By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

Two years after a major renovation and rebrand, WDS Hotels has made its menu and service style at The Bellevue more approachable, to create a more casual offering.

The last two years at the Paddington pub have been focused on its award winning restaurant, during which time it received a Hat in the 2016 Good Food Guide Awards. But now the pub’s operators have launched new menus, a new service style and slightly tweaked the look to bring the venue back to its casual roots.

WDS Hotels director, Steven Speed, said that consumer trends, data and strong competition in the space made the changes essential.

“Our intention has always been to make it quality, keep it casual, local and friendly however the journey took us elsewhere for a short time with the dominance the restaurant had on opening. Our food was good, real good, but the menu design was too limited, and the service had too many rules which created the perception as a place for special occasions. We want to appeal to a broad group of customers, not just high end. It still has a TAB, a public bar, outdoor terrace area and great function spaces as well as the restaurant. It’s a friendly Paddo pub with a great restaurant.”

For the re-rebrand, head chef Rob Te Whaiti, has created two new menus for the venue. The restaurant menu is now more accessible and generous, and includes the return of Bellevue’s famed crumbed lamb cutlets, alongside share dishes such as whole lamb shoulder and an 800g T-bone. The bar menu is all about pub classics, including five different burgers, bangers and mash, and schnitzel.

The service style has also been made more casual, so as not to be intimidating and exclusive. A few days into the full service of the new menus, and Speed says that the reception has been positive.

“Although the changes are not dramatic, the service and product remains good quality, just relaxed the rules and designed the menus to appeal to a broader market of customers. Did I mention the Lamb Cutlets are back?”

Pub promotional activity has also been increased and slight tweaks to the decor have been made to ensure that The Bellevue is seen as a local pub that the neighbourhood and visitors can patronise any night of the week.

Changing neighbourhood

The Bellevue is not the only Paddington pub to pare back its high-end offering of late, with several venues in the area admitting to getting it wrong and re-working their offering into something more casual.

Solotel recently relaunched their bistro area at Paddo Inn Bar & Grill, only six months after a major renovation after listening to their customers who wanted something a little more accessible. Public House Management Group have done a similar reworking of their restaurant in the Four In Hand, while Bayfied Hotels is currently tweaking the offering of the first-floor restaurant at the Light Brigade.

Speed believes that operators are finding their way, correcting perceptions of what people want in the area.

“Most of the pubs in Paddington have changed hands in the past few years, and with change in ownership comes new ideas on ways to improve the business. With so many changes in the area, there is still a little bit of fine tuning – I think everyone is trying to find their own niche.

“Customers want great experiences and great food, but don’t necessarily want the formal service that traditionally accompanied these. By making the service more casual and relaxed but keeping the quality high we hope to see our customers returning more frequently.”

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