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The story of Story Bridge Hotel


"we have so much we can learn from small businesses. They are nimble, close to the customers, willing and able to change direction. They are genuinely entrepreneurial."



Approaching its 150th anniversary, the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane is one of those amazing stories of business continuity but what I often take away from visiting businesses like these is just how much change goes into keeping the same business going.


Set right on Kangaroo Point – and literally built into the Story Bridge supports – the hotel started life as a typical 19th century hotel with a front bar for workers and accommodation upstairs.


The bridge actually came later, leading to a name change from the Kangaroo Point Hotel, but because the pub was a workers’ favourite the bridge itself had to be repositioned to save the pub. I can’t think of a better testimony to customer loyalty!


But over a century and a half, and particularly under the Deery family who bought the hotel in the 60s, the business has constantly changed to satisfy its market and grow the loyalty of its customers.


From that traditional start it has been a backpackers’ stay, working class hotel, local, and, over recent decades, become a tourist destination as much for its dining options as its bars. It even serves breakfast these days which Richard Deery reckons his father just wouldn’t believe.


“The Bridge” today is managed by Richard and his sister Jane Deery, who took over the running from their father Barrie, making it one of the last remaining family owned and operated hotels in Brisbane.



Today The Bridge is a big hotel, after extensions – including a WWII bomb shelter-turned bars – have provided multiple dining and drinking spaces and the family are involved in other hotels too but compared with ANZ it is a small business.


Yet we have so much we can learn from small businesses. They are nimble, close to the customers, willing and able to change direction. They are genuinely entrepreneurial.


With the different parts of the hotel and the other ventures, the Deerys have multiple avenues and some diversification. Diversification means you can try out new things and if they work, you can double down on those.


And if they don't, you can take them back and take what you've learned and try something different again.


That’s what’s inspiring because we talk about agility and openness a lot at ANZ and we're a big complex organisation but we can always learn from our customers.


Richard tells me there’s now been seven generations of Deery Hoteliers, including forebears in Ireland. And I can see no reason why more generations can’t continue to grow and evolve this historic business.


To hear the history and the evolution and the ability for these businesses to continue to change and change direction as consumer tastes change, to innovate and keep current, is really exciting.


Shayne Elliott is CEO at ANZ

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