Queensland Hotels Association (QHA) announced the winners of its Awards for Excellence on Monday night at the Brisbane Exhibition Centre, with more than 1500 industry members joining to celebrate Queensland’s exceptional venues and operators.

This year’s Overall Hotel of the Year – Metropolitan award went to Bli Bli Hotel, as well as Best TAB Venue and Best Bistro – Metropolitan. Maeva Hospitality managing director Scott Armstrong spoke about what it meant to win the award in Bli Bli Hotel’s first year of operation.

“In a short space of time, the Bli Bli Hotel has established itself as a vibrant hub within the local community.

“Whilst the hotel boasts some great amenities, it is really our service levels and engagement with our guests that sets us apart from many operators. The emphasis is on genuine, warm hospitality and consistent service, reflecting our strong commitment to customer satisfaction. Staff are recruited based on having a positive attitude and cultural fit to our business. Our authentic interest in people shines through in every interaction, enhancing the overall experience for our guests.  If we can match our décor with our service levels, then we have a standout destination,” he said.

Exchange Hotel Kilcoy took out the Overall Hotel of the Year – Regional and Best Bistro – Regional, which Aushotels Group group general manager Rick Kay attributes to the hotel’s strong connection to the Kilcoy community.

“We are extremely excited to have won these awards. Best Bistro – Regional is credit to head chef Ryan and the team who have worked very hard over the years to establish Exchange Hotel as a food destination with great country hospitality. And to win best Overall Hotel was a complete surprise and to be judged by our peers again shows the dedication of venue manager Donna Roser and her team to operate an all-round country hotel with great service.

“What we excel at is offering hospitality in a classic country hotel, so that our customers feel welcomed and can get great food accompanied with their drink of choice, along with our events that benefit the community. We believe in being part of the community, supporting all the clubs and events and involving the great people of Kilcoy where we can. We’re continually striving for the experience that gets not only our locals but visitors returning,” he said.

Food’s critical role

With both best Overall Hotels winning Best Bistro in their regions, the importance of a quality food offering is evident in this year’s QHA awards.

For Kay, the food offering at Exchange Hotel is a way of attracting patrons to the hotel.

“Quality, tasty homestyle food is the backbone of country hotels, as we not only rely on local patronage, but giving people a reason to travel to our town and enjoy what the locals may take for granted and, while in Kilcoy, support the town,” he said.

Armstrong said that, though a food offering can be a difficult department to operate consistently, the award is evidence that it plays a crucial role in the Bli Bli Hotel’s success.

“Our recent investment in upskilling our kitchen workforce and presenting fresh, local ingredients on high-end plates reflects our commitment to getting every element right. Partnering with professionals for photography and marketing further enhances the appeal of our meals, showcasing them in their best light to potential guests. 

“The pride and dedication of the chefs shine through in the quality of the dishes we serve each day. Their passion for their craft elevates the dining experience, ensuring that guests not only enjoy delicious food but also appreciate the artistry and care that goes onto every plate,” he said.

Hallmark Hospitality shines

Hotel Operator of the Year went to Hallmark Hospitality, alongside two awards for its venues: Best Entertainment Venue for Lefty’s Music Hall and Best Draught Beer Venue for Finn McCool’s.

For Hallmark Hospitality director Scott Hempel, the two aspects of the group’s success are its diverse portfolio, and the dedication and talent of its staff.

“At Hallmark Hospitality, we pride ourselves on our diverse portfolio of venues, each offering unique experiences. Our strength lies in our ability to cater to a wide range of preferences and needs, ensuring that every guest finds something special within our venues.

“Our success is driven by our passionate and talented team. From the front-line staff to our management, everyone at Hallmark Hospitality is committed to providing exceptional service and crafting unique, memorable experiences for our guests. We believe that our people are our greatest asset, and their dedication to quality is what truly sets us apart. Our focus on fostering a positive and supportive work culture allows our team to consistently deliver top-notch experiences,” he said.

In addition, two exemplary members of the industry were recognised, with Scott Hogan of Wellington Point Hotel awarded Hotelier of the Year, and Terry Morrow of venues such as the Landsborough Hotel, honoured with QHA Life Membership.

QHA president Richard Deery said that the finalists are evidence of the quality of the venues and industry professionals to be found in Queensland.

“These finalists prove nothing compares to the atmosphere, the feeling of belonging and the sheer joy of being out in a lively pub full of good people, good food and great drinks. Queensland hotels are so much more. They are a part of our social fabric, a constant in a world of change and a real-world place for connection in increasingly online-focused and isolated communities,” he said.

“Our industry and its hard-working people have never been more appreciated by the communities we serve, and we all should be proud of that. My congratulations to all finalists, particularly the winners.” 

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