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Park Street Pasta & Wine is tucked away in a suburban yet central pocket of South Melbourne, which hasn’t yet found its way on to the tourist map. Because of this, locals make up about 90% of the customer base. As Luca explains, it’s all about “community and consistency. For me, it’s the best way to start a business.”
Establishing a successful hospitality business is no easy feat, especially in a city where competition is cutthroat, and standards are high. “I think you can find decent to amazing food everywhere you go in Melbourne. So I try to create this little point of difference based on lots of things — not just based on good wine and good food,” says Luca. “You have to find your point of difference. You have to give this extra value.”
For Luca, one of those points of difference is exceptional service. Recommending the perfect wine to accompany a dish, or spending an extra few minutes to explain the flavour profile of the famous Agnolotti dal Plin (oozing pockets of Gippsland veal and wild rabbit), for example.
It’s all these extra human interactions that drive customers to leave a tip, Luca says. “I’ve read about it, and I think that 60 or 70% of a tip is inside a person. The other 30% is the role the waiter plays.”
Recent Zeller research found 70% of Australian diners are willing to leave a tip, which represents a significant shift in attitude. In fact, diners are 233% more likely to tip today than they were in 2017. Zeller research also found diners are more likely to leave a tip if prompted to do so during the payment flow.
Further analysis of thousands of transactions processed through Zeller Terminals shows Queenslanders are the most likely to leave a tip — diners in the Sunshine State are twice as likely as New South Wales diners to leave a tip. Tasmanians are the highest value tippers, leaving an average tip of $23 per outing.
The data clearly shows that subtle tipping prompts during the payment flow are a powerful strategy for hospitality owners who want to help their staff earn more money in tips.
Zeller’s subtle tipping prompts give diners the opportunity to show their appreciation for the stellar service provided. Park Street Pasta & Wine is one Zeller merchant making the most of this powerful functionality to drive 30% more customer tips.
“The setting of Zeller, the way it’s laid out, it’s promoting the tip from the customer's point of view. You’ve got the 5, 10, 15% and custom amount. It’s like, if I come to you and say 'would you like some tap water?' 90% of the time, you say yes. And I pour you some tap water," says Luca.
"If I come to you and say, ‘would you like some sparkling water, or just a tap water?’ It’s more possible you’re going to get sparkling water instead."
“It’s the way to sell things. To show things. To promote things. I think it’s really clever.”
First-hand experience with the restaurant’s customers and its staff, coupled with a background in economics, has given Luca the hand-on knowledge and skills to grow Park Street Pasta & Wine to new heights. He’s in a unique position, having spent years establishing trust and respect from staff while receiving direct feedback from customers.
“I think it’s fundamental that a person who runs a business has been working in the industry for many years. Empires of billions and millions of dollars have been run into the ground in two years after being bought by a person who doesn’t know anything about hospitality.”
When COVID lockdowns shuttered the restaurant, and there was no venue for the venue manager to manage, Luca donned an apron and got to work with the rest of the team.
“I’m not a chef. But during COVID, we opened the mercato — this little supermarket we made downstairs. We divided between us with the Jobkeeper, and I was making the pasta,” he says. “We kept everybody. We didn’t make anyone redundant.”
“I think it’s really important that you’re on the same page as the dishwasher, the bartender, everybody. You have to be close to the people at your restaurant. If you’ve got respect from them, you can go anywhere.”
Luca’s decision to enable Zeller’s tipping prompt functionality is one of the ways he is supporting a positive work environment, and it’s having a positive snowball effect on the business.
“If the tips are higher, the staff is happy. If they're happy, they work better.”
“The thing that I like the most is to give my staff the possibility to have a little bit more money," says Luca. "If you create more positivity, they’re willing to provide better service and it’s a win-win for everyone.”