Andrew Lewis, Allara Global CEO, features in Business News Australia
Sydney-based Allara Global, a specialist e-learning company for the hospitality sector, set in train a path for growth when it opted to develop a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model for upskilling bar and hospitality staff.
After buying the JERRY online training platform from Singaporean spirits distributor Proof & Company in 2021, and now with the hospitality sector experiencing a post-pandemic staff shortage, Allara has reported a 240 per cent increase in revenue in FY23.
Allara Global CEO and founder Andrew Lewis sees the latest spike in revenue as the start of a new growth phase for the company, which is factoring a doubling of revenue in the current year with capacity to scale further under the SaaS model.
“The hospitality space has probably been a little shy in digitalising, but it’s really starting to take off and we are getting inquiries globally,” Lewis tells Business News Australia.
Among the company’s sign-ups this week has been the Mandarin Oriental in the Caribbean, adding to the likes of Four Seasons Hotels and Six Senses Hotels and Resorts in Allara’s stable of major hotel clients.
“This month, we’ve probably done more sales internationally than domestically, but that can change by the end of the month,” Lewis says.
“Our growth comes from all channels, but the domestic market is where we are strongest.
“We are very big in the mid-tier hospitality space, but the online product has spread across all industry types. We have clients who have one-pub venues with 25 staff, up to big groups with 3,000 to 4,000 staff as well as international hotel chains.”
Allara Global was established by Lewis in 2009, then known as Allara Learning, a registered training organisation. The company ran programs that delivered qualifications for the hospitality industry from Cert III entry-level roles to diplomas for senior management positions.
Prior to transitioning to online learning, the company ran face-to-face programs where it trained staff on site for hospitality clients.
“It was about four years ago that a client asked us to create some e-learning and micro-learning modules for them which we did as an on-boarding tool,” Lewis says.
The company’s e-learning capabilities were enhanced further through the acquisition of JERRY, which is being officially relaunched this month after Allara spent the past two years redesigning the platform to make it more accessible and user friendly.
“JERRY wasn’t really a core operation for Proof & Company, but it was really well researched with great content,” Lewis says.
“It’s an award-winning bar and beverage e-learning provider which is fast-tracking hospitality training. There is nothing like it in the world and that’s why new users are joining every day from every corner of the globe.”
Lewis says JERRY is making inroads into five-star hotels globally, especially in Asia, where the bar experience is an important part of the hospitality offering.
Originally developed by Proof & Company to help the company pitch its products to new beverage customers, JERRY is named after Jerry Thomas, a renowned New Yorker in the 1800s who was the creator of the world’s first Bartender’s Guide.
The JERRY platform hosts 200 downloadable resources including cheat sheets, operational checklists, and recipe cards to train staff in the art of barkeeping.
Allara Global estimates it has attracted more than 80,000 new bar and hospitality staff from 25 countries to the platform since the courses were rebuilt and made available online ahead of the official launch.
“JERRY has been a massive contributor to our growth, but the business is growing across all of its content,” Lewis says.
“We have grown our platform and created content for close to 400 courses running now – anything from compliance to soft skills, bar entry, and right up to the leadership suite.
“We’re very proud of our content as it’s written in a way that always focuses on the outcomes and the journey of the student.”
Lewis, who started in the hospitality industry as a barman and tried his hand as a hotel broker before establishing Allara, says the hospitality sector globally is increasingly looking to change its image as a casual work environment for staff between permanent gigs.
“A lot of staff were treated like that in the past but that is changing dramatically,” he says.
“People and culture were never something that was discussed when I started working in the industry. Today more businesses are interested in career development, while business leadership programs are some of our biggest sellers.
“People are really investing in talent. Hospitality is a great sector to work in as it teaches you communication, becoming a team player and instilling a work ethic.”
Allara Global’s services typically appeal to businesses with 20 staff or more.
“When we consult with businesses, their biggest issues are how to attract, retain and grow talent,” Lewis says.
“It’s probably an issue across all businesses but in hospitality it’s key, and education plays a big part in that.
“Young Millennials like being taught on the job and it’s a big driver for attracting talent because you are offering a pathway for them to grow.”
While Allara’s e-learning suite leans towards food and beverage, the company is currently building out more programs in culinary, housekeeping and back-of-house roles.
Allora Global has a staff of 70, largely based in Sydney, with sales staff also in the US and Singapore.
“Our point of difference is that we come from an education background, and we are solely focused on the hospitality sector,” Lewis says.
“We’re writing micro-learning modules for five or six minutes with an educational mindset that really focuses on the outcome of the learner, which I think is probably our biggest point of difference.
“But we also love the industry we are in; everyone that works for us has had a stint in the hospitality space and has a passion for it.”