Love at First Bite ‘How Col’Cacchio made their mark’
Since Col’Cacchio first opened its doors 26 years ago in a desolate part of the Foreshore, Michael Terespolsky, Kinga Baranowska and later Greg Mommsen have gone through all the ups and downs that come with starting up and running a food business in a new location.
Under the three directors’ leadership, Col’Cacchio has grown from a single restaurant, to a group that boasts 35 franchises across South Africa and Namibia, with big plans for the future.
However, while the demand for more Col’Cacchio restaurants continues to grow, they aren’t interested in seeing their brand on every corner. “We’d rather have fewer outlets doing really well than many stores that become problematic,” says Terespolsky. “We’re very particular. We conduct extensive research on a site and we see whether it’s feasible demographically before building any store.”
The partnership has always been conservative and careful in finding the right location and right people. The first franchised store was opened in Johannesburg followed by the Franschhoek branch. Their most recent restaurant was opened at Somerset West, while Ballito will also sport a new Col’Cacchio in the month of April
“If you think about it, we’ve had this business for a long time and we only have 35 stores. This may seem like a lot, but compared to other franchises we’re actually small fry,” says Michael. Despite that, they’re looking to spread their wings throughout South Africa and in the rest of Africa.
But they are entrepreneurs, who have the ability to identify an opportunity and act on it. This ability is a key skill that an entrepreneur needs to have. Picking the isolated locations for the flagship restaurant in Cape Town and the first franchised store in Bryanston were just such opportunities.
Location plays a very big role, says Kinga. “You have to take everything into consideration: will you have lunchtime trade, will you have parking, who is your target market?
“The original site was in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing there initially,” says Michael. “Today it has evolved into magnificent and business rich part of Cape Town. It is also right on the highway between the Eastern and Northern seaboards.”
The choice of location was also one of the reasons the first franchise in Johannesburg was so successful, when third partner Greg came aboard. It was erected in a new part of Bryanston that had no such offering at the time, and as the community grew around it, so did the support for the business.
“One big difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is how they manage the unexpected. Every business brings unforeseen challenges,” says Michael. “We were willing to roll up our sleeves and attack those obstacles head-on.”
By assuming the roles of designer, cook, restaurant manager, waiter, and general gopher the original store owners were able to keep their sunk costs as low as possible.
These roles included doing all the footwork in getting permits, licenses, as well as hiring the bricklayers and electricians from local classified ads. The upside to this is that they gained valuable experience in all aspects of running a restaurant which has allowed them to keep their brand so strong. It was not without some learning experiences. “I burnt all the pizzas on our first night,” Michael says, “a fact some of my regular customers – who were there from day one – remind me in jest often.”
Apart from owning their own stores today the three directors of Col’Cacchio are very much involved in the day-to-day running of all franchises across the region, and keeps the entrepreneurial passion alive whilst providing support to the group with their solid business know how and experience.
“We are more like a big family. All of the company’s directors are always available to our franchisees; and although we have established communication procedures in place, if a franchisee needs or wants to talk with us directly, they can either email or call us at any time. We are here for them, and they know it. I believe that you must provide steadfast support to franchisees at all times. It is not about policing, instead it is about giving them a helping hand so they can achieve the success we know they can have,” Michael says.
From the beginning the group has not so much been driven by their bottom line as by their passion to be the best of breed. “We found our niche of high-end gourmet pizzas, pasta and salads and grew a brand that is consistent and meets our customer’s expectations in every one of our restaurants,” he adds.
All Col’Cacchio stores are owner operated. Their best business owners are hardworking, cool under pressure, proactive in building their business and are not afraid of working long hours.
Franchisees are very carefully chosen. Potential restaurateurs go through a rigorous interview process, which includes psychometric testing to identify strengths and weaknesses as well as an extensive practical session working in the restaurant. “We want to make sure that they really want to be in this game,” says Greg who also heads up business development in the company. That means occasionally turning down potential growth opportunities. “It’s not about constantly expanding, it’s about making sure that everybody is happy and that the businesses work for them.”
“Franchisees are a rare breed. Many people think they want to own a business, but they really should be employees because they are not willing to do the work required of a business owner. They believe the brand should carry them; and this is simply not reality,” Greg adds. No matter how strong a brand you have, the owner still needs to be willing to put in the effort it takes to make the business successful.
“On the other side of the coin are those people who don’t want to follow a system. These people don’t make good operators for us either. We can never keep up our consistency and meet our customers’ expectations if our franchisees are not willing to implement our model and follow our procedures all of the time.”
“What’s the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make? You can’t leave your business to managers alone; they need guidance and motivation all the time,” Greg concludes.
Col’Cacchio are always looking at new and innovative methods to help expand the business with new franchisees being a massive component. Should you be interested to any franchising opportunities you can contact Tarryn Godley via firstname.lastname@example.org or 087 803 4000 for more info