Just the right size space became available in the right location, and at just the right time a slot on a franchise-support programme became available that gave him access to finance for his new venture.
“Everything just fell into place,” says 39-year-old Anthony about his experience of opening up his restaurant eighteen months ago.
Upon closer inspection, however, Anthony’s story seems to prove the truism that entrepreneurs make their own luck. Or, to put it differently, through sheer doggedness and determination, Anthony stuck it out until the right opportunity came along.
He grew up in Northcliff, studied science for a few months after school, but gave it up for a stint of youthful travel. It took him to the US where, among other things, he started right at the bottom of the restaurant industry - as a washer of dishes.
Upon his return after a couple of years he found work in a restaurant in Johannesburg and six month later was promoted to management. It was a wildly successful bar and restaurant that for a number of years was the place to be seen at in Johannesburg.
Anthony remembers that the venue became so full and bustling that the staff communicated via radio earpieces similar to those used by security agencies. It was the perfect place for a young restaurateur to cut his teeth.
After a few years of this Anthony thought he was ready for his own business, and started a nightclub. Although successful, he found that he did not enjoy the nightclub scene as much as the restaurant trade, and soon sold the business.
Anthony was wondering what to do next when his eye caught a new restaurant called Col’Cacchio. On a whim, he walked in and asked if they needed a manager. They did, and he happened to be talking to one of the founders of the Col’Cacchio franchise group, which today has 30 branches nationwide.
That was the start of a career-long association with the Col’Cacchio group, at first as a manager in the Bryanston branch where he gained an intimate knowledge of the franchise’s operations.
After two years, he started his own Col’Cacchio outlet in Fairland, not far from his current restaurant. It was a move that would test every facet of his entrepreneurial abilities, especially his tenacity.
He was fortunate to get low-interest finance from a development fund aimed at job creation, but he was less lucky with the location of the new restaurant. As it turned out, the centre was badly run, crime was high in the area, which had the wrong demographic for a Col’Cacchio restaurant.
Yet despite the conditions, Anthony kept the restaurant going for no less than ten arduous years.
By the time his second five-year franchise term ran out, the centre had an 80% vacancy rate and even the anchor tenant had fled. Anthony threw in the towel.
A lesser entrepreneur might have walked away and never looked at a restaurant again, let alone a Col’Cacchio, but in the course of the next few months Anthony’s luck turned.
He was taking a break after the closure of his restaurant when word came through of the just the right spot and size in the L’Corro centre.
His next hurdle was finding finance. His struggle with the Fairland outlet had left him without much of his own resources, and he would have to find a generous financier.
Fortunately, Col’Cacchio happened to be part of a special incubation programme run by the SA Franchising Warehouse and Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS). Not only do the participants receive management training, ongoing support and access to top financial analysis and advice, but qualify for a BUSINESS/PARTNERS loan once they’ve successfully completed the induction programme.
The programme was over-subscribed, but at the last moment Anthony was able to join when another candidate withdrew.
Anthony dismisses the idea that he might have been too experienced for a basic franchising course. Business is so complex that it requires continuous learning, he says. Besides, the most useful aspect of the programme is what he calls the accountability process. He makes use of the programme’s accountants and every month they help him with the reporting and analysis of detailed health indicators of his business.
By starting up second franchise, Anthony found that he certainly did not lose everything with the failure of his first. He was able to bring over his “fantastic staff” from the old restaurant, and today employs a team of 32. Quite a few of his previous outlet’s clientele also followed him to Northcliff.
Eighteen months in, Anthony’s sales are some 80% higher that he has ever done at the old branch, and he is ready to make a lot more luck for himself.