Home' Hospitality Business : HB OCT 2015 Contents Hospitality BUSINESS | October 2015 | 11
Although known as one of the pioneers of Wellington hospitality,
Mike Egan’s working career began as a cadet in Treasury.
However, after an OE in America he returned home to save up
again and got a job at Cobb and Co in Lower Hutt and the rest as
they say is history.
Here he met two people who became great friends and also
future business partners – Chris Green and John Lawrence.
By 1983, at 21 years, he was promoted by Lion Breweries to
a bar manager’s role, then to junior assistant of the Hotel St
George in 1985 – a flagship property for Lion with a 200 seat
Cobb and Co, various bars and accommodation.
In 1991, Egan was part of the team that opened Dockside on
Queens Wharf in Wellington. It was a risky move. Would people
bother going to that part of the city to eat, and the economy
wasn’t in great shape at the time. The restaurant was a
resounding success, however, and still operates today.
Opening restaurants is risky and the failure rate is high, but
Egan says, “You look for gaps in the market. You want to become
the leader, to raise the bar. But you can’t just stick a restaurant
anywhere. I have concepts for different restaurants, but
sometimes have to wait years for the right location. Even after
you’ve done your homework, it’s still stressful. You wonder, does
your restaurant have the x-factor?”
Egan’s businesses certainly do have the x-factor. In 1995 he
opened One Red Dog – an offering of Gourmet Pizza’s that was
quite a different concept for its time.
Over the next few years as a director of the hospitality
management company Crescent Group, he helped set up the
food and beverage offering at Te Papa, as well as opening and
managing The Martinborough Hotel.
And in 2002, his flagship restaurant Monsoon Poon opened
and was so successful it spawned an Auckland sibling. Other
venues opened too - Arbitrageur Wine Room in 2004, Osteria
del Toro in 2008 and most recently Burger Liquor. Egan also
has an interest in Boulcott Street Bistro and is a director and
shareholder of Terrace Villas Ltd.
It’s not all about opening restaurants though. Egan has
consistently given his time and energy to further the interests
of the industry. He’s regularly called on for media comment on
industry issues, is a voice for industry in Wellington and has joined
too many steering groups and Committees to name them all.
The main ones though are his involvement in getting
Wellington on a Plate off the ground and Egan continues a
governance role on the Wellington Culinary Events Trust, which
runs the event, “It’s a celebration of the region’s restaurants,
food suppliers and vineyards. Imagine having your industry in the
spotlight for a fortnight. There’s quite a collaborative feel about
the Wellington restaurant scene. We help each other with staff,
products and equipment. We don’t really compete with each
other, as much as offer alternatives for the discretionary dollar.”
From 2000 to 2009 he was also a trustee for Westpac
Stadium; has also been a Board Member for the world-
renowned Pinot Noir conference (next on in 2017) and in 2012
was appointed a Council representative for Wellington City
Council’s Positively Wellington Venues. And he also introduced
the Felix Hospitality Awards – the first of the industry’s regional
Throughout his working life, Egan has always looked to keep
his businesses fresh and innovative, through traveling overseas,
often to the European Foodservice Summit in Zurich, annually
to Chicago and the American restaurant trade show, and when
he can to Bali to recharge.
He’s also given years of his time in his role as Restaurant
Association National President, Wellington Branch President
and as a Restaurant Association Education Trust Trustee.
Hospitality is challenging on families too but luckily for
the industry, Egan has had the love, support and generosity
of his wife and family, so he can continue his role as one of
hospitality’s true leaders.
Inducted into the Restaurant Association’s
Hall of Fame this year, Mike Egan.
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