We’ve always been lovers of travel, adventure and trying new restaurants that give us a taste of different cultures and cuisines. This sense of adventure was somewhat thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic, making us even more excited to get back out there and try new things. High on our list is Tasmania and the exquisite Dana Eating House in Hobart. Run by three hospitality enthusiasts who are passionate about giving back to their community, Dana Eating House combines good food, good vibes and wonderful ethos. Read more about the Dana difference and the good looking trio that made it all happen!
Tell us how Dana was born?
Dāna was born from a love of the hospitality culture both here in our hometown, Hobart and our neighbours abroad, plus a shared vision to bring a fresh and innovative concept to our industry. We – myself, Ollie and Dan Lancaster – wanted to create and nurture a community of like-minded people, passionate about elevating their experience in hospitality while endeavouring to strengthen our collective social impact.
What is the ethos at Dana?
Our ethos is ‘eat good, drink good, do good’.
First and foremost good hospitality is our driving passion. We think there’s nothing better than experiencing good food with good company with the added bonus of exceptional service that serves to elevate your experience. The hospitality industry has taken on many forms and iterations as it curves and bends towards what is trendy at the time or remains grounded in ‘old-school’, traditional styles of service – for us, there’s just something special about endeavouring to create an experience that’s approachable and memorable – without the hefty price tag or pretence often associated with great service.
Still, as much as we are passionate about hospitality we believe there is room in our industry to do a little more. At the core of Dāna is a consideration for our social impact – how we can use our resources to do good in other ways.
Over a rotational period Dāna donate a percentage of our profits to a charity or not-for-profit organisation and provide an opportunity for our customers to do the same. Listed at the bottom of each bill is the (bite-sized) amount we are donating from that transaction and a space for customer’s to match that amount, provide a custom donation, or simply dine and let us pay it forward on their behalf. The idea is to keep figures small – so small they’re barely noticeable – and emphasise the concept that giving something is 100% better than giving nothing, and that little + little creates big. And fast, too!
We acknowledge our privileged position to pay it forward in this small but certain way, and are extremely grateful for the support of our community.
A great way to start is to view your finances, habits and energy output in a holistic way. For some people, considering whether it would be feasible to set aside 1% of their income to pay forward to a charity or organisation that is important to them is a great way to make impactful change – for others it may be less about monetary sacrifice but making a commitment to support local farmers and buy fresh produce, or work towards a zero-waste model in their home. Often the hardest part is acknowledging that there is more to be done!
Some groups we have supported over the past seven months since opening include: Lifeline Tasmania, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Migrant Resource Centre Tasmania. With the help of our generous customers we have raised almost $20,000 during this time for groups in need.
What made you choose this particular cuisine? Tell us about some exciting delicacies on the menu.
South-East Asian cuisine – we love to cook it and we love to eat it! We have tried to avoid pigeonholing ourselves into one or two regions, e.g. Vietnamese or Thai, as food varies so greatly from region to region (e.g. Filipino food vs. cuisine from Myanmar, North vs. Southern Vietnamese) and we would love to represent these different styles of food as best as we can and as our menu evolves over time.
We knew from the outset that we wanted to offer a range of vegan and vegetarian options – as there’s really no excuse with this cuisine which should be fresh, vibrant, and packed full of veg. It’s not always easy to cater for dietary restrictions so a big shoutout to our chefs who work this into their creative expression. Our menu also clearly states which items are gluten and dairy free making it as smooth a process as possible for guests with dietary requirements to dine with ease.
Our most popular dishes at Dana Eating House include our shiitake and wombok vegan dumplings, charred edamame and duck spring rolls, confit octopus in lemongrass sate, wok tossed cauliflower in black bean sauce. Fresh Asian food, wine for every palate + cocktails for days – what’s not to love?!
What do you do when you’re not working?
If you had asked me a year or two ago I would have said travel! Like most people our interests have turned inwards – learning how to wind down effectively and enjoying everything Tasmania has to offer. I’d be lying though if I said that the majority of our time off wasn’t spent heads-down and wine-glasses up in other hospitality venues – those gems within a stone-throw of our restaurant and those tucked away in the corners of our beautiful state. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to love our food community as as a full-time job. It’s never been more crucial to support your local and do what you can to ensure we have amazing restaurants, old and new alike, to enjoy for years to come.
What is your favourite part about having a restaurant & What have been the biggest challenges?
Personally, one of my favourite parts of operating a restaurant that I wasn’t anticipating is the creative aspect – everything down to the interior design, menu, social platforms, style of service – colour of chopsticks! – this role has allowed for an incredible amount of self-directed creative freedom that is both fun and challenges me to view the restaurant from fresh and varying perspectives.
The part that takes the cake, however, is being able to work alongside – to put it simply – a bunch of good, good eggs. I think I can speak on behalf of others when I say that a highlight is the team environment – and I believe this to be a big key to success. Creating and maintaining a positive work environment that doesn’t just blindly strive for positive mental health, but acknowledges its mistakes and corrects itself when and where necessary. It can be incredibly difficult to change the narrative around work that has existed for years and years and is systemic – but we are learning as we go and are committed to maintaining a space that is safe, welcoming, progressive and honest. It is a privilege to work alongside my team members.
No amount of sugar coating can hide the fact that working in this industry is hard yakka! The job, both front and back of house is physically demanding, involves an incredible amount of mental bandwidth and resilience in the face of adverse situations.
The recent effects of COVID-19 highlighted how vulnerable our industry is, but just how many people heavily rely on it a) for work and b) for pleasure. I have so much respect for my colleagues and it can be challenging to see a very small but real percentage of guests who can, at times, forget the amount of hard work that goes into the makings of a restaurant – or any small business, for that matter! Respect is key.