Coming up with the right business model for a restaurant must be one of the hardest things. We can all think of places where, for one reason or another, the owners have got so much of it wrong. Yes, the food scene in London is unrecognisable from twenty years ago, but there are still many very mediocre restaurants as well as some truly awful ones.
London is, of course, awash with pizza restaurants, and many of them pretty good, I’m happy to say. For example, I’m a big fan of Ask, whose branches never disappoint either in the quality of food or the service. Some people can be sniffy about chains. I have no such qualms, provided they are good.
At the weekend, I visited Franco Manca in Lordship Lane, East Dulwich. Franco Manca started out in Brixton in 2008 when Giuseppe Mascoli, who came to London in 1989 as an assistant lecturer at the London School of Economics, started offering sour dough pizzas. Unlike now, they were a bit of a novelty back then.
The pizzas are cooked for 40 seconds in a wood-burning oven at 500 degrees. They are prepared by pizzaiolos using the traditional method that Mascoli learned at his family home in Naples.
His Brixton restaurant turned out to be a roaring success, and Giuseppe went on to open other branches across London. In 2015 he sold the business to Fulham Shore, which has opened restaurants across the UK.
One of the things that makes Franca Manco different from many restaurants is its menu. It only has six pizzas on offer. There’s no pasta or anything else, other than a choice between two salads. I’ve always been a great believer in short menus. With just a few items to choose from, there’s a good chance that the food will be very good. And Franca Manca’s pizzas are delicious.
And the prices at Franco Manca take some beating: tomato, garlic and oregano (£4.95), tomato, mozzarella, and basil (£6.40) and, the most expensive, tomato, cured organic chorizo and mozzarella (£7.55).
With their short menu, low prices, delicious pizzas, and, just as importantly, good service, Franco Manca has created a winning business model. I can think of a few places that could learn a thing or two from it.