Back of House podcast: Paul Waterson

The CEO of Australian Venue Co (AVC) talks about the complexities of running 170 bars and pubs in good times and in challenging ones

Paul Waterson is the mastermind behind Australian Venue Co (formerly Dixon Hospitality Group), which in the last six years has grown to become one of the country’s largest and most dynamic hospitality groups. He oversees 170 venues in Australia and New Zealand, from large bars and nightclubs in Sydney, Melbourne and Wellington to small Central Queensland pubs.

Beginning his career as an ICU nurse, Paul was forced by injury to pivot into managerial work where he quickly found his metier. Following ten years in the healthcare industry he worked with integrated facilities provider Spotless before acquiring his first pub with his partners, the Wayside Inn in South Melbourne. As the business grew they acquired other groups such as Keystone and Publican Group. And they’re not done growing.

In a fascinating episode of the Back of House podcast, Paul speaks to Luke and Mike about the logistics of integrating and running so many venues with diverse staffs and clienteles. “What we try and do is not ‘break’ the culture of the venue and the business we’ve acquired,” Paul says, “because we’ve acquired it because it’s a very good business in the first place.”

He discusses the impacts of Covid-19 across the group, offers his forecasts for the traditionally busy October to December period in Australia, and touches upon the importance of venues providing governments with hard data on the crisis that can be acted upon.

Also up for discussion:

  • The relative virtues of opening new properties versus renovating old ones
  • Why Paul reads customer reviews religiously
  • How new technologies have facilitated AVC’s rapid growth since 2014
  • Whether Covid has affected AVC’s long-term strategy
  • The positives that have come out of the pandemic

This podcast offers valuable insights into running a successful and resilient trans-Tasman hospitality group.

Back of House is a business podcast that focuses on people and issues in the hospitality industry in Australia. It is hosted by Luke Butler, Managing Director of Hastings Recruitment, and Mike Rodrigues, Managing Director of Time Out Australia and Chair of the Night Time Industries Association, Sydney.

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