By Triana O'Keefe, editor Australian Hotelier
What are some of the key developments during 2014 for Merivale?
Well we had a few new acquisitions last year. The Paddington Arms – we haven’t reopened that yet but it is on the cards for this year. We acquired the hotel next to CBD, now an art-based pop-up bar ‘Work in Progress’- it will soon be revamped into a wine bar. We also acquired Coogee Pavilion which we spent a lot of our time refurbishing. We have opened two levels so far: the ground floor and the rooftop.
ivy won ‘Hotel of the Year’ for Australia, nation-wide and we picked up seven awards at the NSW AHAs. I think the business is in a stronger position than it has ever been – based on performance on figures, staff and on general feedback from our guests.
What would you say contributed to this success?
Our in-house training, our quality of recruitment and the morale of staff all contributed. The morale is at an all-time high and we have a very strong and positive team. Always professional; we are quick to react to changes and we adapt quickly which is exciting for us. The team is all on the same page.
There have been many changes with the legislation within the industry – but with such a diverse offering across the group, we can adapt quickly and tailor our offerings to work around this. Which we did and those things were enjoyable. 2014 was challenging but when you see the results it is very rewarding.
How do you motivate your staff and increase morale?
I think it comes from every angle, particularly our senior management and the senior managers across the individual hotels and venues. We are a very tight-knit team, we do a lot of bonding activities. We just had a staff party, themed around [US music festival] Burning Man – we had two thousand staff dressed up to the hill, which was amazing. They had the best day. Things like that are fantastic, they are money can’t buy activities and experiences. And the staff love it.
Over the next twelve months what can we expect to see from Merivale?
Well hopefully more of the same. We are about to open two venues in Oxford Street [Paddington] this year. We also have a couple of jobs in the pipeline but I can’t reveal too much about them just yet. And who knows what tomorrow brings – every day is a new day for us.
What is your first ever memory / experience within the hospitality industry?
Well I do remember Hotel CBD, when we first opened- it was a Friday night and we were incredibly busy, there was a large spiral staircase that goes from the ground floor to the first floor. All levels were full; we operate a ground, one, two, three, four and five – there were six floors operating. This was back in 1993 or 1994, and I remember there weren’t many pubs or hotels that had DJs, so we had a great DJ playing. It was about 11 o’clock at night, the place was jumping. I was standing on the spiral stairs, halfway between the first floor, looking at the crowd and seeing how things were going. The next thing I know everything stopped. The music stopped, the lights turned off and the emergency lights came on. We just lost power throughout the building and I freaked out.
I remember bolting down the spiral stairs, pushing my way through the crowd at ground level, down more stairs into the basement where the power supply was. I went straight to the electrical meters and discovered something was jamming the bi-fold doors. Then I heard this screaming noise. I managed to pull the doors open and a couple had taken it upon themselves to get extremely “comfortable” in the electrical cupboard. As they were in the motion of what they were doing her back slid up the electrical box and turned every circuit breaker off. You could definitely say Merivale brings people together!