A LOVELY! Melbourne Dining Destination

The Pancake Parlour

From fresh fruits and savoury pancake stacks to a gluten-free friendly menu, Melbourne’s The Pancake Parlour serves up delicious tasting food with a smile and a wink.

Founders Allen and Helen Trachsel and Roger Meadmore knew they were onto something with their quirky all-day breakfast joint when folks would come from far and wide to snag a seat. Today, though the original owners have since retired and the company has become a major Melbourne restaurant group, it still maintains that same quirky charm through the passion of its owners and management team and the dedication of the company as a whole to preserve a little bit of vintage charm even as it pushes forward into the future of food.

The company branding has long been at the forefront of what sets apart this Australian culinary stand-out. Its playful, wholesome menu and décor are relatable and enticing to customers young and old. The Pancake Parlour’s LOVELY! Lady, tined fork in hand, has become a symbol of delicious, quality food and dedicated customer service. Indeed, this sort of vintage throwback is quite on-trend at the moment, but it hasn’t always been so mainstream. In fact, when the very first Pancake Parlour was opened in Melbourne’s Market Lane in 1969, Victorian Kitsch was about as unheard of as was a restaurant that served breakfast after 11am.

However, through its ability to seemingly understand what its customers want even before they themselves do, The Pancake Parlour has been able to stay relevant in what can be a very competitive, trend-driven market. In a recent interview with Business in Focus, The Pancake Parlour’s Operations Manager, Mandy David, told us how.

“Everything evolves and we are no different. Nothing stands still at The Pancake Parlour,” she states simply. “We stay relevant because we move with the times. We are constantly seeking ways to create new dishes that delight customers, strong move into technology, strong social media presence.”

Over the past six years, the company has solidified its relevance to today’s generation with a major overhaul to its branding and design and upgrades to not only its numerous restaurants and their features, but also to the menus. “In recent years,” says Ms David, “we have undergone a major re-design with a new vision; a new look that is bold and new, but still honours the unique and loveable elements of our past. The redesign includes everything from graphic designs to restaurant architecture, and even a subtle culinary revolution.

“Our new modern look started with the Fountain Gate restaurant in 2007 and evolved to our Melbourne central and Malvern East locations and recently renovated Doncaster and Highpoint restaurants.”

Like many restaurants in Australia, The Pancake Parlour places a strong focus on the quality of ingredients it uses, opting for organic ingredients wherever possible. Of course, where many competitors have only recently made the shift to, The Pancake Parlour has always seen quality ingredients as a major feature of the brand. “The food is all important,” Ms David states with pride. “All our food is made on premises with love and affinity like it is being made for your mother.”

Indeed, she says, “We have a firm policy that we will only serve food in our restaurants we would serve at home which is why our food tastes the way it does. We try to do things as organically as possible and serve free-range eggs. We put a lot of time and research into making sure our ingredients are the very best they can be. You can taste the difference.”

Over the years, the company has evolved to include a broader selection of offerings, including trendy new flavour combinations as well as the introduction of a Gluten-free friendly pancake mix. The gluten-free short stack is made with a rice and maize-based buttermilk pancake mix. “The demand for gluten-free friendly food has increased over the years; it seems everyone knows someone in the circle of family or friends that is gluten intolerant,” explains Ms David.

“For the past twelve months we have been researching and developing what we feel is the best gluten-free pancake mix on the market. [It is] one of the most exciting additions to the menu in the past four decades. [We are] overwhelmed with response from the public and have over eight thousand fans on our dedicated Facebook page which itself has become a forum for the fans.”

The company has also introduced cocktail bars, which has successfully opened up the family-oriented business to a whole new customer base. “Cocktail bars have been fun for us,” shares Ms David. “All our desserts and sweets have a fun concept behind them and stepping into cocktails is a natural progression. Although it is not a focus of the business, it is a great new addition, especially when we are hosting larger groups of people and functions.”

In addition to these targeted strategies, The Pancake Parlour has been experimenting with the introduction of Limited Time Specials, adding to its classic menu a variety of on-trend and seasonal culinary treats. “Part of our marketing strategy this year is to introduce new and trendy flavour combinations with our sweet and savoury fare that are available for a limited time only. We have had great success with warm salted caramel sauce and lemon berry pancakes as well as spicy chicken and eggplant crepes.” This summer, you can expect to see new ice-cream and sundae combinations – so get ready for the ultimate indulgence!

The company is also working to strengthen its social media presence, which has led to an overall increase in brand recognition as well as customer satisfaction and loyalty. “With over 175,000 Facebook fans we have seen a significant growth in our online fan base in the past twelve months. The success of our digital marketing has also seen an increase in our customer traffic. We have anywhere between 50 to 70 million Facebook impressions per month across our 15 Facebook pages,” says Ms David.

“Our engagement rates on social media are well above the industry standard. This comes down to great content, offers, competitions and delicious images of our food. Part of our success is we have Facebook pages which are tailored for specific publics.”

Indeed, besides its primary Company Page on Facebook (F/thepancakeparlour ), The Pancake Parlour also maintains eleven Locations pages; a Students only page (F/lovelystudents); a page dedicated to its Gluten Free Friendly fans (F/pancakeparlourglutenfreefriendly); a page dedicated to the community and sporting groups it has aligned itself with (F/pancakeparlourcommunity); and a dedicated page for its recruitment needs which also highlights the people and culture of The Pancake Parlour restaurants (F/pancakeparlourjobs). The Pancake Parlour will also soon be launching a dedicated page with product and ingredient information, nutritional information and “all things FOOD”. In making the most of the social media customer engagement opportunities, the company regularly posts Facebook offers, driving customers into the restaurants and ultimately boosting sales.

Furthermore, The Pancake Parlour runs frequent competitions for fans on Facebook and Instagram, which Mandy David reports have increased customer traffic as well as fan engagement. One such marketing technique requires fans of The Pancake Parlour to take photos of themselves in-store which they then upload to Instagram for a chance to win. Such techniques are effective not only because they require a contest applicant to visit the business in order to enter, but also because they then convert customers into promoters and spokespeople for the company – and who is a more compelling PR representative than a happy customer?

The Pancake Parlour also plays to the senses, engaging customers’ taste buds with its social media. “Our delicious images that are regularly posted throughout the day ensure that our FANS have The Pancake Parlour top of mind. Each month, we have over fifty million images throughout the Facebook platform.”

Increasing its attention to social media has not only helped The Pancake Parlour to improve its relationships with customers, but also to increase its reach to potential staff recruits. At the moment, the company reports that over 30 per cent of its job applications are now coming directly from marketing on Facebook and the company website.

Finding staff who have the right combination of skill, dedication and playfulness to represent such a unique brand isn’t easy, of course, though it is certainly a priority for The Pancake Parlour. “Attracting the best people is very important at The Pancake Parlour, especially when faced with the challenge of presenting ourselves as an appealing opportunity for the next generation of the Melbourne workforce. We’ve found that recruiting a Generation Y team is very different and with that difference has come an adaptation of our hiring and interview process. We’ve had to completely revamp how we deal with this and our aim is to get team members started on the job as quickly as possible.”

To achieve this, the company has moved to a system in which new hires do not undergo a formal interview. Rather, applicants come in and complete a “show us, don’t tell us” process, whereby they receive basic directions on how to carry out the job function, then are provided the on-the-job opportunity to demonstrate their skills at what they have learned. “This gets them used to the instant feedback that happens in the service industry as well as giving us a snapshot of what we need to provide to them to help them be the best they can be.

“By taking the time to revamp the initial interview process,” adds Ms David, “we have been able to overcome many of our recruitment challenges and achieve hiring success and a lower turnover rate.”

This unconventional approach not only benefits the company, but instils in staff a greater sense of confidence, responsibility and, of course, is a great way to make work feel more fun and engaging.

Once hired, staff are treated to exceptional support and ongoing training, as well as some unique perks. “Our meal allowances to our entire team mean that all team members enjoy our menu. This in effect gives us access to more than six hundred and fifty culinary critiques a week! Our work/life balance model of rostering allows a weekend day for everyone each week. We have found that our people stay in the industry longer and with us as a result. We have especially found that management applicants come to us from other companies as a result of this initiative as it is not commonplace especially in management in the restaurant industry.”

The company has also fostered a strong presence within the community through a variety of sponsorships, school tours and other events. “Many kind and wonderful people have supported us over the past four decades, helping us become a Melbourne institution and we want to give our thanks by supporting our local community in as many ways as we can,” shares Ms David. “We are proudly seeking to develop relationships with local community clubs and sporting teams in order to help them grow and prosper and we look to provide our sponsors with as many opportunities as possible and hope they have a fun and exciting experience with us. We have a dedicated Facebook page to highlight the projects and groups we support.”

Through its strong long-term supplier relationships, The Pancake Parlour endeavours to ensure its suppliers treat their employees well, have best practice at the forefront of their own company goals and that their values align with those of The Pancake Parlour. Often, says Ms David, these supplier relationships are forged not with the lowest price as goal, but rather as a secondary issue to moral integrity.

“We have been with our coffee supplier, Beraldo Coffee since they started business twenty years ago. Our founder and the Beraldo coffee founder, Paul Beraldo, built a relationship based on trust and delivering a great product and that relationship has continued to the second generation of both companies to create a history and bond that is a special part of the business and aligns with our values. We are also a member of the Restaurant and Catering Association of Australia and see membership as a way to have a voice about issues the industry faces as well as being part of the solutions.”

In the coming months, the company will be focusing on updating its website to incorporate social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, as well as a direct link to Pinterest. It will also be adding the functionality for interested job applicants to apply for jobs directly on-line and will be more user-friendly overall.

The next year promises to be an exciting one for The Pancake Parlour as it gears up for its fiftieth anniversary in 2015. In preparation for this major milestone, the company will be continuing to increase its presence in Melbourne as a 24-hour eatery with its full menu, and will also be producing a book on the history of pancakes. Sounds yummy!

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 5:14 AM AEDT