The group, headed by 360Q restaurant owner Barry Iddles, has already opened its new Wharf Street Panty, in the former LIX retail space at Queenscliff Harbour, and will soon turn its attention to the much-loved Hesse Street eatery Shelter Shed.
According to Mr Iddles, the new company - made up of current and former colleagues - was formed on the back of concern for the town's business future - a key driver of tourism and employment.
“We were discussing how there were shops empty or hardly open when the harbour approached us to take over the vacant shop LIX. We saw it as a great opportunity to create a joint venture, Queenscliff Hospitality Pty Ltd, and set out to reinvigorate our great town,” Mr Iddles said.
“The Shelter Shed was also on the market so we snapped it up. It is such a beautiful venue, we will breathe some life back into it as soon as the lease is signed.
A third acquisition was also potentially in the pipeline, Mr Iddles said.
“I am so proud of my team. We all hate seeing empty shops."
While figures show tourism visitation has bounced back, several business owners are still reeling from the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions and subsequent staffing shortages. Two shops in central Hesse Street remain vacant after more than two years.
Mr Iddles said the new company’s vision was to ensure Queenscliff was “open”, with consistent trading hours and a renewed energy.
“We are a tourist town… we need to get the whole town, businesses, to be excited about what they do,” he said. That means open and trading all public holidays, long weekends - with a surcharge for public holiday trading.
"I employ 45 staff and our payroll is huge on public holidays but we would never consider closing these days. It is a service to the community and our tourists.”
Mr Iddles has been a driving force behind recruiting retirees and pensioners to help alleviate staffing pressures and was keynote speaker at a Victorian Tourism Industry Council forum on the benefits of employing a mature workforce.
His growing workforce will work across the three venues.
"I'm a great believer in the law of attraction. If you get up every day of the week and say 'there's no workers' you're not going to attract them," He told the forum.
"Our integenerational team ranges between the age of 15 and 78, so we've now got a broad spectrum of people.
"The comraderie between my team is incredible. It's given them a new lease of life, as in everyone learns from everyone else," he said.