The success of La Porchetta restaurants was built on providing traditional Italian food with warm service, however the franchise has a deep culture of innovation and is now pioneering new market trends as they emerge across Australia and New Zealand.
In the mid-1980s, when La Porchetta’s founders bought a humble pizzeria in Melbourne’s North Carlton, the Australian love affair with Italian food was still in its infancy.
Thirty years later, provincial Italian eating is entirely familiar to generations of Australians and New Zealanders and although customers continue to embrace the traditional, they’re also demanding on-trend foods, with lighter, healthier options. More than that, they also want to know the stories behind the recipes they’re enjoying and their ingredients.
“We don’t see current trends as conflicting with tradition, we just see them as an opportunity to add another layer of authenticity to our menu,” said La Porchetta CEO, Sara Pantaleo.
Ms Pantaleo said customers want more information about food preparation, quality and ingredients. They want to know where and how food is produced, and they want to be informed about its supply chains. With an emerging focus on artisan meals, they also want to know the story behind the menu. There is also a renewed focus on the freshest possible ingredients and healthy, light, lowcarb options that are not usually associated with Italian food.
“Our team has had ears to the ground when it comes to current food trends. We’re also informed by the latest industry research,” said Ms Pantaleo.
“To this end, La Porchetta has introduced some great innovations to its menu, and we’re delighted to be partnering with the widely-published, multi-award-winning Luca Ciano, an Italian chef of international renown.”
As La Porchetta’s Chef Consultant, Mr Ciano has devised dishes and updated the La Porchetta menu to give its restaurants a contemporary edge, while enhancing their Italian authenticity.
The new menu maintains traditional classic dishes and introduces Mr Ciano’s new additions which focus on regional food and light options. They include Regions of Italy pizzas, new risottos and new fresh salads.
“La Porchetta wanted me to help with remaining traditional in their approach, but also to modernise and reflect Italy in 2015,” said Mr Ciano.
Some of the pizza innovations include: Prosciutto and Parmesan from Emilia Romagna; Prosciutto and Balsamic from Emilia Romagna; Italian Sausage and Broccoli from Puglia; Provolone and Salami from Calabria; Provolone and Eggplant from Sicilia; and Gorgonzola from Lombardia.
These changes reflect emerging consumer trends in food, but still cater for the traditional Italian experience that attracts diners to La Porchetta.
“Our customers want to feel they are experiencing authentic foods that have been consumed for many generations,” said Ms Pantaleo. “They also want to feel informed. So we’ve got a thoroughly contemporary menu rooted in deep tradition.
“Diversity is the key here. Not only are we focused on the broad range of cuisines across Italy, but we really have something for every diner preference and every lifestyle, including a renewed focus on health and fitness.”
For example, for those with active lifestyles who want to watch their carb-intake, there are high-protein chicken dishes providing high nutrients and sustained energy. Pizzas, too, with the dough stretched to be light and fluffy, can be ordered with fresh seasonal vegetable toppings.
“This is designed to cater for customers who consider a pizzeria the last place to find healthy options,” said Ms Pantaleo. “We can offer them wholesome choices in the same warm, traditional atmosphere.”
Parents will be pleased to find that children can enhance their knowledge of food by learning how to make a simple pizza with basic ingredients at La Porchetta’s ‘Mini- Chef’ children’s parties. They’re a perfect way for children aged five years or over to celebrate their birthday with friends and then get to eat their own creations.
Ms Pantaleo said the group will be reviewing processes to streamline systems for franchisees and their staff.
“As focussed as we are on customer demands, we ensure that innovation and modernisation are not stressful or difficult for franchisees and staff,” she said. “And the beauty is these changes ultimately enhance profit-potential for franchisees.”
Luca Ciano admires La Porchetta’s willingness to change, modernise and innovate.
“I commend La Porchetta for using someone like me and my level of expertise to improve the menu offering in its restaurants. Most of the brand’s competitors don’t offer anything like that.
“La Porchetta’s difference is the commitment to keep improving and this will be its strength into the future.
“The process of devising a menu that strikes the right balance, said Mr Ciano, “is very simple. I get a brief, and I present a range of ideas on which we could move forward. La Porchetta then looks at what is do-able in its restaurant kitchens and we adjust the recipes accordingly.”
Mr Ciano’s international reputation has seen him win many prestigious accolades, including recognition from Michelin and awards from the Salon Culinaire International de Londres Competition and Nestle’ Master Chef Grand Prix. His signature dishes have been published in Chefs of Distinction and he contributes to the Australian edition of the BBC’s Good Food Magazine.
With his extensive international experience, he sees La Porchetta’s deep family culture as one of its major strengths and a key to its success.
“La Porchetta feels family-run,” he says. “There are amazing different backgrounds and cultures involved and everyone represents what La Porchetta stands for.”
Sara Pantaleo agrees. “We began as a family-run, family-oriented restaurant and we have stayed true to that culture for 30 years. Our business revolves around a warm family heart and we refuse to compromise on our core values.”
La Porchetta is now poised for growth, with strategic site openings planned in both Australia and New Zealand, now is the time to join our family which is underpinned by strong growth in the hospitality sector. Innovating the new menu was a delicate balancing act. To its current customers, La Porchetta is a trusted brand known for quality, value and warm service. The franchise has worked hard to retain its existing customer base while it builds upon its strong market position in a growth sector.