SOUTH Perth dining institution Coco’s is a shining example of how good management can deliver a crowd favourite for more than a decade.
It’s on a great site, located on the South Perth Esplanade, but a good location does not necessarily cement success, as the less-than-stellar performance of the adjoining operations indicates.
Five different operators have tried to create hospitality success in the space next to Coco’s, the most recent being Mr Love’s former business partner Warren Mead, who bought Linq from ex-wife Linda last year.
Messrs Love and Mead opened Coco’s in 1990, with the former securing ownership when the two parted company a year later.
“The whole philosophy behind Coco’s was a venue where people felt just as welcome in a pair of jeans having a beer [as they would] in a suit in tie,” Mr Love said.
“Before we opened Coco’s I spent time in the US and it was evident that the formal restaurants were dying.
“It was a more casual restaurant people were after.
“The trick is to pick the trend before you’re in it.”
Mr Love also owns and operates the Bell House Café on the foreshore in front of Coco’s, and he has just purchased the Raffles Hotel site, where he will develop a three-pronged hospitality venue in 2005.
Mr Love said operating restaurants was hard work with many facets to master.
“It has always been hard work. You have to be prepared to do anything because when the show is on the show is on.”
Mr Love said many people who opened restaurants failed because they underestimated the demands and misjudged extra expenses.
“There are so many facets to the business,” he said. “If you get the customers in the door and the money in the till you are 30 per cent of the way to making a profit. There are a lot of things that can go wrong.
“People overlook expenses in this business. Repairs and maintenance is a huge factor.”
Mr Love believes consistency is a key component that creates customer loyalty and word-of mouth-business.
“It is a hard thing to do every time, but so long as you get close to it people will recommend you and come back,” he said.
“Repeat business and word of mouth is very important, especially in a town like Perth. If you open in a tourism precinct then it may be different.”
But remaining contemporary was also essential.
“About 25 years ago a big percentage of restaurant diners were the special occasion market. All of that has changed. People’s expectations of food and wine has increased significantly,” Mr Love said.
He said passionate and dedicated staff was a major component in his success.
Mr Love’s original head chef, Mark Diels, is now the operation’s general manager.
“He is responsible for the food side of the business and he is one of the primary architects in maintaining consistency,” he said.
“Mark has a similar philosophy about food as I do. That philosophy is that if you go out and take your hard-earned cash, you want to walk out the door and say: ‘Well it wasn’t cheap but it was a sensational piece of dhufish’ or ‘that steak was juicy and huge’.”
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