“Dining out is about breaking bread at the table, enjoying some wine, and should be somewhere you can escape for a couple of hours,” George says. When you think exceptional customer service in the Adelaide dining scene, one of the leaders in the industry is without a doubt Georges on Waymouth. This Adelaide institution has been running for 15 years and is the true meaning of the word customer service. We sat down with George Kasimatis, the man at the helm of this restaurant to delve into his passion and love of the industry, and to learn a little bit about his passion for Greek wine too.
Integrity, Respect, and Humility are the three core values George is most passionate about. He believes that his customers must sense these values for them to have the best dining experience. At the core of his business is good old customer service.
His children and his wife are his biggest inspiration, getting up each and every day for them is his biggest driver. He also says his staff are an inspiration; ones that take charge and who initiate new challenges inspire him to be better in business each and every day. He has built the business on hard work, networking with the right people, and delivering exceptional customer service.
George tells his staff that you can build a reputation over years, but you can destroy it in 5 minutes. This comes back to the service element, everything must work in tune, from the kitchen to the front of house. Upholding a reputation of great customer service is key to his success in the industry.
One of his biggest mentors is his father. From a young age, George was taught the European work ethic as he would work in his Dad’s milk bar after school, a business his dad still owns to this day (after 45 years). He would do his homework in the office, and then head out and learn how to run the milk bar from his dad.
George still speaks to his father once a week for guidance and words of wisdom. He, without a doubt kick-started George’s time in the industry, and after starting his career in Canberra, George moved to Adelaide in 1999. George visited Adelaide in his teenage years and he always wanted to open a venue here. Owning his first restaurant at 22 with some friends in Canberra, he came to Adelaide on his own, driving here with only a few belongings, and thought he would give it a go.
Working in a few restaurants when he arrived (including the Grange restaurant at the Hilton), it was always the goal to open another venue. Working at the Hilton was a big learning curve for him and it is where he started studying wine as well, and developed a passion for food and wine pairing. At the time, he had left a full-time manager job to work as a waiter in the Grange restaurant, which was then considered one of the best restaurants in Australia. That was a huge experience for him.
Then the opportunity came up for George’s own restaurant through a relative who contacted him and said there is an opportunity here. Itching to get back into his own venue he checked out the space and Georges on Waymouth was born. At the time, Waymouth street was a bit of a ghost town and he couldn’t think of a name so he just called it Georges on Waymouth. It took a good two years to establish his place in the industry; he and his wife Voula worked hard to build the business, with the focus always being on producing everything in house at the restaurant.
“We’re in the industry of looking after people’s needs”, says George.
Being awarded Hall of Fame last year was a great achievement for the restaurant. George firmly believes that his staff are an extension of himself and the business. “To be recognised is great, but every day the staff make the business”.
“Food trends are constantly changing and restaurants need to adapt”, he states. You must be savvier than ever in what you’re offering, and you need to reinvent yourself a little bit along the way. “If you’re not up to date, you will fall behind”.
Believing that people are time-poor, “if you don’t deliver you don’t get another chance to prove how good you are”. Consistency is key to staying at the top of the game in food, service, and product. George is always trying to improve how he can best serve the guests, even down to making the best coffee.
His advice on starting out in the industry; “you need to work really hard to succeed”. What you put in you get out, and with hard work comes reward. George believes in forward planning where you want to take your business, and you need to understand how you will get there. He also says that your back of house needs to be in order to ensure front of house runs smoothly.
And most of all, your key staff need to share your vision. Having the right people around you will help you drive your business forward.
On motivating your staff and yourself, George says “I think back on how far we’ve come. Sometimes we dismiss how far we’ve come in service or as a business when we are having a bad day, and seeing the bigger picture is a great help”.
He believes that staffing is one of the hardest things to keep on top of in the industry; one in recruitment and secondly in staff costs. You need to really care about your staff in order to keep good people.
In constantly improving, George is doing a lot with Greek wines now which are a passion for him. His love for wine helps inspire him every day, and now 10% of the wine list is of Greek origin. George has recently been to Greece travelling through some of the wine regions, and when he came back he wanted to do more with his knowledge and develop his wine list with some of these wines.
“When guests come into our home; and this restaurant is our home, we show them philotimo and treat them with respect”. Philotimo is a Greek word that George often uses with his staff. It’s hard to define but it is about the honour, the duty, and the respect of looking after people, and this is what they strive to offer and embody in their service at Georges each and every day.
George has aspirations to open a Greek restaurant in the future too. He loves what he does but would like to get back to the roots of his Greek heritage – keeping it honest, keeping it simple and keeping it real. Georges on Waymouth will continue to grow, and continually offer a high level of service with the customer at the core of what they do.
Head in and see the team at Georges on Waymouth , escape the daily grind for a few hours, and taste some amazing Greek wines. You won’t be disappointed.