Regional restaurant success

How did a Mooloolaba chef beat out the best of the best from the US, South Africa, Austria and Vietnam?

The recipe for success, apparently, involves plenty of salsa verde and red onion jam, baby spinach and a smoked salmon fillet on a dill and parmesan-infused pizza base. This smoked salmon pizza was recently judged the best in the world, and created by the aptly-named Simon Best. Best, co-owner of Mooloolaba’s Italian institution Augello’s, travelled from the Sunshine Coast to Melbourne for the Fonterra Foodservices Global Pizza Challenge, and took out the top honour.

Running the business – from Mooloolaba to Melbourne

It’s been a steady – if long – rise to the top for Best. He began at Augello’s close to 15 years ago in partnership with Paul Tuminello. And while many in the hospitality industry are reluctant to leave the floor of their business, Best – a veteran of the industry – says it’s crucial to work on your business rather than in it. For him, this meant heading to Melbourne.

Best says it’s key to structure your business, implement systems and employ staff that allow you to do this. On this point, there’s no room for recipe variations – especially for regional businesses that need to keep up-to-speed with international trends.
“We put a lot of trust in our staff,” says Best. “My head chef’s been here for nine years. The managers have been here for about the same time. I have total confidence in them running it.”

Systems are also an essential ingredient.

“We’ve got hundreds of them!”

It’s these systems, says Best, that encourage his staff to take initiatives.

“They give people a chance to shine.”

Best credits Augello’s success to a number of elements – at the top of that list is consistency and service standards.

“Whether it be New Year’s Eve or a winter’s lunchtime, our pizza and pasta will be of the same high standard,” says Best. “We pride ourselves on the high level of friendly service we provide.”

Neither of these would be possible without strong systems in place.

Leveraging local success to a national market

“I was lost for words – that doesn’t happen too often,” says Best of his recent award.

This is not Best’s first decoration though – he earned the Best Pizza in Australia in 2002 (and many since) – but it’s his first international commendation.

“Being a global competition, I just thought I should give it a go.”

Recognition like this is a big coup for regional businesses, affording them national – or in Best’s case, international – coverage that they might not have otherwise been able to afford.

“You can’t put a price on advertising like this,” says Best. “I’ve had just about every form of media over the last few days and I haven’t even started to put the word out.”
Fonterra Foodservices – the sponsor of the award – is something of a dairy giant – and now Best will benefit from this association.

“They’re on MasterChef,” says Best. “Whether you’re just looking in a magazine, watching TV or going to Coles, you’ll see their product once or twice a day, guaranteed. They want to do some major advertising with me and use me as the face of their pizza cheese.”
Best has also been approached by Huon salmon, one of the biggest national salmon producers.

“They put an ad – a full page ad –in every food magazine in Australia every month,” says Best.

A regional favourite

No doubt Augello’s will see an increased appetite for their offerings thanks to this publicity, but the double-storied 110 seater already turns the tables over – at least – twice a night.

“It was a successful business before we did any of this – this is just a bonus.”
The topping on the pizza, even.

Best entered three pizzas – an eye fillet with peppercorn sauce and garlic mushrooms and a dessert pizza, but it was the salmon that came up on top (and will now be a regular on the menu). All three, much to his patron’s delight, made the cut on the Augello’s menu.

“I’ll put that salmon one on for a while now!” laughs Best.

At a glance – Simon Best’s top four secrets for success

  • Work on your business rather than in it
  • Systems are an essential ingredient to make your business a sensation
  • Consistency is crucial – from your strategies to your service
  • Build your business profile – enter (and win!) awards.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
by author: 
Peter Switzer