Alex puts memories on the menu as Hog's Breath opens
THE journey to bring a family-friendly restaurant to Gladstone has gone from whoa to go.
It began with a typical evening around the TV with the Staines family and a comment that changed their lives: "We should have a Hog's Breath in Gladstone".
Alex Staines believes the Hog's Breath brand was well-respected, and had a market where that brand was badly needed.
Thus began a three-and-a-half year long journey to bring Gladstone a sit-down family restaurant.
Coming from a corporate background, rather than hospitality, has if anything strengthened Alex's passion for his project that has seen him become a franchisee.
"We've always had the right intentions from the beginning," he said.
"I'd like to believe everyone understands what we're bringing to Gladstone."
His passion lies in the idea the restaurant is a place to share memories.
Long before the restaurant was set to open its doors, Alex had been collecting everything from 1920s postcards to Gladstone's old Civic Cinema sign and the speakers from the drive-in.
"Gladstone has lacked somewhere to come and share stories, where grandma can come in and talk about the history of the memorabilia," he said.
"I want people to come and share their memories and create new ones."
But the journey has been somewhat bumpy along the way.
The first hurdle he had to jump was presenting his business case to Hog's Breath Cafe, which he said was a lengthy process that ensured the new franchisee was "adequately skilled" for the task.
The second, and much more arduous task, was selecting the right site.
Alex looked at more than 12 sites over the past three and a-half years.
There were two previous sites where Alex went to the trouble of having plans drawn up and submissions put to council.
He said the other two - at Chapman Dr and Kirkwood Shopping Centre - fell over for a variety of reasons.
"The council had tried hard to get us up and running at the Kirkwood site but there were different directions with the property owners," he said.
"But it was onwards and upwards.
"I'm a big believer that things happen for a reason and even though the other ones fell over, I think this one is the best site."
The current location in the Palms Shopping Fair site on the corner of Goondoon and Herbert Sts used to be good retail space and was for some time occupied by Retravision.
But Alex said the landscape had changed its use "and it needed to be used as a destination".
"Because we trade mainly in the evenings the parking becomes available...so it complements the area really well."
He said they spent hours studying the traffic in the area before putting the lodgement to the council.
The central location gave something back to the CBD, he said.
A small party was held on Monday night to celebrate the opening with people who had helped play a part along the way.
The service has been a slow start, on purpose, with the restaurant seating up to 80 for the first month.
"I've seen it happen on numerous occasions when craning people in leads to a below-par dining experience with a stressed team," he said.
Following a successful recruiting campaign, the 45 staff, or extended family as Alex likes to call them, were given a week in the kitchen before being let loose to the public.
"I try very rarely to say 'I', it's the team, whether my family or the team we have here - we have a common goal," he said.
"I haven't felt excitement really, but now that everyone's starting to work really well together I'm starting to feel that sense of excitement because it seems to be coming together the way we hoped it would.
"We've had two full days of trade under our belt and they seem to be going really well.
"But we want to make sure we're not just meeting people's expectations, but exceeding them."
1989: Hog's Breath Cafe first opened in Airlie Beach, Queensland.
2010: Alex Staines made the first call to bring Hoggies to Gladstone.
2012: July: GRC approved Kirkwood Shopping Centre application.
2013: June: discussions still underway with Woolworths Kirkwood Centre; September: signed lease at current site.
2014: January: construction began; March 31: recruitment drive; April 8: opening night.