Based on an interview with Craig Goldberg,
Since opening its first steakhouse at Bondi Beach in 1994, Hurricane’s Grill has become a Sydney favourite, with four restaurants now across the city. Over the past four years, founder Craig Goldberg has taken Hurricane’s global, with restaurants opening in Jakarta, Dubai and Beijing. It is now poised to expand across China.
Goldberg relates that as a hospitality brand, Hurricane’s connects with a worldly young Chinese demographic that is familiar with western cuisine and excited about an Australian dining experience. Hurricane’s can also count on the growing strength of Australia’s reputation as a source of high-quality produce, and the expansion of the food and beverage supply chains between the two countries.
BUILD ON BRAND AUSTRALIA
Hurricanes’ reputation in Australia is built on its ribs. Goldberg’s family has been in the steakhouse business for generations, and his pork rib basting sauce recipe is a well-guarded secret. When he migrated to Sydney from South Africa in 1994, he saw a gap in the market for his barbecue experience. “When I arrived, ribs weren’t a big thing in Australia,” he explains. “We had butchers saying buy our beef and we’ll give you our pork ribs for virtually nothing.” In the decades since, the menu has incorporated fresh Australian produce and become a mainstay of the Sydney dining scene. “Over 25 years, we have become an established Australian brand of steakhouse. When people think ribs they think of Hurricane’s.”
Its growing popularity among Asian tourists and students, and a constant stream of enquiries from overseas about licensing the brand, prompted Hurricane’s to open its first restaurants in Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates over the past four years. Most recently, Hurricane’s has opened in a fashionable part of Beijing. “There are a lot of students that have studied in Australia and gone back to China, born in the 1990s and 2000s. They are very aware of western tastes and are familiar with Hurricane’s. We have whole groups of students who used to study together in Sydney come into Hurricane’s in Beijing.” Goldberg goes on to explain that this generation in particular “is so much more aware of new and better things through social media, and through studying overseas. Their eyes are wide open to the Hurricane’s dining experience and they want it.” Beyond the familiarity of its own brand, Hurricane’s can trade off the strength of Australia’s reputation, which has grown steadily in esteem over the past decade as brands such as Bellamy’s and Penfolds become more available and affordable to Chinese consumers. Since its core offering is its strongest selling point, Hurricane’s has not had to change its menus much to cater to local tastes, other than including some local staples and other minor adaptions. “It has been trial and error,” Goldberg explains. “We’re happy to adapt as long as our core menu stays the same. We do a mango cheesecake in Beijing which is very popular, we do a Mars bar cheesecake in Australia. We want to keep our core values – affordable, quality meals.” Hurricane’s is also in a better position than ever to source Australian produce in China. The demand for high-quality imported meat has been growing steadily in China, and as a consequence supply chains have broadened and matured. “We thought it would be really hard. We wanted to know how we were going to get beef to China, how were we going to get alcohol because we really wanted to showcase Australia. But there’s already so much supply going into China.I haven’t found an issue with supply chain,” says Goldberg. He adds that his suppliers have a good integration of cattle in Australia and production in China. “This helps us build efficiencies and have better control over quality.” Goldberg also highlights the support from Australian governments and the
Australian business community in China. “You have AustCham there. They have so many good connections to people who can point you in the right direction.”
PARTNER TO GROW
The growth opportunity China provides Hurricane’s is of much larger scale than Indonesia, the UAE or other markets Hurricane’s has considered. Hurricane’s has set up a joint venture with a Chinese company with experience in hospitality which will give it the means to expand quickly. Goldberg explains: “I’m passionate about the brand. I didn’t want to put it into the market and then not get the right exposure. Our plan is to go from one restaurant to maybe a hundred in China.”