When venues were forced to close their doors under COVID-19 restrictions last March, Matt and his main chefs decided to keep trading by doing takeaway meals.
Hotel Elliot had a point of difference in offering full meals like chicken schnitzel and Thai green curry and was soon serving neighbouring towns through word of mouth.
Using the state’s two-month lockdown to his advantage, Matt built an outdoor bar to cater to the busy summer months.
“If I had my time over, the bar should have been bigger. The success surprised me to be honest.”
Big plans for future growth
In March last year Matt purchased for expansion purposes an old building and land next door to the hotel, which had served for years as a pin ball parlour.
He is currently developing the site into a Function centre that will cater for a wide range of conventions and events for locals and corporates from Adelaide.
This area can also be opened up as an expanded dining area with an alfresco bar fronting The Strand.
“I specially want to attract the wedding market. A lot of people get married up the road on the doorsteps of the majestic Horseshoe Bay.
“My vision is you go to a mate’s wedding, you see it out to 3:30pm-4pm, you have an hour when they have photos taken and you can then wander down to Hotel Elliot,” he says.
Matt says the development will create employment growth. He currently employs 40 staff at the hotel and expects to employ 60 to 70 staff when the function centre opens.
“We will promote the Hotel Elliot Hub as the must go to place for food, wine and hospitality on the Fleurieu Peninsula.”
The vision for the function area is also to allow it to be used as a training venue for the region’s hospitality staff.
“The Hospitality and Tourism sector is the third highest employer on the Fleurieu Peninsula,” he says.
“What I have found is a lot of local people want to be trained in the hospitality sector. Currently they have to go to Regency in Adelaide which is about 90-minute drive. I am going to organise programs to cater for these people.”
ANZ Relationship Manager Steven Fairhurst says it’s important ANZ continues to support businesses through the adversity of COVID-19.
“Matt is a business owner who is always looking at ways to improve his business and ensure he has the right product offering for his client base,” he says.
“It was no surprise Matt was quick to adapt his business and although there was some initial pain with restrictions, his business remains strong and continues to expand,” Steven says.
“Being able to offer financial assistance early on helps alleviate some of the fear and give business owners time to assess the best way for them and their business to adapt.”
While he has all these business growth plans underway, Matt still has an eye on maintaining the charm of his hotel.
He points out more than half a century ago the building’s blue stones were rendered, taking away the exterior which fitted in with many other old blue stone buildings on the strand.
“I’m not a great fan of renders – of rendering – back in the 1950s it was the in thing. But with next door very closely about to commence I would like to marry the two together,” Matt says.
“The library and the chambers (of commerce) are bluestone and to have those two plus the hotel down the track it will be worth it.”