Sand Hill Road has found the right balance for its business, with its new CEO Dan Viney bringing a blend of hospitality and corporate experience.
The Melbourne-based pub group has gone through a significant period of growth in the last two years, building the Garden State Hotel, buying and renovating the Waterside Hotel, and taking on the legendary Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda – all while operating six other well-respected pubs throughout the city.
Run by a pair of brothers and their two friends (Andy and Matt Mullins, Doug Maskiell and Tom Birch) for the last 19 years, the four directors have learnt the business of running pubs on the job. But as the group continues to grow, the partners acknowledged the need for some corporate structures in the business.
“We were essentially self taught, ranging from 23-25 when we bought our first pub, so were pretty young. We’ve created a way of doing business but not necessarily a formal way,” explained Andy Mullins.
“We were just really aware that as the company grows, it will have needs. We never want to look or feel very corporate, but there’s a reality to employing hundreds of people: the safety of that, the strategic and financial piece of that, the reporting and accountability, the HR etc.”
Two years ago, the group brought in Aaron Morrison as a consulting CEO. Morrison had 16 years of experience with Crown Group and Skycity Group, and helped to bring some corporate structure to Sand Hill Road. When his contract expired, the directors decided to promote GM Dan Viney into a permanent CEO role, having amassed both operational and corporate experience in his career. Before Sand Hill Road, Viney had worked with the likes of ALH, Publican Group and Dixon Hospitality, plus on single venues.
“In hospitality it’s really hard to find a high-level blend of operational detail – so someone who has worked in hospitality on the front line, doing the late nights – but also who’s really adept in a boardroom. Someone who can pull apart a company, a business, a spreadsheet, and then apply it practically back into the venue. Dan is just one of those exceptionally rare people,” stated Mullins.
Viney, who has been in the role of Sand Hill Road CEO for about six months now, says he had admired the group long before working with them. He is excited to help execute the vision of the five partners (Andrew Larke joined the business a year ago), while also ensuring the existing venues continue to set a high standard in the industry.
“The main focuses for me are ensuring that our existing eight sites continue to provide a driver for the industry – we like to think that we are a really key part of the pub industry in driving new and interesting trends. And then also the boys are constantly on the lookout for new challenges, so working with them on what those might look like, and turning them from conceptual venues to deliverable, operable venues,” explained Viney.
For Mullins and the other partners, Viney has brought corporate structure to the business, while still being grounded in the operational side of hospitality – which suits the group to a tee.
“He’s so far removed from that classic CEO model where you’re in an ivory tower and everyone else is down below. He’s very much in the venues with the managers. It’s just exceptional. Truly, we’ve never encountered anyone with that blend of operational and technical business experience. It’s been fantastic.”