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An Italian Grill Amongst the Sugarcane Fields

‘Sugarcane Kitchen’

You sit at a table looking into a large mirror reflecting endless fields of sugarcane, a cool breeze blowing across the Atherton Tablelands as day turns to night. You’re eating a locally sourced steak while your partner tucks into a chicken parmigiana, or ‘parma’ as Aussies have coined this endearing and popular pub meal.

The love of your life remarks, ‘This Napoli sauce tastes like it was made from scratch by someone’s nonna,’ she says smiling as she sips from her glass of paired red wine.

Your mates have chosen the lasagne and wild mushroom risotto respectively, and everyone’s sharing the freshly shucked Oysters Rockefeller blackboard special, as well as the casarecce calamari. You’ve got a cold beer in hand. ‘Now, what could be better than this?’ you ask.

Just south of Cairns, next to the Historic Hambledon Hotel, sweetness surrounds

Three years ago in April, Anna and James McLean established ‘Sugarcane Kitchen’ in Edmonton on the Bruce Highway, 15 minutes south of Cairns. The couple had spent 15 years in the area together, and decided it was time James took his Italian chef skills to the next level by starting their own restaurant.

Anna says the secret of their success has been her husband’s passionate cooking. James trained with an old-fashioned Italian family, and no one who comes to the restaurant leaves disappointed.

This is also due to the restaurant’s values. Anna says, ‘We make food from the heart. And we believe there is a way of doing things at our business; we were lucky to have good managers in the past, and they taught us about treating our customers and our team well. Everyone feels welcome.’ Respect, courtesy, and hospitality are taught from a young age in traditional Italian culture.

To run a successful restaurant business, one needs to learn patience

Anna says learning patience – with customers, staff, and when waiting for things to happen, is the most important lesson she’s learned while running Sugarcane Kitchen’s operations. For example, the restaurant only just received their liquor license one month ago, but it was worth the wait, and has been an important step forward in their strategy.

The restaurant also assigns much of its recent success to the Abacus POS system and its many complimentary add-on features to building the business during a global pandemic.

‘Yes, Cairns hasn’t been locked down nearly as much as the southern states, but we were one of Abacus’s first clients to implement the DoorDash online ordering feature for deliveries, and that has helped us a lot.

That said, the online portal for take away orders is so easy, and our customers love it because they know they’ll receive a 10% discount when ordering online. For me, it means answering the phone much, much less! We’ve now integrated EFTPOS payments into the system, as well as table ordering via portable iPads, freeing up our staff because extra drinks can be ordered without a waiter present,’ Anna says gleefully.

As far as the future goes, James dreams of expansion. The sky is the limit, or in this case, a horizon dominated by tall sugarcane softly bending in the breeze.