National takeaway pizza chain Pizza Capers co-founder Anthony Russo has joined Brisbane’s Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers as a ‘hands-on investor’ and will assist in scaling the Italian food business beyond its existing five locations.
Although the details of Russo’s investment in Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers have not been disclosed, the new backer will assist the company with its ‘grand plans’ to roll out 15 new stores within the next three years.
Founded in 2015 by passionate gnocchi makers Ben Cleary-Corradini and Theo Roduner, Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers has become a beloved restaurant in its home state of Queensland where it already has four outlets across Brisbane and the Gold Coast, as well as in Newtown, Sydney, since entering the NSW market in 2021.
The co-founders will look to the new investor’s expertise in growing a nationally-recognised brand, with Russo having famously grown Pizza Capers from just one pizzeria in Kenmore, Brisbane, in 1996 to 120 outlets. Russo, who co-founded Pizza Capers with Scott Geiszler, eventually sold the company for $30 million to Retail Food Group (ASX: RFG) in 2012.
Speaking to Business News Australia, Cleary-Corradini says he is excited about the Pizza Capers co-founder joining Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers, having struck up a relationship with the businessman in 2018 after which he became a mentor to the two co-founders who were named two of Brisbane’s ‘most influential’ Young Entrepreneurs in 2017 by this publication.
“We’re super excited and humbled that someone who is as experienced as Anthony has come in and believes in what we’re trying to achieve,” Cleary-Corradini says, noting that since COVID-19 restrictions have eased the business is looking to ‘finally rise up again’.
“It’s quite an exciting time. My business partner, Theo Roduner, and I up until now have focused on the product and on the customer.”
Russo, who was 'Highly Commended’ in the 2010 Brisbane Young Entrepreneur Awards alongside Geiszler, says he has been monitoring Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers’ success from the sidelines as a mentor, but is excited to help propel the company to new heights in his new role within the business.
“I’ve seen the business grow and just seeing the customers’ delight in lining up at the markets to get the product reassured me that the product is on point and the brand is on point,” Russo tells Business News Australia.
“I have to admit, the hard work has been done - those beginning first four or five years are the hard years of the grunt work to get the brand acknowledged. It’s all been done.
“So now the brand is ready for smoothing up all the edges and rolling them out.”
Both Russo and Cleary-Corradini are keen to scale the business up in Queensland before pursuing further into interstate markets, with the Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers co-founder looking to Toowoomba as the next territory on the company’s radar.
“We want to expand our brand and our reach here in southeast Queensland first before we start to build up the Sydney territory next year,” Cleary-Corradini says.
“We’re really looking at Toowoomba as the next territory in the near future, and we’d love to open there in winter this year. It’s a fantastic country town with great demographics, great density and it already has a great taste for quality food.
“We see that there’s a real opportunity there and we’re looking to open there within the next few months.”
When asked where Cleary-Corradini sees Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers in five years’ time, the co-founder says he hopes to be in at least 20 locations or more, with an ultimate milestone of 100 stores not just in Australia but overseas as well.
However, the new investor is more bullish on the company’s short-term prospects.
“I can’t think of any reason why there wouldn’t be 40 to 60 stores [in five years’ time],” he says.
“That’s my job, to progress them through the growth stages to larger store openings.”
Noting he’s ‘always been quite conservative’, Cleary-Corradini stresses that he previously wanted to take expansion slowly to get it right ‘from a quality perspective’, but he has been emboldened by Russo’s experience.
“It’s good to have Anthony here who’s grown a group to 120-plus stores to give us that confidence and also the know-how and valuable experience to get there,” he says.
“For us that’s invaluable.”
Get our daily business news
Sign up to our free email news updates.
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support