With Bib & Tucker celebrating its 10th anniversary, chef Scott Bridger discusses the early days, how times have changed, and what the future holds.
This weekend, North Fremantle institution, Bib & Tucker celebrates its 10th year of operation. From scrambling to first open with a pitch-black coolroom, to weathering staff shortages, cooking for Marco Pierre White and maintaining a steadfast commitment to sustainability, it’s been a wild ride for owners Scott Bridger and Eamon Sullivan, who have walked the tough path that is hospitality together side by side from day one when they first viewed the site together. We caught up with Bridger, Bib & Tucker’s chef, to talk about the story that’s been written to date and what’s the next chapter looks like.
What are some of your earliest memories of opening Bib & Tucker?
Opening Bib and Tucker was a an amazing experience, we started with a green team that had never worked together before, we hoped it was going to be busy so it was all about bringing the team together. The night of our opening party we still had tradies here and I remember there being no lights in the coolroom – chefs were trying to find prep with the torches on their phones.
Can you remember how you felt when you first saw the site?
Seeing the sight with Eamon for the first time was a feeling of pure excitement – I learned to swim at Leighton, so it already was a special place for me. The view and geographical location we have is one of the best in WA and we never take it for granted – it’s still as good as day one.
How has the concept and what you set out to do evolved over the last 10 years, if at all?
From the very first day we wanted to showcase the best that WA had to offer and that concept hasn’t changed, but I think our food has evolved over the years, and although it’s still a casually refined concept our food and service are more honest, sustainable and to the point. And our team is better placed to be able to execute it to how we always imagined.
Apart from the obvious (Covid), what are some of the most challenging times you have encountered over the last 10 years? How did you overcome these?
The staffing shortage was really hard for our industry in general, but thankfully it’s slowing getting back to where it was pre-Covid. Keeping our teams connected and invested in what we do is a rewarding challenge; we have a great team culture at the moment. It takes work and commitment and this has become our main focus.
Eamon and myself have both gone through having kids while operating Bib & Tucker. Finding the elusive balance in our industry is always hard but focusing on the things that matter and keeping positive for our family and teams is number one at the moment.
What have you observed in terms of how the customer has evolved since 2013?
We’re lucky to have a loyal and broad customer base, and we have seen some changes in how people want to eat over the years. The share concept has really taken off and moving away from a set course structure. The people of Perth are happy to pay for good produce also – it’s refreshing knowing we can support the local industry by buying premium local products and that our customers are willing to pay a little more to keep the money in WA.
Then, like a lot of restaurants, we’ve had to evolve our menus with the growing amount of dietary requirements. That’s been challenging in some way, but its given me and the team the knowledge to think outside of the box and discover menu items that we might not have discovered.
How important was social media and Google reviews to the business 10 years ago compared with now?
Social media in business has really taken off in the past decade and it’s so important to be visual and connect with our audience. The power of posting about food, drinks and our teams really helps us gauge what people want also. Google reviews are important but I don’t think always accurate – although we have a great rating, we appreciate good and bad reviews to be emailed though to us directly so we can appreciate it, or if it’s less than glowing, we can then do something about it if it needs changing and we can grow as a business. The power of a positive commentary is great for the team too, its backs up why we do it and the effort that goes into putting food and drinks in front of our guests.
How have you personally evolved over the last ten years and how has the venue shaped you as a person?
Besides my family, Bib & Tucker is one of my proudest achievements. There has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears poured into the venue over the years and I’m truly proud of what we have achieved. I’ve learned so much from our staff and enjoy giving them guidance and enjoy seeing them grow knowing we’ve had a part in their success.
Having Eamon as a business partner has been a highlight in a lot of ways. It’s like having another wife, where respect, opinions and hard work reign. It’s been a partnership that has worked for us. Then being in such a beautiful location, my respect for the land, the ocean and the people that call it theirs has been big factor in my growth and commitment to sustainable practices.
Biggest highs from the last ten years?
The list is long! Cooking and having lunch with Marco Pierre White. Seeing epic sunsets, whales, sharks and seals from our kitchen. Seeing long-term staff members grow and evolve with us. Doing events and collabs with mates from the industry and understanding more that we are all similar and have the same goals in mind. Creating relationships with our suppliers and producers. And the daily reminder that we are so lucky to be living in such an amazing place in the world.
What are you most excited about for the future of Bib & Tucker?
We are looking forward to the next ten years of sustainably operating at Bib & Tucker with our customers, staff and producers in mind. We’re about to launch an exciting menu change where we’re following a six-season approach, too – our European seasonal calendar in WA just doesn’t make sense to me. Most seasonal produce is not in place when our seasons change, so we are changing things around every two months to move in line with when they are. Watch this space, there’s plenty more to come.
Bib & Tucker, 18 Leighton Beach Boulevard, North Fremantle; bibandtucker.net.au; @_bibandtucker_