Community Support in a Tough Industry

Two and a half years ago when I arrived in Terrigal, I knew not a soul.  I also probably knew nothing really about setting up a restaurant from scratch. Not on my own.  At two years in, on the surface it may appear that what we do is easy, and while we’ve certainly gotten into a groove now, it wasn’t always smooth sailing.  Converting an old ‘Subway’ into a modern restaurant isn’t so easy.

There have been challenges along the way, and without the support of the people in the local community, I think I would have found it very difficult to navigate. Even before I had started the build, I had received messages of support from people within the local industry.

From the wider central Coast, Hayley and Cameron from Bombini were among the first to reach out, which is great because I think they’ve really paved the way for restaurant owner/operators on the coast with a solid commitment to quality.  Scott and Melissa Fox from Pearl’s at Pearl Beach have also been quietly supportive, lending some sage advice over the months.  Easy advice to trust, as they have been doing what they do there for 16 years, are the only place on the coast with a coveted chef’s hat, and continue to deliver exciting food, wine and service week after week. That takes true grit! Brian and Karina Barry from Bell’s at Killcare, along with many of their staff, frequent the restaurant too, which I think is great to see and they are always happy to have a chat about our local industry and the challenge and highlights that we share.  Bryce and Danielle from Young Baron’s in Woy Woy are also friends of ours, purely through eating at each others restaurants and sharing a similar story.

Closer to home, right here in Terrigal has been where the real help with the nitty gritty has come from.  I think some towns might have an overly competitive vibe within the hospitality community.  I think the Terrigal community is much more supportive.  The reason why I chose Terrigal to do my thing, is because I thought there was room to do something different.  I think that’s what we offer.   And I think our peers probably see that, as we don’t really want to compete with anyone, but complement the offering that Terrigal already has.  And I believe that’s why it is becoming such an attractive place to visit and live.  The great beaches and natural beauty helps!

During the early stages of construction, Paul from Island Time was very generous with advice  and assistance, and continues to be supportive to this day.  When you are a chef but you’re battling with Grease Traps and Gas Meters and general bureaucracy and red tape, it helps to know someone who has been there before! Scott and Ruth from Chop’n Grind are also veterans of the industry and have become great mates.  The fact that that have the best burgers and my favourite beer on tap is definitely a plus.  Kenny, Mark and Maureen from Four hands have also been very supportive.  They are very hard-working  and are engaged with the community.  What they offer is quite different to us, so I think being in this little side-street together works well. And while they are kept super busy with their great restaurant, they’ve always had the time to answer questions that I have.  Steve and Mitch from Bellyfish have even lent me plates when I’ve run out!   Adam Crouch MP has also offered assistance when needed, especially with pushing with me with various agencies who don’t seem to understand the phrase ‘timing is of the essence’.  People can have different political beliefs, but if your local elected officials are out there engaging directly with the community, I think that is important, and I think Adam does a great job.

Since opening, we have always tried to give back to the community.  We contribute to many charities and fund-raising events.  I think contribution is a really important thing to focus on.  I think anyone who gets into the restaurant industry for the money is either naïve or has rocks in their head!  Every day we try to give our customers an experience.  Interesting food, different wines, personalised service.  We want to contribute a little extra joy in someone’s day. I’m sure we don’t nail it with everyone everyday, but that is our focus.  There have been other small businesses who have understood the financial reality of a small restaurant starting from scratch, and have been really flexible with us. Sam from Advantage Media Group has helped us from Day one with our website, IT and Marketing.  Over the time we’ve both been able to grow our businesses and I’ve certainly learnt a lot! There was a time when a good chef could just open a restaurant and cook good food and be busy, but the world has changed!

Of course the part of the community we are most interested in is our customers!  Without you we wouldn’t exist.  We know that in a way we are really asking you to trust us.  If you’ve never been to the restaurant, we acknowledge that asking you to enter our little side-street digs and fork out upwards of $60 for a meal, with no ocean view and a fairly basic dining room, requires a level of trust that it will be worth it.  We’ve had loyal customers that have supported us from the very beginning and continue to come through the doors each week. We have new customers just discovering us now.  We endeavour to meet and exceed expectations every day, which takes a lot of commitment. We are here for the long haul, and just want to continue to grow our business and contribute to the community in the best way we know how.  Through tasty food!

We know all the local businesses pretty well, and continue to share the community spirit with them. With Christmas just gone, we were grateful that many of them chose us as a place to celebrate the year past with their teams with some tasty food and maybe a few wines!  One such team were the lovely people from Bohemian Traders.  Owners David and Emily Berlach have been regular customers of ours for some time now.  Over time we have got to know each other a little. Not only did they decide to have their staff party with us, but were very kind to have their team compose this video.  I think they share our view on community and I am chuffed that they decided to include me in their series.  If you aren’t familiar with them, they have both an excellent online store and a bricks and mortar store in Erina Heights. They carry a very unique range range of Women’s, men’s and children’s clothing.

Enjoy the video and don’t tease me, I get nervous in front of the camera!
Cheers,  Scott