Why Kerry Packer Was The Best Food Consultant I Ever Met

July 30, 2018 5:32 pm

Figure 1 : Media Mogul & Food Consultant – Kerry Packer

Recently I have been on a speaking circuit with Mark Bouris, host of the TV show The Mentor, running a series of breakfasts for TabCorp clients on the topic “Doing Business in Hard Times”. Mark weaves his 3 key messages through a funny and engaging story on a meeting he had with Kerry Packer and what he learnt about business from that meeting. Standing in the wings listening to his story, I realised I have my own Kerry Packer story to tell. Kerry was gruff, imposing and un-PC in every way (and then some!) but he taught me something that laid the very foundation of what Brain&Poulter stands for. His teachings still guide our team on every job. Don’t believe the words Kerry Packer and Food Consultant go together? Then read on and hopefully be as inspired by his words as I was 35 years ago……

It was Saturday night, 5th March 1983. I was executive chef for Kerry Packer based out of the Channel Nine studios in Willoughby and it was election night. In those days, Channel Nine ruled the airwaves for current affairs and news so on the Saturday night Kerry had invited Bob Hawke, labour leader and leader of the opposition into the studio for a live cross as the election counts came in. On the next morning, he had also secured Malcolm Fraser for a live interview – would Fraser be speaking as the returned Prime Minister or as the conceder? And here’s where the food consulting magic came in….

Kerry came to brief me in the tiny shoebox of a kitchen off the boardroom on how he wanted the two events to run. He blustered to me that for dinner for Bob Hawke on Saturday night “ I want you to serve Pumpkin Soup, Rack of Lamb and Apple Pie. Plenty of beer and soft drink and the place card needs  to read Bob Hawke” he continued as I took furious notes “For the Sunday breakfast the menu is to be scrambled eggs with truffle, Bollinger and the placecard has to read – The Right Honourable member for ….” And with those instructions he turned on his heels and left my kitchen.

Two politicians but two very different approaches to the menu. You see, Kerry knew that we all carry our own F&B DNA, a certain way that we like to eat that reflects our heritage, our self-worth, our social status, our personal values and our aspirations. When we eat according to our DNA we are aligned with our own view of ourselves. Kerry knew if he could connect with each guest by reflecting their values back to them via the food that he stood the best chance of getting a great interview out of them.

My Big Ahaa

And so, my “Ahaa” moment was had as I stood scooping out the pumpkin seeds of the ornamental pumpkins to create the “bowls” I would serve Bob Hawke his soup in (this was the 80’s!!).

Figure 2: Pumpkin Soup 80’s style!

The success of F&B precincts and outlets is linked to how well the concept, design, placemaking and tenancy mix are aligned to the customer’s heritage, self-worth, social status, values and aspirations. That’s why cookie cutter precincts never “feel” right and why our company places so much time and importance on really immersing ourselves in the physical suburbs as well as running our “food filter” over the demographics to map out exactly what the consumer’s F&B DNA is for every project we are working on. Through testing and measuring trading results of various cuisine types and mapping it back to the trade area F&B DNA we have been able to uncover some crucial insights that creates a much-improved tenancy mix. Our goal is always to create a tenancy mix built in response to the trade area F&B DNA rather than copying the mix what’s working elsewhere because that’s when you get loyalty, high levels of repeat trade and people staying on site longer as raving fans. Here’s a few unique F&B DNA examples we’ve uncovered over the years;

There are F&B DNA Clues Everywhere

Mexican doesn’t trade as well in suburbs with high levels of Asian decendency. When we ask the Chinese customers why they don’t engage in the Mexican food they say it is “unhealthy” in their eyes – the cheese and sour cream in particular is not common in their own cuisine heritage.

Above average levels of single parent households bodes well for taverns (date nights needed!) while drive throughs are preferred when a trade area is over indexed in young families.

Because one of our first big tourism booms was Japanese visiting the Gold Coast and SE Qld, Japanese hot food trades used to trade better than Chinese hot food in Queensland. This isn’t so much because the tourists want to eat Japanese food but as tourism grew so did Japanese workers residing in Queensland to support the tourism. It was those workers who wanted to cook and eat Japanese food and now it’s part of a QLD food precinct DNA although Chinese tourism growth is now tipping this equation.

WA can sustain fish and chips in the tenancy mix more than in any other state because of the higher levels of English migrants in many trade areas.

Scones are vital on a Café menu if you live in NZ. Pacific Islanders also need larger, more robust cuts of pork from the butcher and value sized portions and packs of sushi.


Figure 3: No Kiwi Cafe would be complete without scones

Indian people don’t like to buy Indian food out of bain maries, Vietnamese prefer to buy whole fish over fillets. The best customers for a chocolate Café are Asian (we call Max Brenner the Asian Pub!).

3% of any one nationality supports a cuisine focussed on their most popular national cuisine, 15% of any one nationality in a trade area supports an entire food precinct of that country’s cuisine.

So, when you’re dissecting your next Quantium report or looking over your lease expiry profiles, I encourage you to see past just the labels of “millennials” or “baby boomers” and really spend time coming to terms with how your customers are eating when they’re not in your centre. Are they in their garages turning lambs on spits or pickling vegetables to put on antipasto plates? Are they making batches of baklava and in need of bulk supplies of nuts? There are F&B DNA clues everywhere if you spend the time to get out of the office and into the streets around your Centres.

A Toast To The Big Fella

As frightening and unpredictable as it was to work for Kerry Packer, I am so grateful to him for what he taught me about human behaviour and how when you harness it and reflect it back to the audience, success is sure to follow. I raise my glass of Fanta (his preferred drink) to Kerry and thank him for what he taught me about food consulting. Cheers KP.


Discover Your Dining DNA Now!

If you want to take advantage of using Brain & Poulters unique tools to discover your trade area’s Dining DNA so you can create a stronger concept or tenancy mix call Matina Sarris now on

m. 0448 696 369
e. matina@brainandpoulter.com.au
i. info@brainandpoulter.com.au