Leading restaurateur sees light at end of the tunnel

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 24th March 2009

The owner of acclaimed Melbourne restaurant Vue de Monde believes that restaurants can safely negotiate the downturn provided they continue to budget and plan more effectively.

“Current economic times are going to be tough for restaurants,” Shannon Bennett, renowned chef and owner of Vue de Monde, told ABC’s Inside Business program on Sunday. “You’ve just got to be very basic in working out food costs, beverage costs, labour costs and basically rental costs.”

restaurant meal

“If you can get all of those figures and facts under control and price your product at the right point to the right market there’s money to be made and then you’ve just got to get bums on seats,” Mr Bennett surmised.

He added that supermarkets and the fast-food sector had placed increased pressure on restaurants but contends that the enjoyment of eating out will ensure that the industry keeps its head above water.

“I think our market share has shrunk but there’s still disposable income out there and there’s still that part of the income that human nature has it that we have to eat and we like to enjoy eating out,” Mr Bennett noted.

The celebrated chef also expressed great concern about the new industrial relations laws and the impact it may have on the restaurant sector.

“I’ve got great fears about the moving into the current economic times with the new industrial relations laws coming through, particularly in the penalty areas,” Mr Bennett stated. “It’s going to be a tough one. I think that they’re going to put the industry back about 10 years in terms of training and a lot of restaurants will say it’s too hard and walk away.”

The current laws allowed greater flexibility, according to Mr Bennett. “We can actually work with each individual employee and work out hours that suited them, worked out salaries that suited the business and the individual, also worked out measured goals,” he advised. “So that now sort of has to go by the wayside and we probably toned down the amount of staff we have.”

He is, however, not scared of expansion in spite of the current economic climate. “For me I foresee us moving into the bistro market possibly in Sydney and then taking a step back because there will only ever be one Vue de Monde and for me Vue de Monde has still got a long way to go,” Mr Bennett said.