Business Feature: Good things come in threes for Ben Blomeley

Monday 19 February 2018

Local bar and restaurant entrepreneur Ben Blomeley has had a big couple of years. Two years after opening his first restaurant in Albury, South Cali Cantina, Ben has grown his empire to include an additional two venues – Din Dins and Republico.

Originally from Albury and with a wealth of hospitality experience across a number of well-known bars and pubs in the city, Ben’s life took him and his wife to Byron Bay where, he explains, the hospitality market was very different.

“Byron is very seasonal and you can understand why hospitality operators charge a premium,” he said.

“During peak times it’s essential to capitalise on the tourism market in order to be viable throughout the rest of the year.”

Albury, in contrast, provided Ben with a more solid market from which to turn his restaurant dreams into reality and in 2016 he headed back to the support of friends and family and opened ‘So Cal’s’ doors.

“The first 12 months were the hardest because while I had over 15 years of hospitality management experience, I had no experience running a business. It was a big learning curve for me,” Ben explained,

“But I knew the Albury food and wine scene had matured in my absence and the Californian Mex style is really popular, so I was confident it could work.”

Ben was also fortunate to collaborate with head chef, Andrew Scott and saw an opportunity for expansion into the Din Dins venture as a way of playing to Andrew’s strengths.

“Andrew has a lot of experience with Asian cuisine; he kept throwing up Asian specials on the So Cal menu! So there was no doubting that our next restaurant would have a Modern Asian flavour.”

The decision to open Republico less than 12 months after Din Dins was “an opportunity too good to pass up” in Ben's eyes, and offers Cuban-inspired cocktails, drinks and bar snacks.

The quick succession of business openings hasn’t daunted Ben’s enthusiasm.

“I’m just as busy now with three venues as I was with one,” he said.

“I’ve gone from 6 to 26 employees, but I now understand the bones of running a good business and I’ve got an incredibly good team helping me deliver.”

Ben is complimentary not only of his staff, but also the Albury business community. He has been fortunate to share in the wisdom of a number of local business operators and hopes his success is payback for the advice they provided.

The next 12 months will see Ben consolidate his three businesses to cement their place in the Albury market and improve their own individual offerings

When asked about future plans for his businesses, Ben has a ‘never say never’ attitude.

“In the hospitality industry, you can’t expect to open a restaurant or bar and that you’ll be running it the same way ten years-time,” he said

“The industry is so fast moving but I’m doing my best to build each one so that when I’m finished someone else can take the reins and move it in a new direction.”

Din Dins and South Cali Cantina are open Wednesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. Republico is open Wednesday to Saturday 4pm ‘til midnight.