The legendary Pizza Del Forno brand now deeply entrenched into the Gauteng family-orientated restaurant arena
The key word is Passion
In April Shopping & Retail SA had the privilege of meeting with the Pizza Del Forno team in order to gain some insight to this hugely successful restaurant franchise operation.
From the outset of our discussion it became clear that the success of this dynamic team can be attributed to its passion: – not only for its good food – but for its staff, its franchisees, and a passion for quality in every facet of the operation, from ingredients, to food preparation and presentation, and ultimately – customer satisfaction.
Originally founded in 2000, Pizza Del Forno has progressively entrenched its position as the preferred neighbourhood pizzeria, not only for seated eat-in customers, but also for take-away and delivery clients.
Nine years later Pizza Del Forno merged with Gian Carlos Pizza Pasta, with Sotiri Frantzeskakis – the founder of Gian Carlos Pizza Pasta – bringing to the table his vast experience as a specialist pizza restaurateur and accomplished manager of all aspects of franchising.
Operating under the specially created Streamline Brands banner, of which Sotiri is the sole director and CEO, he applied his knowledge and experience in the pizza industry to re-develop Pizza Del Forno into a brand of style.
“Part and parcel of developing and positioning the new brand, incorporated not only a new and refreshing logo and identity, but the re-design and renovation of the existing stores to reflect the modern vibrant family-orientated eating experience,” said Sotiri. “In addition, it was important for us to round off and bed down this concept through the inclusion of our own creative quality food offering and menu presentation.”
This dedication to the defined strategic plan and development of the brand has yielded clear direction and steady growth. The resultant success of the Pizza Del Forno brand is now legendary and is indeed deeply entrenched into the Gauteng family-orientated restaurant arena. Pizza Del Forno appeals to many different groups of people, from the younger clientèle to married couples, families and mature adults. Patrons enjoy the rich Italian atmosphere, delicious food and outstanding service, making them feel valued thus keeping them coming back again and again.
Sotiri went on to stress the importance of quality in each and every one of their ingredients, which when combined result in unsurpassed pizza and pasta offerings with unique and unforgettable flavours and aromas of the traditional wood-fired pizza.
“We go to great lengths to ensure exceptional quality, flavour and authenticity of our wood fired pizzas,” continued Sotiri. “For example, we import all of our own tomatoes from Italy, as the rich soil there imparts a distinctive flavour to the fruit which cannot be replicated elsewhere in the world.”
Of the 36 Pizza Del Forno stores, Streamline Brands have just signed the fourth five-year lease for the original Pizza Del Forno store in Town Square, Weltevreden Park, Roodepoort. So far, this year a further three stores have already been opened. “We prefer smaller more intimate convenience centres for our restaurants, rather than shopping malls,” explained Sotiri. “These sites require 150 to 350 m² with an outside deck of 50 m². We like high profile sites with good visibility and accessibility as this is critical to the success of the business. Our expansion ambitions are quality stores over quantity of stores which enables us to continue to expand steadily at a rate of six to eight sites per year currently within a 250 km radius of our head office and logistical centre in North Riding, Gauteng. Our plans going forward will be to expand into the Kwazulu Natal and Western Cape provinces.”
Project management of a new store, from shop fitting and equipment to signage, are monitored by the franchise company. This ensures that the franchisee is presented with a complete turnkey operation and full operational assistance is provided throughout the opening and hand-holding process.
In take-aways alone the Pizza Del Forno group fills over 250 000 pizza boxes per month
Presently Pizza Del Forno comprises of five stores on the East Rand; two in North West Province; two in Mpumalanga, three in Pretoria, and the rest in and around Johannesburg
On franchising: “We are very particular in the selection of our franchisees,” says Sotiri. “In order to secure a Pizza Del Forno franchise it is mandatory that the franchisee is “hands-on” and works in the restaurant, and that it is his or her primary source of income – this protects the franchisee’s investment and the quality of the brand.”
“Our people are our most important asset!” From the head office through to each and every franchise, to the staff, waiters and drivers: the culture of growth, inclusion, respect and focus on quality and friendly service shines through.
“Every year we have a special gala dinner and awards evening to recognise excellence within our operation,” continues Sotiri. “This is a prestigious black-tie affair to which everyone looks forward a great deal – and the occasion is highly valued and appreciated by all members of the group.”
Franchisees come from all walks of life, amongst them are teachers, bankers, panel-beaters and even enthusiastic youngsters eager to learn.
On this note, Sotiri proudly points out that a number of his franchisees have voluntarily taken on a mentorship role – where an experienced restaurateur keenly takes a promising youngster under his wing and carefully nurtures his capabilities and growth into the Pizza Del Forno franchise fold.
Some of these youngsters have filled this challenging role extremely well and are now in their seventh year with the group.
Although this function is not formalised it is indeed recognised and given a high priority and encouragement within the group. This mentorship role within Pizza Del Forno will be the subject of closer focus and an in-depth article in a future issue of Shopping & Retail SA.
Here the talented staff of 27 manage all procurement and distribution of supplies and ingredients to the surrounding franchises using specially adapted and customised management software.
In addition, all franchisee training and ongoing retraining is conducted here.
This head office is also the creative hub for design and supply of all marketing and communications support material, including signage, menus and project management of new store location, set-up and shop-fitting.
Pizza Del Forno also has its own Group Chef as part of its operations team who is actively involved in maintaining the groups quality and standards.
For franchisees, monthly meetings are held here at which scoreboards are presented by each franchise and turnovers are openly discussed – creating an air of excitement and keen competition within the group.
Incognito and unannounced, Shopping & Retail SA visited the Pizza Del Forno restaurant at Bromhof in April for an evening meal and, quite frankly, we were blown away by every aspect of this gem.
The Bromhof Village Centre itself is really tiny, housing but a few shops and located adjacent to a filling station.
The very pleasant ambience, with gentle music in the background, with all staff neatly dressed and looking very sharp in their red shirts, and warm and comfortable décor and furnishings, certainly creates a lasting and exceptionally good first impression.
The biggest surprise was yet to come: – the extent of the menu – this was a real eye-opener. Yes, Pizza Del Forno specialises in pizza (and pizza of note it certainly is) – but what struck us is the significant flair of the menu, which includes a wide range of starters from garlic snails to carpaccio; salads, burgers and grills for those who enjoy their beef, then on to the pastas and pizzas and creative desserts – certainly one of the best menus I’ve seen – and at a very reasonable price.
Our waiter, Glen, attended to our every need; and Managers Mark and Lorenzo were on hand – circulating and managing all aspects of the restaurant during the evening trade.
Importantly, Pizza Del Forno is one of the few restaurants to stock extra light wine, much to my wife’s joy, as this is her wine of choice. Indeed the wine list is a good balance of red and white wines to suit every palate.
The Pizza Del Forno recipe for success
The Pizza Del Forno Franchising covers every facet of opening a successful business, including: • Site selection • Site development • Administration systems • Marketing • Operational support • Corporate identity • Training • Budgets and cash flow • Lease negotiations • Opening the store • Group standards • Financial applications, submission and assessment • Point of sale • Establishment costs