It’s not unusual for Australian hoteliers to venture overseas at some point in their career to broaden their knowledge and experience; but for Quest business owner, Ben Burns, his hospitality journey started in a foreign country – in Hangzhou, China.

“I moved to China in 2010 and despite my very rusty language skills, I was lucky enough to find a job as Lobby Ambassador at Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale, Hangzhou,” Burns explained.

On the advice of his then General Manager to complete a degree in Hotel Management and pursue a graduate program, Burns returned to Queensland and studied a Bachelor of International Hotel and Tourism Management at the University of Queensland.

Quest Breakfast Creek

A 12-month graduate program at IHG followed, kickstarting what would become a rewarding nine-year career with the operator, working across numerous brands and properties, in a variety of roles, from Executive Housekeeper and Rooms Division Manager to Hotel Manager and General Manager.

Today, 14 years on from that first job in China, Burns is the proud business owner of two Quest properties – Quest Breakfast Creek and Quest Collingwood.

While Burns loved the hotel industry and was determined to build his career, he hadn’t intended to become a business owner.

It was only when he met his now business partner, Roberto Salicio, while working at Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort, that the seed of a potential partnership grew.

“From the beginning, Roberto and I had a healthy competitiveness, and we developed a very strong friendship that eventually expanded into business ownership,” Burns said.

“After leaving Queensland, Roberto and I stayed in touch and eventually the idea of business ownership came about. A mutual friend suggested Quest, and immediately we were impressed with the unique business model as well as the clear path to ownership.

“If I am truly honest, I am not sure that I would be a Quest business owner today without Roberto as my business partner. For us the partnership is critical, and it is one of the most important things in our business.”

Quest Collingwood

Prioritising partnerships

When applying to be a franchisee, Quest places a significant importance on making sure that the business partnership is the right fit for the property, according to Burns.

“I believe this is a key reason for the success we are seeing across the network today,” he said.

But business ownership can be daunting, and in the case of Quest Breakfast Creek, they were committing their entire life savings to the venture.

“Once we made the decision to explore business ownership, it was quite clear that Quest was the right franchisor to turn the dream into reality,” Burns said.  

“From the moment that we met with Quest, completed the selection process, and eventually landed on our first property, we have been supported by a network that genuinely cares about you, and the success of your individual business.”

Burns said there has been “endless support” from the Quest Corporate Office, a dedicated Franchise Relationship Manager at the local level, as well as an “incredible network” of franchisees and business owners to lean on.

Nearly a year on from the opening of Quest Collingwood, the hotel has far exceeded performance expectations.

Quest Collingwood

“Our business partners, Stephanie and Kane Robertson, along with their team, have done an exceptional job in bringing Quest Collingwood to life,” said Burns.

“It’s probably two years ahead of where we thought it would be.”

“We were always positive about the prospects of the location and property, but from the moment we opened in March 2023, we have seen consistent demand from a broad range of corporate and leisure guests.

“I must say that the business framework and processes that Quest provides makes it much easier to deliver results and ensure compliance across both properties.”

While juggling two properties in different states has its challenges, Burns says having the right people on his team is the key to success.

“I am lucky to have honest and passionate business partners in Roberto, Stephanie and Kane,” he said.

“All of us share similar values, are incredibly aligned with our business goals, and all have a great sense of humour, even in the tough times.”