The Mr Yum team presented an event in (R)Adelaide called Table Talk, where three expert panellists discussed the night's topic, Appetite for Growth: Building a better business. If you couldn’t make it (given the population of Adelaide, there’s a solid chance you didn’t go), we’ve collected the top insights from the night so you can learn from the pros.
Meet the panellists
Jake Kellie - Head Chef and Owner of arkhé.
Oliver Brown - Director of The Big Easy Group and a board member of the Adelaide Economic Development Agency.
Kari Allen - Co-founder of social change beverage company Sparkke.
The importance of resilience and staying true to yourself
A week before Table Talk headed to Sparkke at the Whitmore (the evening’s venue), news broke that Kari and her business partner Rose were selling the pub. With this so fresh in mind, Kari had strong feelings about values, staying strong and making difficult calls.
“We had to make a decision really in the best interests of the community, in the best interest of our staff and in the best interest of our shareholders… For us, it's about leaving a legacy that we can be really proud of,” says Kari.
“I think we're fiercely independent, and independence is so important. And so, part of our battle across the last three years has been very much about how we achieve a benefit and a return for our shareholders while staying true to our values. And I think that's the challenge for all of us, regardless of how small or large we are. I think that's genuinely a challenge that our industry faces,” Kari says.
Getting into the owner mindset
Jake Kellie cut his teeth as Head Chef at the Michelin-Starred Burnt Ends in Singapore, and Arkhé carries on those traditions with his own special touch. Here’s how he’s found that transition from kitchen to ownership.
“I think it's really sort of separating yourself from being a chef to being an owner. And I think we've really got to learn that pretty quickly. Obviously, I have shareholders and business partners as well. So, making them happy is a key point as well. And obviously, there are certain parts of the business where we do have to make sacrifices.”
“We have an amazing group of staff, and they're all so passionate and want to do certain things and be amazing at what they do, which is good. But when it comes to costs, I have to put my owner’s hat on and have a hard think,” says Jake.
The power of planning ahead
When running any business, there hits a point where you go from scrappy and up-and-coming to taking the time to sit back and plan. Oliver talked about his experience with strategising.
“ We've made a lot of mistakes and learned from our challenges. And every time we've looked at that, we've discussed how we improve. How do we do this better? What's the future going to look like? What systems do we need to prevent this from happening again?”
“We've gone from doing 12-hour days in the venue ourselves to doing quarterly shareholder meetings and three-monthly planning days. And everything's kind of grown and developed and structured a lot to try and help us be sustainable,” says Oliver.
Discovering your purpose
Having a North Star is something you might hear thrown around a lot – Kari offers some advice to understand what that truly means.
“How are you going to prosper in the future if you don't know what your purpose is and if you are not communicating to your customers and your stakeholders?” she says.
DISCLAIMER: Kari asked us to bleep the naughty word in the video but didn’t mention anything about writing it out. Please unfocus your eyes when reading this next part if swearing offends you.
“If you try to appeal to everyone, you will appeal to no one… Purpose is a marketing asset. Purpose is a driver of business. Purpose is why people work for you. It's why they stay for you. It's why they fight for you. They drank the Kool-Aid, but if you don't drink your own Kool-Aid, you're fucked.”
Building a winning culture
The separation between kitchen and front-of-house can be a huge divide in some establishments. Throughout the night, the panellists discussed this as a difference between career workers and casuals. Jake provided some great commentary on why cohesion between the two is important to him.
“If you have good culture, you will have a successful business. We have such a supportive network, whether it be kitchen or front-of-house. When you have a great relationship between both, you can achieve so much more,” says Jake.
Using technology to stay ahead
Technology presents an exciting opportunity for hospitality venues. There are many tech platforms to choose from, and Oliver tells us how they pick what’s right for them and their venues.
“For us, I think adopting technology is massive. With the staff shortages, you need to pick the right ones. For us personally, it's all about the guest experience, it’s all about how people leave your venue and what they say about you and if it adds to or detracts from it,” he says
“An easy litmus test is what the guest experiences… learning someone's name, if they had a hard day or what they drink, I think that's hospitality. Asking someone if they want a steak rare or medium rare, I don't think that's hospitality.”