Vine Inn Barossa CEO Chris Linden steps down after 13 years at the helm, welcoming new General Manager David Rice who hails from the region.
Finishing on August 12, Chris said the time had come to hand over the reins and pursue life’s interests which include rest and relaxation or more importantly – fishing, golf and holidays.
Yet Chris’ stride into retirement isn’t without sacrifices and celebrations.
“When I began on December 9, 2009, the hotel’s finances were in a tenuous position, it’s interior was outdated and staff morale needed a boost; the business was in need of an overhaul,” he recalled.
Armed with extensive business acumen in hotel management across Australia, Chris was considered the key in turning the community-owned hotel around.
Impressively, he did just that and more.
“Firstly, we managed to raise the capital and attain a grant to perform a refurb of the Vine Court’s older rooms and soon after we did the same for our rooms here at the Vine Inn. This was followed by the building of our drive-through bottleshop and upgrade of the toilets in the Vine Garden Bistro,” he explained.
With the Board’s approval, in 2015 the hotel underwent an impressive million dollar renovation which included the creation of Billy Jack’s bar, gaming and Courtyard areas.
The revamp took four months to complete and single-handedly led to praise filtering in from the locals, with patron and visitor numbers increasing across dining and accommodation.
“Thereafter, we performed a kitchen reshuffle and improvement, and upgraded our conference and convention facilities,” Chris said.
All of these changes led to Australian Hotel Association (AHA) State awards gained for Best Gaming Room and Best Redeveloped Regional Hotel, with the award in the category of Best Draught Beer Quality repeatedly won.
“Our community involvement also led us to be named AHA SA State Awards of Excellence for Community Service nine times, most recently in 2019 and impressively, National winner twice,” Chris enthused.
Not content to sit idle, Chris’ community spirit, also shared by the Board, was evident when he continued to drive the Vine Inn Golf Day.
Quite simply, the fundraiser gives locals and visitors the chance to play golf in teams at Barossa Valley Golf Club while raising valuable funds for local charities, especially for youth organisations such as Nuriootpa High School’s Justice Fund.
“2021 Golf Day raised a whopping $15,000 and collectively, over the years, the day has raised close to $100,000 – 100 per cent of which goes back to benefit disadvantaged children in our community” Chris said.
Further funds for the community are achieved through Friday Night Raffle Draws, which rotates between sporting clubs – such as bowls, footy and netball and community groups RSL and CFS – selling tickets and keeping 100 per cent of the proceeds.
“It’s just another way our community hotel gives back to those who support us” Chris said.
Despite experiencing a downturn in patrons and overnight visitors amid the Covid pandemic and soon after weathering staff shortages, Chris’ acute business style has never wavered. This was observed in the Board’s most recent meeting where it was revealed Chris has led his team to achieve and exceed budget for 11 consecutive years.
He attributes the Vine Inn’s current successes to the incredible support he has received from his management team and particularly Hotel Manager, “the amazing Gabrielle Marschall”.
Perhaps the hardest part about Chris’ departure, will be leaving his team and losing the daily interaction with staff and customers. “But I won’t miss the phone calls during the night,” he admitted.
Welcome David Rice
Comfortably transitioning into the General Manager role is David from Lyndoch, whose most recent appointment was General Manager at Cleland Wildlife Park, within the State Government’s Tourism and Economic Development branch.
His extensive background in management includes roles spanning media, wine, tourism and hospitality.
Dave, who joined the Vine Inn team on July 11 has been welcomed by Chris, the staff and Board members.
“I’m excited to be joining the dedicated team at the Vine Inn and look forward to building on the legacy that Chris leaves behind,” David shared.
“Chris, the staff and Board have placed the business in an amazing position and my focus will be to continue the upward trajectory, while ensuring that our guests and community remain the number one priority.”
“I’m really taken back by the long and compelling history of the Vine Inn and its ongoing commitment to the region. It’s great to be leading a business that drives circular economy, directly investing back into the Barossa and its people”.
“I feel like many locals only know the Vine Inn at surface level, and there’s just so much more to it when you scratch that surface. I’m looking forward to telling our story and connecting more people with not only our amazing product offering, but our wider purpose in the community,” David added.
He’s also focused on plans to expand the Vine Inn’s accommodation offering after Chris and the Board worked closely to purchase land adjoining the hotel late last year.
According to Vine Inn Board Chairperson Kathy Schilling, Chris’ tenure with the hotel, especially during the Covid pandemic, meant a committed approach to managing staff and their wellbeing, together with the ever-changing rules affecting hotels.
“Chris put his heart and soul into this Hotel and lived onsite for much of his 12 years. For his commitment we are very grateful. Using his experience and business acumen, he ran a very tight ship and enabled the business to be handed over to the new General Manager in a strong financial position,” Kathy said.
Yet Kathy adds, the Board has every confidence in its new leader who already has a good understanding of the Industry and the Vine Inn’s charter as a community hotel and how it supports the Barossa community.