Former Telstra CEO David Thodey may drive a Toyota Corolla, but he likes a good restaurant.
He opened The Exchange, Australia’s first private corporate restaurant, at the telco’s Sydney CBD HQ in his final weeks in the top job.
Now, with Thodey replaced by new boss Andy Penn, The Exchange is closing for refurbishment to take it downmarket, less than three months after it opened.
The news has become a hot topic of conversation within the company, with staff speculating it will turn into more of a staff canteen than an in-house Rockpool.
The 80-seat restaurant, which also has a private dining room, is at Telstra’s new Customer Insight Centre on George Street, opposite the Apple store. The public are not allowed to dine there – it’s exclusively used for Telstra to entertain its clients, opening for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The Exchange is run by Trippas White Group, the caterers behind restaurants in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands, Sydney Tower and the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.
A three-course meal for two at The Exchange costs around $100, plus wines, which cost around $40 – considerably cheaper than rival restaurants in the area. Diners run tabs and Telstra’s clients never pay.
Former one-hat chef Lauren Murdoch, previously at the French bistro Felix, at the nearby Ivy hotel, runs the kitchen.
Industry insiders estimate the restaurant cost around $3 million to fit out, but it will close in early June for further renovations to become more casual, self-service space.
It was originally designed by Nick Graham of Sydney-based G+A, the designers behind QT hotels, and boasts leather Chesterfields and a dark timber finish that makes it look like a gentleman’s steakhouse. Sources have told Business Insider that while it’s proved popular with staff, senior managers regard the space as too posh and want some a brighter, lighter more casual space seen as “more aligned to the company culture”.
The makeover is expected to cost upwards of $500,000.
A spokesperson for Telstra told Business Insider: “We are evolving the restaurant in the Sydney Customer Insight Centre to a more casual space for our customers.
“This will give us more flexibility to cater for a variety of group sizes and quicker dining experiences.”
The Telstra CIC also has a cafe-style space on the ground floor.
Penn was using the restaurant this week to entertain keynote speakers at the Telstra-sponsored World Business Forum. On Wednesday afternoon, Academy Award-winning film director Oliver Stone was a guest at a function there, and Penn posted a snap with him on Twitter:
— Andrew Penn (@andy_penn) May 27, 2015
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