It can be tempting to explore brand-new premises that are custom-made rather than retrofitting an existing property. Celebrity chef Matt Moran explores his experience of the differences involved.
As would be expected, Matt explained that greenfield sites are much more difficult to get up and running. However, he said these tend to be the most rewarding.
“To do a greenfield site is much more difficult. I’ve got two of them being built at the moment,” he said while speaking on the My Business Podcast.
“One in Brisbane, which is Little Big House, which is a pub in South Bank, which is an old Queenslander. Beautiful, beautiful site. Incredible site. Great venue. Great area. All brand-new. New precinct, which hopefully we’ll build on that.
“But, it’s been three years in the making. We’ve had a lot of heritage issues. We designed it from scratch. We built it. We’re building it. And, from there to go three years is a long period of time.”
Matt said, by far, the most difficult has been a new flagship venue at Barangaroo on Sydney’s harbour foreshore.
“Barangaroo has probably been the hardest business I’ve ever tried to open,” he said.
“It’s been over four years now. It’s a three-story place in Barangaroo. It’s a building, which is standalone. It’s the only standalone building in Barangaroo. And we’ve taken the whole three floors … that’s a greenfield site. That’s from scratch. Budget blowouts. Cancellation issues. Licensing issues...
“You can do that, or you can go and buy Clovelly Hotel or The Chophouse, and buy it six weeks before and open it and keep running the way that it is.”
As Matt suggested, the difficulty that some business owners and entrepreneurs find themselves in with greenfield sites is investing heavily in the project only to realise that it is ultimately not an ideal location.
“I was gonna do a venue years ago in the city, and we got over a year into it and it was a massive site. I spent a lot of money on it. No one else in the company really wanted to do, except for me and [my business partner] Bruce,” he recalled.
“[However] we ended up pulling the pin on it; probably the smartest move I ever did.
“I don’t think the site would have worked. I’m not gonna name the site. But, yeah, it could have done a bit of damage if it didn’t work. And strangely enough the site has never worked. It’s never been taken on.”
The restaurateur and host of TV shows such as MasterChef and Paddock to Plate said that ultimately, the difference between make or break for a new business location comes down to your own ego.
“I think you’ve got to be careful with ego, and you think you’re untouchable and you can do things,” he said.
“That was one of those moments where I thought: ‘Wow, how cool would that be?’ – but not realising the position where it was and really thinking about it.
“I suppose, the more we got into it – the more deeper we got into it, the more money we’re spending on it. I’d done the design and everything ready to go to the D.A. Spent a lot of money on it. And then realising, wow, God, if this really does happen and it doesn’t work … it’s gonna really hurt.”
Despite the sheer effort and cost of going brand-new, Matt insisted that doing so is worth it in the end.
“It’s a lot harder to do clean sites, but it’s probably a little bit more rewarding in the end,” he said.
“Rewarding as building something and seeing something grow and open and being a success. I suppose money comes after that. But to me it’s the love of it. The love of building something, creating something from scratch.”
Hear more insights into how Matt built his own hospitality group on the My Business Podcast below:
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.
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