MJ recently spent time with Andrew McIntyre from Lot Twenty (a bespoke small bar in Northbridge) gaining his thoughts on the state of the Perth hospitality market and his secrets on empowering and developing an incredible team.
Leadership and learning
What are the most important traits that every leader should possess?
Leading by example; if you are not prepared to lead well and set a good example then you cannot expect others to follow your vision.
Invest in your people; not just monetarily but psychologically. Care and grow your people. If your attitude is that you want to see others succeed and be happy then you will nurture healthy and dynamic relationships within your team.
Who has been most influential in your career; and why?
Gary Beadle. Gary has been my business partner and mentor for the past 13 years. He believed in me and developed me, taking me from a glassie to a business partner.
Tim McIntyre; my Father. My Father is an incredible people manager. He instilled in me a different outlook on how to treat, grow and manage people. He has been my most influential mentor outside those in hospitality. I respect him immensely.
How do you stay relevant and current in your knowledge?
I am passionate about product. I really enjoy scouring industry publications, not just from within Australia but also internationally. The power of the internet allows you to connect and research so easily. Couple that with my curiosity, (I like to experiment with great produce and product), and I am always trialling and creating new fusions. I love to work with my Chefs challenging mediocracy; then I step back and allow them creative space and autonomy. With the market trending to food at the moment, it’s important to not ‘put things into boxes’. You have to listen to your customer and adapt. Do things differently, be relevant but deliver value for money offerings outside of the norm.
I start and end each day watching a TED Talk. I love planting a seed in my head and leaving it to nurture and grow. The best ideas come when you least expect them, so I always ensure that I keep fertilising my mind with new knowledge, concepts and innovation.
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?
Starting work at the Luxe Bar in Mt Lawley
I remember walking into Luxe as a customer, watching the bar team in action making incredible cocktails with such grace and synergy. I had never seen anything like it before. It inspired me to want to be a hospitality professional and I am so grateful that they allowed me to join their team as a glassie and to work my way up. It was during this time that I enrolled in a Bachelor of Business majoring in Hospitality and Human Resources; this gave me the foundation upon which I grew.
Negotiating the GFC as the manager of the Must Wine Bar Champagne Lounge
I was the manager of the Champagne Lounge at Must Wine Bar when the global financial crisis hit. The downturn in the market meant that people were more cautious with their dollars. $600 bottle sales flowed slower, so I learned to adapt and reinvent. Providing value for money quality choices people were still able to create incredible experiences, enjoying the knowledge and passion of the products we would pair for them.
Tell me about a time when things didn’t go to plan. How did you fix it? What did you learn?
We recently branched out into catering for external events such as ‘Live at the Orchard’ (28 days of music under the stars at The Bar Pop Urban Orchard) and ‘Embargo Bar’ (a pop up bar modelled out of shipping containers) at Elizabeth Quay. We wanted to take our hospitality style and scale it; bringing our hospitality experience and passion to the Perth market. The lessons I learned were brutal. Programming and planning is everything. When you collaborate on ventures and you’re not the sole owner, you are at the mercy of others expertise and timelines. Consultation, communication and planning become paramount.
Creativity, innovation and motivation
How do you encourage creative thinking within your organisation?
When I work in the business alongside the team, I lead – push them out of their comfort zone – and look to inspire. I really believe in giving people the tools and the platform to be creative. A moleskin journal and the space to be creative is critical. Time to think, reflect and refine ideas is the foundation of great beginnings. If everyone pushes the envelope, if everyone brings new ideas to the table, magic happens.
Innovation is critical for a business to thrive, how do you innovate so successfully?
I LOVE food and booze! It’s a way of life! Innovation is not a choice for me; it’s a passion. Every time I am out somewhere I have an eye for detail. I can’t help but ponder on what’s right and what’s wrong. It is this curiosity that leads me to explore.
I use the chopping board analogy to share with my team why details matter. If things aren’t clean and tidy, your space uncluttered, noise removed from your environment, you will lose focus and clarity. A chopping board needs to be used systematically in thirds. The top one third holds what you are cutting, the middle the knife, leaving the bottom one third to create. A professional always ensures that their work bench or board is in order. You must never use the knife used to cut a grapefruit on a drink that requires cut lime unless you have thoroughly cleaned it. Contamination of flavours and lazy practices leaves the customer confused on your product. Did they order a gin with grapefruit, or lime? If you don’t take the time to listen, create and care, innovation will never be possible and your customers never satisfied.
Innovation stems from delivering best practice, every time, with passion and clarity.
Clean slate, no noise, clear focus, attention to detail = great ideas!
How do you motivate your team to deliver an exceptional experience?
Through encouraging them to experience good and bad service and analysing together what we experienced. We invest time together reflecting on the service we receive at other establishments and how each interaction made us feel. What message was the staff member and venue sending us and is that the experience that we want to offer at our place. Lot 20 is viewed as an extension of our home. Have we been as hospitable to our customers as we would if we were inviting them over for dinner in our home; this is the benchmark we measure ourselves against.
Ensuring clarity of vision. I believe it is important that a team shares the same vision as the owners. To do this we believe in and use our mission statement, business policies and procedures and invest in team training. Live it together and encourage dialogue on what the business stands for.
Your thoughts on Perth’s market
You have been exceptionally successful in hospitality, what’s your advice to someone contemplating starting their own venture?
Don’t do it for the next 2-3 years! There have been too many entrants into the market in the past 18-20 months which has caused the customer base and talent to be spread thin. You need to have a strong core team to thrive, a team that have earned their medals on experience. We are seeing too many employees in the market who have been promoted through establishments because they were good at the core skills of their job; but they are not strong in the core skills of management. This is seeing the industry in all sorts of strife. If you are opening a new venture invest in the right capabilities in the right positions. The market is still nervous and the consumer whilst spending, still cautious. I would hold off.
What’s your current perception of the Perth hospitality market? Where do you see its future direction?
Putting the cautious customer to one side, Perth is going through an amazing renaissance. It is the older generations, in fact the baby boomers who now have access to great offerings and venues. Never before have you seen such variety in offerings. The market is learning that some may chase the 18-25 year olds dollar, but there is a more profitable market demographic in Perth who is willing to pay for good quality and great experiences.
The Perth market is like a baby giraffe; it’s forming. Working out what it is; what it wants to be. It’s starting to stand on its own feet and find its own way. We are no longer a follower of places such as Melbourne; how can we be when our lifestyle and climate is so different! I love seeing Perthcentric design features such as great outdoor areas being the focus of a venue.
What’s the key to making profit in this market?
Don’t be in it for the money. Believe in your product. Offer great product – be relevant. People will reward you with patronage if you offer them value for money.
What’s the most common service mistake you encounter in Perth venues?
No automatic offer of water. Yes I want a drink; but I also want a water – offer it to me!
‘Little jerk’ bartenders who after two years think they know it all! You are learning sunshine! Be passionate but be knowledgeable!
How do you start and end your day?
I listen to a TED Talk, enjoy a herbal tea, then shower and hit the gym or take a walk to the river where I work on my ‘mindfulness’. I enjoy calming the mind and reflecting on the day that’s ahead. I grab breakfast and prepare for a 6.50am start. 9 till 10 I do emails before getting into the day. Getting home may be anytime – I keep things elastic, but my routine is always the same. 30 mins to check and prioritise my emails, prepare a culinary delight or head out to dinner, practice mindfulness, watch a movie and spend time with my partner.
Are you coffee or tea?
I have one coffee a day; the rest of the day it’s tea.
Drink of choice?
Gin and gingerbeer; or a great Dark ‘N’ Stormy.
Describe your perfect day off
Head to the beach for a swim and meditation; my favourites are Port or the Cott. Call in for breakfast somewhere on the way back. Stop off for fresh fruit and vegetables and then find my mates. It’s time to drink, chill and enjoy ourselves long into the night.
What's the most exciting thing you have done over the past year?
Booked 6 weeks annual leave to spend time in New York with my brother and tour the States.
What’s left on your bucket list that you are dying to do?
So much! Skydiving to cure my irrational fear of heights. Bungyjumping to ensure that I am cured of my fear of heights. Live in another city before I open my next venue; it would be sensational to experience the inspirations of a different city.
Visit Lot Twenty at 198-206 William Street, Perth, entry via James Street, to enjoy a truly sensational experience. From the architectural design, to the service, it's unfaultable!
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