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  • Writer's picturePete Dillon

Carlo Grossi - Operator of Ombra Salumi Bar

Carlo Grossi operates Ombra Salumi Bar, part of the Grossi group of businesses in Melbourne. He is a second generation restaurateur. Carlo shared some thoughts on the family business.

Carlo Grossi (left) and his father (right)

When you were growing up, how much did the family business impact on your life?

Growing up the family business was very central to our lives! A lot of our time was spent in and around the business working or coming together with the family between meal services. The restaurant was always a focal point for us and something we always discussed around the Sunday lunch table, Sunday lunches are still very much a family orientated time to catch up together and discuss the positives and the negatives of the week. The business was as much an extension of our home for us as we try to make it for our guests and I think that is why we have always had a reputation for warm hospitality. Our teams become very much a part of our broader Grossi family and I suppose that is why we are so obsessed with restaurants - we are always living them.

What lessons did you learn from your father about business?

There have been so many lessons I have learnt from Dad and the family as a whole and those lessons don't seem to be slowing down! I really love how much I learn every day and how things change and progress as our business grows. There is always a new lesson to learn. I think to date there are two lessons which have been the most important. Number one has to be to have humility and persistence in business, and how you manage your people. Humility in the sense of trust and understanding everyone brings something to the table which is unique and new. Persistence in the sense to have a goal and stick to it - in essence to know what you are, what you stand for and achieve it with the team around you. The second lesson would have to be to invest in your community around you. Nothing is for nothing and the ongoing success of your community means the ongoing success of the community it supports.

Were you always going to be a part of the Grossi business or was there something else you wanted to do?

I started out very much not wanting to get into restaurants. There were a lot of different paths I considered, from politics through to psychology but once I started working part time in our businesses, it was hard to walk away. I caught the restaurant bug and I've never looked back! It's a wonderful industry to be involved in and has taken me all around the world. I can't wait to see the new opportunities it presents on the other side of COVID.

Speaking of Covid, what does the future look like, given the challenges the industry is facing today?

Unfortunately none of us have a crystal ball to see the future however there are things that we do know for sure. The industry is headed for significant change from a staffing point of view to the cost of operating and we are still too far away to see how it will play out. But we do know there is going to be significant change to how businesses run and manage their costs. The second is the core of our business is going to be the most important thing to focus on moving forward - the warm, and genuine delivery of hospitality to our guests and our team. Coming back into the land of the living, guests are going to be looking for genuine connection within the food and beverage experience and long term winning those guests will help ensure our survival in a new market. Making sure we have the right team is going to be paramount. Looking after the people around you has never been more important!

What core values of the business have changed through the generations or do they remain the same... and do you find they limit you? Does it make it easier or harder?

Our values have remained unchanged through the years! I think if anything, as time goes on, we have become better at articulating them and finding the language to communicate these values to both guests and staff. That is the key to great communication. With that we find the sky's the limit!

Is there extra pressure on you because of the family connection?

I think there is always pressure when it's your family's business, especially when you first start out. There is pressure to perform and carve out your own personality and niche within the business. Having said that, pressure is a good thing and personally I find it drives me harder.

What would you hand over to your own children about the business and is there a succession plan in place for when that happens?

I don't have kids yet so it's not something I've considered. If they did ever want to be part of the business I would say what my family said. It's hard work and you will have to work harder than everyone else. It won't be an easy ride but it will be rewarding!

Do you go to your dad for advice?

All this time! I'm lucky', Guy is my dad, but he is also my best friend. Our relationship is very open and very strong and gives us a great platform to do what we do together. The whole family has that, and I think it's why we can all work together over three generations on this business that we love so much.

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