Business South August 2022

| 27 REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT Queenstown: Frank’s Hospitality Eateries with all the right stuff Richard Loader Aaron and Tori Lethbridge have grown their Queenstown operation from one business to six complementary offerings. Photo: Kristel Maroszek Frank’s range of eateries, and cafes in Queenstown is a shining example of owners with a strong vision and passion for treating their customers with good old fashioned ‘small town’ hospitality, and making them feel welcome. In the five years that Aaron and Tori Lethbridge have been serving lashings of good food, coffee and service they have grown from one business to six complementary offerings, becoming a much-loved brand within the communities they operate, and beyond. Tori and Aaron’s journey started when they met at hospitality school in New Plymouth, before honing their craft while working in hospitality around the world. When Tori’s dad became unwell, the couple returned to hometown Masterton to spend time with him. Unbeknown to them, Tori’s dad bought a small café in Masterton and asked them to manage it. Under Tori and Aaron’s management, Café Strada became quite the spot for locals to enjoy the vibe and fare on offer in abundance. Tori’s dad passed away in 2012, and in 2017 the couple made the move to Queenstown and brought with them that same passion for small town service. “It’s all about getting people back through the door,” says Aaron. “Sometimes in Masterton we would get people back three, four, five times a day. We wanted to bring that down here.” Franks Eatery in Frankton’s Remarkables Park’s Ramada Hotel was the first foray into Queenstown hospitality. “The first couple of weeks, with little or no customers, I recall looking over at Tori in the middle of the night and thinking, what have we done. Then all of a sudden, the switch flicked on and we’ve never looked back. It all worked out, which is really cool.” Aaron and Tori came to the attention of Rob Neil from Safari Group, a leading property development company. “Rob loves mentoring young people and saw what we had done with Eatery and said he wanted to get involved, and take us to the next level. He bought into Eatery, and it has been a really good relationship that has enabled us to grow at the rate we have.” In the first three months of operation, two more venues were opened up. When the nextdoor pizzeria was boarded up, Aaron and Tori took the opportunity to take it over, branding it as Frank’s Go and learning the takeaway trade. The next venue was Frank’s Pantry a • Kitchen Appliances • Uniforms & Chefs Knives • Commercial Equipment Proudly supporting Frank’s Hospitality • Kitchenware • Tableware & Barware • Aged Care Award winning small batch organic kombucha Get your hands on some at To stock: block away in Wyndham Garden. The Pantry is a country style bakery/deli. By this time, confusion was creeping in with all the Frank’s and so ‘Frank’s was dropped and the venues became known as Eatery, Go, and Pantry, with ‘by Frank’s’ under each one. The fourth business, 11th Avenue, is the couple’s pride and joy. Located in the Kawarau Precinct between Lake Hayes and Shotover communities, 11th Avenue is the largest offering in Frank’s portfolio. “It has all the best of what we have to offer and its place in the community is a major drawcard. It’s a café, bar, restaurant, an outdoor pizza oven, a massive outdoor deck and fire. It has a lawn with games and I love seeing kids bike up with their parents. There are families everywhere.” Coco Cabana, a fun café/restaurant/bar in Queenstown’s Ramada Central Hotel, and the Market, a little gourmet grocer with a barista by the High School, make up Frank’s 5th and 6th offerings. “We’re just trying to do things a little bit differently. If you follow everyone you just end up like everyone. We want our outlets to feel nice and homely. We’re trying to make people feel comfy. When people walk in the door, bringing friends and family, and acting as the host saying ‘this is my local or the place I like to come to’, that’s when you know you’re doing a good job.”