“It was as big as ever but probably louder…it was actually quite exciting,” he said, noting that his Collins Street institution Grossi Florentino served more than 110 people for lunch the night before. the Melbourne Cup while the Florentino Bar and Grill downstairs also enjoyed a takeaway meal service which was rare for a time of year that can be changeable.
But there is uncertainty in the air, he said, adding that companies were also becoming more conservative and focusing more on value for money.
Spend wisely – on champagne and caviar
“You can’t stick your head in the sand and say this isn’t happening – rates aren’t going up, the cost of living isn’t going up – but what we’ve noticed is that people take care of themselves: they won’t, they don’t spend foolishly, but they want quality and they are willing to pay for it.
A handful of customers bought bottles of the 2014 Louis Roederer Cristal for $1,090 a pop, while others opted for the 2008 Billecart Brut Cuvée Louis for $950. The restaurant also sold a handful of premium Burgundy wines, including the 2018 Sylvie Esmonin Gevery-Chambertibe, priced at $400 a bottle, which proved popular.
While demand for caviar was strong, the seasonal lull in truffles meant they were unable to serve the other highly profitable menu item.
In a week punctuated by a Reserve Bank’s decision to raise interest rate from 0.25% to 2.85%, team members working inside the Hilton hotel’s famed Douglas Club cocktail club said they noticed a new sense of cost consciousness among customers,
The club saw a “significant spike” in average spend from the Friday before Derby day to Cup day, with more guests visiting and more rounds at the bar. But there was a sense of restraint permeating the crowd, they said.
“Fewer diners are just having a night out,” said one team member, while another noted that companies’ advance bookings for Christmas parties are already showing tighter or stricter budgets.
Strict on value
“Guests are strict about value for money,” another team member said, adding that guests and groups expect “five stars for everything, [they] expect good value for money – which is hard to pin down at the current price [and] cost of goods sold.
Other Melbourne haunts, including the neighborhood wine bar in Fitzroy North, reported buoyant trading conditions during the week, even for customers not interested in the Cup.
Owner Simon Denman said customers were becoming more discerning about what they would and would not spend.
“Our audience fell well into the non-Cup category…with the resulting sales of the day being like a typical busy Friday,” he said.
“We found that over the Cup weekend, in general, business was business as usual, with a slightly higher rate of walk-ins than bookings. We usually see this happen when people make last minute plans over a long weekend.
“In general, people are still out and spending well – I would say they tend to be more selective and educated in their premium spending habits,” he added, noting that premium menu items were still in demand but “more generic products” with higher prices. prices were taking longer to sell out.