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Zenith Cafe, Restaurant & Bar

Shoal Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Joel's first job in hospitality was a dishy/waiter working on weekends for some pocket money during high school. For Sarah, Zenith has been her first experience on this side of the bar, and she has taken to it like a duck to water.


Joel and his mate Damien, the manager at Zenith, had been tossing around the idea of opening ‘something’ for a little while. During the initial Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, Damien spotted the premises in Shoal Bay while he was going for coffee and a walk. The café had been closed for months, so after extensive maintenance and cleaning, they opened Zenith.


In the future, Joel and Sarah look forward to redesigning the bar and indoor dining area, but right now quality food and service are their focus.



How do you separate your personal life from your business life?

Separating our personal and business life has been difficult at times. We have a young family, and weekend work can make family time hard to navigate, but we try to have family date nights when we can, like dinner somewhere new, going to raffles, or a fire pit with roasted marshmallows in the backyard. Work does take up a lot of our time, but I think it makes family time even more special.

What’s your favourite ‘we time’ thing to do?

As far as ‘me time’, that’s more of a ‘we time’. When our two young children finally go to sleep at night, amazon prime and a glass of wine sounds good to us!

What nice surprises have you found in running Zenith?

Winning ‘Best Restaurant’ in the Port Stephens Examiner Annual Business Awards in 2021 was a wonderful surprise. We have had so much amazing local support, especially during the ups and downs of covid.

What not-so-nice surprises?

The not-so-nice surprises were the constant rule changes during the covid epidemic. Staff shortages and the rising costs of running a hospitality business have also been challenging.

Do you have any advice for someone contemplating opening or buying a café?

Our advice for someone looking to open a café would be that you can’t do it all yourself. It is important to find the right people for the right job, we have been incredibly lucky in that respect.

What personal touches did you put into Zenith that make it unique and set it apart from others?

The thing that sets us apart has been a massive team effort with our business partners, Damien and Susannah, as well as our Zenith crew - this is what makes us unique. It could be the coffee art, smiles from the staff, our food that has satisfied your cravings, or the vibrant art hanging on our walls by the amazing Megan Barrass.

Do you have any funny or favourite customer stories?

We have one customer from Sydney, who has a holiday home here in Shoal Bay. Every morning Barb goes for a walk, she loves the food and service so much at Zenith that her goal in life is to recommend us to anyone and everyone she meets along the way. We call her our walking talking billboard!

Visit Zenith Restaurant: