New year, new energy

The new year is almost here. Some of you will be taking a break. Many will be trading through. Whatever the case, the new year is traditionally seen as a time to take stock of where we’re at and where we are heading. After such a tumultuous year, we have turned to two of the Australian hospitality industry’s legends for a little advice in this time of reflection.

Ian Curley, consulting chef and star of TV show Conviction Kitchen, Ian is known for his forthright opinion and tough love.

“It is a new year and let’s put the past behind us. Remember the first day back at school after the summer holidays? Your books were new and you made sure your handwriting was nice and neat. This is a chance to reset and start afresh. There are new hygiene and new COVID-19 restrictions in place. This means the restaurant, café, catering company, pub, club, or care facility, are no longer the same. You have to think of it as a different business. Some of the practices we used to have are now history. I tell people they have to understand, “We are not the same anymore. It’s new.”

“We also need to communicate with our staff and let them know how difficult it has been and that the only way through is together.”

“There is strength in collaboration. Make a note of who your friends are in the industry because we are going to need to work together. It could be a pop-up, could be staff sharing, could be just a kind ear. Make sure you keep those connections strong. I know I have plans to work with chefs from around Australia and do special events with them, make them the centre of attention, showcase their skills and let everyone have a good time.”

“Yes, we are in a pandemic, but we will come back bigger and better. We are going to do what we do best. We are a country that has a proud reputation for its food and wine. It is still a magnificent industry to grow old in.”

Sam Gowing ran successful pubs in Melbourne and is now in northern New South Wales, working on her Food, Health, Wealth cooking school and product development company.

“Don’t panic, don’t fear! This is a time to slow down, stop and take stock. Take stock of the business and take stock of where you are within it. Get clear about the intention of the business. If you are rolling out a new menu, feel calm and confident with the menu rollout. Focus on turnover and work towards widening the profit margin. Some businesses are concentrating on more compact menus with dishes that tell stories that help marketing. Remember, there is beauty in scarcity and use it to your advantage. For example, waste is an unnecessary outgoing — plan on reducing waste and repurposing kitchen waste. Make stocks and other dishes with trim. Read the room. Get a feeling for what people want.”

“Revive the old-fashioned classics if it fits your business because nostalgia sells in times of uncertainty. Be open to new income streams. Look ahead and make products and dishes for hallmark events like a bonza BBQ sauce for Australia Day. Have a look at other outgoings such as linen, napery. What does the laundry cost versus paper napery? Do the sums. Look at your inventory and work out how much you want to make that month and work to it. Start with the ingredients and add a big dose of creativity and a massive dose of positivity. Hospitality is a business about creating a sense of goodwill and entertainment.

Ultimately that is what people are buying. They are buying an experience they can’t get anywhere else. Finally, don’t be afraid of  change. Change could be the path to profit and or happiness.”

Looking after mental health is very important, for owners, management and staff. We asked mental health experts at Beyond Blue for their top five tips on how people in our line of work can start the new year.

  • As the year’s end approaches, it’s understandable if you’re feeling overwhelmed or a little burnt out. Be kind to yourself when you’re planning for the year ahead.
  • Try to set achievable goals that contribute to making you feel positive, healthy and fulfilled, and provide a sense of achievement.
  • Being mindful can be an effective way to cope with stress. Incorporating breathing and relaxation exercises, practising mindfulness or yoga are great ways to help manage emotions that may get stirred up around this time of year.
  • Try to set some healthy habits to look after your wellbeing including regular physical activity, eating well, and getting a good night’s sleep.
  • If your thoughts and feelings are overwhelming you and impacting on your day-to-day life, it’s important to reach out and talk to someone for support.


Getting support: The mental health professionals at Beyond Blue’s Support Service are available over the holiday period 24/7 on 1300 22 4636, online chat (3pm-12am AEDT) or email responses (within 24 hours).