How one locally-owned hotel group is bringing back the best of the neighbourhood pub.
Down at the local
Among the many things that have changed during Craig Williams’ 38 years running pubs, there’s one thing that stands out to him more than it might to a regular punter.
“These days, here in SA, people really care about supporting local,” he says.
Craig is the general manager of the Saturno Group – a South Australian business that owns a handful of local pubs including The Colonist, The Mile End Hotel, and The Unley.
In each of the pubs, the focus is not just on being local to South Australia, but on being hyper-local to the neighbourhood in which they are situated.
“We just had a lunch with all the chefs and we were talking about how what might be successful for one place doesn’t necessarily work for the other because it’s a different demographic in different places,” says Craig.
“In many cases, we just offer things to our customers and it’s up to them whether they embrace it.”
There are a few things that unite the approach across all the hotels though, and chief among them is a focus on food.
Each menu for each pub is different, but the standard is the same – “Quality food is something we believe we can do seven days a week,” says Craig – and so is the philosophy around sourcing produce.
“The fresher the food, obviously the better it’s going to be. So we want the produce to be local, not from miles away,” says Craig.
“To get the price down people will often default to the imported, pre-packaged product, and I think that’s the lowest common denominator. When the plate comes out, you can pretty much tell.”
Similarly – the Saturno Group pubs aren’t taking the easy route when it comes to kitchen staff.
While other pub kitchens move away from prepping produce toward a “knifeless” model – in which everything is delivered packaged and pre-cut – the Saturno pubs employ more than 20 apprentices across the different venues and continue to make many things from scratch.
“There’s a commitment to investing in the industry and training people in the industry,” says Craig, “because we need good people to be part of it.”
Behind the bar, there’s also a tendency to bring in local, quality products – as well as the must-have stalwarts like pints of Carlton Draught.
Craig believes being connected into the immediate community surrounding the pub allows for more experimentation with smaller producers.
“I guess we have a little bit of an open mind and we have good staff who can get behind products,” says Craig.
“The nice thing about being South Australian and independently owned as a group is if Mismatch have got a new Session Ale then we’re one of the first people to chuck it on tap.”
Supporting local, like being hospitable, comes naturally for the Saturno Group pubs – something that makes them as South Australian as they possibly can be.