Juliana Payne was appointed CEO of industry body Restaurant and Catering Australia. After a topical article published by Sydney Morning Herald, we caught up with Juliana to see what was on the cards in her new position and for R&CA.
What are your three top priorities as the new CEO of R&CA?
Understanding what our members need and want into the future from a contemporary industry association; consolidating and building a strong and high performing team; getting governments at all levels to understand and act on the knowledge that if we can get the regulatory and tax speedbumps off the road, our industry can drive themselves and the economy to a prosperous future more quickly.
What do you hope to bring to the association? What will you do differently?
I want to bring new perspectives and new energy to help us adapt and thrive in the changing world of the 21st century. We need to tap into the strengths, insights and ideas of our staff, members and partners to find a new collaborative model for the future.
Before starting in this role, what were your observations of the Australian hospitality industry?
I saw a huge number of people and businesses with the drive, passion and love for their industry and profession, working hard to make it a success, but some of them at times struggling with costs, red tape or lack of business knowledge to really make their business venture fly.
What do you see as being the sector’s biggest strengths?
As noted, the people in this industry are there for the sheer love of it. Australian operators as well as customers are also adventurous, innovative and keen to try new and interesting things, whether it be new barbecue techniques, molecular gastronomy, or new wines from a country they’ve never been to. We are also in demand overseas, which is a tribute to our industry’s professionalism, diversity, quality and innovation.
What are the biggest challenges faced by operators, and how is R&CA working to address them?
Number one at the moment is the shortage of skilled staff in all industry roles; this is really causing a brake on growth and development, and can really have a negative effect on the ability to provide the top notch service that locals and visitors alike will expect in a contemporary venue. We are working hard with State and Federal governments to find both short term and long term solutions for this. Number two would be the tax and regulatory burden that businesses must deal with: many many hours are spent on complying with over 60 pieces of legislation that impact on restaurants, and the many costs and taxes that local, State and Federal governments impose on businesses.
You’ve said publicly that you’d like to see more women in leadership roles in hospitality. How do you think this can be achieved? What can R&CA do to help?
This is an old and complex question with sadly no easy answer. I think it needs to happen at a cultural and attitude level, as it cannot be imposed by fiat. Those who have the influence and decision making ability in businesses need to come to the party and make conscious efforts to open their cultures and workplaces to women in leadership roles, as well as nurturing them from junior roles to move up the ranks. I see R&CA’s role as helping to raise awareness and knowledge of this issue, and raise the profile of women across the industry; often it is a question of people carrying on in their routines and not thinking of the consequences. If we can raise awareness by saying ‘did you know that by having such and such practice, it’s blocking out women from your avenues to success’, or ‘look at how this business has encouraged and promoted women’, we can sow the seeds of a different way of thinking.
Which women do you admire in this industry, and why?
I really admire the pioneers and innovators like Maggie Beer, Kylie Kwong and Chris Manfield who have stuck to their guns and never compromised on quality or integrity. I also want to give a vote of thanks and admiration to the many unseen women who work in the engine rooms behind the businesses, and those who are working to train and mentor the next generation in hospitality.
Which restaurant are you talking about at the moment?
Aahh so many! I was lucky enough to experience a tiny new restaurant in Perth called Andly which serves bespoke multi course Chinese fusion degustation, who won our award for best new restaurant in WA recently. At a more accessible level, I’m loving the rise of Korean cuisine.
Where’s next on the list?
I’m a Francophile, so I’m looking forward to a bit of traditional indulgence at Bistro Felix in Perth and Sydney (no relation), and Hubert and Gavroche in Sydney. Then of course there’s the irresistible appeal of Melbourne’s gorgeous small bars like Arlechin and Ombra…. I could go on….