Players’ Restaurants and Cafes around the globe – part one

Getting into business is something many players do – some while they’re playing and some of them after they finish. In this two-part series, we talk to Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Reuben Thorn, Casey Laulala, Michael Leitch, Tevita Koloamatangi and Dean Sheppard, who have all opened restaurants and cafes around the globe. We ask them about the highs and lows of owning their own businesses and what they have learned from being in the hospitality trade. 

Andy Ellis (All Blacks, Crusaders, Canterbury, Kobe Steelers)
Name: Mad Samurai
Address: Shop 8, Snickel Lane, 23 Customs Street East, Auckland
Opening hours: Sunday–Monday: 11.30am–3.00pm, Tuesday–Friday: 11.30am–10.00pm Website: www.madsamurai.co.nz Facebook: www.facebook.com/madsamurainz Instagram: @madsamurainz Owners: I co-own Mad Sumurai with Arato Tsujino, my Japanese butcher and business owner in Japan, his school friend Andrew Niven and Makihisa Shimuzu, a successful restaurant owner in Kobe, Japan. Opened: February 2018 How long have you owned it? Since it opened. Food type: Japanese food, with a Wagyu specialty. Signature dish: Our Wagyu dishes. Our Mad Samurai Wagyu sushi roll is especially popular. Atmosphere: Casual dining similar to what you’d find in the Melbourne laneways but in the Auckland CBD.

NZRPA: What has been the most surprising part of being in business? Andy Ellis: How much hard work is required and having to be really adaptable with things including pricing and menu and marketing. NZRPA: What is the most satisfying part of the business? Andy Ellis: Seeing people come in and have a great experience (and getting to eat at my own restaurant!) NZRPA: What advice would you give other players interested in getting into the hospitality industry? Andy Ellis: Surround yourself with experienced hospitality people who have succeeded and failed so they can see things before they happen and know what it takes to make it work. NZRPA: Have you been able to use anything from rugby to help you in your business? Andy Ellis: I try to bring the team together, share our individual thoughts and ideas and then come up with a solution together. This is pretty similar to a rugby team. Also setting short-term and long-term goals for the restaurant is important and something that I do a lot with my rugby. NZRPA: What would you have done better to prepare yourself for business? Andy Ellis: I’m still just learning. I have surrounded myself with experienced operators and I’m sitting back and just trying to grow. This is one of a few business interests, so really I just want to keep learning and developing business skills. NZRPA: What are some key learnings that you have picked up along the way? Things don’t just happen. You have to be on the ball at all times in hospitality – organising events, changing pricing, specials, menus, tapping into local business and sourcing other outlets (Uber Eats etc).

Dean Sheppard (Counties, Blues)
Name: Monarch Cafe
Address: 1 King Street, Pukekohe
Opening Hours: Monday–Friday: 11am–late, Website: www.monarchcafe.co.nz Facebook:  www.facebook.com/TheMonarchCaf... Owners: My wife Sandra and me. Opened: 1998. How long have you owned it? Since we opened. Food type: Pacific Rim al la carte, with a heavy seafood influence. Atmosphere: Chilled upmarket bistro.
NZRPA: What has been the most surprising part of being in business? Dean Sheppard: The intensity and the challenges associated with running a business. NZRPA: What is the most satisfying part of the business? Dean Sheppard: Maintaining our award-winning standards and building up a loyal following that keeps us busy. It is really enjoyable being your own boss and being in charge of your own destiny. NZRPA: What advice would you give other players interested in getting into the hospitality industry?
Dean Sheppard: Work in the industry to get a good grounding first before you go into it. If I had done a year or two under someone else, I think I would have saved some money on structures and systems. NZRPA: Have you been able to use anything from rugby to help you in your business? Dean Sheppard: How to work as a team, camaraderie and the mental toughness that I have used to get me through tough times, which I learned from the late great coach Mac McCallion. NZRPA: What would you have done better to prepare yourself for business? Dean Sheppard: Spend some time in the game first before I opened.  NZRPA: What are some key learnings that you have picked up along the way? Dean Sheppard: Financial knowledge, business structure, planning and staff management. It does get easier once you have good structures, procedures and management in place, then you don’t have to work the super long hours that you do in the beginning, but you can never afford to take your eye off the business.  

Reuben Thorne (All Blacks, Canterbury, Crusaders, Yamaha) Black & White Coffee Cartel Eight locations in Christchurch and Queenstown and growing Opening hours: Monday–Friday: 7am–5pm, Saturday –Sunday: 8am–5pm (some shops vary) Website: www.blackandwhitecoffee.co.nz Facebook: www.facebook.com/blkwhtcoffee Owners: The original cafe was started by me and two brothers – Bink and Luke Bowler. The franchise system also includes two other shareholders, Alan Win and Raphael Garcia. Opened: The original cafe opened in Feb 2015. How long have you owned it? Since the beginning. Food type: Typical western-style cafe food. Signature dish: Bagels – most of the stores will be developing kitchens to broaden their range of offerings. Atmosphere: Every cafe has a large eclectic art wall as a feature. They are relaxed places with great music. Most of them also have a coffee roaster in the cafe, which adds to the atmosphere. NZRPA: What has been the most surprising part of being in business? Reuben Thorne: That I have enjoyed the experience as much as I have. NZRPA: What is the most satisfying part of the business? Reuben Thorne: Being able to contribute to the rebuild of Christchurch in a positive way and developing something new and unique. NZRPA: What advice would you give other players interested in getting into the hospitality industry? Reuben Thorne: Just be aware that it is a tough, competitive industry that you have to keep a close eye on if you are going to be successful. Also be adaptable and open-minded. NZRPA: Have you been able to use anything from rugby to help you in your business? Reuben Thorne: A great network of people who helped behind the scenes. NZRPA: What would you have done better to prepare yourself for business? Reuben Thorne: This business is not my first business, so I have been lucky to be involved in another (not hospitality) business that I learnt a lot from. NZRPA: What are some key learnings that you have picked up along the way? Reuben Thorne: Planning is crucial. Be open to opportunities as you never know when they might present themselves. Make sure you work with good people and it always takes more money than you anticipate...

Top Ten Tips for Starting Your Business by Deloitte

  1. Choose the right professional service providers to represent you Make sure your advisors are experienced and capable in their ability to identify risks and provide the correct information. Avoid advisors who are of a ‘yes-man’ mentality and only tell you what you want to hear.
  2. Educate yourself on the financial basics Your advisors will point you in the right direction, but you should have a basic understanding of your own finances. Get familiar with your finances and ask your advisors questions, plenty of questions! Always ask for an explanation if you are uncertain.
  3. Structure and planning Failing to plan is planning to fail. Before making a contract decision domestically or abroad, committing to an investment, purchasing property or entering into a loan agreement, consult your accountant at the very least. Discussing business structures and agreeing a simple business plan that best suits your circumstances is vital in order to protect and maximise your financial interests.
  4. Tax Taxes are inevitable. Set aside a monthly contribution towards your tax bills. This is the simplest yet most overlooked piece of advice. Setting aside a monthly amount will ensure that there are enough funds in your account to pay your tax on time, thereby avoiding costly interest and penalties. A lump-sum cash payment might be deposited into your account, but remember, not all of it is yours to spend!
  5. Cash is king Cash will always do the talking. Having the right amount of access to cash will protect you from unexpected bills and offer you more flexibility to make decisions.
  6. Keep business and private expenses separate “The company will pay for it.” Wrong. If your spending has no relevance to your business, it will cost you money in the long run. Avoid spending business funds on personal items, full stop.
  7. Diversify your customer base If most of your sales come from one customer, then they dictate your business. Have options and multiple customers if possible.
  8. The devil is in the details Signed contracts and contract wording are key to ensuring both ends of a transaction are maintained. A handshake only counts for so much. If the dollars involved are getting serious, contracts and paper trails are everything.
  9. Make a budget If you can’t measure it, you can’t change it. Keeping your spending under control is only achievable if you have the means of tracking it and keeping within your parameters.
  10. Think about your exit strategy Is your business for life or are you looking to sell it for a profit? Have this in mind when entering into contracts or committing to expansion or upgrades. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I try to bring the team together, share our individual thoughts and ideas and then come up with a solution together. This is pretty similar to a rugby team. Also setting short-term and long-term goals for the restaurant is important and something that I do a lot with my rugby. - Andy Ellis