Nicha, you are the dynamo behind Port Macquarie’s newest Thai cuisine sensation – Thaicoon. Can you tell us a little bit about your business and how it came about?
For the past six years now I have watched the Lake Innes area grow and the area develop significantly. I recognised the very high potential to have a restaurant there, so when the shop we are in became available, we dived in and signed a lease. We then went through a very emotion filled and stressful, although highly satisfying, shop design and fit out process.
We wanted to ensure a good quality and very special fit out. Thanks to the awesome team at Joyce Constructions, we have an extremely beautiful shop to work in and promote Thai food.
I have also been lucky enough to have my cousin Nuttapong (Arm) from Thailand, who is hospitality trained, as my Business Partner. He has worked in five-star restaurants in Sydney for the past fifteen years and brings a wealth of experience to the restaurant.
Thaicoon is not the first business you have owned. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your life before coming to live in Port Macquarie?
A few years ago I opened Heart Of Thai, a retail shop opposite the Glasshouse Theatre. We sell Thai art, crafts, homewares and gifts from there. Thailand has many high quality products that are still produced by hand and are very beautiful. I wanted to bring these great gifts to Port Macquarie.
My husband’s family has a long history in Port Macquarie. We met in Thailand, when he moved there to work for Tyco Water; where I was working as the Business Development Manager. We moved to Sydney from Thailand and stayed there for a few years, before getting married at Harry’s Lookout in 2003. We then moved to Port Macquarie and have lived here since then.
What is it that you love most about running a business?
I love the whole experience of running a business. From the initial idea starting in your mind to then making the business a reality is such a satisfying personal experience.
We have been so lucky to have a very supportive customer base, that includes local Lake Innes residents, students and teachers from St Columba Anglican School, St Joseph’s Regional College and Charles Sturt University, the Base Hospital and many more.
We have been getting so much positive feedback about the beautiful restaurant fit out and the quality of our food, which we very much appreciate.
What advice would you offer to other people looking to open a restaurant or café in a regional area?
Port Macquarie already has a range of very good, well-established Thai restaurants, so competition is strong. When we were assessing where to start this business, we looked primarily at the location. We wanted to ensure we chose a restaurant location that had the potential of good population growth. We did not want to be affected by the seasonality that we can experience in Port Macquarie and experience the highs and lows of holidays periods. We wanted to ensure we had a steady, local customer base. We also wanted a location that was easy to access and that provided plenty of parking for our customers.
We have prioritised using local suppliers wherever we can, as they are reliable and care about the quality of their work and their products. Our suppliers have also become our good customers.
My biggest advice is to stay positive! When you are starting a business, there are many obstacles that will occur, but you can overcome them if you work through them calmly.
What have you got in the pipeline for Thaicoon?
To be honest, we have been too busy to think too far into the future. Our main focus for the moment is to maintain excellent customer service and food quality, as well as catching up on some sleep! We will definitely be looking at adding some more authentic and traditional Thai meals to our menu as winter arrives.
As a restaurateur, what would you deem as your essential tools of the trade and why?
This is job where you need to be prepared to work very hard and for very long hours! Surround yourself with experienced and knowledgeable people who can provide you with advice and support.
An essential tool for any business is to have a love and passion for your product.
I also think it is essential to show respect to your peers and encourage good teamwork.
And finally, if you could invite any three business people to lunch, who would they be, and why would you invite them?
I would invite my family to lunch, as they are who inspire me. They are the reason that we work hard, and they are our future.
Thanks for your time, Nicha!