WITH a robust network of eight well established brands, Retail Food Group (ASX:RFG) has grown to be one of the city's largest listed companies, making more than 10 million pizzas annually and roasting more than 1.42 million kilograms of coffee each year.

With more than 1400 outlets across the Donut King, bb's cafe, Brumby's, Michel's Patisserie, Esquires Coffee, Pizza Capers, Crust Gourmet Pizza and The Coffee Guy networks, RFG is also forging ahead as one of the largest retail food franchisors in Australasia.

Gary Alford, the director of franchise and brother of RFG's CEO Tony Alford, has been with the company for more than 15 years. He talks to Gold Coast Business News about the growth of RFG from a small operation to an ASX 200 listed company.

Alford, who was instrumental in the successful integration into RFG of the Michel's Patisserie brand system together with the growth, integration and consolidation of the company's wholesale coffee operations, also discusses how recent acquisitions have fluctuated the share price.  Read Q&A below.

What are three key leadership strengths you bring to Retail Food Group?

Being decisive, motivated and passionate about all I do.

What have been some of the biggest challenges RFG and yourself have faced over the past five years and how did you overcome these?

One of the greatest challenges over the past five years for RFG has been to remain in control of our daily business operations throughout a period of rapid growth and tough economic conditions. To successfully overcome these challenges we've learned to adapt by continually challenging what we do and how we do it to maximise the opportunities available to us.

What do you do in your spare time and how do you manage a successful career with family/personal life?

I love sport, particularly the gym and golf. I would love to say 'watching Richmond win' but I am forgetting what that is like. Of course, I devote most of my spare time to my family - family is what makes the hard work of business worthwhile. 

What have been some of the biggest highlights of your career with RFG?

The RFG journey itself has been the highlight of my career. To have been part of the team who have taken the business from where it was, a small and only moderately successful business to where we sit today, an ASX 200 listed, multi brand, and vertically integrated enterprise with a growing international presence has been an incredible experience. Also, to have shared the journey with some of the best people you will ever meet is extremely gratifying.    

Do you have a leadership mantra?

Respect the people and the process and the outcomes will be respected.

RFG has completed a number of acquisitions recently, will the company remain on the Gold Coast and do you hope to forge ahead as the city's largest business?

At this point in time we have no desire or need to move away from the Gold Coast. We firmly believe the city provides the ideal work-life balance for our team members and provides a great base to do business globally. In respect to becoming the city's largest business we are simply focussed on being the best we can be for all of our stakeholders.

What makes the Gold Coast a great place to do business?

The Gold Coast has grown up over the years. It has migrated from a heavily tourism focused city to developing a real business sense and culture. From the success of the start-ups, entrepreneurs and big businesses basing themselves here, it's clear the Gold Coast is a great place to work.

How is RFG currently trading and how have recent acquisitions fluctuated the share price?

RFG continues to exceed its targets and has done for the last decade. The impact of recent acquisitions including Café2U, Gloria Jean's Coffees Group and Di Bella Coffee have accelerated our growth internally and into the specialty coffee market. Investors have done well and analysts are largely positive and supportive. We are very proud of our team's achievements.

What challenges and opportunities do you foresee in the future for Retail Food Group?

As a business we need to recognise that we will constantly need to evolve, so we are implementing a range of business processes to ensure we are capitalising on the opportunities and are able to act and adapt quickly to change.

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