Working as one

2 mins·13 Dec, 2023

Behind the scenes of Morris Group’s tourism and hospitality businesses there’s change in the air.

It’s not the kind of change that would be immediately obvious to the untrained eye, but the impact is significant and undeniable.

Earlier in the year, the executive leadership team from Morris Hospitality, Northern Escape Collection, and The Ville Resort-Casino started meeting regularly to find ways the businesses can work more closely together with a particular slant on food and beverage.

Their collaboration has meant that in the months that have followed, they’ve managed to make some changes that have seen them reduce costs, improve processes, share knowledge, and find new ways to approach problems as one team rather than individual businesses.

But one of the biggest advantages of the businesses coming together has been their ability to flex their purchasing power as a collective and negotiate better deals with suppliers to benefit everyone.

Strength in numbers

Northern Escape Collection (NEC) CEO Ross Penegar said the collaboration was a no-brainer.

Northern Escape Collection CEO, Ross Penegar

“It just made sense for us all to come together. It means we can really take a close look at some of the top-level stuff that tends to get lost in day-to-day operations,” he said.

“And for us, because NEC’s properties are smaller, more boutique, and all-inclusive, we don’t go through as much stock as The Ville or any of the Morris Hospitality pubs so our ability to negotiate on our own is pretty limited.

“So, when we join our lodges with all the other venues, it works out well for us all.”

But Ross says over time the coordinated effort has evolved from being focused just on food and beverage suppliers.

“We’ve also started moving into things like hotel amenities. So across Northern Escape Collection, The Ville, and Ardo there will be consistency with the amenities,” he said.

“And it also means that we can look at our whole supply chains from a sustainability point of view and see whether we can make any improvements in terms of the impact we’re making as a group.”

A world of opportunity

The Ville CEO Michael Jones said collaboration between the three business also means opening up new opportunities for staff across the group.

“Something we’ve been talking about a lot is how we give staff the opportunity to move around between the different businesses more easily,” he said.

The Ville Resort -Casino & Ardo CEO, Michael Jones

“If people are wanting to develop their skills and grow their career in hospitality, there’s a huge benefit in getting some experience in a range of different venues and roles. It’s good for staff, and it’s good for the business to have experienced people sharing their expertise around the group.”

“We also know that some of our venues have higher demand depending on the season, so what we’re working towards is giving people those opportunities to move from Townsville to do a summer at Portsea Hotel or go from one of the Melbourne venues in winter and work at Orpheus Island.”

Knowledge is power

Morris Hospitality’s Chief Operations Officer Paul Fitzsimmons said another important outcome of the businesses operating more closely has come in the form of sharing knowledge and ideas.

It’s perhaps most evident in the “all hands on deck” attitude that’s been the driving force behind getting the group’s new hotel Ardo up and running.

Morris Hospitality Chief Operations Officer, Paul Fitzsimmons

“We’ve had people from across all the businesses bringing their particular skills and knowledge to get everything set up for Ardo, it’s really been a huge team effort,” he said.

“Morris Group Executive Chef Peter Reffell and Head of Wine Brad Hammond have been involved in developing the food and wine menus respectively; Ian Ireland from Northern Escape Collection has helped on hotel amenities and with training for the reservations team.”

Paul says hearing about the different business’ individual successes has also helped them adopt new ideas to try across the group.

“The Morris Hospitality venues have been having some really great results from the CBCo Brewing Unofficial Beer of Thursday promotion in the last few months, so now we’re launching it at The Ville to see if it does the same there.”

Bridging the gaps

Apart from the obvious benefits to the business, Ross, Michael and Paul all agree that the added bonus is being able to build strong relationships with their peers across the group.

“We all run quite different businesses, have different backgrounds, and our individual strengths, so in that respect it’s been really great to learn from each other and see things from a different perspective,” Ross said.

“I’ve really been enjoying the opportunity to get to know everyone a bit better. We all knew each other to some degree before, but we never really had the chance to work closely together and build those relationships. That can only be a positive thing for the business,” Michael said.

“It’s been great being able to draw on people’s different experience and pick each other’s brains to come up with the best solutions,” Paul said.

“I think the more we do that across the group at all levels, the better the outcomes are going to be.”

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