Over the past 5 years, Le Colonial Vietnamese Restaurant in Westpoint, Blacktown NSW has been a favourite venue for family gatherings of many Filipinos. It was a Vietnamese restaurant indeed serving authentic Vietnamese dishes cleverly concocted by no less than a Vietnamese chef from Cabramatta. She was lovingly called “mommy” by the food servers.
But the restaurant also served Filipino dishes like “Crispy Pata” and “Halo-Halo.” Original owner Ernie Ramos, a Filipino, knew that 20,000 Filipinos dominate the City of Blacktown. Thus, a good 80 per cent of his customer base were Filipinos and that included the writer of this column.
Several months before its collapse, Dory Smith, another Filipino, took over the management of the restaurant. With the help of her husband Arthur plus her background in hotel and restaurant management, she was able to revitalize the business and attract more customers, including the white population of Blacktown and its surrounding areas. Through sheer determination, sponsorship of various shows and cost-cutting measures, Dory successfully brought back to life a dying business.
But the killer factor, as reported by many Westpoint tenants, is the rent which centre management kept on increasing over the past 5 years since the shopping mall was made bigger than its original size. Le Colonial was even required to furnish centre management a periodic audited report of its revenues. Thus, Westpoint kept track of the restaurant’s sales activities.
Take the case of Asian Food Store which was formerly located beside Franklin’s on Level One of the shopping mall. The Filipino-owned grocery store decided to move to a smaller space near Woolworths. It was gathered that the owners could no longer afford to pay some $5,000 in weekly rentals which did not include basic utilities commonly called “outgoings.” In their new location, the store owners have less space for display of their stocks. It has not been determined if their monthly sales had remained the same as before.
So many other tenants inside Westpoint also closed. Among others were Giordano’s on Level 3 and a Noodle Restaurant that faces Max Webber Library. It seems that a common factor was the high cost of rent that made business no longer feasible.
Nonetheless, the commercial complex is able to attract replacement tenants like Max Fried Chicken Restaurant that will soon be opening an outlet on Level Four, near Hoyts Cinema.
How long will Max Fried Chicken remain in Blacktown? Nobody really knows but this writer knows that many Filipinos will initially patronize this long-surviving eatery in the Philippines. The owner of a popular steakhouse on Level Four said that ‘you’ve got to know how to negotiate with centre management.” – ?