Sisters Damaris and Renee Coulter are a force to be reckoned with. They opened K’ Rd Italian bistro Coco’s Cantina eight years ago, and haven’t wavered once since in their commitment to doing things their way. They go as far as publishing negative reviews of Coco’s on the restaurant website’s homepage, a skull and crossbones to customers they don’t want back — those they believe don’t follow their mantra of “Be kind”, which is printed on staff uniforms. Even if you disagree with their direct approach, it’s impossible not to admire their integrity, which has informed their dedication to supporting other owner-operated restaurants. In December, they launched The Realness, a website which connects diners with independent restaurants. They aim to take it worldwide, and we have no doubt they’ll succeed, because tenacity flows through their veins. The thought of working with a sibling is some people’s worst nightmare. It’s sometimes the Coulters’, too, but it’s a dynamic they make work, and people around them love them for it. Their staff are trusted and supported — team events have included post-service yoga classes — and the local community is welcomed, with happy-hour meals catering to those strapped for cash, and hospo nights, an opportunity for the hospitality industry to strengthen, simply through communing over food and good drinks. The Coulters are committed to expanding their business up and out instead of far and wide, fearing that splitting the core team across multiple sites would dilute the spirit of the place. This year, they plan to unify Coco’s two dining rooms by taking down part of the wall between them, and want to create a private dining room upstairs. For their food, their service, the value they provide for their team and the wider community, their innovative approach to business growth, and their fearlessness, Damaris and Renee Coulter are Auckland hospitality heroes.