The Right Ingredients for A Brighter Future
La Porchetta Satisfies an Appetite for Change
Much loved brand La Porchetta recently joined a select list of franchises that measure their success in decades and innovation, this has been one of the key drivers of its longevity and success. The brand that was built on providing traditional Italian meals with warm service, is also a market leader when it comes to adapting to the demands of the contemporary consumer.
The La Porchetta brand began more than 30 years ago, when two young Italian migrants purchased a run-down pizzeria in North Carlton, close to Melbourne’s Italian hub. It was 1985 and La Porchetta was then a takeaway business only. The new owners, Rocky Pantaleo and Felice Nania were passionate and hard-working, and their reputation for preparing great food spread quickly. In that pre-delivery era, there were soon long lines of people waiting outside the small shopfront to pick up a La Porchetta pizza or pasta to take home.
The first change that Rocky and Felice made was to transform La Porchetta into a licenced, a-la-carte restaurant. Their great meals and excellent value were already legendary and now customers could enjoy both, in a welcoming and vibrant restaurant. La Porchetta became renowned as a special place to experience good food and a passion for life, and the seeds were sown for its future success as a much-loved brand.
By the late 1980s, Rocky and Felice’s vision had become clear. They wanted to develop the largest Italian-style, franchised restaurant group in Australia and New Zealand and in 1990, the first franchise opened in Melbourne’s north. It served the same delicious food and had the same, warm, family atmosphere as the Carlton restaurant. It quickly became a local favourite.
As La Porchetta grew, consumer expectations began to change and La Porchetta needed to adapt. Increasingly time-poor customers preferred to meet with family and friends in their favourite local restaurant, rather than prepare a dinner party at home, so La Porchetta restaurants created function spaces for special events.
With the brand’s family values, a natural addition to functions was the introduction of children’s birthday parties. La Porchetta created “Mini Chef” events at which children could not only have fun but also learn about food preparation by making simple pizzas with basic ingredients.
Consumer tastes change with new and emerging trends and La Porchetta regularly reviews its menu to reflect these. With an increased focus on health, the brand responded with innovative menu changes that provided lighter options, while retaining the authentic Italian flavours that customers wanted.
While changes such as these may look simple, at La Porchetta, each new innovation is preceded by extensive consultation with franchisees and research and planning by the support office team. Many ideas are collaborated on with franchisees via the Franchise Advisory Committee.
“As a brand, we’re very focussed on innovation and development to stay ahead of the game,” says La Porchetta CEO Sara Pantaleo. “Our team has ears to the ground when it comes to food and restaurant trends and we’re also informed by the latest industry research. For us, innovation is a team effort, with input from everyone involved, including franchisees, customers and suppliers. We listen to what all our people are telling us and that’s what helps us retain our loyal customers and attract new ones.”
As customers and businesses moved online, La Porchetta was an early adaptor with electronic solutions, such as web and app ordering, as well as, electronic menu boards in restaurants. “Each new development is designed to make the customer experience as easy as possible,” says Ms Pantaleo. “And that helps drive sales for franchisees.”
Today’s consumer wants the convenience of home delivery and La Porchetta was quick to respond. In order to ensure smooth introduction of this new service, home delivery was first trialled at selected restaurants. Before being introduced across the group, all La Porchetta’s technology platforms, including online ordering and point of sale, were reviewed to ensure customers could easily order by phone and online.
Franchisee, Ronnie Barrese, says La Porchetta listens to franchisees and moves with the times and that’s one of the reasons he has been with the brand for over 20 years. “La Porchetta really supports innovation,” says Mr. Barrese. “They understand that franchisees know best what their customers want. The secret to success in a business like ours is to go where the public is taking you and that’s exactly what they do.”
In recent years, Mr. Barrese noticed a distinct trend among his customers towards vegan dining. This was supported by research coming into La Porchetta that veganism and “flexitarianism” - where people want to eat vegetarian or vegan once or twice a week - was an emerging trend. Following an exhaustive process of
researching menu options, ingredients and customer responses, a new vegan menu was rolled out across La Porchetta late last year.
For Mr. Barrese, menu innovation is just one of the ways in which La Porchetta has innovated to meet changing consumer trends. “La Porchetta has changed a lot in recent years,” he says. “If you owned a franchise 15 years ago, you wouldn’t recognise it today, because we’ve developed so much. That’s one of the strengths of this brand.”
Each new innovation also requires La Porchetta to review its systems and processes to streamline changes for franchisees and make them as easy as possible. “As focussed as we are on customer demands, we ensure that innovation and modernisation are not difficult or stressful for franchisees and their staff,” said Ms Pantaleo. “We develop comprehensive training and support packages for each new innovation, and the beauty is, all these changes ultimately enhance revenue potential for franchisees.”
La Porchetta is today a transnational franchise and a trusted brand, known for its quality, value and warm service. “We began as a family-run, family-oriented business, which was like a local Italian kitchen for many of our customers. Throughout our growth and modernisation, we’ve retained that unique offering, while still meeting the challenges of a changing marketplace. That’s why we’re now enjoying the custom of younger patrons as well,” says Ms Pantaleo. “Over the last 30 years we’ve worked hard to ensure we stay ahead of the game without compromising our core values.”
Opportunities are now available for aspiring restaurant franchisees who want to be part of a long-established and successful franchise system.
WHY LA PORCHETTA?
• A proven profitable operation
• A much loved and recognised national brand
• Strong local area marketing support and advice
• A commitment to innovation and brand development
• Regular franchisee meetings where you can network and learn from other like-minded professionals