John Fink runs one of Australia’s best restaurants, Quay, at Sydney’s Circular Quay. His family company, The Fink Group, also owns Otto, the swish Italian at Woolloomooloo Wharf, the Byron Bay Beach Cafe, as well as having a share in The Bridge Room. He’s currently getting ready to open the new Bennelong restaurant at the Sydney Opera House with Quay’s head chef, Peter Gilmore in June, as well as Firedoor.
He’s a happy man. Despite uncertainty across the economy and regular cries that fine dining is dead, business at his restaurants has never been better.
For Fink, it’s not about the quantity of customers but the quality.
“When we look at our spreadsheets we can see there are slightly less people coming in, but they’re quite happily spending more money, perhaps on a really good bottle of wine, a good steak or the lobster pasta,” he told Business Insider.
His theory why is simple. People have enough “stuff”, so now they’ve gone looking for pleasure. Fink calls it the “visceral dollar”.
“These days people are not looking for the quick, cold rush of purchasing a new white good, a new second car, or the latest. People want to live a bit; create their own life-histories and memories with friends and family to enjoy,” he said.
Fink says his industry colleagues report they’re seeing similar spending patterns.
His view also aligns with relatively flat retail sales and ABS data that shows spending in hospitality up 16% over the last two years.
Fink teases out the rationale behind his own figures by talking to customers, who say the priority now for their discretionary money is pleasure.
“The feedback I get is that people say they’ve got enough stuff. They want to have a good time and feel something,” he said.
“When I talk to luxury people they say the same – people are spending more on luxury items – on stuff they don’t need, but makes them happy. They’re working so hard and they want to enjoy their lives.”
Fink believes the trend is the same right across the luxury end of the market.
“People are farming the kids off to parents and going off to Wolgan Valley for the weekend to rejuvenate their marriage,” he said.
“I reckon any industry were someone can have fun will do well right now.”
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