When co-owner Maurice Manno started work at the Grace Darling Hotel in Collingwood 12 years ago, things in the service industry operated a little differently. For one thing, these days there’s little need for scribbling on bits of paper and yelling to the kitchen. Though a pub’s end goal will always remain the same – great food, cold pints and a place to socialise – even established venues must alter the way they work in order to stay at the top of their game.
From booking technology to new plating fashions, change is inevitable – and good. We spoke to Manno and venue manager Elena Gill about what industry changes look like from the coalface.
Sometimes it’s the simple things. “We’re not using a paper diary [for bookings] anymore,” says Manno. “Everything is booked online.” The team also tracks dishes using the cloud-based point-of-sale system Square to see what’s selling well – and what isn’t – in order to shape the menu. “There’s a function we use to get reports saying how much we sold,” says Manno. “We look at it weekly and that allows us to track how we design our menu. Anything not performing too well, we’ve got the information to decide if we want to keep it or adjust something.”
Ingredients and the eye test
Though there’s plenty of ways to determine what dishes diners are attracted to – weekly sales reports being one – when it comes to actually picking the produce, there’s still no substitute for going to the market and seeing it in person. “They’re still doing it manually,” says Manno. “Seeing what’s in season and what’s good value for money. We adjust our menu seasonally and have a focus on sustainability, so we’re always looking for things in season that haven’t done too many food miles.”
In the kitchen
Even now, Manno continues to search for ways to keep the Grace Darling’s processes moving forward. Currently the pub uses the Square for Restaurants point-of-sale system to place orders, which are then printed out in the kitchen. “The next stage will be to get a screen [in the kitchen] where it just pops up and we won’t have the need for printers anymore,” says Manno. “We’re looking to move towards being completely paperless. It’s allowed us to cut down on labour costs as well.”
With its bluestone facade, the Grace Darling Hotel has the timeless feel of a classic 19th century Australian pub – but it never feels dated. In part, that’s down to how the dishes are presented. “We’re constantly evolving in the sense of presentation of our food,” says Manno. “We’re always trying to keep up with the latest trends. We have a mix of classics as well as contemporary dishes on specials, and we try to give it a bit of a rustic feel with the crockery and that sort of thing. We try and present the food in an earthy sort of manner.”
For venue manager Elena Gill, technology helps her keep track of the night across the three-level venue. Seat mapping – a visual reference that lets you know exactly where everyone is seated – is handy too. “If people are ordering food up at the bar, we have the display screen we can scroll through and easily find their table number and exactly where it’s going to. So it really does help a good flow of service.”
There’s also a certainty to new technology that outweighs any nostalgia for bygone eras. “When everything’s just at the click of a button and you’re not racing from table to kitchen to bar to place your handwritten, scribbled docket, it makes everyone’s life easier,” says Gill. “Especially for those of us who don’t have the nicest of handwriting.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Square.