La Porchetta celebrates its 30th birthday in 2015, 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 in 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 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 Ms. 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 Ms. 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 is Eat, Live, Love Italian and every franchise, no matter where it is located is expected to maintain the warm, friendly atmosphere that our customers expect,” says Ms. Pantaleo.
“I feel we’re now like a large, extended family” says Ms. 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.”