Key learnings from two hospitality heroes:
Scale offerings with your business
– starting out small helps improve quality and minimise wastage
Have a goal and be prepared
– research demographics, the customer service space, and how you want to sell your product
Innovation can trump tradition
– consider leveraging existing skills to create something entirely new
Carving out a culinary niche with The Rolling Pin
After moving from China to New Zealand 20 years ago, Gordon Kong and Yina Yang only recently set their sights on Auckland’s evolving food scene.
“We found there wasn’t enough foot traffic to run a restaurant efficiently,” Gordon says.
“We wanted to bring something different to Auckland. And that's how we started making dumplings in the food truck.”
Committed to food that’s handcrafted with love and care, Gordon and Yina needed a name that matched. Thus, The Rolling Pin was born.
But the name didn’t just stick to the food truck. Gordon and Yina now manage three shopfronts and a catering business proudly wearing The Rolling Pin name. And there are plans for more in the works.
Prioritising adaptability from the start
COVID’s impact on New Zealand’s food service industry makes the brand’s growth even more impressive.
It was only by carefully considering their business model from day one that Gordon and Yina overcame hurdles related to the pandemic.
“Takeaway businesses often have less overheads and more flexibility,” Gordon says.
“When there's no permanent business you're not always operating, so there are less costs.”
Innovation: a recipe for success
In a competitive food truck market, The Rolling Pin has succeeded by blending innovation with quality.
Gordon, from Central China, and Yina, from Canton in the South, wanted to show that Asian cuisine went beyond suburban staples like fried rice and noodles.
“It's all about the textures,” Gordon says. “You pair the soft dough with crunchy slaw and hot dumplings with coleslaw.
“Then you have a tangy soya vinaigrette, so it gets sweet and sour – especially with the chilli oil.
"Our dumplings aren’t authentic Chinese flavours. They’re a South Asian twist with really unique flavours," he said.
MYOB: the cherry on top
New stores soon opened, proving The Rolling Pin’s daring approach to food was a winner.
But while all appeared peachy, Yina and Gordon’s accountant was quick to point out growing pains.
“He said ‘You can’t manage the way you used to. You need professional software to help you with accounting stuff and reduce time on your computer,’” Gordon says.
After taking his advice, MYOB quickly helped transfer attention back to the kitchen.
“We focus on the spending, the branding, and family time.”
"We don't have to worry about anything accounting, invoicing, or payrolls. We focus on our catering business.”
- Gordon Kong, Owner, The Rolling Pin
Great feeds for customers; bank feeds for Yina
Having nailed mouth-watering food, the couple shifted their attention to perfecting their recipe for success with an essential business ingredient: financial management.
“Before, when it was GST time, I had to enter all the transactions manually and label them. It always wasted so much time,” Yina says. “She always requested a whole week off to do her GST,” Gordon says. But Yina soon claimed those valuable hours back with MYOB.
“I love the bank feeds. It makes things so much easier. Now you just upload the files, and it shows up on the software.”
- Yina Yang, Owner, The Rolling Pin
Management behind the scenes wasn’t the only hurdle, though. As Yina and Gordon expanded into catering, they found tried-and-true working methods weren’t cutting it.
“Our customer-base is made up of quite a lot of corporate companies,” Yina says. “The big companies require professional ways of invoicing.”
“Before Yina used MYOB, I was always saying: ‘can you make this look more professional?’” Gordon says.
“Now we feel like everything looks professionally done. It’s all nice and tidy.”
“And when we're sending out an invoice and it's linking to our software, we know it's easy to check if they've been paid or not,” Yina adds.
“In just one click I can manage our costs and know what we’re actually doing.”
- Yina Yang, Owner, The Rolling Pin
A tasty takeaway: Focus on quality over quantity
Surprisingly, The Rolling Pin built a thriving customer base with only a vegan dumpling and a beef dumpling on their menu.
“I know it's a crazy idea to have only two flavours during the first two years, but if you put all your efforts into only two dishes, it will be amazing, right?” Gordon says.
It shows what a lean, quality-focused product offering can achieve. Even now, only seven items – half of which are vegan – are offered across The Rolling Pin’s three shopfronts.
Fewer options also means improved product transparency – something Gordon’s particularly proud of.
“I think what makes us successful is not just the taste of the food, but the business model,” he says.
“If you have too big a menu, you either waste food or don’t have enough fresh ingredients.
“With only two options we could make it fresh and with fewer ingredients to help our food costs.”
For anyone on the fence about whether less is more, it’s food for thought worth tucking into.