Matt Breen was only 26 years old when he opened what is now one of Tasmania’s most sought after restaurants, Templo. Bright-eyed and fearless, Matt had just completed his apprenticeship at Saffire on the East Coast before traveling to Italy and Spain. “Travel inspired me to sink my teeth into learning Mediterranean cuisine. After working different jobs back in Australia, I opened Templo in 2015 with my then-business partner, Chris Chappel. Templo became somewhat of an institution in the Hobart dining scene and gave me a good grounding for future projects.” Since then, Matt has opened two intimate — and equally as sought after spaces — Sonny and Ogee. We recently visited Matt and the team in Hobart to learn about owning your vision, the value of a great team, and most importantly, which records should accompany your evening wine — but you’ll have to visit to hear that answer yourself.
SQ: How did it feel to start your own business? Was there anything that made you nervous or equally excited?
M: It was obviously a really daunting and exciting experience first opening Templo. Looking back, I was so young. 26, bright-eyed and fearless. It was a really great learning experience for me and set me up for Sonny and Ogee.
SQ: What is the secret sauce behind the success of Templo, Sonny and now Ogee?
M: It’s the staff you employ that make a business successful. The teams that I’ve managed to secure for both venues are some of the brightest, kindest and most hospitable people I know. If you treat them well and nurture them, they will return that in spades.
SQ: Tell us more about your team
M: I remember one of our first staff parties at Sonny, it was just 3 of us! We had recently written a small cookbook during the covid lockdowns and we were out celebrating. Fast forward 3 years and we just had a staff party for 16 people. Looking back, it’s amazing to see the growth and popularity of the business over the last 3 years.
SQ: Why did you purposefully keep both venues small and intimate?
M: Simple, small and intimate seems to be my thing. Our primary focus is on hospitality and cooking beautiful in-season produce sourced locally. Focusing on these two things as the core of the businesses makes it really easy to deliver a fun and memorable experience.
Ogee is my third venue now and all of them have under 30 seats. Intimate is nice. It allows us to provide a really beautiful level of hospitality to the customer. It can feel like you’re dining in my kitchen at home. Small is also a lot easier to manage. As the sole owner of both venues, it’s easier for me to manage the books, staff, menus, etc.
SQ: Favourite Square feature?
M: Square Gift Cards were a great feature over the Christmas period. It’s really easy to process payments for them and redeem them when the time comes. I also love sitting down at the end of the night to go over the stats for the day. It helps me plan menus for the rest of the week.
SQ: What has been your biggest ‘pinch me’ moment so far?
M: There has been a lot of these along the way. The latest one that comes to mind is winning ‘Australian Wine Bar of the Year’ in the Australian Bartenders awards. It came as a surprise and was announced the day before Ogee’s opening party. That really hit home for me, seeing us win an award like that in the same week as launching a new restaurant. I felt like we were progressing so well.
SQ: What challenges did you face while growing the business? How did you overcome these to continue scaling?
M: The biggest challenges that I had to face were very much internal for me. I had to learn to be more patient, more efficient and a better overall manager. My partner and I also had a baby a year before opening Ogee. Lately, I’ve been really focusing on my physical and mental health. I find that if I don’t keep on top of these, my efficiency really drops off at work.
SQ: What’s a pain point that Square has solved for you?
M: Square has been easy to implement across both venues. The user interface makes it so simple for us and our customers. Prior to Square, we used one of the big four banks EFTPOS machines with handwritten dockets. Now, we can check our stats and biggest sellers at the end of the night just on our handheld portal. Square looks great on the counter too!
SQ: What piece of advice would you give to a new or aspiring business owner?
M: Take risks and be kind to your staff and customers.
SQ: Who/what inspires you?
M: My soon-to-be wife, Mon inspires me. I obviously lead a very busy life at the moment but she’s always there to back me up and support me and our family.
SQ: Any exciting plans you can share?
M: I tend to stay on brand, so if anything, think small and intimate.