A passion for pizza one pizzeria at a time

When Michael Terespolsky started to frequent a small pizzeria in Johannesburg, he never imagined the venture that would emerge from his love of Italian food. What started as a passion for pizza lead him to start one of South Africa’s leading Italian restaurants, Col’Cacchio Pizzeria, with franchises all over the country.

Company history

The success story of Col’Cacchio Pizzeria is one of modern day romance. The restaurant Terespolsky frequented was managed by a woman with whom he became friends. After the friendship developed, Terespolsky decided he wanted to work in the restaurant business and asked her to go to Cape Town with him and open a pizzeria together. She agreed. Little did he know that walking into that small pizzeria for the first time he would meet a friend, business partner, and now his wife, Kinga Baranowska.

Terespolsky said, “We moved to Cape Town and opened the first store in 1992. We worked like dogs and within a few months, we got romantically involved. Now she is my wife.” In 1995, Terespolsky and Baranowska opened a second restaurant and in 1996 a third, which they then sold to one of their trusted customers in 1999. The second store was sold in 2001 to another customer.

Terespolsky says, “We decided from there to start franchising. We needed to franchise this concept; it was too good not to. We started our first official franchise in 2003 in Johannesburg with Greg Mommsen whom we later took on as a partner and who heads up our Johannesburg office.”

Since 2003, the company has upped production rapidly with 17 restaurants all over South Africa. Col’Cacchio Pizzeria is often approached by big developers and property owners to open businesses in their centres, but Terespolsky says they are picky about where they choose to open restaurants as they need to ensure it has the right fit for Col’Cacchio pizzeria.

The franchising marketplace

Franchising is an important part of Col’Cacchio Pizzeria’s business and it is important to the company to make sure each franchise is up to par with its original mission of quality food and service.

Terespolsky and the team at Col’Cacchio Pizzeria takes a lot of pride in what they do and ensures that each franchise is operating up to standard. “In terms of franchisees, we won’t simply just take someone who has a lot of money and wants a restaurant and then just sticks in a manager. That’s not how we operate. It has to be an owner-operated store that has put in a substantial amount of their money,” says Terespolsky. “One of our biggest struggles is to find good operators, people who are prepared to put their back into their work.”

Terespolsky believes that there is a misconception amongst people who buy franchises that because they are buying into a proven brand and formula, they can sit back and the restaurant will automatically generate business.

He added, “It doesn’t work that way. We’ve had stores in the past that come out of the blocks like a racehorse and do really well because of the brand but then lose momentum because of lack of personal effort. You won’t make money as a business unless you run it like it is your own business, not as if you are simply an employee. It’s not an exact science but I think we’ve gotten it right for the most part.”

The business model of it is fairly simple and similar to how many restaurant franchises work in South Africa. The company has a franchise agreement that allows them full control to oversee the franchises and make sure they stick to the rules, regulations and operating procedures that they subscribe to.

“They cannot veer off that path. People buy our brand because they want what we have. You can’t get in there and decide to change things. Franchising is all about consistency and everything has to be the same. You cannot have one store that is good and another store that is bad because then the perception of the brand suffers,” says Terespolsky.

Franchises pay the franchisor a fee to handle their marketing and there is a fee that each franchisee pays when buying a franchise that includes full comprehensive training for a minimum of two months before their store opens and a further month onsite once their store has opened.

The company has a compulsive training program for chefs where they will teach them recipes and techniques. They don’t hire professional chefs in the kitchen, but rather underprivileged individuals with the opportunity to train them and become chefs. The company has recommend food suppliers for all franchises so the food stays consistent in every restaurant.

Fine Italian cuisine

Terespolsky and the team at Col’Cacchio Pizzeria pride themselves on the delicious and authentic Italian food that they serve. It is the cornerstone of their business and how they have gained a loyal following over the years.

Terespolsky says, “When we opened our first store we only served pizza, salad and a couple of desserts. We then added pasta after a couple of years. We are masters of a few items but we do them exceptionally well.”

Col’Cacchio pizzeria never skimps on quality or quantity, using fresh ingredients and in trying to be as organic as possible. Providing a menu full of healthy choices is something that is vital to them as a restaurant. “We have quite a few items on our menu that have been approved by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa,” says Terespolsky. “We are always pushing the envelope when it comes to offering healthy food that tastes good. You can be on just about any diet, whether it be low-carb or high-protein, and still eat here without impacting it.”

The menu offers a delectable array of 50 different pizzas, 20 salads, 20 pastas and seven desserts. The restaurant has started a new marketing and charity campaign in-house called the Celebrity Chef Series, where a number of famous chefs create a pizza to be showcased on the menu in a rotating monthly basis.

Famous South African chefs in the past include Michael Broughton, David Higgs, Jodi-Ann Pearton, Frank Dangereux, Nicky Gibbs and Chantel Dartnall. For every Celebrity Chef pizza sold, five rand will be given to The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

“We raised 120,000 rand for the hospital last year. This year I think it will reach over 200,000 rand. This year’s challenge being that each chef had to choose a country represented in the FIFA Soccer World Cup and make a pizza that represented the food of that country,” says Terespolsky.

The company takes pride in the classic and modern atmosphere of their restaurants and understands the value that a contemporary and relaxing ambience brings to the customer experience.

“We’re looking to create a sophisticated environment to eat in even though you’re eating simple food. We want people to leave our restaurants having had a great experience, not just a great meal,” says Terespolsky.

Col’Cacchio and the future

Terespolsky has hopes of getting up to 30 franchises by the end of 2012 and strives for expansion. However, he has focused on his home country of South Africa to date but receives constant requests to expand the brand internationally.

He says, “Right now we are focusing on our own footprint in South Africa, though we are ready to make that move internationally with the right person. We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel, but we’re always striving to be better and not a day goes by when we don’t think of ways to get better and improve.”

Col’Cacchio Pizzeria has received the success it sees today with hard work, determination and consistently delicious food. Terespolsky finds joy when someone tells him they ate the best pizza of their lives at their restaurant and the team encompasses a passion for providing delicious Italian meals to its customers. It is this day-to-day love for the job and passion for what they do that makes Col’Cacchio’s stand out amongst its pizzeria peers. With tasty, reasonably priced food, wonderful service, and consistency throughout its franchises, Col’Cacchio’s will surely meet its goal for expansion and continue to be a leader in the South African restaurant business.