A succession of poor reviews have refocused Greer and Lorna Marns in their quest for consistency.
FOR many restaurants a bad review can spell disaster, turning potential clientele off and sending the business into a downward spiral.
Owners of The Naked Fig Café, Greer and Lorna Marns, have been dealt multiple blows in the eight months the Swanbourne cafe has been open, but have used the negative coverage surrounding their second foodie venture (after The Wild Fig in Waterman) as a catalyst for change.
“I think you would call it a baptism of fire. The first review ... was when we had been open four weeks. For a business that size, that is very, very new,” Greer told Gusto.
“We take responsibility for that and say, ‘yes, ok, we need to fix this’; they’re things we were working towards ... getting the right staff, the right chef.”
And while the siblings used the reviews as motivation for making changes, Greer says the reviews posed a significant challenge for her and her sister.
“It is very difficult to keep the staff morale up when you get bad reviews like that. It sort of becomes self-perpetuating. We lost a lot of functions, we did lose staff, staff were like ‘I don’t want to work for someone that is getting constant bad reviews’,” she says.
“But if you take a big-picture look at it, and this is what I said to my staff, I have never heard of a restaurant that has had that many reviews in such a short time; we have been open for eight months and had four major reviews, so there is obviously high expectation there, which is on the positive side.
“At the same time we are busy every day, open seven days and you have to take a step back sometimes, take stock and look at things in perspective.
“There is also a bit of a mixed bag. The last Sunday Times review that we had, the staff were all completely devastated on the Sunday and then on Monday night we were up on the stage at the restaurant and catering association awards, getting an award for excellence.
“I think the message there is consistency ... the service and food, everything still has to be good and has to be consistently good.”
Greer and Lorna have owned and operated The Wild Fig Café in Waterman for a decade and have drawn on their experiences to manage the different expectations and booming trade at The Naked Fig.
“I don’t know if it is the western suburbs location or the brand new building and slick fit-out, but there is definitely a different expectation than we have experienced at The Wild Fig,” Greer says.
The Naked Fig is currently generating 30 per cent higher turnover than The Wild Fig and the tips at The Naked Fig are four times higher.
“It’s that same thing, the higher the expectation, the higher the tips are,” Greer says.
“I think that, after 10 years’ experience at The Wild Fig, we do have our systems down pat. It has allowed us to expand. If you don’t have the first venue running like a well-oiled machine it is very difficult to duplicate it. If you have something that is not working well, you are just duplicating problems.”
She says it’s expected to take between six and 12 months to iron out staffing issues at The Naked Fig but is confident the recent appointment of a dedicated training manager and executive chef would get the issues under control.
The Marns will be using the Fig’s blueprint again this September when they open the Pickled Fig Café in Stockland’s Islands development in South Beach.
“It is a much smaller venue than The Naked Fig, it is actually very similar to The Wild Fig in size,” Greer says.
“It’ll be licensed so it will be like a cross between The Wild Fig and The Naked Fig.”