Paddock to plate

Lloyd Rooney and Mike Fraser were farming for ten years before they fell into the restaurant game, when an opportunity to buy a Northland restaurant - The Cove - came up.

They were nervous about it as it was a big change in their lifestyle, but Lloyd likes to give anything a go and thought it would be a great opportunity for them.

“We bought The Cove and we transformed it and that ended up transforming our lives.”

“Two Boys Network” was then formed and has since expanded to four restaurants in Whangarei, Waipu, and Mangawhai, as well as their beef and sheep farm Highgate Hill and their market garden, The Vege Shack.

“How things can grow so quickly that surprised me the most. I didn’t realise the business would expand so naturally the way it did.”

Having previously worked in and owned eateries in London, Lloyd oversees the restaurants while Mike runs The Vege Shack, which supplies all four restaurants with freshly picked, spray-free vegetables and herbs.

The pair enjoy the symmetry between the veges and herbs they grow, and what they serve - the produce picked by Mike in the morning are on the plates Lloyd serves in the restaurants at night.

“It's easier for us not to grow vegetables. It's expensive. We do it anyway because we believe in it. That's why... its hard work and it’s sometimes difficult, but we ensure the best gate to plate experience we can.”

Staffing and dealing with cash flow are often the most significant challenges for businesses of all sizes, and Two Boys Network is no exception.

The change in seasons brings about significant staffing changes, as they employ up to 160 people in the summer months but it can be as low as 80 in the winter.

“I think the biggest challenge is staffing; is ramping up for seasonality and ramping down the seasonality.”

Their ANZ Business Specialist provides additional support in their periods of growth or change, as even small changes can impact their cash flow cycle in a significant way.

“If we didn't expand we wouldn't have an issue with cash flow because we obviously make profit for the summer and that sustains us in the winter and so the only reason we have an issue with cash flow is because we’re constantly expanding.”

Mike and Lloyd love the Northland community and strive to employ as many locals as they can. To them, good staff is everything and they couldn’t grow without them.

“You can't do it all... you've got to trust that you've got a great team around you, strive for great talent and back yourself.”

Two Boys Network plan to open another restaurant in November this year in the Bay of Plenty and aren’t ruling out opening more in the future.

Their advice for a new business starting out? “Don't do it if you're not going to back yourself, I think if you don't believe in it no one else will. Secondly. Do it and do it well.”

To them, it’s all about doing something you’re passionate about. “Money is a by-product of true success and true success is doing something that you're proud of.”

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