From humble beginnings as a glassie to travelling the world perfecting his craft, Andy Freeman is a truly respected hospitality professional with more than 20 years’ experience under his belt. He has owned one of Australia’s most awarded bars – Luxe Bar – and is the mastermind behind Varnish on King and The Flour Factory. In the industry he is so passionate about, Andy’s wealth of knowledge and experience in hospitality is unparalleled. Known for his commitment, innovation and impeccable attention to detail, Andy remains a humble but ever-consummate professional, leading him to be one of Perth’s most respected industry figures. With Andy Freeman as the creative genius behind the venue, customers know they are stepping into some of the best establishments Perth has to offer. Combining his industry know-how with an endless list of awards and accolades, including “Operator of the Year” at the National Bar Awards in 2011, Andy continues to strive for excellence in every project that he undertakes.
Leadership and learning
What are the most important traits that every leader should possess?
I think leading by example is my most important one, and surrounding yourself with people that know more than you do.
Who has been most influential in your career; and why?
A couple of people. Geoffrey Hayward – he set a new benchmark 15 years ago with the development of Luxe Bar, it was created with customer experience, fun and service as the pillars – Perth did not have anything like it at the time.
And my friend Naren Young who lives and works in NYC. He is an industry leader, full of passion and knowledge. A true legend.
How do you stay relevant and current in your knowledge?
Travel and lots of reading and research… staying in touch with youth and trying to get “out” whenever possible to keep finger on the pulse.
Moments in time
What are the two most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from or got you where you are today?
The GFC was a big one a few years ago, those two years made a man out of me!
And possibly wining a competition in 2005 (World Championships) added some sizzle to my young CV.
Tell me about a time when things didn’t go to plan. How did you fix it? What did you learn?
This happens all the time. Nowadays I don’t get bogged down with emotion, stress and worry. Just pick yourself up – make a list of the best avenues – and the things you need to do to turn it around and get onto it ASAP!
Creativity, innovation and motivation
How do you encourage creative thinking within your organisation?
We have meetings all the time. I love creativity within my team. We allow a lot of rope for my guys to “try something”. If it doesn’t work you can always go back to the way things were the day before.
Innovation is critical for a business to thrive, how do you innovate so successfully?
Luck I think. I create places that I want to eat and drink at, they are all indulgent projects that I guess are not designed for the “masses” but more for myself. We have decent following now so I think there must be a few people who are enjoying our creations which is fortunate.
How do you motivate your team to deliver an exceptional experience?
Training on a weekly basis, this industry is 100% all about the customer, with out them we have nothing.
I love fun, energy and smiles, know your product, know your brand and good music – and we're in business!
Your thoughts on Perth’s market
You have been exceptionally successful in hospitality, what’s your advice to someone contemplating starting their own venture?
Have a great bookkeeper and hands on manager. Its starts at the top (with you) and filters down, the opening team are critical in starting the business off with a clear vision and strong foundation for others to join as it grows or as staff turnover.
What’s your current perception of the Perth hospitality market? Where do you see its future direction?
Currently it’s growing. Some businesses are flailing behind, resulting in a lot of fire sales which is a shame. There is room for more colourful venues I think; we shall see.
What’s the key to making profit in this market?
Watch your margins and spending, wages / COGS and GP, spend less to make more.
What’s the most common service mistake you encounter in Perth venues?
Mobile phones on staff - It's an epidemic!
How do you start and end your day?
5am up with the kids and at the office by 7am for two hours of work before anyone else gets into HQ.
Are you coffee or tea?
One coffee a day at 7am, that’s all I need to get the cogs turning nowadays.
Drink of choice?
Wine – red or white, I love it. My wife is an exceptional cook so we drink whatever will work well with our dinner.
Describe your perfect day off
An amazing coffee, swim at the local beach, play with the kids, go to boxing, back to the beach, BBQ and a great glass of Chablis or two.
What's the most exciting thing you have done over the past year?
Probably opening The Flour Factory has been the biggest thing in last 12 months. Its opened with a bang and were still growing and developing it.
What’s left on your bucket list that you are dying to do?
Travel Europe again probably, I have young kids (2 yr and 4.5 yr old girls – Billie and Pepper). So as soon as they can handle the long flights we will be off on an adventure!
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