CLYDE Bevan’s face breaks in to a wry smile when he recalls once saying he would “never own a restaurant because there is no money in it”.
Now entrenched in his third restaurant, Friends Restaurant, which he operates with his wife, Lesley, Mr Bevan admits he’s glad he didn’t take his own advice.
His first hospitality business was a nightclub in Fremantle called Sirocco and he later developed Alexander’s on St George’s Terrace.
“I was a disc jockey,” he said. “Music is my first love and then food and wine is second. Of course there’s family and friends in there too.
“I sold it [Sirocco] two weeks after the America’s Cup [in 1987].
“I did Alexander’s in ’86. It was a cabaret licence but because I was eating out four or five times a week it made sense to include a restaurant.
“It had three levels. One was fine dining and then there was a cocktail bar and a bistro. It won Gourmet Traveller’s Best New Restaurant in Australia in the first year.”
Mr Bevan made an immediate impact in the market, selling the restaurant a year later and making his money five times over.
In 1990 Mr and Mrs Bevan decided a fine dining restaurant would be perfect in the Swan Valley and took over Dear Friends in Caversham.
“Dear Friends was closing down and we took it over,” he said. “There were only three or four restaurants in the valley so we did what we wanted to do, which was fine dining. That is what we love, and it worked really well.
“We had to spend $200,000 on renovations and we eventually bought the premises.
“We only sold it [the premises, the lease was sold several years ago] last week.”
Since selling the lease at the Caversham restaurant the Bevans have poured their energies into creating an internationally recognised restaurant at the Hyatt Centre, building its fine dining status in the process, having in 1997 recognised a vacant site at The Hyatt Centre presented as an ideal spot for a restaurant.
“Fine dining is only dead for those who don’t know what it is. Where do you want to go if you win lotto? A cafe? You want to drink out of nice glasses and have the best food you can get,” said Mr Bevan, who believes defining a market and sticking to it ensures longevity.
“I have this saying: funky fickle failure. It lasts three years. For restaurants to last longer than five years requires knowing your market.
“People want quality and value for money and they want to think it was worth it.”
While it’s a very demanding business Mr Bevan said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We haven’t had more than four weeks off since 1998. You have to be there but when you’re enjoying something it is not hard work,” he said.
“You need to be focused and working hard and on the ball. You can’t relax.”
And staying on the ball looks to be paying off, with Friends Restaurant recently winning the Tucker Seabrook WA Wine List of the Year award.
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