Where were you raised and what influenced your career choices?
I was raised in a small bayside suburb in Melbourne, that was a bustling little town with lots of fantastic cafes. I used to love weekend walks along the promenade seeing all the people enjoying the eateries with friends and family. I guess this love for seeing families gather together over shared meals formed much of what I love about the hospitality industry.
Why did you study a Bachelor of Social Science, Psychology and HR Management
Looking after people has always been in my DNA. Nearing the end of high school and deciding what to do with the rest of your life is a scary time. Not knowing what I wanted to do, I turned to an area that felt most natural to me - people.
What was your first role in hospitality?
It is a funny story actually ... when I was 14 my older brother was supposed to be heading off for his first casual job, working for a friends catering business. My brother isn't as adventurous as me and got so nervous that he didn't want to go, so I very happily offered to take his place!
You worked at Cypress Lakes Resort in the Hunter before heading to Japan to be an operations manager in large restaurants. What did that teach you?
Moving to Japan taught me so much about observation and communication. I didn't speak the language when we went to Japan, yet I was in charge of a large front of house team across a large operation. I had to learn very quickly how to understand and communicate with my team without knowing the language.
You were the first female GM in the Peppers Group of Hotels - what led you into hotels?
Previous roles saw me running restaurants within hotels, giving me insight into the accommodation sector. It seemed an obvious progression to extend my hospitality management skills across hotels too. I especially love that we get to enjoy the company of our hotel guests longer than that of our restaurant guests; there is greater opportunity to leave a lasting impact on the guest.
You have been a director of Wiss Emporium Pty Ltd since 2005. What are its operations and your level of involvement?
My husband and I formed our own company back in 2005 after working together and wanting to create some great experiential businesses for ourselves. We enjoyed 15 years of multiple business creations and sold our last business in January this year. I now take a step back from the company to focus on my new exciting role at Bimbadgen.
You moved from Victoria to the Hunter Valley in May to take up the role of GM at Bimbadgen. How easy was it to up sticks after your peripatetic career?
We moved to home to Melbourne in December 2016 after 20 years of living around Australia, thinking it would be our forever home, but we just never settled back in. The nine prior years we had spent in the Hunter region, really settled us into the warmer climate of NSW and we had formed many strong relationships throughout the community. Coming back to the region, has really felt like the homecoming we were looking for.
What is Bimbadgen's offering and what appealed to you about the role?
Bimbadgen is such a dynamic and diverse wine and tourism business. Operations span across vineyards and wine production, cellar door, multiple restaurant outlets, a wedding centre, accommodation and large scale events - let's just say I will never be bored!
How impacted was Bimbadgen by COVID-19?
Like all hospitality and event businesses, our operations had to cease trading for the lockdown period - and obviously, processes had to change completely in order to reopen. But it's been a great opportunity to review our offering. I believe Bimbadgen will come out the other side of COVID-19 bigger and better than ever.
How will you put your stamp on Bimbadgen?
The wonderful thing about Bimbadgen is that our winery team, led by winemaker Richard Done, produce outstanding wines. My role is to support the winery team and ensure our tourism and hospitality businesses provide a home base representation for the brand, that is the springboard to drive sales for our wines both nationally and internationally.
What keeps you in hospitality, renowned for its high burnout rate?
I cannot deny that I have at times I haven't been exhausted by the long or unsociable hours, but I have been fortunate to work alongside my husband for 20 years. We have achieved so much together and continually pushed each other to reach higher limits. Plus, I love wine and food too much to do anything else!
How do you think the Hunter's hospitality offering can improve?
The Hunter's hospitality offering has evolved dramatically since I first lived here almost 20 years ago. What I love is, we still have wonderful restaurant leaders like Robert and Sally Molines leading the charge for almost 50 years alongside fantastic young talent in the region. We will always evolve with new talent and energy, and we will continue to improve on the ways we share the Hunter with the rest of Australia.
The Hunter's hospitality offering has evolved dramatically since I first lived here almost 20 years agoBelinda Stapleton