The 2023 Pub Leaders Summit, held in Brisbane on 24-25 July, was a success with the 240 publicans and industry partners that attended.

Taking place at the esteemed Eatons Hill Hotel, owned and operated by Comiskey Group, the Monday conference was packed with plenty of ideas and learnings shared by panellists and presenters, who were open and forthright about the experiences they’ve had within their own businesses and venues.

Plenty of operational topics were discussed, but one theme that kept popping up throughout the day was the importance of a good team within your business – starting with the leadership team. This was the theme of the keynote delivered by Garie Dooley, who discussed ‘The Keys to Developing a High Performance Culture.’ In Dooley’s informative session he suggested that where teams were not performing, it was important to first look at your leadership, and the culture it has created. He stressed the importance of creating a culture of truth and trust within your teams, so that they feel safe to both be held accountable and to hold others to account.

This was backed up in the Staffing Strategy session, where Redcape’s operations manager Joel Cronan discussed how the  group’s internal motto is Care, Courage, Collaborate. Together with ALH interim MD Paul Walton, Full Moon Hotel publican Lucinda Dowling-Black and emcee Luke Butler of Hastings People, the panel also suggested that the industry needed to get more creative in thinking about how it could recruit talent from other industries, and that employers needed to be more receptive to things like unconventional hours and jobshare – particular at the venue management level – to attract great talent.

Another big theme of the day was current economic conditions and how they are affecting operations. While most operators said they were yet to really see significant changes in patrong spending, many believed that interest rate increases would soon have an effect on in-venue spending. Most operators were cautiously optimistic in the recession-proof nature of pubs, but suggested that diverse and creative offerings were more important than ever to soften the impact of consumer behavioural change, and that a value-for-money offer was crucial.

The Economic Landscape panel (l-r) with Tom Gleeson, JLL; Mel Porter, Porters Plainland Hotel; Brad Jenkins, Lewis Land Group; and Paul Walton, ALH Hotels.

A few different sessions on data showed that optimising the customer experience is crucial, including through the use of personalised deals and preferences known and catered to before a guest arrives. Marianne Mewett, CXO of Australian Venue Co, shared the success of the group’s app The Pass, with 100,000 users increasing their spend via the app by an average of 260 per cent, and venue visitation up 243 per cent.

Data from CGA by NIQ also showed the current on-premise behaviour trends both locally and across the US and the UK. James Phillips presentation showed where the current opportunities for venues lay. Within the drinks category, Phillips showed that while domestic beer, soft drinks and still wine were still the main drinks orders within pubs, 55 per cent of 18-35 year-olds drink cocktails in the on-premise, and were willing to spend close to the $20 mark on cocktails, as opposed to $10 on a pint of beer.

Marianne Mewett of AVC was a great source of information when it came to data, loyalty systems and personalisation of offers.

These are just a few glimpses into the kinds of insights that were shared at the Pub Leaders Summit conference. There were also multiple networking opportunities throughout the day, including the Networking Drinks held at the end of the conference, hosted by platinum sponsor Coca-Cola Europacific Partners.

Platinum sponsor Coca-Cola Eurpacific Partners were able to give attendees a first taste of their new range of Kirks mixers.

Matt Coorey, managing director of the Boardwalk and Shearers Arms Tavern on the Gold Coast – and a panellist at the Summit – called the conference “an amazing day.”

“All panels were relevant and informative.  The quality of the food and drink was also first class. The opportunity to engage with sponsors and fellow industry peers added more value to the event,” he stated.

The Eatons Hill Hotel grounds made for a great backdrop for the CCEP Networking Drinks.

An eye-opening study tour

The Summit continued on Tuesday 25 July, with a group of 30 publicans from across Australia taking part in the in inaugural study tour, sponsored by Rohrig. The tour kicked off with a hard-hat visit of the Belvedere Hotel at Woody Point, with Lewis Land Group’s Queensland manager Chris Allison, walking th group through the pub’s construction site, and talking through the group’s plans for the venue’s major renovation.

The hard-hat tour of The Belvedere mid-way through construction was a unique and fascinating experience.

Next up was a visit to the Brook Hotel, where ALH state manager Stephen Clarke and venue manager  Callum Foo talked us through the $31m makeover of this large-format suburban pub, from the striking deck with a 60-year old oak tree at its centre covered in 5km of fairy lights, to the high-end gaming lounge and cocktail bar, to the back-of-house efficiencies that make ease the workload of staff.

Last on the tour was a stop at Fortitude Valley venue Jubilee Hotel by TB Hotels, with its jaw-dropping concrete and glass courtyard, behind the heritage-listed public bar. GM Mark ‘Trunk’ Lassman walked us through the space, and how the new spacious courtyard addition attracts a new clientele to the venue, while the heritage-listed public bar keeps long-time regulars happy.

Keep an eye out for information on the Pub Leaders Summit in the September issue of Australian Hotelier. See you in 2024!

Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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