From May 15 the Queensland city of Noosa hosts its annual International Food and Wine Show. It’s a cacophony of visiting foodies, including producers, presenters, critics, chefs and wine experts. There’s a noticeable discrepancy between how many female and males make-up the top echelons of the industry. Men appear to far outweigh women in hospitality. We spoke with chef Nicky Riemer – one of only four women in the predominantly male line-up – about what it takes to run your own business in the hospitality industry.
“The reason I do this,” says Melbourne’s Union Dining chef, and restaurant co-owner, Nicky Riemer (above), about owning her own business, “is the desire to share my love of cooking. I think all cooks just have an insatiable need to feed people. That is why I have the restaurant.”
Nicky is also passionate about training young chefs. She enjoys showing them how to cook and how to appreciate great produce.
She says there are a few elements you have to keep in mind to ensure the success of a business. The most important of which include building a local diner scene and looking after your regulars.
“Steady cash flow, paying suppliers and creditors on time, looking after staff and maintaining a healthy and respectful work environment are important. Building relationships with suppliers and providing consistent food style and service help maintain a restaurant’s success.”
And in this day and age, Nicky also believes, social media and maintaining a presence within social media networks are other important factors.
“Networks are essential for exploring business opportunities,” says Nicky.
“I get to meet people that I wouldn’t normally meet whilst in my kitchen. I’ve made wonderful business contacts over the years of networking, all of whom have dined in my restaurant at some time.”
On her way to participate in the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival from May 15, Nicky tells us that of the several mentors she has had over the years, two stand out.
“Stephanie Alexander and my mother: Stephanie taught me how to cook and how to have humility in the kitchen and respect my staff. My mother taught me not to be afraid of trying anything, finding a career that makes your heart sing, and how to ask for help - because that is something we all have trouble doing some times.”
Balancing family and business
I make sure I dine with my family once a week - usually on a Monday when the restaurant is closed, and more often than not I cook at home for them.
The thing that keeps me awake at night is staff satisfaction. Are they happy? Am I providing a good work environment? Are they working efficiently? What can I do to make all of those elements come together for my team… see - no sleep!
Top 3 Tips
1. Believe in your product without a shadow of a doubt
2. Find a mentor and maintain a relationship with them
3. Find good staff and keep them happy
And a pitfall
1. I can’t call in sick to the boss!