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Success in the fine art of food

HUNDREDS of restaurants have opened in the city over the years, maybe thousands. And while many go bust and others bubble along thanks to a faithful clientele and reliable fare, only a handful manages to rise above the rest and become iconic names.

Some of Perth’s best known and longest-running restaurants are the inspiration of a single person, who moves from project to project creating lasting hospitality success.

Umberto Tinelli, for example, is responsible for Campo de Fiori (now Gala Restaurant), Chianti on Colin, Tinelli’s, Piccolo Mondo, and his latest venture, Il Principe Gran Caffé.

Ian Love and Warren Mead created Jessica’s, JoJo’s, The Surf Club Café and Coco’s. Each has since continued to create new and successful restaurant operations.

Nic Trimboli was part of the Matilda Bay Brewery team, moving on to develop e’cucina, Balthazar and co-found Little Creatures Brewery.

He is currently working on the creation of a new restaurant in Leederville called Duende.

And each of Chris Fraser, Neal Jackson and Albasio Le Pegna has opened more than one successful restaurant operation.

What are their secrets? How do they create successful ventures time and time again?

First up are the basics of good product, good service and good location, but when WA Business News spoke with several of Perth’s top restaurateurs to unearth their trade secrets and business acumen, it became obvious there was much more behind their success stories.

While each restaurateur is very different in style and manner, with equally different restaurant styles and operations, they have several striking similarities. 

All of them are extremely busy … and busy all day long. But they are flexible.

And the description ‘hospitality in name and in nature’ isn’t far off the mark either, for when WA Business News imposed on the restaurateurs’ daily operations we were met with a warm welcome, despite their hectic workloads.

During the interviews it became apparent that any time was a good time (apart from peak service times) to butt in. And that’s because no time is a good time. It’s busy from breakfast to late at night.

That was the first lesson learnt from these experienced men. Whether it is running one or several kitchens, the restaurant business is hard work, demanding flexible owners who can juggle many tasks at once, and operators who are prepared to do any job that needs to be done.

In each interview the restaurateur was called on frequently by staff and often stopped mid-sentence to direct the various tasks at hand or to sign for orders, answer the phone or welcome customers.

The second point to make is that each operator has a keen eye for detail. They know what they want and how they want it and their attention to the smallest of details makes sure that the restaurant is aesthetically pleasing and the product is consistent, day in and day out.

Thirdly, each restaurateur relies heavily on dedicated staff, all of them stating that their businesses would not have survived without such teamwork.

They are mindful of the books, too, knowing that food and service costs are only a fraction of the bills to be paid each month.

Then, of course, there is gut feeling and intuition. Several operators spoke about how the time to do something new “felt right”, or “the site felt right” or “I felt the market wanted it”.

To survive and prosper, these menneed good hospitality business instincts.

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