NEW VENTURE: Viva Italia manager Helen Martin inside the newly refurbished retaurant.
NEW VENTURE: Viva Italia manager Helen Martin inside the newly refurbished retaurant. Mike Knott BUN010217VIVA3

Are penalty rates killing the Bundy hospitality industry?

IT'S been a rough few months for the Bundaberg hospitality industry as several businesses have served their last meals.

Cool Bananas and the Zoo Restaurant shut up shop last month.

Eagle Boys Bundaberg delivered its final pizza just before Christmas last year.

And of course Sizzler is set to finish up at the weekend.

Bundaberg Chamber of Commerce president Yale Morgan said while the hospitality industry could be very rewarding a lot of people entered into it with misguided ideas of the work involved.

"A lot of people get into hospitality because they might like coffee and decide to open a cafe thinking it's easy but it is a lot of hard work,” he said.

Viva Italia manager Helen Martin agreed.

She and her husband took over running the popular Bourbong St restaurant late last year.

"The first month and a half I walked around like I had just had a baby,” she said.

"Because you're putting all the systems in place, you're doing all the work of seven or eight people.”

Mrs Martin said rumours the business had closed were untrue.

"We just bought a $30,000 special oven from America which cooks the base of the pizza beautifully,” she said.

"We have a lot of passion for this.”

Mrs Martin ran Bella Martino for five years and before that an Italian restaurant at the Sunshine Coast for a decade.

So Italian food is in the couple's blood.

"All we know is Italian restaurants,” Mrs Martin said, laughing

"We have had people ringing up after having our pizzas and saying 'I've just got to tell you that was the best pizza I've had'.

"We enjoy the challenge.”

Mr Morgan said there were many successful restaurants in Bundaberg but most shared one burden: penalty rates.

"On weekends a lot of small businesses lose money on those days because of penalty rates,” Mr Morgan said.

"Particularly small cafes and restaurants.”

Mr Morgan said struggling businesses should speak to a business coach to help format a strategy.

"Get out and see what other businesses are doing.”