Since he was 17 years old, young Australian entrepreneur Tanuj Patel has been working towards a career in the hospitality business which has taken shape as a lively enterprise selling a modern take on traditional pizza in Fiji in Suva’s Damodar City. As a teenager he began working in various hotels and restaurants, going on to study a triple major in management, marketing and tourism and hospitality management. When the opportunity arose for him to move to Fiji and open his own Eagle Boys Pizza franchise three years ago, he wasn’t about say no. Eagle Boys Pizza sets the bar high with a thinner, crispier base and small amounts of cheese making way for an experience of flavours that really can’t be found anywhere else in Fiji. “It’s all about the sauce and toppings”, enthused Tanuj. The support of his uncles, who had already made a name for themselves and Eagle Boys back in Australia, was the only encouragement 28 year old Tanuj needed to start up his own in Fiji. But it wasn’t without complications. “It was a big culture shock for me. Coming from Australia, there’s always something to do, I had friends around me all the time. Then I moved here not really knowing anybody and had to rely on the advice of my uncles.” “We had a lot of struggles when we first started, which as a new business was very hard to come back from. When I wrote the business plan, the theory was perfect. But until you start doing it, you can’t foresee certain things. We had a lot of stock that was seized and as a result the opening of the second store had to be delayed because of everything we had to go through.” His restaurant is due to open this month in Suva city and is the second of eight signed for with the international franchise Tanuj holds. He plans to open a third outlet within six months of the second, and one each year moving forward. But success doesn’t come without hard work.
In first opening in Damodar City, Tanuj struggled to establish Eagle Boys. Entering a competitive fast food market with a pizza style that was almost unheard of in Fiji resulted in many bad reviews to begin with. “That for us was a challenge because my uncles, my dad and other people would read it and say ‘you need to change your product’. I think what sets us apart is that we stayed true to it. We never changed anything really, I mean we altered it a little bit to suit the market but at the end of the day we’re not going to be able to please everybody. We now have a strong, loyal customer base who like our product and they tell us not to change it because otherwise what’s going to set us apart from other pizza places? We want that edge.” Tanuj also faced difficulties in differentiating his business from the previous ownership, which had been unsuccessful in Fiji. His passion for business and his determination to succeed are admirable, and his appreciation of a strong support network is humbling. “I am very fortunate, I had a very strong support network with my uncles, and everyone who has done business here successfully for a very long time. I would ask them for advice, they would give it to me, and in Fiji, experience is the key, you can’t do much without it.” Experience is something that Tanuj has worked hard to acquire over the years, building his expertise from the bottom up.
“The best way to really do a business if for you to start from the ground, that’s the only way you learn the ins and outs of it. That comes from ordering stock, customer service, making pizzas, even washing dishes.” Tanuj had his financial struggles as a young businessman. Receiving no financial backing from family meant that money was tight in the beginning. The unforeseen delays in the business plan put him under a great deal of pressure, and he often found himself irritated by the relaxed Fijian approach. Tanuj had to fall back on the advice heard from his father while he was growing up: “My dad always told me to work hard and do things honestly”. Despite the challenges, for Eagle Boy Tanuj it’s no surprise his restaurant is now packed with regulars. Mouth-watering flavours please local palates and the friendly atmosphere makes for an enjoyable experience.