When Roz Mommsen and her husband Greg opened their Bryanston-based Col’Cacchio pizzeria in 2003, they weren’t only the first Col’Cacchio pizzeria in Joburg, but the very first franchise to open after the original restaurant in Cape Town.
In our franchise interview we find out that for the next few years the couple would spend 18 hours a day making their store work, while assisting Mike and Kinga Terespolsky, the founders of the brand, set up a franchising system. Roz and Greg would go on to have two children, Greg would eventually join head office, and the store would relocate to the Nicolway centre, but to this day Roz still calls the Bryanston store her first baby.
Roz was studying psychology and Greg had an IT business when they decided to open a Col’Cacchio pizzeria in Joburg. As friends of Mike and Kinga they were familiar with the brand, and the idea of opening a restaurant appealed to both of them.
“Although we had limited hospitality experience — Greg as a barman and me as a waitress — we really wanted to enter this industry,” says Roz. The couple borrowed money from friends and family, secured a location in Bryanston, and started building a restaurant.
One of the core tenements of the Col’Cacchio pizzeria brand is that stores are owner-managed. Roz herself has three managers, and is bringing another operating partner into the business, and at all times there is an operating partner on the shop floor, as well as a manager.
On very busy nights four managers could be on duty. The focus is customer service, and in order for customers to enjoy a comfortable ambiance in addition to an excellent meal, everything needs to run like clockwork. Owners will always be more invested in the business than managers, and so this has become a vital ingredient to Col’Cacchio pizzeria’s success.
While Roz still runs her store, she is also involved in head office duties, including training and system design. This means a few hours each day are spent at an off-site office where she concentrates on head office work.
The couple soon realised how tough it was getting a restaurant off the ground. “Our food was great, but our service was not,” Roz admits. “We had also chosen a site that had a beautiful view of Bryanston, but it was a destination centre only. There was no foot traffic to other stores, and no one knew about us.”
In fact, the location was one of the reasons that Roz and Greg could not secure bank funding and needed to turn to friends instead. “Borrowing from friends and family meant that we could not fail though,” she says. “We had to make the business work, and so we poured everything we had into it, including 18-hour days and a determination to get things right.” Slowly, things started looking up, and today Roz’ store is one of the main training centres for new franchisees.
At the core of the Col’Cacchio pizzeria structure is team work. This works at both an in-store and group level. “As a team we check and double check stock and sections,” says Roz. “This isn’t a policing structure, but a way to make sure the store is ready for business, which makes everyone’s lives easier as the day progresses, and avoids problems and shortages from the outset.”
Franchisees are trained with all their staff for two months in a training store prior to them opening their own store, and once open they are further assisted by a head office team for their first month, ensuring they get a good start. Thereafter, field consultants conduct planned and unplanned site inspections.
“The field consultants are also there to assist though”, says Roz. “If it’s busy they will often roll up their sleeves and get involved. Yes, they are there to keep franchisees on their toes and ensure certain standards are adhered to, but they’re also a valuable resource for franchisees.”
Opening and Closing
The real behind-the-scenes work happens before and after the store closes. Each day Roz and her managers and section supervisors check stock, order what might be running low, and prepare the fresh food items. “We pride ourselves on freshness, and so these items must be prepared daily,” confirms Roz, adding that it’s equally important to not run short of anything during the day.
Closing time requires all bar and kitchen items to be counted again, a checklist for the next day is created, the store is cleaned and waitrons and tills are cashed up. “We also put a lot of emphasis on accurately capturing stock information. We have a great system, but it needs to be utilised correctly.”