Paul, tell us a little about how you came to call the Coffs Coast home?
I’m a Gold Coast boy, born and bred. I was working as the Food and Beverage Manager at Jupiter’s Casino, and doing very long hours. My son (Michael) was born in 2003, and because of my role which involved working long days and nights, I didn’t get to see much of him in the initial stages of his life. It was at that point that I knew I needed to change up what I was doing.
So having worked for 15 years managing other hospitality businesses, I decided to take the plunge and look for my own business that involved being able to be at home at night.
I looked from the Sunshine Coast down to the Coffs Coast, where I had family. During this search, I was made aware that a business called JBN Café was on the market, so as it met my requirements of allowing me time to spend with my son as he grew up, and was a business that could be grown and developed, I made the initial contact to do due diligence. With the support of family, the rest is history.
You have a successful business with JBN Café at Park Beach Plaza, and you have just launched Silvio’s Italiano, which is an Italian bar, café and deli. Tell us about this new venture …
Silvio’s Italiano is located in Park Beach Plaza, on the northern end opposite the Westpac Bank. For those that haven’t visited Park Beach Plaza lately, you will be amazed at the transformation of this end of the plaza. It has been re-invigorated with undercover parking, covered walkways, easy access, and is fast becoming the entry of preference for many visting the shopping centre.
Silvio’s Italiano is a long-time dream for me. The venue is a tribute to my father, who has sadly now passed, but also to all those things that we both loved to enjoy together, like food, wine and good conversation. Silvio’s is a unique venue, that offers an Italian style deli that is attached to a 160-seat casual style café and bar. The café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and includes a fantastic Vesuvio wood-fired pizza oven that will offer traditional Italian style pizzas made from 100% Italian stone ground flour. There will be Italian beer on tap, fresh hand made pasta dishes, and a cosy bar to enjoy cocktails and wines.
Where did the name “Silvio’s Italiano” come from?
My father’s name was Silvio. He was an Italian immigrant who came out to Australia on the boats looking for opportunity after the Second World War. He started life cutting cane, before becoming a restauranteur, and a publican.
My father taught me the fundamentals of everything I know about hospitality. I worked side by side with him for many years in the Whitsunday Islands, and we travelled together as well. He had the most amazing effect on me, although I didn’t know or appreciate it until I was many years into my working life.
What will customers expect to enjoy from a visit to Silvio’s Italiano?
Quite simply, an experience that allows all patrons to understand the relationship between food, wine and the excitement of Iife. It sounds a bit out there, but that’s what Dad and I did. We ate, we drank, we talked (argued) about the things that excited us. That’s what I hope I can pass on to customers who patronise my venue. And you never know; someone might just pass that on to their next generation.
Hospitality is a highly service driven industry. How do you approach training staff to deliver a consistent customer experience?
Consistency is “king”. The best way that I know to achieve this is to create a culture of consistency through constant communication and awareness. In saying that though, I often will be heard mentioning to my JBN team that “humans are humans, and not robots – and thank goodness for that”.
I love what individuals bring to an experience. Whether that’s a team member who can speak multiple languages and interacts with the customer in one of those languages, or a team member who has travelled to parts of the country or world that customers may have come from, and can share experiences. These are all experiences that can’t necessarily be copied, but remain in customers’ minds long after they’ve paid the bill and gone home.
When this type of service is paired together with consistent service processes, then a really enjoyable experience is had. This is what I strive for.
What do you see as the biggest trends in hospitality at the moment?
In my particular industry, trends are varying depending on the location and type of product offered. Regarding delis in the cities, the trend is for grab n go type venues. People are becoming more and more time poor due to travel times to and from work, and having to work second jobs. This then impacts on the style of service provided. Customers are spending less time chatting to their local delicatessen about products.
I’ve taken a gamble with Silvio’s deli for a couple of reasons. One is that I believe the Coffs Coast lifestyle allows for the conversations to still take place, as opposed to the cities, but secondly, anything that enhances flavour is still very important for me to offer. Silvio’s will offer both that traditional delicatessen with friendly knowledge based service, as well as the option for grab n go.
The other trend that is gaining momentum is locally sourced produce. At Silvio’s you will see a motto on the wall that says “Local is the new black”. This is crucial to us. We try to source as much local product as possible.
Where do you draw your menu inspiration from?
My menu inspiration comes from the food that Dad loved to eat, and the food that I love to eat. I’m a foodie; I love to travel and try all different types of food and styles. When I’m away from home, I go through stages where I will look for the same type of dish in different venues, just so I can taste the different methods and styles of cooking.
Other times, I will search for something I haven’t tried before, just to broaden my horizons. Food is a constantly evolving journey, and one that I hope continues forever.
Finally, what motivates you to run the businesses you do?
I really had to ask myself that question before I jumped into this project. I had to do some soul searching and ask myself why I wanted to do it at my age. After all, there’s no use just being busier for no reason. I have a wonderful partner, whom I love, children who need a constant taxi service, and I have other interests and hobbies.
The answer is passion! I love what I do. It has its challenges, its grinds, its frustrations, but it also provides so much enjoyment. I love food, I love wine, and I love my team. The younger ones keep me young (and I like to think a step ahead of my son lol), whilst the older ones are a great source of company, stories and friendship.
I hope the Coffs Coast can support me in this journey, and I hope that I can provide a great Italian experience for them to enjoy with their friends and family.
Interview courtesy of Focus Magazine