CSGC Profile: Fergus and Victoria Sillar, Earth n Sea

Posted on Sunday, July 03, 2016

As a much-loved local institution, Earth n Sea has recently been through the biggest evolution in the restaurant’s 23-year history. With expanded all-day dining and swish new digs under the recent $80M Sanbano development, owners Fergus and Victoria Sillar have transformed the restaurant while remaining true to the original Earth n Sea philosophy. 

"We wanted to create something new and fresh and the new Sanbano location was the perfect opportunity for this," says Fergus. "We decided to create a new brand identity in line with the aesthetics of the building that would carry the business forward for the next 20 years."

The iconic Earth n Sea group was established in Byron Bay in 1976 and the original restaurant is still going strongly today. Fergus and Victoria took over the Coolangatta restaurant almost 10 years ago when it was located in Showcase on the Beach and in late 2014 negotiated the move into the Sanbano building.

"We opened the doors four days before Christmas in 2014," says Fergus. "The process of closing the old restaurant and trying to get the fit-out done as quickly as possible was fairly stressful but we got there in the end." The move has been nothing short of a monumental shift for their business. With a bright new logo and colour palette they have still managed to incorporate elements of the old restaurant by way of a striking feature wall mural incorporating all the old Tweed and Coolangatta heritage pictures. 

“It’s never an easy journey moving a restaurant and it took us at least 3 months to re-establish everything", admits Fergus. "There was a lot of pressure from our loyal customers who have been with us for so long so it was a great feeling to see them coming back to us in the new location."

The Earth n Sea menu with their award winning pizzas, pastas and schnitzels has basically stayed the same. However with the new location the café side of the business has really taken off. “The core product and food is exactly the same but with the new location we’ve been able to expand the breakfast and café trade. We have also expanded our Schnitzel menu and the response here has just been incredible."

The new location has gained Earth n Sea popularity as a breakfast destination in Coolangatta. "Breakfast has become a massive service for us now. We keep it pretty simple and use the best products we can buy. Our $10 Breaky Special has become fairly iconic over the years so I think we are stuck with it for a while," jokes Fergus. 

Purchasing the commercial freehold on the Sanbano site has helped to provide long term certainty to the business. “Secure tenancy is one of the most difficult issues in this industry,” says Fergus. It’s especially important to the Sillar’s who have three young boys starting to take part in the business. 

With an IT and technical planning background it’s no surprise Fergus has taken the opportunity to modernise their operation including a compact state of the art kitchen and an online ordering system. "The online ordering system has been seamless – it relieves staff from constantly being on the phone taking phone orders and has provided access to a new demographic of customers who want to place orders online.”  

Like many self employed business owners, Fergus and Victoria work most days in the business but still manage to find the time to spend with their young family and friends. “It's all about balance," says Fergus. "We have owned other businesses but this industry ticks all the boxes for us. It’s hard work but there is a really enjoyable social aspect, and the input you put in you get back directly.” 

Earth n Sea can be found at 60 Marine Parade, Coolangatta. Visit their website for more information.  

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