Anna: Welcome, everyone to podcast number 17. We’ve had a long break from podcasting as wedding season has been madness over the last few months. We finally found some time to sit down, have a chat to an industry P. What better off to start 2020 podcasts than having a well-known, I’d probably say friend, but also in the industry I kind of can say… Dion does a lot of things. Probably a lot of question is what does Dion do? Here we’ve got Dion Woo with us today. Welcome to the podcast.
Dion: Thank you, Anna. Thanks for having me on the on the podcast. I think it’s only one of a handful that I’ve done. I’m grateful to be here. And thanks for showing me around your fabulous setup here.
Anna: It’s pretty crazy. It’s like a maze. There’s lots of hidden rooms and lots of happening. But you could probably also say there’s a sweatshop at the back that we’ve just like…
Dion: I call it a Wonderland. I’d seen them all putting the beautiful pieces together.
Anna: Beautiful. Thank you, Dion. It’s amazing how we connected in this industry. I want people to understand, probably people are thinking who is Dion Woo? Why have you got Dion Woo here today? What significance does he have in the wedding industry? Or what significance does he have overall? Can you explain to people how you got into MCing and why you’re doing it?
Dion: Okay. Great. Good question. I’ve been doing MCing a long long time now. Not to put a date on me or anything, but nearly 20 years, I’d say. It started in the day when there’d be all these events. As things happen with events, they need an MC.
Now, nobody wanted to do that kind of work or was brave enough. Because I was a little bit of a loud mouth, I’d often get volunteered. It just grew from there. I found that I had a knack for it. My father was a very famous MC, actually.
Anna: Oh, wow.
Dion: I learned a a fair bit from him as well. Throughout he’d keep an eye on me and give me tips and traps along the way. I really appreciate that. I learned a lot from dad.
Anna: How amazing. In terms of MCing, explain to the actual audience what languages do you speak? Because we always ask that question.
Dion: Yeah. Okay. Great question. Obviously, English. That’s really the only language I feel comfortable enough to MC in. I do speak a little bit of Cantonese. I’m not even going to mention Mandarin. I find I lose a lot of work because I don’t have that extra language ability.
Anna: Yeah. That’s what I’ve always… For us to find a co-bilingual language that speaks Mandarin-English or even Cantonese-English really well, we can find someone that speaks the Mandarin Chinese part really well, but the English is broken. Brides and grooms these days don’t want the English part to be broken. Then we go, okay, we got a great English MC., but that’d speak Mandarin or Cantonese. I said, well I’m finding it very difficult to find an MC for my clients.
Have you ever thought of maybe learning a little bit of Mandarin?
Dion: Absolutely. I’m committed to learning Mandarin now. I just made that decision a couple of days ago. I was hanging out with my brother’s friend actually. And he goes, “Dion, you need to do this because it’s going to change your future.”
Anna: Okay. The rest of our podcast is going to be Mandarin now.
I think what we’ll do is I reckon in about, I’d probably say, we’ll give it three months. We should come back here and we’ll do a podcast in Mandarin together.
Dion: Well, that’s a good challenge. I’m looking forward to that. Yes.
Anna: Yeah. Definitely. Now, I want to know what else do you do, Dion? Who is Dion Woo?
Dion: You know what? I get that question all the time. Well, it doesn’t stun me. I actually quite enjoy it, because I don’t publicize what I do. Very recently I got stopped in the street by this guy that I didn’t know actually. And he goes, “Dion. Dion Woo. I want to have a coffee with you.” Then I said, “That’s great. Why would you want to do that?” He goes, “I want to know more about Sydney’s most mysterious man.”
To understand what I do. For the last couple of decades, actually, I’ve been in the hospitality business. I’ve had restaurants, cafes. I started off with a Chinese restaurant. Before that, I was in the IT business. I had a technology business. It sounds fancy calling it technology. It’s actually just selling hardware peripherals. That’s what the Chinese got into.
Dion: That was very successful. I ended up selling that not knowing what to do. Then, I got into hospitality with a customer of mine at the time who was opening a restaurant. That’s where I started my foray in hospitality. It was fantastic. These days it’s a lot harder.
Dion: I still have one hospitality business. It’s a cafe, but I spend very little time there. Everyone always wonders how come I can get out and about do so many things, be at so many places. Because we have a great team there that looks after it. That’s not my interest anymore. I just love to have fun to be around beautiful people, beautiful things. So, you’ll see me out eating.
That’s the other thing I do. Because I am in the food industry, I get invited to a lot of these launches trying out new beautiful dishes. I love photography. A lot of my food is around photography. I love being photographed. I love video-ing and being videoed. People see a lot of me online. I guess, that’s how they feel that they know me. Although we don’t know each other.
Anna: Exactly. Did that gentleman say how he saw you? Was it through a social media platform or he’s just…?
Dion: Well, it has to be a social media platform of some description. I’m very active on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, and LinkedIn. That’s another platform that I’ve found quite interesting and incredible in terms of opportunity. A lot of opportunity who’ve come to me through LinkedIn. I find them getting more and more powerful all the time.
Anna: Okay. Let’s go back to your actual MC-ing at the moment. If I was to have a couple come to me say, “Anna, I need you to help me coordinate and plan my wedding. I’m looking for an MC. I don’t know where to go or what to do.” Why should I recommend you? What’s the difference?
Dion: Why recommend me? Okay.
Anna: Why should a bride come and call you?
Dion: Well, I would say that once they meet me, they’re both going to fall in love with me.
Anna: It’s like with are with you[?].
Dion: I guess all MCs will say that they personalize the wedding for the couple. I definitely do. But what I love most about what I do is that I really do enjoy my work, but I love surprises and I love surprising the couple. Right. There’ll be something in there. I don’t want to give away too much here that’s going to say, wow I wasn’t expecting that. Right? There’s always that kind of a moment in my delivery. That’s what makes it all worthwhile for me.
I mix it up with I think… I’m not a comedian, but people say I’m funny. That’s what I like to bring to the event. I do a little bit of singing as well. So, I bring that to the event. I think if they’re after somebody that can add color and strong memories to their event, then I’m that guy.
Anna: Beautiful. I’ve actually recently met up with a couple.
Anna: We’re just going through their whole wedding planning, how do we style, put it all together, the flowers and all of that. We’re finalizing the venue at the moment. We came across on okay, who is going to be your MC? Have you thought about it? And your name popped up.
Dion: It did?
Anna: Your name popped up. The question was, oh, but Dion doesn’t speak Mandarin. But we said, “You know what, how many people in the room is going to be Mandarin background that doesn’t speak English these days?” They’re like, “Oh, not many. It’s probably just the oldies or whatsoever.” We said, “Well, why don’t we co-MC. Find someone that speaks a little bit of Mandarin and co-MC with Dion. Let him be the main person. Let’s get someone just to do the formalities. Then that person can sit down with their family, friend, or someone that we choose?” Then we came across that it’s not just Dion Woo and this client. You guys know each other very well.
Anna: So, Nico…
Dion: Oh, Nico. That’s why he messaged me. I see. Okay.
Anna: So, it’s Interesting. But it’s kind of off the charts. We haven’t announced it. This podcast is going to be something that gets posted later after they’ve officially announced and put their invitations out. So, you won’t go out before that.
Dion: Right. Good.
Anna: But it’s interesting. It’s quite funny because when Nico came to me to plan what styling, I’m like, “I’ve seen your face somewhere.” He’s like, “I don’t know. I haven’t really met with you.” Then we’ve married up a few people that we know then all of a sudden Bailey came in. He’s like, “Oh my god. I know you through this group and then [inaudible] and Dion Woo came in the picture. Oh my God everyone’s connected by 360.” Everyone knows everyone.
Dion: Yes, absolutely.
Anna: Do you find that a lot where someone calls you and go, oh I’ve got this friend getting married. Can you assist with that? And then you find, oh my God I’ve known you from somewhere else. Everyone connects the dots.
Dion: Look, 100%. I’ve never really pushed the wedding side of it. I don’t advertise it. Well, except through my socials. But what does actually stun me, is when people ask me, “Well Dion, I know you do MC, but do you do weddings?” I thought well I share plenty of that online. I’m surprised that people still need to ask that question.
But then getting back to your point. That’s it. Everyone, well in my circle, all my stuff comes through word of mouth and referral which I’m grateful for. Nico, congratulations my friend. I kind of guessed that’s what he was getting at when he asked me if I did Mandarin. If I’m the guy for you, well then, I’ll have a few Mandarin things to say at that night.
I don’t think, Anna, as you point out it’s that important anymore. Let’s find a co-MC. I was just talking to you before, I did a Cambodian wedding a few weeks ago. It’s the first time I did it. That was done with another MC who was Cambodian.
That’s the way to get around that. Then you get served the best of both worlds.
Anna: Yeah. That’s what I’m finding that… Gosh, how many months ago? A couple of months ago one of my Chinese clients, I couldn’t find them an MC because it’s like we couldn’t find that one person. Then, we found a really awesome Chinese MC, and Garrett is amazing. You probably somehow know Garrett from somewhere.
Dion: I know Garrett, yeah.
Anna: He’s very great at his Chinese, but he’s not confident in his English. I said, “Well, you got somehow one day just get your English out there.”
Because he can speak it, but it’s not great. He’s not confident.
Then we said, “Okay, let’s find an English MC.” But they wanted a female-male. Oh my god. Where I’m going to find a female English MC that’s going to understand Mandarin to speak to Garrett about it. Because if that’s the person that knows how to speak it, then that person will be English and Chinese and I don’t need Garrett. But I couldn’t find anyone. So, I said, “What about we just get a male and a male?” It’s a coed. It’s got to be female and male. One that hosts…
Dion: Did you find one?
Anna: I ended up doing it.
Anna: Because I couldn’t find anyone. Then the bride and groom are like, “Oh, we’ll leave it to you whatever you think.” Then, I got to the point where I just go I said, look if worst comes to worse and we can’t find anyone, I’m coordinating anyone. I’m going to be there anyway. I’ll step in and help. Then instead of them going, “Okay, find someone.” They just say, “Great. We’d love you to do it.” And I just said, oh my God. I just put my foot into this one. I’ve never MC’. I don’t know.
Dion: Was that your first?
Anna: It was my first MC-ing. It’s my last MC-ing. I’m not an MC and I’m not going to do it again. But a lot of people said. “Why not? It was great.” I said, “You know what? I’m a florist. I’m a stylist. I’m not an MC. I stepped in because I had to.” But I could understand from your side. An MC is not just an MC. They run the night. They pretty much get all their problems solved. You guys do everything on the night in terms of how to make sure this event runs well.
Anna: Can you explain how you do your running schedule with the client so they have an understanding of what to expect from an MC?
Dion: Sure. I work closely as we all do with the couple. I recommend at least one face to face. I need that actually, because I need to understand their story. What’s important to them for the event. How they want to see it turn out? All the other peripheral information, the friendships, who’s in the bridal party, the relationships there. But in terms of the schedule for the night, I always do recommend that they work, have something skeleton with the venue. So, the venue manager to work out the night. They’ll send that to me. I’ll look through it and I’ll make some recommendations, alterations if required. But mostly it’s pretty straightforward.
Some actually have no idea of what’s required. They had the imagination that it’s the MC that plans the whole night for them which obviously is not the case. We work closely with the venue, with the entertainment, obviously, with the couple. But we’re there to ensure the smooth running of the night. Sometimes things can get out of hand, but that’s our job to keep it under control. I always say to the couple please reach out to me as often as they need to either by telephone call, texting or if they require then we’ll do that face to face again.
Everything that we do is geared towards a beautiful and satisfying event for the couple.
Anna: Beautiful. Is there anything that you can recommend for upcoming MCs or anyone? Do you have anyone that you have a prodigy that actually are training with you or anything. Or someone goes, Oh my God. Dion sounds really fantastic. I would love to be an MC. Is there anything you can advise on anyone out there that’s listening?
Dion: Well, there’s different schools out there or academies that teach MC work. It’s interesting you raise this question, Anna, because I’ve been thinking about that myself. I have had people come ask me, can I shadow you, work on under you? I’m definitely open to that. Just not right now. But I think as… Because I’m very proud of… It is a craft, right? It’s not easy to do. I think there’s a lot of people that are interested and would love to get into this industry. If you have an interest, I highly recommend it because it’s very rewarding.
Definitely, if you’ve never done this thing before it can be daunting. You’re going to need some guidance along the way. Because it’s an industry that I love much and have such great respect for it, then obviously, I want to make sure that whoever else is involved if I can be involved in ensuring the strength of this craft industry then I’d love to contribute to that. Yes.
Anna: It’s amazing when you have people just look up to what you do, and because you’ve done it so well and so proud of it that you can actually share your actual vision and everything with young entrepreneurs that’s coming up into the industry. But what challenges have you overcome with this industry? Because the wedding industry, there’s lots of MCs out there. There’s lots of venues out there. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to step into this industry?
Dion: Hmm. That’s a good question. The challenges I think… For me, my growth has been very organic. I’ve never gone out to seek the work. It’s always come to me. For whatever reason, that’s happened. It’s not simple for me to answer that question as to what challenges there have been, because I found it quite smooth, my progression. I do know speaking to other MCs they’re saying, well how do you find your work? It’s almost a little bit embarrassing to have to tell them that I don’t seek it. It comes to me.
But I think that would be the biggest challenge is that if you want to make it your full-time thing, how do you get so competent at it? How do you get powerful at it that the work comes to you? For myself, I’m fortunate I guess in that I have different business endeavors. So, I don’t rely solely on work in this industry. But if I were to do it full time, then I’d very happily do so.
The challenges I think is there are people who specialize only in weddings. That’s probably my favorite genre of MC, but I do everything from conferences to political stuff, charity stuff. I love it all, but my favorite is the wedding. This is definitely a skill, right?
Anna: Definitely. Not everyone can do what an MC does.
Dion: Yes. I think each genre has its own sets of challenges. I’d recommend that if this is your craft, your profession, you need to treat it as such and you need to get good and strong in all those different categories because you can’t rely on just the one category of event.
Anna: Yeah definitely. Definitely, because you’re so diverse in what you do. You can pretty much transform yourself from a corporate to a wedding to a big exhibition or whatsoever. You’re very diverse.
Dion: Yes. For me it’s like… People are good at singing or dancing. I keep on using that word craft. That’s really what it is. At the end of the day, we’re a performer. That’s how I see myself. Right? I’m not just an MC. I bring a lot of different things to my work. It allows me expression. Right? Most often I’ll do that through song, but this is… like acting, it’s just another way to showcase your skills.
Anna: What’s your most favorite song to sing?
Dion: I can’t ask that question. But my genre is my dad’s kind of music. Which is the Crooners, the Frank Sinatra’s, the Dean Martins, Michael Bublé. That kind of music, yeah. It’s perfect for weddings.
Anna: Perfect like during dinner time. They’re having their meal and you just sing to everyone. It’s just like, oh my god. Music to my ears.
You probably find a lot of people don’t even realize you sing until you sing. They’re like, who’s singing? And they turn around and, oh the MC is singing.
Dion: Yeah, that’s funny actually because I get that remark very often. They said well, you know what, I thought they put a CD on. Then they realized that it was me. That’s the kind of surprise I’m talking about. I love that shock factor, if you can call it that. You’re just bringing joy to…
Anna: Beautiful. Not many of you sing. I probably have come across two MCs now including yourself that sing. No one else has ever said that we can sing.
It’s very interesting, it’s a very good positive…
Dion: Yes, I guess it’s one way that sets me apart from the other MCs.
Anna: Beautiful. Now, that’s pretty much talking about the MCing. That’s only one component of Dion Woo. That is probably the hobby side of Dion Woo. Let’s talk about your foodie side. Okay.
You’ve got the hospitality; you’ve got the restaurants. You’ve owned restaurants. You currently still have a cafe in [unfamiliar]. But when you go about get invited to events and actually try their menu, try their food. Talk about that. Why do people ask Dion Woo to try their food?
Dion: Mmm. Okay. Only last night I hosted an event at a place called Chinta Ria Buddha Love which is a Malaysian restaurant. They’ve been very famous for a long time. The owner, Simon Go, shut his restaurant in Cockle Bay a few years ago, but he’s reopened in in Westfield in Pit street mall and now in Darling square. Simon, this is a plug for your place, mate. So, pay me later.
But I invited a bunch of foodies to come along and try the meal. I got into the whole food scene or the foodie scene actually because of my association with food. People now saying Dion your OG right? Original. if I think about it that’s true. I got into Instagram. When I first started take off, I had a group called PIGS which stand for People in Instagram Sydney. We’d be going around every weekend to try four or five places. That’s how I kind of grew the group and a following in food.
This, coupled with my MC work meant that I became well known in that food scene. People would be asking me to come around and try their stuff and hopefully I get to post about it. These days it’s interesting that people see me more as media. So, I’ll get invited to events under the umbrella of media, because of the coverage that they feel that I can give the business.
Anna: The PR that comes with you.
Dion: That’s right.
Anna: That was your most recent was last night with the Buddha…
Dion: Chinta Ria Buddha Love.
Anna: Buddha Love. What have you got upcoming? Are there any other upcoming restaurants that you can recommend and say, hey guys you really need to try this one that you’ve actually experienced?
Dion: Okay. Well, tonight it’s not just food by the way. It’s also drinks. Tonight, I’ve got an event at Lobo plantation in Clarence street. I think they’ve got a range of whiskeys that they’re going to launch.
Dion: It’s very diverse that category of food. I’m looking forward to that. In terms of… it doesn’t spring to mind, but I do have a number of events that are coming up. I immediately throw them into my calendar.
Anna: So, you don’t overlap or forget or anything.
Dion: That’s right, yeah.
Anna: Have you come across any restaurants that is amazing food, family friendly with children? Because me and Bailey always have this problem of; where are we going to take the kids? We’ve got an afternoon free on a Sunday. We don’t know where to take them.
Dion: Well, Bailey did ask me about Yum Cha, I think on the Sunday. Where did you guys end up going?
Anna: We ended up going to [unfamiliar] in Bondi.
Dion: In Bondi. How was that, good?
Anna: It was it was good, but it wasn’t anything different for kids or anything. We just wanted something where the kids can eat, while we’re talking eat, the kids can play or do something. But it’s the same experience like this Yum Cha.
Dion: Yeah, you’re right. People ask me that question a lot like where’s good or where’s good that’s opening? Sadly, I have to say that nothing really amazes me. Maybe that’s because I’m in the industry and I’m a little bit blahzay about it. But I get excited when I go outside of Sydney, actually. Right?
I was mentioning to you before, I spend a lot of time out in the West. Right. I am starting to spend more time in the West. I love the little things that I might come across or somebody will say, you got to try it while you’re there. Like in Cabramatta Cambodian food. They got the Battambang which I love. Right.
But in the city itself, there’s not a lot of real interesting places. Although they’ve opened up Darling square. They at least have opened up Darling square. if you haven’t been there, it’s worth checking out. I think they built a great new space there. Chinta Ria is one of those interesting restaurants that you should visit because… The owner Simon Go, he’s a jazz musician. He’s a very cool guy. He’s built this beautiful space with a giant Buddha as a centerpiece. The food honestly, it’s good. It’s really good and really affordable. That’s the dining I like, actually. I’m not into the fine dining or whatnot anymore. It’s not a huge restaurant. I think it’s about 50 seats. That would be a place that I would… if I’m a family guy, I’m not married, but you know I can take the family. I know I’m going to get a good food. It’s not going to break the bank. There’s a play area right outside.
Anna: Oh, amazing. Okay. We really need to try it.
Dion: Grassy park. That’s the kind of area that I would go to.
Anna: That’s our next stop. Chinta Ria Buddha Love.
Dion: Let me know before you go so, I’ll make sure that Simon’s there to say hello.
Anna: 100%. Oh my gosh. Wow. Okay. Well, at least there’s an area for the kids to run around and they can play.
Okay. In saying so, you’ve been out in the West a little bit more, Cabramatta you’re [inaudible] your type of thing. That’s kind of that West Asian. Because it’s a very Asian precinct there.
Dion: It is.
Anna: But as you move out of the Asian precinct, then you’ve got your Italians, you got your Lebanese, and everything. Have you experienced other cultures that you can actually dwell on a little bit today?
Dion: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve got a great mate. His name is Mick Oma. Some people may know him. A very very good friend of mine. We do a little bit business together as well. He’s in the entertainment business. He’s mixed Lebanese. He’s introduced me to obviously Lebanese food. He loves Italian. So, the Italian stuff as well. Very recently he took me to just around here, in Auburn, Jasmine…
Anna: Oh, in Auburn that’s across the road from us, literally.
Dion: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve never had this style of breakfast before, but it was a massive spread full of dips and the flat breads and the little pizza, bits pieces of…
Anna: Humus and everything.
Dion: Yeah. I love new experiences. For me, I’m very grateful that he took me out there to experience some of his culture, because I’m mostly about Asian food actually. Obviously, I’m Chinese and I love Chinese food. But I like to try the different cultures as well.
Italian, I’ve got fabulous Italian friends. I always rely on them, because they would know the best places to find, yeah.
Anna: Have you come across an amazing Italian restaurant?
Dion: An amazing Italian restaurant. Now, the name escapes me, but my friend took me to a place in Darlinghurst. It’s next to a called a mozzarella bar. I thought he was kidding actually when he said your mozzarella bar. No one’s going to… What’s this bar called mozzarella bar? They have this place there that specializes in mozzarella.
Anna: Oh, wow. So, that’s why it’s called mozzarella bar.
Dion: The place that we went to is right next door to that. As I said, the name escapes me. A beautiful Italian food. All homemade, very regional.
Anna: It’s that all homemade pastas and …
Dion: Okay. Beautiful. Because you don’t get a lot of homemade pastas anymore when you go to an actual Italian… I find most of the time when you go to a Western-Italian cuisine or whatever, you’ll have a spaghetti or linguini or whatsoever. But when you taste it you can tell that it’s not freshly made.
Dion: No. That’s right.
Anna: It’s upsetting because it’s just not the same.
Dion: Yeah. I’m into authenticity. It’s not just the food, but I think… It’s great when the staff speak to you in Italian.
Anna: Like buongiorno!
Dion: Exactly. Right? On the weekend, actually Mick took me to Fratelli in Concorde.
Dion: Have you been there?
Anna: Yes. Fratelli we’re very familiar with. Robert is also very good friend of ours.
Dion: Well, he’s an MC as well. Right?
Dion: Robert is brother to Dan. I know Dan through my friend Mick. I that was my first time there. The best, and I put this on my Instagram just yesterday, margherita pizza I’ve had in Sydney.
Anna: That’s a big call for Fratelli. Now, everyone’s going to go and get margherita pizzas based on Dion Woo’s comment.
Dion: Go, check it out.
Anna: Yeah. Rob is very good friends of ours. Rob is actually one of the MCs I always recommend when I have an Italian wedding or a Lebanese wedding or someone that just wants a great MC. Rob is someone that I highly recommend when it comes to…
Dion: We’re talking about six degrees. That’s 6 degrees out there. Probably less than six degrees now actually.
Anna: It’s quite interesting. Did you get to meet Rob or his brother? You met Rob.
Dion: I met Rob. Yeah. He was working in the restaurant at the time. We had a Sunday lunch there. It’s beautiful in Concord. When you’re on the road you can see that outside on the street.
Anna: Yup. It’s so beautiful. He also owns Bay walk.
Dion: Thai place, yeah?
Anna: Thai place.
Dion: Exactly. I found that interesting that he’s got a Thai business as well. He’s had that for I think 10, 15 years now.
Anna: That’s very different but very diverse. But very good food.
Dion: He’s also got a Thai massage business.
Anna: Yeah, exactly. So, if you ever feel like, oh you just have some time, Oh, Rob, I’m feeling a bit tired. Go upstairs and get a massage.
Dion: If you have a food coma, then just head upstairs get a beautiful massage.
Anna: Exactly. So, yeah. He’s got quite an interesting history of background towards him as well. He’s very passionate. What I find is when we’re at the restaurant, the customer service is always there because Rob makes sure it’s always there. That’s probably what you would do also with your restaurants in the past.
Dion: Yes, absolutely.
Anna: Customer services is the most important thing.
Dion: That’s what I’ve discovered. Here’s a tip for anyone that is thinking to go into the hospitality business. First of all, these days I don’t really recommend it. It is a tough gig, but if you were to go in then I think that personal touch makes that world of difference. I think customers, yeah, very forgiving. They can forgive the food especially if the service is good.
Anna: Yeah. Yeah.
Dion: That’s vital.
Anna: That’s very very very pretty much on the spot of the experience of me and Bailey always, if we get a very bad experience because service is not there or the the actual whole experience is not there or something was wrong. You just go to tell them. Just to FYI, but they’re very rude about it. They don’t give a shit. We never go back. It doesn’t matter how good that food…
Dion: And why should you, right? Why should you?
Anna: Exactly. Do you find that a lot in the hospitality industry these days that service is almost the second priority to people’s business these days? A lot of it is self-serve; self-serve your own water. You’re like, can we get some tap of water? Oh, it’s over there.
Dion: I don’t get that. I mean, if it’s a restaurant and you’re sitting at a table, there should be some level of table service. It’s sad because when you go out and eat, for me it’s being waited on. It’s that whole experience that you want to have.
If you’ve got to do this and that yourself, then to me that’s not what hospitality is about. But sadly because of the cost of doing business it’s meant that we’re driven to that point now. Sadly, yeah.
Anna: It really is sad, because I mean there’s a lot of bigger chain restaurants that you think would keep their actual customer service. But they’re also losing their customer server. They’re massive chain. I won’t name names, but we’ve had many experiences. There’s this one massive Italian Chain where we’re so upset because we’ve given them so many chances and then the last straw was, that’s it. We’re not going back there again.
Dion: So, you’re not going to go back there again?
Anna: No. Never, never again. It’s not just because… Like the food is good. To an extent, it’s good. But the way the service is. The food won’t come out for another hour. We’ll wait an hour with kids. The kids are getting agitated. We’re like, “Can you just get the kids food out first? I know you’re busy. The mains can wait. Just get the kids out so they can have their meals.”
But the fact that they don’t even bring out the coloring pack and we know that they have coloring packs. They never bring the coloring packs. We’ve had to ask them so many times to bring it out. By the time they bring it out, the kids’ food arrives. Then they’re going, “Oh no I want to finished drawing.” But I’m like, “Your food’s here. Eat. Eat first.” They’re like, “No, I want to finish drawing.”
So, they’re the experience experiences that I always say to a restaurant. Look at your customers. What’s their needs? Okay. They’ve got young kids. Okay. You know the kitchen is very busy. You know it’s going to be half an hour, an hour way. Get the kids comfortable. Okay. Then the adults will be happy because the kids are not nagging. They are the things that we experienced as parents. I don’t know if other parents are experiencing the same thing, but I feel if that’s what I’m experiencing, what else is everyone else experiencing?
Dion: No. That would be a very commonplace experience, sadly these days. I just don’t understand it, because it’s just very simple to me. Right? Much easier to keep your customer than to have to spend endless money trying to market and find new customers. Isn’t it?
Dion: Right. It’s just being responsive to the customer’s needs and requests. Right?
Anna: And it’s not very hard, isn’t it?
Dion: No, it’s not. I think, Anna, you’ve probably identified an area that is a real problem in the industry. That is the lack of service. There’s an opportunity for some bright entrepreneur that wants to go and put together something that’s going to help lift the standards for the industry. That’s why apart from convenience, that’s why the companies Deliveroo, UberEats are doing so well because people saying, well I’m not getting the service anyway. I might as well just order and have it delivered to me. Right?
Anna: Exactly. That’s the next generation. There’s a lot of laziness is because I reckon a lot of people saying, no that’s just that the next generation. They’re just lazy. They don’t care. They just want to UberEats everything or just order it because they just… But it’s not that. I think it’s because of the whole fact of experience like you said that’s driving that market to go to delivery.
Dion: A hundred percent. When we go out to eat or go dining, we want it to be an experience. We want to go and enjoy the restaurant. We want to enjoy the interaction with the owner if he’s there or his happy and skilled staff because that’s why we eat out, isn’t it? Apart from the food. If you don’t have that, you wonder why you need to go out. Just order it.
Anna: Exactly. Like you said, outside of Sydney, we were in Melbourne for a big wedding in January. We took the kids with us because it was a school holiday still. What we did is we had a look around; what restaurants do we go to? Let’s look at what the actual reviews are. Then we found one particular restaurant. It was an Italian restaurant. I can’t remember what it’s called now. It wasn’t fine dining to that extent, but it was a nice restaurant. You had to wear something nice to go in. You sat down. We got there we’re like, “Oh, we’ve underdressed.” We thought okay these people are going to think we’re hobos coming in from the street or something.
Dion: Were they all well-dressed?
Anna: They were all well-dressed.
Anna: And we’re like, “Oh my god. We’re not going to go look for something else.” Then we got to the front we thought, oh okay here we are. They’re not going to greet us. They’re thinking who are these people?
So, we went in. Our kids walked in with us. They’re like, table for four? Yeah. We called in and booked. Okay, you’re a bit early but that’s all right. We’ll set your table up. They sat us down. Did our orders. Got the kids coloring in. Then we waited an hour and a half for our meal.
Dion: Oh my god.
Anna: An hour and a half. We sat there we’re like, oh my god seriously. The waitress came and said, “I’m so sorry. I’ll go to the kitchen find out how long.” Then finally we got our food, but we didn’t just get our food. The chef prepared two other meals for us to try. They said, “We’ve got a new meatball on the menu. We’ve got a new lasagna on the menu. The chef wants you to try it.”
Dion: So, we had four main meals between the two of us and the kids had their steak. Then we’re like, Oh wow that’s really interesting.
Dion: You didn’t expect that, huh?
Anna: We didn’t expect it. So, I go, wow. That’s really lovely. Then we tried the food. It was amazing. Then all of a sudden, the chef came up to our table.
Anna: He introduced himself as, “I’m the chef. I really apologize for your wait tonight. It was just such a busy night. I’m really sorry. We hope you actually enjoy our new menu as well as what you’ve chosen.” I looked at Bailey I said, “Oh my God you would not get that in Sydney.”
Dion: No, definitely not. It’s really that simple, isn’t it? I mean, you can turn that situation around, the negative situation and turn your customer into raving fans.
Dion: Which is what he did.
Anna: It’s something Bailey would post online and about the service what experience they created for us. Instead of if that chef didn’t come out and he didn’t present us, it’s not a matter of giving us more food. We didn’t care about the food. It was the principle of how they handled it. We would have walked away going, oh my God what a shit restaurant.
Dion: Exactly. Now, the fact that you were telling me this is another…
Anna: I wish I remember the name because it’d be really lovely for people anyone in Melbourne to actually experience it. But you know what? I will post it up. I will post it up so people actually can see.
Dion: Please do that, because 3rd of March I’m going to be in Melbourne. You know what, now I’m intrigued. See? I’ll probably want to go check that place out.
Anna: Yeah. You have to go check it out. How long are you in Melbourne for 3rd of March?
Dion: Just the evening. Just the one night. Yeah.
Anna: We’ve got another Melbourne wedding on the 7th of March. I was thinking, oh we can [inaudible] but we don’t, unfortunately. But pretty much that’s experience overall isn’t, Dion?
For the new restaurants, cafes opening that’s probably what we can recommend them experience service and all of that. But as you go in to do your tasting, do you actually give critique, feedback to the owners as well?
Dion: Well, it’s really something that we should do as food bloggers. Unfortunately, these days it’s sort of turned out this way; they invite food reviewers or bloggers in. They’ll eat. They’ll take pretty photos. They’ll put them up online. Even if they didn’t think that it was great, they would say; the best meal. Right?
Anna: Why do you think that is?
Dion: I think they think they don’t want to be rude to the business that’s invited them in. I’ll give you a classic example.
Yesterday I got invited through my friend’s invitation to try mussels. The event was put on by the mussel company. It was held at a very famous pub.
I love mussels. That’s my thing. I actually enjoy them more than oysters even, because they’re big, and meaty, and smoke they’re beautiful, easy to to get at. They were doing a filming, video-ing, et cetera. Unfortunately, I don’t know if it’s the fault of the actual mussel itself or the way it was cooked, but most of this pot of mussels was under-cooked. When you open it up, you couldn’t actually eat it because you could still see that there was, and holding onto the shell and just falling apart. It was terrible. We all agreed that it wasn’t good at all. But we didn’t leave that feedback with the chef or the owner of the venue or the supplier. We probably should have, but we felt it would be… we were too polite to do that. We think it’s polite, but it’s not serving anybody when you don’t tell them exactly how it is. You need to give them the opportunity to improve.
Anna: Exactly. Exactly. It really is a shame. Then it goes back to the wedding industry. People are just too polite to say that they weren’t happy with something. They just go, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. It was great. I’m happy with it all.” Then you don’t hear from any referrals or recommendations from that family or that friend. Then when you actually find out six months later or 12 months later when you say what were your experience like? Or can you do a review or something? Then you find out that they’re not happy or whatsoever. But you’re like, well at the time I asked you if there were any problems or anything that I could rectify. But I find that that’s kind of people are just too polite these days. Even if they didn’t have a good experience at a restaurant. Like Bailey, if he had a bad experience, but he actually sometimes he’ll let them know. Other times, why didn’t you say something that your salmon’s not cooked right? I don’t have energy. We just won’t come back.
Anna: But then when the owners ask or whoever it is at the desk, how was your meal? Oh yeah it was all right. Then we’ll just walk away.
Dion: Don’t you find that’s the standard response? How’s everything going? Oh great. Everything’s good. Even if you don’t think it’s good. What’s wrong with us? I mean, we really should be a bit more Frank. Right? Maybe we don’t want to be confrontational as it were. I think we need to just think that actually any feedback is good feedback. Right? And give them the chance to fix things if it needs fixing.
Anna: Exactly. We’re not perfect. We execute so many weddings, but we know for a fact there’s going to be a wedding here and there that there’s something that’s been slightly missed or something that’s been not done a hundred percent because of some type of communication. We thought something, the bride thought something. We always say you know what? If there was something wrong, just talk to us about it because we’d like to rectify, we’d like to apologize. We’d like to make it up for.
But most of our clients, most of the feedback, knock on wood, they have been positive.
Anna: But we do get a handful where it’s negative. Then we try to find out why it’s negative. Sometimes it’s actually not our fault whatsoever. Other times probably is our fault and we can see through that. Oh wow. We’ve actually missed a line or missed something. But we always say how can we rectify justify?
Dion: Yeah, that’s fantastic. I think all businesses need to take that approach. One of the best things that I came across very recently. I’ve known this for myself for a long time. This person is an MC as well. Right? Now, she’s kind of morphed into more as a speaker. She recently gave this piece of advice that what changed the way she does things and taking her work to a whole new different level is to ask the question, to frame it so that… She’d ask, “How did you find my work?” or “What things could I have done better?” Right. When you frame it like that then you give people the chance to be more open to tell you frankly what you could have done better. Right? Sometimes people are fearful that you might not take their criticism well. It’s just giving them that permission to be frank with you. Right?
Anna: Yeah. I think that’s the advice everyone, not even just the wedding industry, but just overall. Everyone as human beings with a business should actually interact with their clients is you can always improve.
Dion: Absolutely. Yeah, it doesn’t matter how well you think you’re doing. Right. There’s always room for improvement. If we constantly chase that, that ever improvement then that’s just going to be great for us. Great for our clients.
Anna: Yeah, exactly. [Inaudible] for Dion Woo? What are we anticipating? Is there new projects? Is there something exciting that you’re planning that everyone has to keep an eye out on?
Dion: There is something very exciting afoot. Apart from my hospitality business and my MC work, I guess my, let’s call it the side hustles, projects that I come across from time to time that interests me and I really want to pursue. I’m working on something right now that’s in a totally different area. It’s actually in telecommunications All I can say is watch this space. It’s going to address a problem that all of us have especially when we’re traveling. Right. I’m working with a a major telecoms company to get that launched in the next few months. I’ll have more to say about that very soon.
Anna: When we do the next podcast in Chinese we can talk about this telecommunication in Chinese, in Mandarin.
Well, let’s wrap it up here. I’m really excited to have you to come today to actually get them to really understand who Dion Woo is. I think today I really got to know who you are and what you’re really all about. You know what, before we do end, we haven’t really touched base on how you juggle family with everything. I want to kind of let everyone to know, you did mention you’re not married.
Dion: That’s right. So, here’s an advertisement for myself. I’m not married. Although it always makes me chuckle when people come up to me and we find out that they think that I am married with family. And I’m scratching my head like how do you imagine that I’m married? I’ve never said I’ve been, there’s no evidence anywhere of a wife or family. It’s so interesting that people imagine that I am.
I guess that lack of being in a family situation has allowed me to do a lot of the different things that I do. Not that I don’t yearn for the stability of my life to have a family. I certainly want that. I look forward to that. But that’s part of the reason why I can jump around so easily and do many different things.
Anna: Well then, hopefully the right lady is listening.
Anna: And we’d somehow connect you with her.
Dion: That would be magical.
Anna: Probably a lot of your friends, family, and colleagues and everyone has probably tried to match make you because you’re probably the ideal husband to someone. They’re like, oh my gosh, you’ll be good for my sister or you’ll be good for my cousin or my friend and this and that.
Dion: Curiously, they say that but then they never go any further to make that connection. But it will happen for me one day and, Anna, you can do my wedding.
Anna: It will be a pleasure. It will be a pleasure. We’ll have to find the right MC for your wedding.
Dion: Absolutely. That’s going to be difficult, but he or she’s out there.
Anna: Beautiful. Thank you so much, Dion, for being part of this podcast. I really really welcome you back for when you get your Mandarin up to scratch.
Dion: Thanks, Anna. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate that. Everyone, if you’re not already following Anna Wang, please do so because she’s amazing. I highly recommend her.
Anna: Thank you, Dion.
Dion: Thanks, Anna.