Bars are “several different businesses within the one venue”

By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

On Monday 20 March, 350 publicans and industry representatives attended the Pub Leaders Summit in Sydney to engage in discussions and demonstrations of several different facets of venue operations.

As Damian Cunningham of the Live Music Office noted in the panel on live music, “A pub is made up of several different businesses within the one venue.”

Indeed there were several sessions on specific facets of venue operations, including food, beverages, marketing and PR, and HR strategies. Both the conference speakers and delegates were a snapshot of the variety of venue operations and operators, with a good mix between national and multi-venue group operators, single-venue publicans and managers, metropolitan and regional hoteliers. Delegates attended from all across the country, with the eastern seaboard well represented, and a small contingent of delegates from South Australia and Western Australia. A group of six delegates also attended from New Zealand, to get an understanding of how pub operations differ between the two nations.

Regional operations were the first issue to be covered, with noted publicans Sean O’Hara and Alistair Flower, joined by Steve Howarth, ex-ALH national operations manager, and Mathew George, vice president of investment sales for JLL Hotels & Hospitality to discuss all of the opportunities and challenges particular to operating hotels in regional areas, including ingratiating yourself with the local community.

In stark contrast, the last session of the day, looking at the opportunities and issues that lie ahead for the entire industry, featured operators from some of the biggest hotel groups in the country, namely Antony Jones of Merivale, Dan Brady of Redcape, and Grady Patching of Colonial Leisure Group. Some of the big takeaways from that discussion were the importance of data, and more specifically how it is to be interpreted and used by operators most effectively, and the underutilisation of accommodation as a revenue stream.

Another session that had tongues wagging was a presentation from Bhavani Baumann, an entrepreneur who opened Australia’s first vegan pub bistro in Sydney last year. Her talk had many people wanting to visit the The Green Lion and experience this new concept for themselves.

The expo area also had some great treats for delegates, with food samples from Comcater, a virtual reality demonstration from Cayas Architects, beer samples from CUB and Smartbrew, among other fantastic exhibitors showcasing their products and services for the industry.

Feedback from the day proved that it was a useful and important conference for delegates, with panellists sharing their own experiences frankly, and answering many questions from the crowd. Kasie Ferguson and Bianca Sheridan, owner/operator and manager respectively, of The Railway Hotel Parkes, were two such delegates who enjoyed the Pub Leaders Summit.

“We both found it fascinating being able to get a little insight into how larger operations work and deal with the same day-to-day things we do. The different subjects kept things interesting and gave us little bits of inspiration to take all the way back to Parkes,” commented Ferguson.

For more detailed insight from the Pub Leaders Summit, subscribe now to the Australian Hotelier newsletter. A review will also be published in the April issue of Australian Hotelier in the coming weeks.

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