The owner and operator of some of Sydney’s most loved venues, The Keystone Group, has had enormous success over its 15-year history. The CEO Magazine spoke to Executive Chairman of The Keystone Group, Richard Facioni, about the difficulties of merging two company cultures and changing trends in the hospitality industry.

Keystone started out by opening the now-infamous Cargo Bar at King Street Wharf, and built its empire from there. It developed venues across Sydney, from the Inner West to Surry Hills, Darling Harbour, Kings Cross, and Manly. Keystone’s impressive list of establishments includes well-known Sydney spots such as Bungalow 8, The Winery, Newtown Hotel, and Manly Wine.

In June 2014, Keystone started talks with Pacific Restaurant Group to expand its offering into restaurants. Pacific Restaurant Group, which operates the Jamie’s Italian franchise, as well as the Chophouse and Kingsleys restaurants, seemed a good fit for Keystone and expanded the brand out of Sydney into other major Australian cities.

This merger has meant Keystone now runs about 20 venues, and employs more than 1,300 staff, making it one of the biggest hospitality companies to come out of Sydney.

Although the acquisition has been very successful, the process of merging two companies is always difficult, according to Richard. The cultures of the two companies, and the different venues they ran, were very different, so the process of integrating has been ticking along slowly for the last year. “The merger is an ongoing process, and 12 months on we are a long way down the path but we’re not fully there yet. The integration ranges from everything from organisational structure, through to systems and procedures, but most importantly, culture.