Teppanyaki franchise cooks success for former Canterbury student

Kate Austin is an entrepreneur with good taste for good food. She owns a mobile catering franchise in Auckland called Shin’s Teppanyaki, which takes the unique Japanese dining experience known as teppanyaki into people’s homes to cater for groups of all sizes.

Teppanyaki is a method of cooking which involves frying vegetables and grilling meat and fish on a hot steel grill at the middle of the table. These are known as teppanyaki tables. Guests dip the food into dipping sauce as it is cooked and eat it. Teppanyaki is an ongoing system in which you’re cooking and eating and cooking some more, all at the same time. Sounds delightful!

“The first business started in Christchurch after the Earthquakes when a popular Teppanyaki restaurant in Kaiapoi was closed down,” Kate said. “When the head chef lost his job, he started cooking for his regular customers in their homes on his self-designed mobile set up.

“I came across the concept as a student at Canterbury. When I saw how popular the Christchurch branch was, I thought it would be great in Auckland.”

Kate then approached Shin, the owner, and asked if he would be interested in allowing her to run the Auckland branch. Shin agreed and offered Kate the first Shin’s Teppanyaki franchise. With Shin’s confidence and Kate’s degree, the young businesswoman was able to approach ASB Bank for a bank loan, hire two chefs, and launch a successful business from there.

The double degree in Law and Commerce from the University of Canterbury Kate holds has been indispensable.

“The law has been very useful [for understanding] when to start my own company [and] my obligations to the bank and my employees. I have drawn up my own franchise agreement, confidentiality agreement and employment contract which has saved me a lot in legal fees!

“My Commerce major is accounting which has been invaluable for my financials including bank forecasts, budgeting and making sure I pay the tax man correctly.”

Studying at the University of Canterbury has paid off in other ways too. Kate was accepted into The Hatchery program, a Student Incubator that’s part of UC Innovators.

The Hatchery given Kate a scholarship worth $5000 to work on her project over the summer and have been extremely supportive with mentoring throughout the various stages of the business – something Kate highly recommends.

“The advice has been extremely useful as it comes from highly experienced individuals who can take a step back from where I stand, and help me to see long term where I want the business to be and what I should be doing to get there. I definitely have my areas of weakness within the business, so I have found it very important to get intelligent outside feedback.”

Kate is optimistic about the future of her franchise. She wants to see the business expand both in Auckland and further afield, with her eye set on one city in particular, Hamilton.

“In February we started a second teppanyaki table which is very exciting and my vision is to double this over the next couple of years,” she said. “I think the concept is great and unique and could be successful wherever it operates.”

From here on out, it’s exponential growth for Shin’s Teppanyaki.

Additional editing by Dominique Reed.

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