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George Kailis says Perth’s culinary offering is at a global level. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Kailis senses market movement

There’s a seismic shift happening in hospitality and Perth has an opportunity to become a culinary destination, according to George Kailis.

It is timely that a waiter at the newly refurbished Kailis Fish Market Cafe serves the table a plate of kingfish ceviche just as George Kailis is discussing the evolving tastes of local diners.

Kailis Hospitality Group has recently sharpened up the look, branding and menu of the cafe, located at Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour, to reflect this trend.

“There is a seismic shift in what’s going on,” Mr Kailis, the group’s managing director, told Business News.

“Nationally, internationally, you see it.”

As an example, he said it was only five years ago that many restaurants in Perth’s northern beaches would play it safe with offerings of burgers, chips and parmigiana. That was no longer the case.

Three of the group’s four restaurants are on the northern beaches, with Canteen and Island Market at Trigg, and The Shorehouse in Swanbourne.

Ceviche is perhaps an example of how restaurateurs are lifting their offerings.

“It’s an evolution of the market,” Mr Kailis said.

“It has a lot to do with the advent of social media, people are exposed to a lot more by seeing a picture.

“Shows like MasterChef, all these shows on television, people are really interested in cooking, they’re interested in produce food, provenance food.”

Customers, particularly of a younger generation, want an experience when they go out to eat food they can’t make at home, he said.

Growing interest in the pairing of wine and other types of alcohol with food was another indication of the food scene’s evolution.

Mr Kailis said it was important to invest in sommeliers, who are experts in wine, with Nina Throsby and Aaron Cummings responsible for the beverages across the group.

“You can’t open a restaurant now and not have a sommelier to drive a wine program,” he said.

At Kailis Fish Market Cafe, the thematic is of an old-school Jewish deli.

Mata Design Studio, which was also involved in the creation of Island Market, was chosen to modernise the look of the cafe.

In addition to the spicy, citrus and raw fish flavours of the ceviche, the menu features salmon poke, prawn cocktail, blue manna crabs and cone bay barramundi, among other options.

Mr Kailis said the group had a focus on fast casual dining because the market was price sensitive.

He said prices could be kept down for gourmet style meals by using counter service, which kept a lid on labour costs. 

The Kailis family has been a part of Western Australia’s business community since 1926, while the Kailis Hospitality Group business was founded by Victor Kailis, George’s father.

George Kailis said one of the biggest lessons from his family was the value of labour.

“Hard work and long hours was always a fundamental [part] of my youth growing up in the business, you always felt a little bit guilty if you weren’t working six days or sometimes seven,” he said.

“Bearing the Kailis name … you needed to outperform and outwork everyone else, you couldn’t be seen to be the one slacking off.

“I wanted to be sure to be the first one here and the last one going home.

“That was something dad instilled in me from a young age. I still work six days a week now.”

Mr Kailis said he made a point to get out to all of the group’s venues each week.

“It’s important that (the staff) know I’m there with them,” he said.

That passion may have helped Mr Kailis win the hospitality operator of the year award at the 2019 WA Good Food Guide Awards in October.

Patience has also been key as the group has expanded, and the family waited nearly a decade for the right opportunities.

In 2017, Kailis bought business partner Scott Taylor's share of the Shorehouse to take full ownership.

The long wait had been driven by a lack of good assets on the market during the boom years, Mr Kailis said.

There were plans for a further expansion, with a new venue to be in the pipeline for 2020 or 2021, he said.

Mr Kailis is optimistic about Perth’s potential as a food and wine destination, with the offering competitive at a global level.

“Perth has an enormous opportunity, after evolving in the past four or five years, (and it’s) going to keep shifting,” he said

“We’re in the mix.

“There’s a really good pool of operators. I think there’s a movement.”

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