Sydney chef and owner of O Bar & Dining, Michael Moore is on a mission to create the most glamorous healthy choice restaurant in the world. And he’s inviting the corporate events market to come along for the ride.
BY BRAD FOSTER
Michael Moore has plenty of opinions on a range of things but none more so than on food and dining. When the chef/owner said goodbye to The Summit restaurant and brand in late 2012, leaving in its place the sleek and sexy O Bar & Dining he embarked on a journey to bring healthy eating into the Sydney fine dining scene.
A diabetic and stroke survivor, and a successful author – his book Blood Sugar is in its fourth reprint – his epiphany came to him when, on a publicity tour in the U.S. he found himself espousing the virtues of healthy food and then passing over a recipe for his signature pork belly dish.
“I’m over there sprouting the benefits of eating well and then my signature dish is pork belly. I thought, hang on here, my restaurant is one thing and my philosophy is another,” he says.
“I believe that part of the x factor of a restaurant is that the person running it and owning it is true to himself, true to his product, and it is clearly identifiable and therefore people either buy into it or they don’t.
“It was quite a big risk taking a restaurant of this size and this profile and scale of business and turn it into a restaurant that focused on healthy choices. To be honest we took a leap of faith. We thought, we believe in it, our customers that we’ve been talking to believe in it, but is it commercially viable?”
Moore made the jump and the concept has worked extremely successfully ever since.
“The key part of what we do now is that our customers don’t even realise that we have made the healthy choice for them. The restaurant is darker and noisier and sexy and more fun, cheaper, and healthier.
“It allows you to have a great time here but you don’t feel punished for it. You can come here and eat a decent meal, have a bottle of wine and a couple of drinks, and you will leave here feeling healthier, cleaner, and you wouldn’t have done yourself as much damage as if you had indulged in other restaurants, other food, other food philosophies.”
A point not lost on the corporate events market, which Moore says is embracing and enjoying the O Bar & Dining experience.
“The corporates want to align themselves with the right brand. The O Bar brand philosophy fits better with them than the tired Summit brand. There’s definitely a trend to eating less, eating flavoursome food, and eating more healthy food,” he says.
“We’re seeing a lot of style and fashion coming from the corporate market. And we see it from a different perspective. For a while there was a flatness to the customer. Now it seems like… their suits are sharper, their ties are sharper, their chins are up; maybe they’re feeling a little more positive than they were about business.
“The corporates are definitely back. There are some green shoots there. We’re looking at a far stronger end of season than we’ve had in the past five years. They realise they have to offer something to their staff – motivate them, team-build them, incentivise them – they’ve gotta have fun – and it’s starting to happen.”
O Bar & Dining welcomed a new tapas lounge and bar to its offering in late July while its private dining room, which can seat up to a maximum of 28, is proving a real winner. The venue can also be hired exclusively for events, comfortably catering for a maximum of 400, or sections of the revolving restaurant and bar can be cordoned off for smaller groups.