Serving the community
Located in the village of Stirling, roughly half an hour from Adelaide’s international airport, is the Stirling Hotel. Described in their tagline as “the heart of hospitality in the Adelaide Hills,” the hotel provides a sophisticated setting with cozy rooms, and has a variety of experiences and dining options to offer.
One of those options is the hotel’s award-winning Cellars & Patisserie outlet, which offers a “truly unique gourmet experience” to both visitors and residents of the local community.
“We combine boutique wines, beers and spirits with fine foods and great coffee,” says Russell Merchant, Cellars Manager. “And we give our customers quality service – we have staff that can actually talk about our products, and will help customers however they can.”
The Stirling Hotel itself is the “original hotel” in the township, having been in Stirling “since there were dirt roads,” Russell says. Over the course of the building’s history, the hotel has changed ownership many times and evolved considerably. In recent years, the hotel built a supermarket right next to it to service the local community, and underwent significant refurbishments besides.
“We’re really here to service the Adelaide Hills community,” says Russell, describing both the Cellars & Patisserie outlet as well as the hotel as a whole. “There are a lot of people that live up here and work in the city, but don’t want to travel to the city any more than we need to.”
“So people can come here and do their grocery-shopping at a small, independent, south Australian-owned supermarket,” he continues. “And then they can come next door to us.”
Within the Stirling Hotel Cellars & Patisserie, customers have access to “the best coffee in the Adelaide Hills.” They can choose from a house blend created specifically for the Patisserie by renowned roaster Five Senses, or from specialty ranges sourced from boutique roasters such as Proud Mary and Small Batch. Customers may also indulge in a pastry, baguette or pie, made within the hotel kitchen by one of their talented pastry chefs.
In addition, customers can also enjoy a glass of wine, and browse the Cellars’ extensive range of domestic, international, and Adelaide Hills offerings. The Cellars & Patisserie is also a Sip ‘n’ Save outlet, stocked with everyone’s favorite beers, wines and spirits on the market. Their range includes everything from cask wine through to high-end champagne and everything in-between.
According to Russell, when you add all those services and options together, they equal convenience.
“Customers can take a pit stop, have lunch, have coffee, and then fill their trolley with any sort of wine, beer or spirits that they need along the way,” he explains. “So we’re a one-stop offering.”
According to Russell, what truly makes the Stirling Hotel Cellars & Patisserie special is their staff. He says every member of their team is both knowledgeable and helpful. They are educated about the products they stock, and are more than willing to go the extra mile for customers, and do things like help them carry purchases to their cars.
“Customers have to trust you, because they’re often buying things they don’t know much about personally,” Russell explains. “Only about 10 per cent of the population really knows anything about wine, and we carry some stuff that is a little bit unusual, that you don’t see everywhere. Customers have to be able to trust our recommendations. If they do, they keep coming back.”
The Stirling Hotel survives on their repeat clientele, Russell adds. On the weekend, people travel to the Adelaide Hills from interstate or internationally and may stay for a day or two. Russell says that business is important, but it’s not enough to sustain them.
“Monday to Friday, we rely on people who live within 10 kilometres of us,” he explains. “We have to look after those people. And we do.”
Russell encourages his staff to take an interest in their offering, and to basically “try everything on the shelf.”
“We want our staff to know something about everything, so they can talk to customers about it,” he explains. “That knowledge and service is one of the few things that set us apart from the supermarket chains that dominate the industry.”
The Stirling Hotel also has very knowledgeable suppliers, which Russell says is vital.
“It’s important to have people who understand your business,” he explains. “It’s important that they’re offering the products that are right for you, and not the same thing that everybody else is getting. They need to understand what our market is.”
The suppliers that Stirling Hotel works with are largely local, or at least have a strong local understanding. They know what kind of products the local market is after, and the kind of price points that are acceptable. Many of these companies have been in Adelaide for a long time, and have been working with the Stirling Hotel for years.
At the 2013 Australia Hotel Association’s Awards, for example, the Stirling Hotel Cellars & Patisserie won the award for Best Retail Liquor Outlet. The accolade was received in early October, at an event held in the nation’s capital. Their competition included some of Australia’s leading licensed venues.
“That award is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our team,” Russell says. “It shows us that we’re doing something right.”
“There’s not really another store like ours in Adelaide,” he adds. “So it’s recognition that we’re doing something different, and we’re pulling it off.”
Russell credits the award to their “customer focus,” which is embedded in every member of their staff.
“We’re always just trying to do the best we can for our customers,” he says. “We try to give them what they want – which is a wide range of products, for really good value. We try to give them the everyday products that they’re looking for, but also a whole mix of other stuff they wouldn’t have seen before. We want them to be able to come in and investigate and find something different that they might be interested in.”
“We’re looking after their needs as best we can,” he says simply.
Moving forward, Russell says that customer focus will never falter. He says there’s a lot of hard work to be done, and a lot of fine-tuning. He also says the search for new products is never-ending, and that further down the line they also hope to offer products online.
“We’re always trying to do what we do better, and more efficiently,” he says. “We want to service the Adelaide Hills community as best we can, and look after the people in it. It’s all about continuous improvement. That process never stops.”
For more information, please visit their website at The Stirling Hotel