The Royal touch

FORMER chef turned hotelier Peter Griffiths has won a major industry award for his refurbishment of the iconic Royal Hotel in Queanbeyan.

He travelled to Sydney on Monday night to collect the Best Redeveloped Hotel award (country hotel) from the New South Wales Hotel Association, and The Royal was also a finalist in the 2012 Hotel of the Year category.

The refurbishment of the early-twentieth century Royal Hotel follows similar success stories for Mr Griffiths with Goulburn pubs the Tattersalls and the Astor.

He says the secret is to buy old pubs when they're at their lowest point, then invest money into a complete refurbishment, open up a quality bistro, and build a family-friendly environment.

"We purchased it [the Royal] three years ago, and we've also done the Astor in Goulburn. What we did there was we bought it in a pretty poor state, and we have a big focus on food and family.

"So we buy the hotel when it's in dire straits I suppose, and then spend the money and make the big investment, and then go like crazy to make it work," he said.

Trade at the Royal since its reopening in March has surpassed the owners expectations and he credited the Queanbeyan staff, led by manager Adrian Sandrey, for turning the Royal from a struggling pub into the flagship hospitality venue in the Queanbeyan CBD.

"Adrian our manager is doing a fantastic job over there. He's put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it, and it's paying dividends. Spending such an enormous amount of money comes with a lot of risk, and that risk is mitigated when you've got a great team," Mr Griffiths said.

"It is achieving all our expectations plus more, and it's only early days. Once all those retail shops get up and going, it will be buzzing, and there's a new coffee shop opening here next week," he said.

The renovations are the biggest alteration to the hotel since it first opened its doors in 1926, and included repairs to the roof and exterior of the hotel, a complete overhaul of the bar and accommodation rooms, a new beer garden, new kitchen facilities and the recently-opened furnished outdoor area on Crawford Street.

Originally a chef and restaurateur, Mr Griffiths made the switch to pubs some seven years ago, and said he saw potential in buying and developing a Queanbeyan hotel.

He purchased the Royal back in 2009, but declined to say how much was invested in the renovations.

"We just saw the opportunity in these big old buildings. There's lots of upsides, but they just needed some money spent on them. And the formula seems to be working very well.

"Most of them are big old iconic buildings. They're landmarks, a lot of them. They're normally on prominent corners, and built when costs weren't as significant, so they're often beautiful old buildings. And we like to maintain as much of the history as we can."

But modern consumers were more demanding of quality food, service, and a nice environment he said.

"We also realise you have to bring them into the year 2012, and give the consumer everything they want, because the demands of the consumers have changed dramatically in the last little while.

"Gone are the days when pubs can be the old beer halls: you've got to be able to offer the whole package. Not just for males, but for women and families and across all age groups."

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