The 2012 Savour Australia™ Restaurant & Catering HOSTPLUS Awards for Excellence saw the best of the best honoured
After a tough year that saw wage pressures send many restaurants to the wall, Australian restaurants and caterers have undoubtedly grown stronger if the standard of entries in the National Savour Australia™ Restaurant & Catering HOSTPLUS Awards for Excellence is anything to go by, Restaurant & Catering president Brien Trippas told the capacity crowd at the awards night in Brisbane at the end of October.
The awards, held at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, was the 13th national ceremony in the past 15 years. The event is a culmination of winners from nine events held around Australia with around 1400 businesses participating in the 2012 program. Through the RACES Evaluation System, venues were assessed by trained
judges who dine anonymously and review the experience according to
a predetermined, research-based and standardised set of criteria, making it the only truly systematic restaurant industry awards program in Australia. The judging process provides a benchmark for businesses that are involved and is specifically designed to objectively recognise and promote industry best practice.
John Hart, CEO of Restaurant & Catering commented, “Restaurant & Catering congratulates all the winners and finalists in the 2012 national awards. Their achievement in providing great food and great service, is in itself, a wonderful contribution to the industry. The Awards for Excellence represent an important moment as the industry pauses to honour these outstanding venues for their great talent, innovation and commitment and to celebrate such well-deserved accolades.”
In his president’s address to the finalists and guests, Brien Trippas took the opportunity to remind people that even though there had been several high-profile closures during the year, legislative challenges, wage pressures and staff shortages meant it wasn’t smooth sailing yet.
“Net opening in 2012 have been in the negative,” Trippas told the crowd. “A few restaurants such as Bécasse and Montpellier Public House have gone to the wall because of wage inflation. In 2004, we predicted wage costs would be 50 per cent by 2015, and people didn’t believe us. Now wage costs are currently 46 per cent and climbing.”
He also made reference to the perennial problem of staff shortages that has consistently dogged the restaurant and catering industry.
“We cannot grow without staff,” he said. “In a speech former Restaurant & Catering president Michael Fischer gave at this event in 1999, he spoke of there being 16,000 restaurants in this country. Today there are 39,000, which will turn over $20 billion this year. My concern is we may have topped out. Because our growth is restricted by the available workforce. There’s a 35,000 shortfall currently—that is predicted to grow to 84,000 in 2020.
“In other words, at the moment we’re all about one employee short. By 2020 we will all be two short.”
The challenges presented by the twin troubles of staff shortages and IR legislation was echoed in the speech given by shadow tourism minister Bob Baldwin, who told the crowd, “On September 5th, in Tasmania, my parliamentary colleague Martin Ferguson highlighted the fact that something needs to be done about penalty rates.” He was referring to the speech federal tourism minister Martin Ferguson made to a hospitality forum in Hobart, saying that “Penalty on Penalty” issues were a major obstacle for the hospitality industry in challenging economic times and, “I hope the bench of Fair Work Australia has given proper regard to the input of the tourism industry in this context because I understand that is the key issue to industry at this point in time.” In response, Baldwin said, workplace relations minister Bill Shorten reiterated the government’s support for Fair Work Australia’s modern award. The effect this has on tourism is devastating, Baldwin said.
“If you’re coming from the city and you get to town on Saturday, and on Sunday you go to lunch and there’s nothing open… people go home disappointed and tell people not to go to that town because nothing is open, and it starts a vicious spiral downwards.”
Despite the dire predictions, it was very much a night of celebration, especially for the 211 restaurants and 68 caterers from metropolitan and regional areas across the country which had been recognised before the night. The major national awards have been hotly contested. This year saw fantastic success for regional business Eleonore’s at Chateau Yering in Victoria’s Yarra Valley; it received Restaurant of the Year and was winner of the Fine Dining Restaurant category. Eurest (Australia)—Westpac Banking Group, Sydney received Caterer of the Year and was winner of the Corporate Caterer category. Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre in Southbank received the Green Table Award for Excellence in Environmental Sustainability, and for the second year running Crown Melbourne Ltd—Food & Beverage Department received the George Mure Memorial Professional Development Award 2012.