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Applejack celebrates ALIA win

Applejack ALIA win

Sorry to throw a cliché in early doors, but it would have been easy for the team at Applejack Hospitality to think it was going to be a case of always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

The group has been Highly Commended as the Bar Group Operator of the Year, four years in a row at the Australian Liquor Industry Awards (ALIA). But this year the group went one step further and finally took out the major award, and joined the celebrations at The Star last Wednesday night.

Co-Founder, Ben Carroll, was understandably delighted with the win, he told Bars and Clubs: “Hamish and I opened our first venue eight years ago, to think just after three years of starting Applejack we were Highly Commended for Group Operator was brilliant, and we held that for the next three years.

“Highly Commended is a great accolade particularly when you are getting pipped at the post by some incredible operators. But this year is our year and how sweet that feeling is.”

There is no doubt that being voted as one of the top two bar group operators in the country for the past five years is a very impressive effort from the group. When you talk to Carroll you feel the passion he has for the industry and so it was not surprising to hear him say that is one of the factors that helps the group stay at the top of its game.

In terms how the group works on staying relevant, he said: “This is a tough one as there are so many moving part to the business. Consistency comes down to empowering the right people around you who share you same values and dreams. I feel to stay relevant you need to have a passion for creativity and are always finding inspiration through other industries and avenues.”

And in terms of what are the key factors in being such a strong group operator, he added: “Our people and our customers, without either of them we wouldn’t be here today. So whenever a decision needs to be made we ensure our people and our customers come first. From designing a venue’s furniture layout or the working environment of a kitchen. Our people and customers come first.”

Ben Carroll and Hamish Watts celebrate their big win with the Applejack team in true ALIA style
Ben Carroll and Hamish Watts (centre) celebrate their big win with the Applejack team in true ALIA style.

Both Carroll and Applejack partner Hamish Watts have done great work, not only with Applejack as a business, but in setting up their bars across Sydney, so we had to take the opportunity to ask Carroll what his advice is to new bar owners and operators, or those thinking about it.

These are four gems of advice for the industry: “Get mentors or well experienced people that can give you unbiased advice; Be clear on ‘why’ – why you are creating a new bar, and why will people come; Own the concept, don’t be half-baked, go all out; Stop sitting around and do it.”

Can’t fault that advice.

To be so successful over a period of time businesses do need to adapt and recently Carroll and Watts consulted on a number of new bars, including the Hacienda Bar at the Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour.

But he told Bars and Clubs: “As there was a huge demand for consultancy we dabbled with it for a few years, however as we grew we need to focus on building the best company (Applejack) we could. Whilst the extra cash on the side was good we (Hamish and I) both knew if we wanted to continue to grow Applejack then our focuses needed to be there. Hence we have all but stop consultancy.”

And, as you would expect, the team now has its eyes on the future. In terms of what is to come, Carroll, said: “We have a few things in the pipeline and are busting to shout the news, though there is a few more dotted lines to sign before we can.”

Congratulations once again to the whole Applejack team, enjoy the win and we can’t wait to hear what’s next.

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