As lockdown lifted, the PoweringON team sat down over a coffee with Tauranga restaurateur and all-round good guy Rohan McCloskey from Rain Bar at Pāpāmoa Beach.
Rohan moved to New Zealand from Sydney, settling in Tauranga where he now runs three hospitality venues - Rain Bar, Brooklyn Patio and Neighbourhood Kitchen. He is an entrepreneur at heart and is always looking at ways he can innovate. His hospitality experience and his tech background are a killer combination and have given him a wealth of knowledge he can share with other restaurateurs.
“Hospitality has been my thing for the last sixteen years.”
With all that experience, we were keen to hear how he’s leveraged digital and technology to grow his ventures, even during uncertain times.
Ironing out the kinks
Lockdown wasn’t the first time Rohan and his venues have come up against a challenge. As any business owner knows, problems can come out of the woodwork at any time and running multiple venues at once has guaranteed Rohan his fair share of them. But keeping things streamlined and focused helps when challenges come up. For example, Rohan set up all three of his business websites through Rocketspark, which means that while he has three websites to maintain, it feels like he’s looking after one.
“All our websites are on Rocketspark so we can streamline our systems: our content is different, so from the customer’s point of view the look and feel is different, but for us the backend is the same.”
He also invested in training an in-house social media and graphic design expert. Rohan says that doing this has seen the online engagement with his businesses increase rapidly, outvaluing any money spent.
“We’ve spent the money on her in upskilling Facebook training courses and understandingad spends. If you don’t truly understand ad spend, you’ll never figure it out on your own.”
Spreading the good word
Rohan is no stranger to using technology to get the most from his business. Utilising tools like Mailchimp for a monthly newsletter has given Rohan another avenue alongside his social media channels to engage with the community.
“We do monthly newsletters. We’re not going to spam people, we do good content that isemotionally driven, like ‘here’s a great cocktail you can make at home’ - good content that people will find interesting.”
By optimising his online output and regularly creating new, meaningful content, Rohan has seen his online engagement explode.
“My philosophy is, if I’m only ever targeting the same thousand people each month, eventually things will drop off. So, I need to keep doing my bit to ensure I'm always reaching new people. There’s a level of motivation to do that.”
What’s on the horizon for the venues?
The next steps for his three venues are focussing on social media, maximising website content, and working on SEO. Rohan is confident that spending a little money on learning skills in these areas will pay off in the long run.
“It’s about making sure, if I spend this money, is this going to get me revenue?”
For Rohan, the key is simple - stay active. He can’t afford to sit back and watch. Stagnating will only lose customers in an ever-changing world. He needs to stay ahead of the curve, always on the lookout for how he can engage with and draw in customers, new and old alike.
A great example of this in action is his recent news feature during the first lockdown that covered Rohan’s latest development on GoGenerosity, an app that allows patrons to donate money towards purchasing a meal for charity. Watch this space for updates on this development…
Taking lessons learned and passing them on to others
Rohan’s advice for other businesses is to be prepared to spend money to make money - the key is to do it wisely. Scaling a business and spending the right amount of money so that revenue continues to outweigh outgoings is important.
“One of the issues with small businesses is that they don’t want to spend more money,but it will give them the benefit after.”
Tools like Xero will help with the important things like accounting, while Rohan also recommends G-Suite for hosting domains, emails, and file storage - at US$15 a month it is well worth the money. But most importantly, Rohan says, if you are not sure, ask for help.
The best way to learn is from others, engage with experts in their field to help you and the friends you can make on the way can be worth more than the services they provide.
“Don’t get too anxious and caught up in ‘I have to do this’, ‘I have to do that’ – we’re not trying to be someone else. Don’t lose focus because of what someone else is doing. Don’t compare: just care about what you’re doing.”
Venture Centre is a charitable organisation that is dedicated to entrepreneurship support. They build the capability, capacity and digital enablement of entrepreneurs in the local region.
The PoweringON programme is a programme delivered by Venture Centre to help build the digital capability of local small businesses through a digital assessment tool and plan, one-to-one digital navigator session, workshops and connecting local service providers.
Try the PoweringON Digital Assessment for yourself to see how you are benchmarked.