Sam Worrall-Thompson has always loved cooking and didn’t really know what he wanted to do after leaving school. He decided to start a career in Hospitality which has lead him to where he is today, recently opening the doors to the eastern suburbs eatery Fine and Fettle.
We sat down with him to chat about his thoughts on dining in the ‘burbs’ and the industry.
Sam says he will stay suburban for the time being whilst the market is the way it is. He’s also involved in Jack Ruby in the city, but has more confidence in the suburbs right now. He’s not alone in that thinking, with the recent trend of many restaurants moving to open their doors in the suburbs. With high rents in the city and great spaces up for grabs, it seems like a great change for the Adelaide dining scene. When asked about what keeps a venue at the top of the game, he said “it’s got to be about the food”.
Great food and consistency across the board is the key to remaining at the top of the game in the industry. It is also about having an experienced team looking after front of house, someone in the kitchen, and someone looking after functions.
“You’ve got to share the work load for the venue to stay consistently good across all areas”.
Sam has worked his way up in the industry, starting behind the bar, then moving to back of house a few years in to his career. He has worked across multiple areas of the industry, and under well-known Adelaide restaurateur Simon Kardachi at ‘The Pot’ restaurant on King William Road. Sam was offered a chance at part ownership in Jack Ruby and from there things escalated.
The industry is a challenging one but a challenge he is up for. Sam also runs a catering business that he started with Lucy Parrington from Jack Ruby which is going great guns. Starting something from the ground up (the catering business) is his greatest achievement thus far. “When you start something from scratch, it is much more rewarding. We've come a long way in two years since we started the catering business, with the ultimate goal to buy a venue in the Hills to do weddings”.
Confidence in what you do is the key, he says of venue ownership. When looking for his current location, he found this space which was vacant for quite a while, and rent, location and somewhere that would be workable were all key considerations. He moved out to the suburbs because there are better rents for hospitality businesses. “There are a lot of spots that are untapped and the rents are so cheap”.
The small bar license change has been a positive for the Adelaide market. It’s made everyone lift their game in food offering and service, but Sam believes we are still operating in a small market. There are great opportunities for business owners to make their mark. He thinks we will see more dining establishments in the suburbs, more seaside dining in Henley and Grange, and hopes to see more activations on the riverbank.
Staffing in the industry is always a key challenge. You need to invest a lot more time in them, but you generally need to go with people who are raw and train them in the way you do service. You can work to break bad habits in people who have been in the industry longer, but on the other hand gone are the days of venue loyalty as staff move from venue to venue much more easily these days.
On work-life balance, Sam tries to only work four days a week and says he is much more balanced at this point in his career. Sam also owns a gym next door to Fine and Fettle which he says is his outlet. Having that point of difference, and a different type of business to run helps in balancing things out. “Don’t do it unless you’ve worked under someone successful” is Sam’s advice on opening your own venue.
He was lucky enough to work for Simon Kardachi who taught him a lot about the industry, and the ebb and flows of Adelaide’s dining scene which has helped him run his current business. The industry is cut throat so you need to have mentors and know what you’re doing.
Sam keeps a close eye on the like of other successful proprietors such as the Merival group in Sydney, and the likes of the Chicco Palms restaurant. They do it well with amazing service and reasonably priced food.
Fine and Fettle has been open for 8 weeks now so is still evolving, but they are looking to do more functions in the space. They had set an expectation of 20 functions for the year and they have already had about 16 enquires.
There has been a great and loyal breakfast crowd who are raving about their dishes. “It wasn’t expected so you just go with what is working” Sam says. He loves this side of town and thinks there is huge opportunity for more venues in the East of the city. He may look to expand in to a beach side venue in the future as well.
Head over to Fine and Fettle and check these guys out.