The price of paradise

What advantages does the European hospitality industry have over us? Customer attitudes for a start …

This summer I had the privilege to spend four weeks in Europe. It’s intriguing that while there are amazing culinary experiences in Europe, nothing quite measures up to what we do in Australia.

Having said that, I always learn something from going back to Italy. My observation this time was the attitude to dining out and how working in the industry is totally different. While the number of dining-out occasions in Australia is increasing, we have a long way to go to catch up with most Europeans, for whom at least four to five meals out a week is commonplace.

This additional demand creates the industry that exists in most of Europe. It’s made up of businesses that are somewhat complacent (because excess demand exists) while producing a product that’s consistent and reliable. This works because the cost base (mainly due to wage rates) is lower and a ready supply of skilled labour, due to the EU open boarders, is available in most countries.

In Australia we exist on a knife edge of profitability. Our restaurant and catering businesses have to be creative and dynamic to stay afloat.

There is no doubt we live in the lucky country-—great weather, wonderful restaurants, enviable lifestyles-—yet are we living beyond our means? I have to question whether we can afford to keep dishing up the world’s best.

Matteo Pignatelli
President, Restaurant & Catering

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