Don’t create a job, create a business – the philosophy behind The Moody Chef’s success

“Don’t create a job, create a business,” says George Dannaoui, when he’s asked for his advice on launching a successful business. And when it comes to the core strengths of his business, his reply is swift and unequivocal. “Consistency, innovation and a constant desire for excellence,” he says. “We’re passionate about what we do. Not just good. Good is not acceptable in today’s market. You have to be excellent.”

Following the launch of The Moody Chef in 2004, George and his business partner, Geoff Moody, have achieved an excellence that has seen them the recipients of several True Local awards and a nomination for the Telstra Business Award. Specialists in casual dining, George and Geoff are passionate about great food, great coffee and a great environment. And the name? “Geoff Moody’s a qualified chef,” George explains. “So it’s a play on his name and what he does.”

The Moody Chef boasts three separate restaurants and a professional catering service. George explains that each of the stores has a unique focus, tailored to its environment and target market. “We opened a new one on the Pacific Highway,” he says. “We’ve got the fringe of the hospital community there – doctors, nurses. And they want a quick service. So we’ve designed the service of that restaurant with lots of flexible options so they don’t have to wait.”

Providing a premium customer experience is also of paramount importance. “We read our reviews every day,” George reveals. “Good or bad, and we always try to respond. We try to turn a negative into a positive. Reviews can be a great marketing point, they’re out there on the internet so you have to manage them and make sure that customers have a great experience.” George goes on to describe the three key points of business success as a trifecta: “You’ve got to have great food and beverages, a great environment and a top level service.”

George and Geoff’s passion and commitment to excellence has been rewarded in the shape of True Local Business Awards for Best New Business, Best Takeaway and Best Casual Dining – two years in a row. “Winning the awards was fantastic,” George grins. “It put our name out there, and when we were starting out we didn’t have deep pockets for marketing, so to be on the front of the local newspapers was great. It was a real morale booster too.”

The popularity of their food was the touchpoint upon which the business grew to include a professional catering service. “People would come in and enjoy our food, and ask if we do catering,” George explains. “And now yes – we do. It’s a great opportunity to market to businesses and corporate clients, get the brand out there.”

Among the challenges George and Geoff have faced as they’ve expanded and grown their business have been staffing and compliance. “In today’s market, in a casual industry, there’s always a staff shortage,” he says. “Casual staff can be a challenge. And compliance – always compliance. We make sure we tick all the boxes and are ahead of the game.”

The Moody Chef has grown to include an online store, which offers a range of products that are used in the restaurants and which George and Geoff are keen to see as household brands.

After 12 years in a successful business that’s committed to excellence, George has some tips for other small business owners, or those considering starting out:

  • Make sure you’ve got the right people in place – “you need excellent staff and leaders,” says George. “Invest in your core staff, because they’re the face of your business.”
  • Keep innovating – “there are always ways to improve. Keep sniffing around for new technology, new ways to provide a better customer experience.”
  • Don’t be good, be excellent – “keep raising the bar, and revisit your business plan every couple of years.”

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