Bannisters Hotels keeps it simple

Hospitality has a multitude of moving parts but is, at its heart, a deceptively simple business, says Peter Bacon, GM of Bannisters Port Stephens.

“If you get the basics of hospitality right then everything flows from there.” And for those wondering what are the basics, he unfolds: “Customer service: people being friendly, people lifting their head up and saying hello. For us, it’s all about employing people with the right attitude.”

Bannisters Port Stephens opened in October and is the third property for Bannisters Hotels, which has been using the RMS property management and point of sales systems for many years. Growth has been organic rather than pre-ordained.

Owner Peter Cosgrove (not the outgoing Governor General!) started with Bannisters by The Sea, an older style motel in a stunning location on the northern edge of Bannisters Point at Mollymook on the NSW south coast.

He recruited a good team, improved the property and business grew steadily, though very much under the radar for those not in the know. That all changed in in 2009 when famous British seafood chef Rick Stein opened his first restaurant outside the UK at Bannisters by The Sea.

Bannisters Hotels Commercial Director Alice O’Hara says the idea was first raised by Stein’s Australian wife Sarah, whose family had holidayed at Mollymook for many years.

“She started a conversation and we took it from there,” says Sarah. “It’s a very comfortable fit – the businesses are very well aligned. The thing with Rick is that he’s exactly what you see. There are no airs or graces.”

The arrival of Stein – who has a huge profile thanks to his numerous television shows – threw Bannisters into the spotlight. Demand grew rapidly, rooms were hard to come by and rates increased, prompting the decision to create a new property, Bannisters Pavilion, 100 metres from Mollymook Beach.

Thanks to savvy marketing, clever design and an excellent location, Bannisters Pavilion immediately created a strong impression on the key south coast drive markets of Sydney and Canberra. Bannisters had arrived as a brand, synonymous with the NSW coastal lifestyle and excellent food.

This became obvious when the owners of the 78-room Salamander Shores hotel at Port Stephens, two hours north of Sydney, were trying to sell the property and numerous prospective buyers told them “it could be the next Bannisters but…”

So, they did the only logical thing and went straight to the source. A commercial partnership was agreed, and work began on transforming the property – a huge project involving renovation, demolition and construction, including the creation of a new Rick Stein restaurant. It’s been a crazy busy period but now everything is coming together, helped by the experience gained with the construction of the new-build Bannisters Pavilion several years ago.

“The management team have been together a long time,” says Peter, who has been working in senior management roles at Bannisters for more than a decade. “We know what works and what doesn’t work. We have a nice formula and it’s a really enjoyable process to create something new.”

As is the case with both Mollymook properties, Bannisters has chosen to use the RMS property management and point of sale systems at Port Stephens. “What we like about RMS is that they listen. If they have something we don’t like they’ll try to change or adapt. We’re not afraid to push to get what we want and it’s important to work with companies heading in the same direction.”

This article was first published on the RMS Blog.

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