In the past five years the Gold Coast has expanded from offering a small range of fish and chip shops and Chinese take-outs to veg an delicacies and artisanal burgers. At the forefront of the Coast’s food movement isJustin Lane, master of the wood fried pizza and a killer gin and tonic. But how do you create a sustainable hospitality business in an environment where hot new eateries open every second week?
Restaurant creator and owner of Justin Lane, Adam Haralampou, credits the success of the Italian restaurant to filling a major gap in the Burleigh-based hospitality market. “I love pizza and realised that no one on the Gold Coast had really done it well, so I wanted to hone my skills into doing one thing really well,” explains Adam. After visualising the clear-cut image of a pizzeria and bar that would only open nights, Adam invested every dollar he had into making sure the fit out was successful.
“ I literally opened the business with a dollar in my bank account,” says Adam. “If you put everything into a business you will make it work because you have no other option, you’re so much hungrier to make that venture work.”
Hospitality is not an industry Adam originally set out to succeed in. After completing his high school studies he opted out of the traditional university route and booked a trip through Europe and Asia.
“I believe when you travel your view on the world changes dramatically and you find things you would potentially love to pursue business wise that you would have never thought possible, and for me that was business,” explains Adam. “I got back from overseas and went through some personal stuff where I hit rock bottom and thought it’s now or never.”
This realisation prompted Adam to open The Cavern, originally an Internet café that moved onto serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as host open mic and trivia nights in Nobby’s Beach. “I started The Cavern with the very little money that I’d saved up on my travels, about $40,00 which isn’t much for a hospitality venture,” explains Adam. “The Cavern was a basic fit out based around the community vibe.” However, after three years of straight work only taking one week off for a brief holiday, Adam sold the business in 2010. “It was a worthwhile idea, but I realised I won’t ever build a business around myself again.”
Following the sale of The Cavern, Adam took some time off and returned with the dream of starting Justin Lane. “It was in the middle of the Global Financial Crisis and the advice from my Mum and Dad was to buy an apartment and get a job, but I just couldn’t do it,” explains Adam. “I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do and the timing was perfect.”
Since opening in 2011, Justin Lane has evolved from a small restaurant with customers lining out the door, to including a rooftop terrace bar and take out station. Now in its fifth year, the business h as grown from employing 15 staff to over 70.“ Every bit of my money has gone back into the business,” explains Adam. In February this year, Justin Lane went through a rebrand, which meant closing down another one of Adam’s business ventures Cavalier.
“Cavalier was the right concept in the wrong area,” explains Adam who found inspiration for the bar in the hotel lobby bars he spent the majority of his time in while travelling. “It was more of an ego driven idea and although Cavalier was making money I wanted it to be bigger and busier than it was.”
“ The opportunity came up to have the rooftop area so I decided to streamline Justin Lane, add the rooftop and breathe new life into the business,” explains Adam. “It was the absolute best decision of my life.”
Running a successful hospitality business might seem from an outsider’s perspective like it comes second nature to Adam, however he says he’s still learning to let go of other people’s opinions. “You’re not going to be able to please everyone and I’m still learning to let go of that,” explains Adam. “I coped a lot of criticism with the new rebrand but the positives outweigh the negatives.” In February 2016, the business made more profit than in Christmas of any other year since it’s establishment.
When asked about his next venture Adam is exceptionally coy. “I’m actually already bored, I’m working on something new at the moment but Justin Lane will always be here and it’s working better than I could have expected,” explains Adam. “I miss the creative process of starting up a project, I think until the day I die I will always be involved in a startup of some sort.”
Adam lists his top three tips of young entrepreneurs wanting to start a business:
- Allow yourself time off to recharge. It’s important for your health and business. When you unwind ideas come to you and it gives you a birds eye perspective of your business. It’s time to work on your business not in it.
- Don’t wait for the perfect idea, go with a good one and take the plunge
- Be conservative with what you believe your turnover can be. Get what you think it will cost to start up the business and add 25-30%.