It seemed that it was fate for Alix and Justin Thomson to purchase The Shack in 2011. “I was working at Scott’s Epicurean in Hamilton, and my brother was head chef at The Shack. We got talking to the owners one day, and the timing was perfect,” explained Justin. The restaurant has a permanent team of 22 who see the establishment through the highs and lows of each season.
The Raglan based business benefits from the incredible summer rush and must balance this busy period with the lows of the winter season. “Raglan swells incredibly in summer,” said Justin. “The number of bums on seats triples for most of January and is pretty steady until about Easter. When the weather turns cold things really drop off.”
However, the winter months provide the business with the opportunity to renovate, repair and rest to prepare for another busy season which is sure to follow. But even the slow seasons are not without their visitors; The Shack has seen a steady increase in winter clientele in recent years. “The winters in Raglan seem to be getting warmer and being only a short drive from Hamilton we are seeing a lot of winter travellers and day trippers,” Justin said. The business has learnt to adapt to the rises and falls of customers that vary not only from season to season but from year to year.
The owners designed the restaurant’s aesthetic, and they wanted to develop a uniquely Kiwi atmosphere for their company. “In true Raglan style, it is clean, light and comfortable. We have a very collective and organic way of designing. It evolves and grows as we do,” Justin explained. Like their design, the food aesthetic is also dictated by the owners, who have applied their extensive experience to create a menu which appeals to a range of dietary requirements.
“We are lucky enough to have some great local food producers in Raglan, so we support them, and they look after us very well with amazing produce,” said Justin. There is a heavy vegetarian focus in the restaurant’s menu, and the company continues to make minor adjustments to their food to keep customers satisfied and engaged. “We change our menu every two months and keep things fairly simple, classic with a few tweaks.”
The Shack has amassed a loyal following who are passionate about their business. “Our com and chickpea fritters have been on the menu since day one, and we made the mistake once of taking them off the menu once. Never again.”