25/03/2009 - 22:00

The right fit at Ninniku Jip

25/03/2009 - 22:00

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Ninniku Jip offers Asian fusion the whole family can enjoy amid the thriving strip in East Victoria Park, as Jashuan Dias discovered.

INCLUSIVE: Joanna Whittle (right) and Akiko Sakuma, the visual artist who designed the interior and logo for Ninniku Jip. Photo: Grant Currall

THE importance of shared family time was a major part of Joanna Whittle's decision to open Ninniku Jip in East Victoria Park.

The cosmopolitan restaurant, which serves a modern Korean menu with a touch of Japanese and Italian influence, has proved popular with families since it opened in May 2006.

"I wanted everything in my restaurant to have some symbolism. I feel that having dinner with your family should be a fundamental institution, and that does not include dinner at a fast-food restaurant, fish and chips or any unhealthy alternatives," Ms Whittle told Gusto.

"When children sit down at our restaurant they still take up a space. We feel that families should be able to come here and really relax and have a decent meal."

To better accommodate family groups Ninniku Jip has a children's playground with colourful slides and swings, and the latest computer games.

Ninniku is the Japanese word for 'garlic', and Jip means 'house' in Korean, with the Asian focus a reflection of Ms Whittle's travel experiences over the years.

Although she hadn't worked in the hospitality industry before she opened Ninniku Jip, Ms Whittle's business experience comes from a period when she owned and operated a language school in Tokyo.

"The fundamental business concept remains the same throughout any industry. You have to have a niche product, insist on target marketing and provide a consistent level of service, and constantly evaluate your business and you will eventually see your business grow," she says.

Back in Western Australia, Ms Whittle decided that, while Perth was a growing city, it wasn't as cosmopolitan as some of the other places she had visited on her travels.

"I decided if I was to open my own restaurant I would mix it up," she says.

At Ninniku Jip, mixing it up didn't relate just to the food but included everything from the decor to the atmosphere and drinks.

Ms Whittle says Ninniku Jip's business structure concentrates on encouraging families to be regular visitors.

"Rather than have them come once every six months, we encourage them to come often, hence we priced our menu to achieve that. It's not as cheap as McDonald's but it's still affordable. It's better to have a full house rather than have a few customers and charge top dollar."

Ms Whittle says Ninniku Jip faces the same staffing issues as many other restaurants, despite the current downturn and influx of applicants.

"We have great staff but having them work for a long period of time is a constant challenge," she says.

"Even in these times, where many staff members are being made redundant, we still face staff challenges because the people being let go are not looking for part-time or casual work and it is easier to hire working holiday visa holders or students."

The restaurant is located on the thriving strip along Albany Highway in East Victoria Park, now home to a plethora of eateries and cafes.

"The more restaurants that open up the more people are drawn into the area. Each time a new restaurant opens up we don't really feel the pinch; it just means that there are more people out there looking to try something different," Ms Whittle says.

"I visited a few different restaurants but to me it was like investing in a new dress' you sometimes find a dress and it looks great but then you wear it and know it's not you, and that's exactly what it was like.

"I went to some beautiful restaurants while travelling [overseas] but I didn't feel like any of them was for me. I have strong oriental influences and I needed that oriental touch to the restaurant and I felt like I could actually wear this dress and be comfortable in it."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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