Common goal is the best recipe for pub pair

Gnarabup venue The Common Bar + Bistro has undergone a change of ownership, with manager Tony Breen and partner Crystal Clarke taking the reins from previous owners, the Margaret River Hospitality Group.

Mr Breen said becoming owner-operators of the popular beachside pub was a lesson in balance, and learning curves.

"I had always thought I operated The Common as if it was my own but after taking over I realised that you really do find another 30 to 40 per cent in the tank when it is your baby," he told the Mail.

Tony Breen behind the bar at The Common. Photo: Driftwood Photography

Tony Breen behind the bar at The Common. Photo: Driftwood Photography

"This past year the opportunity came up as Alex and AJ were pretty keen to not do another winter at The Common and the lease had come up.

"It is very quiet out by the beach during winter and The Common really needed an owner operator if it was going to work, somebody to be on site everyday and watching over every detail of the business with their own skin on the line."

The couple have been residents of the region for around 7 years, and recently welcomed ten month old son Banjo to the family. Mr Breen said they each complimented the others' strengths and weaknesses.

"Obviously as new business owners we are still finding our roles and individual focus points but we are making a good team as we both have different strengths.

"I can be quite disorganised and messy while she has a great eye for presentation and organisation."

Photo: Driftwood Photography

Photo: Driftwood Photography

Mr Breen said part of the journey was learning to trust his own instincts.

"It's very exciting to set out on your own and have the opportunity to work for yourself and drive a business forward for the good of you and your family.

"You also our extremely grateful for your customers and end up trying to listen to everyone and taking all feedback on board.

"I was trying to listen to everyone so much that I couldn't think for myself anymore as everyone has an opinion on the direction we should head and what we should be doing."

Photo: Driftwood Photography

Photo: Driftwood Photography

A solid team in the kitchen, behind the bar and on the bistro floor allowed Mr Breen to focus his efforts on the venue's patrons.

"I had almost driven my head chef, Christie, to quit as every night she was researching a different type of cuisine as I had changed my mind on what type of food we would be doing," he said.

"A lot of that has settled down now, she has created an awesome new menu that will be coming out in the next few weeks."

With both a table serviced restaurant and a pub style bar menu on offer, the US-born Mr Breen said the two dining styles allowed his head chef to focus on the restaurant and to bring his own cooking to the bistro counter.

"Christie had a really good idea for me to kind of take on board the bar menu and do some of the American food that I am used to back home with such things as New York Buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks et cetera, and then also incorporate a lot of the Mexican food that I miss so much being out here.

"Then Christie has gone ahead and made some finer dishes for the restaurant showcasing WA produce and some of the dishes that she has created just explode with flavour while retaining a real delicate balance.

"We've also redone the take away menu... we do a good deal of take away but it can make for a hard service when people are ordering steaks and such for take away during the middle of service so we have stuck to salads, burgers, pizza and Mexican; stuff that can be done quickly and travels well and then still encourages people to come in and try some of our other offerings when they can."

Mr Breen said while there were plans ahead to expand social events and provide more entertainment at the venue, much of his time is spent managing his team of employees.

"Staff are the most important thing for me, everyone needs to want to be here and also enjoy the company of each other.

"I really believe Richard Branson's philosophy that you have to put your staff first, customers second, and shareholders - which in this case is now Crystal and I - third.

The Common team are a group of fun loving, focused hospitality professionals. Photo: Driftwood Photography

The Common team are a group of fun loving, focused hospitality professionals. Photo: Driftwood Photography

"If you have staff who love where they work and are behind the brand than that trickles down to every other aspect of the business and I hope that every customer who comes to The Common feels that from our staff.

"I love my Common family and what we are doing out in Gnarabup and hope that everyone else does too!"