12 NOVEMBER, 2007 - 30 years of dedication were rewarded in a surprise gong from Queensland's peak hotels body recently, when Bob and Julie Porter were named the QHA Hoteliers of the Year
The Queensland Hotels Association's most prestigious award was the last to be presented at the annual awards night held in Brisbane on 1 November, and Bob and Julie freely admit to being 'totally surprised'.
"It was a very emotional moment. It's more of a personal thing for us. We've put in the hard yards together and we are very proud of that," Julie Porter said.
Mrs Porter said that in what could be a somewhat 'blokey' hotel industry, it was satisfying to see this recognition of a husband-and-wife team effort.
The Porters were nominated by son Michael for their work as a partnership over the last three decades, both in building the Plainland Hotel into a thoroughly modern operation since taking over the pub from Bob's parents in 1976, and in their strong community involvement over the years.
Supporting the community
Bob and Julie Porter have consistently supported their local community in a myriad of ways. They have always supported local hospitals, schools and individuals year in and year out.
In the sporting arena, Bob and Julie have sponsored the 'Porter's Pee Wees' Under-7 Rugby League team for the last fifteen years, and the Glenore Grove Lowood Cricket Club for the last three years.
Bob Porter has been an active member of the Gatton Golf Club for ten years and was heavily involved with the Lockyer Race Club for many years, including two years as its president.
Recognising the great importance of region-wide tourism efforts to the area's future prosperity, Bob also helped found the Lockyer Valley Tourism Association in the late 1990s, serving as its president for two years. Bob's philosophy was that local enterprises should be working in cooperation rather than competition when it came to attracting visitors and giving the region a marketable name, as in the long term all would benefit.
Bob and Julie Porter have also given one-off donations through the Hotel to local health services, such as Meals on Wheels, the Laidley Ambulance committee, and Blue Care, who receive little or no government funding. This is in addition to their active involvement of the Plainland Hotel in fundraisers like Hotel Care Week, for which they raised $8,000 when they held their 2006 dinner event to celebrate the Hotel's sixtieth year in the family.
Developing the pub
Over the years, Bob and Julie Porter have always been determined to grow and develop their business, with improved service to patrons the top priority.
They have introduced touch screens for food ordering (improving the efficiency of the hotel kitchen), and scanners in the bar to expedite service and sale of bottled and canned drinks. They introduced Read Rating and Racepack in the TAB Bar to deliver up-to-the-minute information to punters.
Bob and Julie were also quick to provide a Hotel-based ATM machine for patrons when this option became available in the 1990s.
Bob and Julie recently installed a plasma screen in the Hotel Bottlemart, which is used to promote coming events at the Plainland, weekly specials, 'joke of the week', and social photos such as visits from members of the Broncos. Other local businesses have now expressed interest in using the Hotel's plasma screen to promote their own services.
Through the bottleshop, they keep two mobile coldrooms which are hired free for private parties with orders over $300, and the Hotel offers a general hire service including catering equipment, supplies and even bar staff for outside parties.
A new shaded timber deck overlooking the Highway, part of the Hotel's award-winning 2002 refurbishment, has also been put to highly successful use, through the marketing of weekend 'Brekky on the Deck', as a venue for al fresco dining, Melbourne Cup and Christmas parties, and live jazz entertainment on Sunday afternoons.
With their interest in tourism, Bob and Julie have also been quick to see the need for accommodation targeted to this market, and in 2004 purchased a nearby hilltop bed-and-breakfast, which they run in conjunction with the Hotel.
Staff development and mentoring
Committed to giving young people a foot in the door, and to improving the skills of their own staff, Bob and Julie Porter have overseen numerous trainees and apprentices in the Plainland Hotel's bar and kitchen operations. As well, they have provided places for no less than forty school work experience students over the years.
Under their supervision, five school-based trainees have worked at the Hotel, two of whom have now begun their apprenticeships in commercial cooking. Bob and Julie have managed five apprentice chefs, one of whom is now the Hotel's second-in-charge chef.
Five cooks who have worked in the Hotel over the years have gained qualifications as chefs through TAFE assessment, and five bar staff have gained their TAFE hospitality qualifications, all of these while working at the Hotel.
Supporting fellow hoteliers
Bob and Julie have always helped their fellow hoteliers, whether they be Lockyer Valley locals, or elsewhere in Australia. This has included actions large and small, from acting on behalf of the QHA for them, or lending stock.
Bob and Julie have always talked openly with their fellow hoteliers about the ideas and innovations that have worked for them, particularly with regard to building tourism in the local area, which they see will benefit all local hotels in the long term.
View QHA awards night video - Bob and Julie Porter