How La Porchetta notched up 30 years in the restaurant business
What does it take to sustain a retail food business for 30 years? In 2015 La Porchetta celebrates its 30th anniversary, joining a select few Australian franchises that measure their success in decades.
Now the largest, licensed, a-la-carte restaurant franchise in Australasia, La Porchetta began in 1985 when business partners, Rocky Pantaleo and Felice Nania purchased a humble Italian restaurant in Melbourne’s Italian hub. They infused the venue with vibrant Italian culture and passion for life and their great food and warm atmosphere were an instant hit.
The second La Porchetta opened a few years later and initial growth was measured, as the two restaurateurs planned the rollout of their vision for a national presence. Today there are more than 70 restaurants aross Australia and New Zealand.
What began as a dream was underpinned by a strategic approach to growth, with a focus on systems and processes to build a strong framework for the brand. There was also a commitment to innovation, so La Porchetta would remain relevant in a rapidly changing market.
However sound business structures and alignment to consumer trends don’t guarantee success. La Porchetta is now an iconic and much-loved brand and CEO Sara Pantaleo [pictured right] believes that’s because the group has refused to compromise on its core values.
“From the beginning, we have stayed true to the family culture that made our first restaurant a success,” says Pantaleo. “We didn’t compromise as we grew and our core values continue to underpin every aspect of the way we manage our business today.”
A selective franchisee recruitment process and ongoing training have been crucial to the group’s growth. La Porchetta looks first and foremost for passion and people skills in its new franchisees in the belief that these are the most important drivers of success and everything else can be learned. There is a comprehensive initial training program, followed by ongoing support, including workshops, online forums and an annual conference.
“We focus on building strong relationships with franchisees and even though we have a full operations team, my door is always open for them to speak with me directly,” says Pantaleo.
Franchisees are also encouraged to become actively involved with their communities and many support local sports groups and not for profit organisations.
For the consumer, La Porchetta is now a recognised brand where they know they can get good food and friendly service. “Our motto isEat, Live, Love Italian and every franchise, no matter where it is located is expected to maintain the warm, friendly atmosphere that our customers expect.
“I feel we’re now like a large, extended family” says Pantaleo. “As we enter our fourth decade of business, we’re seeing the children and even grandchildren of our original customers eating at our restaurants and to me, that’s one of the greatest measures of our success.”
“Growth doesn’t happen by accident. Moving forward, our vision is to be the leading local Italian restaurant in Australia and New Zealand and we’re now focusing on the next decades of our development.”
Jason Krainski and Stephen Montebello
Jason Krainski and Stephen Montebello have been firm friends since they were eleven years old when they met playing footy. Now both in their 30s and in business together for the last decade, they have defied all popular ideas about mixing friendship with business.
Following the success of their first La Porchetta restaurant in Rosebud, Victoria, which they purchased in 2005, Jason and Stephen recently opened their second La Porchetta at nearby Hastings.
“When I was a kid, we often went to our local La Porchetta as a family,” says Stephen. “I grew up with La Porchetta and I knew and loved the brand. When the opportunity came up to buy the Rosebud restaurant, it was our chance to be part of a fantastic business we knew and trusted.”
“We treat everyone like they are family,” says Jason. “We have many regular customers at both restaurants and looking after them involves more than just taking their orders. We try to make our restaurants feel like home.”
Both Rosebud and Hastings La Porchetta restaurants are also very much a part of their local communities, supporting local sports clubs, the SES and other services. “Rural communities are close and people look after each other,” says Stephen. “Our restaurants are very much part of that.”
With La Porchetta’s 30th birthday festivities in full swing, both restaurateurs plan to celebrate by encouraging their customers to join in the group’s program of national promotions and competitions throughout the year