It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of The Laneway Lounge. They do some of the best cocktails in town and serve them up in a classy atmosphere alongside fantastic food and great live music, so I’m sure it’s no surprise for you to find out that I often find myself on the end of one of their expertly made Old Fashioned or Manthattans when I’m out and about in town. A while ago I was lucky enough to score some one on one time with their Floor and Functions Manager Fernando Lima to have a bit of a chat and pick his brain about the Laneway Lounge and the hospitality game in general.
The Skinny: What’s your favourite drink?
Fernando: Definitely gin. I’m a gin drinker, I enjoy gin martinis or having it with tonic and lime.
Any particular reason?
Probably because you tend to drink it with lime. Because of my Brazilian background I’ve always been a fan of Caipirinhas, so I generally like drinking my spirits with lime. It’s clean, simple and refreshing and there’s no mucking around, you can drink it any time of day and just get on with it.
What do you think a person’s choice of drink says about them?
It may tell you a bit about who they are as a person but for me it lets me know how much they know about drinks and alcohol in general. You can tell when somebody does or doesn’t know what they’re on about, like when someone orders a fancy, complex cocktail off the menu rather than something that they really enjoy versus someone who orders just a single, specific spirit made or mixed in a particular way. Ordering a simple drink doesn’t mean you’re a simple person. It’s all in the details.
You’re originally from Brazil. How and why did you come to Australia?
I left Brazil to go to America when I was about 17. I’m almost 30 so I’ve been away for over 10 years now. I moved overseas mainly because I wanted to experience a different lifestyle to the one I grew up with in Brazil. I knew it would be a bit of a test moving away from my friends and family but we only live once so I wanted to experience as much of the world as I possibly could. I chose to come to Australia in 2004 because it was pretty unknown to Brazilian people at the time and I wanted to go a young, interesting, exciting place that would offer me new challenges and experiences. I believe that challenging yourself every day makes you a better person so I came here.
How did you get your start in the hospitality industry?
Officially I got my start in hospitality when I got to Australia in 2004 working in bars and as security. That being said I did charity work back in Brazil feeding homeless people since the age of 14, both on the street and in a restaurant environment, so that in a way was my real introduction to the service industry.
How did the Laneway Lounge gig come about?
I was working in the corporate fine dining area at Bankwest when I first came to Perth and initially only started working at Laneway on the weekends as a bit of fun, but after a while it became apparent that they needed someone to handle their functions and floor management. When they learnt about my background managing venues over in Syndey they asked me to fill the role and so I ended up leaving Bankwest and taking up the position of Floor and Functions Manager. It was unintentional but it gave me the perfect opportunity to use all of my experience and skills with the right products in the right venue.
You’ve been involved in The Laneway Lounge since before it opened its doors. What was the vision/inspiration behind it and do you think that you’ve achieved what you set out to?
The goal was to open a truly world class cocktail and eating establishment but on a scale that had not been seen in Perth before, and in terms of that I definitely think we’ve achieved what we set out to do and more. There were people that had their doubts as to whether you could operate a venue that serves over five hundred cocktails in an evening and had an ambitious menu in a supposedly quiet city like Perth and we’ve certainly shown it can be done. We’ve also managed to do this volume of trade while still maintaining high levels of service and quality and are constantly trying to improve, so while we’ve exceeded our own expectations we’re still working hard to progress all the time.
When we spoke before you mentioned that passion and knowledge are the two key factors for being successful in the hospitality industry. Can you elaborate on that?
There are many jobs you can do well without having a passion for but hospitality is certainly not one of them. There are a lot of people working in the industry as a means to get by while doing other things (studying etc), but the only way you’re ever going to excel at it is if you have passion for what you do. Hospitality is a people business, you have to deal with customers on a face to face level, and if you’re not really committed to what you’re doing and enjoying it then they can tell and you won’t be providing them the best possible service. Knowledge is important because you have to know what the customer expects and what to deliver, but the passion is in the way you deliver it and that’s the key.
What do you think working in hospitality for such a long time has taught you?
It’s taught me a lot about people and how to deal with them in a lot of different situations; when they’re hungry, when they’re thirsty, when they’re angry. You learn a lot about how people behave and how to manage and work with that. Any people skills I had before I got involved in the industry have been hugely developed, so that’s the main thing I’ve learned over the years.
What do you think about the state of the hospitality/service scene in Perth and do you have any thoughts about how it could be improved?
I don’t want to be the one telling people what they are doing wrong, but at the same time I believe that part of doing my job is contributing to making the industry better. I think that there is lot of potential for improvement in Perth especially when it comes to skills and labour. There has been a huge level of investment in bars and restaurants over the past few years and the next step is getting the level of service to match that. That’s only going to come about by encouraging and giving incentive to the people that have the passion and drive to succeed while at the same time providing better training to equip people with the skills to deliver better service. It also needs more people that are going to take hospitality seriously as a career path and who are willing to dedicate themselves to learning as much about the industry as they can and passing this knowledge and passion on to others.