Pizza Prince

mailife - - Contents - By MATT RUDD Pho­tos by ANDY PAUL

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.

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