Hospo CheckIn: Mark Protheroe

Hospo CheckIn continues…Mark Protheroe, who with business partners, Joe Durrant and Steven Nelson, co-owns North Fitzroy’s The Recreation and The Paradise Valley Hotel  in Clematis, had a chat to us about their swift move into The Rec Delivered across the businesses. 

1. How challenging was it to pivot the way The Recreation did to The Rec Delivered? 

It was certainly a step into the unknown at both of our venues. A week before in-venue dining was banned we had already begun to pivot at The Recreation into takeaway as a mechanism for fighting decreasing revenue. 

We were able to offer sales over the phone and through the online shop from day one. 

Thankfully our service platform, Gather, already had access to online sales that we could utilise without any further expense. The initial aim was to decrease our holdings of perishable items and turn beverage stock back into cash to meet overheads. Having enjoyed relative success we are now focused on

improving customer experience through fine-tuning dishes that are well suited to takeaway, sending Spotify playlists and also the pending launch of a ‘beat the boredom’ newsletter. 

The biggest change to operations is logistics. 

Having chosen to keep sales and delivery in-house (avoiding the food delivery aggregators) our systems have been honed to ensure quality is not diminished too greatly from dining in the  venue. 

Our biggest stakeholders are the staff, who have remained positive and flexible during this transition. Our existing customer base have also been there for us in numerous ways. The orders have been great, we have received texts and emails

of support while some have even donated stickers and signs to help us transition. 

Finally, to continue to trade requires suppliers so we had to

have discussions with them and map out a way we could continue to trade while chipping away at the invoice overhang. 

2. What do you think the hospo  industry will look  like after  this? 

If we can’t find a way to retain skilled visa holders in our industry we will struggle with the initial demand any form of re-launch brings. 

Assuming you can find casual labour, some venues may need to recruit and train over 75% of their workforce to reopen. That will be something that customers, staff and operators alike will need to have patience with. 

The government has provided a lot of support to operators but sadly some may slip through the cracks for a multitude of reasons. As an industry, we are usually pretty good at finding a way to support our peers should some need it.

3. How are you, your family and your team? 

In regards to us and our families, we are safe and healthy which is a good position compared to many so I am not going to dwell too much on that. 

Our teams’ support has been immense. Among all the upheaval and diminished hours, they have kept driving forward, investing their emotional and physical time into our businesses. 

Being able to retain our talented full- and part-timers

through assistance like the Jobkeeper subsidy has been a great relief; however, that is somewhat offset by not being able to offer many of our casuals a similar lifeline in this time. 

We have tried to keep the communication lines open. 

We regularly check in on their welfare while keeping them updated on possible government help, potential personal

development studies to undertake and also an outline of how the business is doing.

Interview: April 24