Zambrero 10-restaurant business

How one Zambrero franchisee built a 10-restaurant business

Sarah Stowe

Luke Grady is on the brink of hitting his goal to own 10 Zambrero restaurants, with his eighth restaurant recently opening in Melbourne’s bustling CBD at 103 Elizabeth Street and his ninth and tenth restaurants in the Melbourne suburb of Malvern and Hawthorn due to open in the coming weeks. 

Introduced to the Zambrero business through a friend, Luke was impressed with the easy operating model, low upfront investment, and the support provided from the Zambrero team.

How has Luke achieved this ambitious goal of 10 restaurants? 

“People development, empowerment and network support is key to scaling a business. We train people to do their job well, independently,” says the multi-unit franchisee who uses a ‘we’ not ‘I” approach, “everyone has a part to play,” he says. He sees the achievement not as a goal in itself but a way to provide further opportunities to team members.

Luke has not only maximised the potential of restaurant expansion, but he has also built a team of future leaders who have stepped into Zambrero business ownership for themselves.

“We have exceeded our expectations,” he says. “Originally, we planned to just stay in Canberra. Then we realised that employing key people who are trustworthy and an extension of us, we could expand further afield. That really opened things up for us, and with support from Zambrero we were able to scope out locations interstate.”

Discovering Zambrero’s fast-growing franchise

When Luke discovered the Zambrero brand he had already notched up a decade of experience as a pizza chain franchisee, a role he had taken on after starting out in pizza delivery. After taking a break with the birth of his first daughter, Luke wanted to make sure he had time to be around for his young children and didn’t want flexibility to hamper his career aspirations.

“In addition, I was looking for a business that gives me a sense of pride. With Zambrero’s healthy product and the Plate 4 Plate initiative that is so embedded in the business, you feel you are always contributing.” 

Zambrero ticked all the boxes.

Luke bought the Gunghalin restaurant in 2015 and within a year he had purchased two more. Luke then recognised the limits of expansion within the ACT. To hit his initial goal of six restaurants he had to expand interstate.

“Our operations manager relocated to Bendigo to buy our fifth restaurant. Six months later Covid hit. Adversity challenges us; we developed more remote support. It taught us to adapt and get the best out of any situation,” he says.

Luke set the next major target: a 10-restaurant footprint.

Zambrero’s robust systems and franchise support help build 10-restaurant business

While people are the lynchpin for sustainable growth, organisational capabilities and robust systems need to keep pace within the fast-moving QSR industry. 

“We look at time management to empower operations managers to take more responsibility which frees me up to spend time in restaurants.

“I want to be making burritos, serving customers, cleaning; the more time you spend in restaurants the more you hear, the better you understand how the business is performing.”

Luke acknowledges the challenges of maintaining control and standards across multiple locations interstate. He credits Zambrero for continually evolving its robust systems, product quality control and brand guardianship to support network expansion.

Luke has leveraged the Zambrero model to scale his business and strengthened the brand through a shared ownership model which elevates ambitious employees.

“We never want to feel we’ve expanded and lost control. So that comes back to people again, developing and supporting them. We do this, and in turn receive plenty of support from Zambrero; we have a great partnership with them,” he says.

The challenges come with enormous benefits and Luke is proud that by scaling to a 10-restaurant business he has created a future for others to progress into business ownership at Zambrero

“I want to enable our shareholders to enjoy the flexibility of business ownership,” he says. Luke believes the key to expansion is finding leaders who treat the business as their own. 

Building opportunities and scaling with shareholders

“As we upskill our team members and they progress in their careers with us we talk about the reality of running a restaurant more independently.”

Potential restaurant shareholders must demonstrate competency in their skill-based roles, team leadership, multi-site management and mastery of the systems to prove they can run the restaurants to the right standard.

“They also need to be an ethical fit and good with people,” says Luke. 

Every one of Luke’s now four active shareholders has progressed from within the Grady Group’s restaurants. The first, and now main, shareholder was a young restaurant manager who today runs operations across the Grady Group.

“We are teaching them how to run a restaurant and run a business. They may in time move on and take their skills elsewhere or buy a larger stake of our business.

“I wouldn’t have been able to buy into a franchise without help,” admits Luke. “It changed my life. So, from the beginning I wanted to provide that opportunity for others.”