5 TAKEAWAYS | Welcome & In Conversation: The Future of Hospitality

Jun 21, 2021

Thanks to our session sponsor, Chef Works.

Sharing stories and experiences from their own personal journeys, industry pioneers came together for an ‘In Conversation’ style discussion, chatting about their past and predictions for the future of the industry, with a focus on business outcomes. Hear what was discussed and more in our Hospitality Unites 2021 panel discussion. If you missed the session or would like a recap, check out our 5 takeaways below!

1. How have each of you protected yourself against the uncertainty and ‘see-saw’ affect of COVID-19 and the respective lockdowns?

There is no question about it that the hospitality industry has faced its fair share of loss, uncertainty, and pain during the last 12 months. Business models flipped on their heads in 24 hours, staff were made redundant and empty seats at tables, the impacts have been enormous.

Kerry Osborn, Co-Founder & CXO from Mr Yum, one of the fastest growing table service technologies, shared her insights on how major players in the industry have found that the move towards a user-friendly tech solution has been a saving grace for businesses during these times. The ability to order and pay on mobile has been a safe house during lockdowns to ensure that contactless transactions continue even when customers weren’t allowed instore.

While Nick Stone, Founder & CEO from Bluestone Lane, an Australian inspired café chain in the US, also touched on the importance of integrating more tech into their business model to safe guard against sudden changes. Nick also mentioned that training staff in different areas of the business, especially when teams were lean, also helped prop business in a way he never expected.

Taking a more dramatic approach, Salvatore Malatesta, CEO & Creative Director from major coffee brand ST. ALi, commented on how diversifying his company’s portfolio has been the reason ST. ALi is still operating to its full potential today. Struck by an unlikely phone call when the pandemic first hit in 2020, Salvatore commented on how the business started producing hand sanitiser that made more sales than coffee for the year, providing an unexpected, but very much needed revenue stream. In addition to this, Salvatore dived into how lockdown really made him realise the importance of his online store and selling his products in other channels (such as supermarket), in ensuring his business will continue if another lockdown or hardship occurs.

2. How to hire when times are tough.

Hiring post-pandemic has proved harder than expected for the industry. While tech has always been seen as a scary looming threat over jobs, Kerry explained how venues who have introduced Mr Yum have seen a shift in who and how they are hiring. With technology freeing up the mundane tasks in ordering and service, she commented on how businesses now have the opportunity to hire more ‘unskilled’ employees and train them up, as the skilled employees are more freed up to focus on delivering the best experience for customers. Which in turn is more likely to have a positive long-term impact on business.

Salvatore also added, that while hiring has been tough for front of house staff, pivoting the team to be trained in more areas has been key to success. He also touched on the importance of building an environment in which people seek out your business as a place to work. Adding that his most recent hiring success came to him through an exchange on Instagram.

3. What is your advice for the small business owners trying to pave their way in this uncertain industry?

Taking the lead on this question, Salvatore explained that if you are a small business owner trying to make your mark during these times, “it’s all about collaboration”.

“Work with the people around you, support other small businesses and network with the bigger guys who can help prop you up”. He also added that focusing on a few things that you are really good at, is more important that having lots on offer but only at 50%.

“and finally, never give up”.

4. What did you ditch or introduce to your business as a result of COVID-19 that has changed your business forever?

Kerry – “We didn’t necessarily ‘dump’ anything, but we certainly never envisioned creating and launching a delivery service solution so quickly and with such rapid demand and pace”. Kerry also touched on how when they developed Mr Yum 9 months prior to the pandemic, she never thought the adoption of QR codes would happen so quickly and how this has become the main reason of success for Mr Yum. “Certainly something that will stay”.

Nick – “Unfortunately we lost a lot, staff mainly. However, it was inspiring to see the output the team had, despite the reduction”. Adding a contactless and digital product offering was not something Nick had immediate plans for, but commented that this is now something that will stay forever.

Salvatore – “We lost things I never thought I would lose, such as our premium location in international departures and our CBD store. While these felt like losses at the time, it has made me redefine what ST. ALi is about and the products we offer, especially the importance of our online store which we are putting more time and resource into”.

5. What is your one piece of advice for the hospo industry or anyone trying to get into it?

When posed with the age-old question ‘what’s your advice’ the panel had varying answers, fueled by their own personal experiences.

Nick emphasised the importance of continued education in order to stay ahead of the game and become a beacon of knowledge in your field.

Salvatore spoke of his past ventures and how its okay to ‘fail fast’. “Without failure you don’t know where your true path will lead you, don’t let failure stop you from picking yourself up again and moving on”.

Kerry took a more modern day look at the question by emphasising the importance of ‘embracing tech’ as it can truly transform your business. “It’s here to help, not hinder”.



  • Wendy Hargreaves, Founder – Bread + Butter Media
  • Kerry Osborn, Co-Founder & CXO – Mr Yum
  • Nicholas Stone, Founder & CEO – Bluestone Lane
  • Salvatore Malatesta, CEO & Creative Director – ST. ALi

A big thank you to our speakers for being a part of the inaugural HU event. If you would like to hear more insights, you can still register to attend the rest of Hospitality Unites – on now until 4.30pm Tuesday 22 June – find more info here.

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