expect from the new venue. But business has been booming, with the food and beverage side “hitting the ground running” and growing strongly each month. Plus, corporate functions have also been providing a steady revenue stream.

“We’re not chasing every bit of corporate business that’s out there, but we are working with the Perth Convention Bureau for inbound tours; it’s the perfect place for people who are coming into Perth for a convention to go offsite for a dinner that’s a little bit more interesting,” Mr Reid told Gusto.

The Breakwater employs 150 staff and 18 managers, the latter chosen by Mr Reid. Each employee is put through a strict induction and attends weekly training sessions with The Breakwater’s supply partners, who provide onsite product knowledge training.

“I’m really particular with the staff; I am looking for personality over anything else because I want people to come here and have a really good experience,” he says. “That’s closely followed by really high standards; but they can all be learned, you can’t really give people a personality.”

Having spent a number of years living and working in New York, Mr Reid drew inspiration for the venue from the city’s iconic hospitality industry, and having also lived in Hillarys since he was 13, he admits he had very strong ideas about the look and feel of The Breakwater. Mr Reid attributes the highly stylised venue to Perth architects Oldfield Knott.

“I felt I had a really good understanding of what would work here; it’s not textbook because there are so many different customers – tourists, day-trippers, locals, corporates, weddings,” Mr Reid explains.

“I guess I really believed in it, and the concept didn’t change from day one.”




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