'Highly Recommended'

Aiming to open a further three Puccino's outlets, new recruit Gerrard O'Gorman tells Rachel Spaul why he recommends a Puccino's franchise

From Buyer/Planner to Puccino's franchisee has been a relatively easy transition for Gerrard O'Gorman, who has no previous business or catering experience. He joined Puccino's in May and hasn't looked back since.

As a people person, O'Gorman was looking for the opportunity to be his own boss in a customer-facing role. Having disregarded retail, he finally settled on catering and Puccino's fitted the bill. 'I like the product and the people behind the business,' he reasons. 'I particularly like the personal touch that Alastair Spink, the Master Franchisee, brings to Puccino's and it was his personality and service ethic that really attracted me to the business.'

Puccino's quirky image and philosophy - 'Service is our Pleasure' - has differentiated the brand from competitors and assisted the development of more than 100 outlets in Italy, the UK and Ireland. Spink, who is spearheading the expansion of Puccino's in Ireland, sums up the brand's appeal: 'When I was looking for a coffee bar franchise, I wanted a place that I would be proud to own, enjoy working in, and happy to invite my friends to. It's a brilliant business model; a really nice place and friendly staff means customers keep coming back and bring their friends.'

Since O'Gorman opened his café in Newbridge, County Kildare, he has welcomed a steady flow of customers and already has a loyal following. 'Choosing the right location is critical to the success of this business because it is so dependent on passing trade,' he cautions. His 430 sq ft café in the brand new Whitewater Shopping Centre benefits from the centre's own marketing programme and the communal food court seating area.

'The first few days were hard work but I enjoyed every moment of it,' remarks O'Gorman, who is supported in the business by his sister Leonie. Both enjoyed a period of intense training, which gave them the confidence and know-how to launch the business.

'There really is nothing like the real thing, but when we opened the business we felt confident,' O'Gorman adds. 'Members of the Puccino's team spent the first two weeks with us which made a huge difference.'

O'Gorman shares Puccino's philosophy that the success of the business is 50 per cent reliant on the product and 50 per cent reliant on customer service. 'You have to bend over backwards for customers and that is how I like to run my business,' he clarifies. 'Although the money side of the business is important, that comes automatically if you treat your customers well. It's really rewarding to receive compliments from customers and also to see staff grow in confidence.'

To appeal to customers wanting something that little bit different, Puccino's aims to create a particular ambience in all its locations. Spink explains: 'This is achieved through layout, décor, lighting, furnishings and music - all designed to create that special Puccino's effect - while humour also plays a central part in differentiating Puccino's from the rather sterile environments common in today's coffee bars. All Puccino's outlets serve Segafredo Zanetti coffee, fresh juices and cold drinks, imaginative and interesting continental menus delivered to the customer with a massive smile.'

Such attention to customer service certainly appears to be paying off for O'Gorman. Even in its worst week, his business exceeded expectations, and he anticipates turning over between €450,000 and €500,000 in his first year. With plans for his second outlet well under way, he is one step closer to achieving his target of four outlets.

More opportunities exist throughout Ireland for ambitious and enthusiastic individuals like O'Gorman to become Puccino's franchisees. 'Quite simply,' Spink outlines, 'we are looking for owner operators who have personality, a passion for what they do, are not afraid of hard work and have realistic expectations. Thanks to a decade of experience you will have the security of knowing the concept is tried and tested throughout the UK and fine-tuned in Ireland to suit Irish tastes. In addition, you will have the support of a team dedicated to helping prior to opening, during opening and ongoing as your business grows.'

O'Gorman adds: 'There may be more established franchised café concepts in Ireland that will get you up and running quicker but for me Puccino's was worth the wait. They haven't saturated the market like so many fashion and food brands, so customers are finding something new at Puccino's. I'd highly recommend it.'

Three Investment Levels
Espresso Bars: Primarily station locations ranging from smaller suburban stations to large central London locations. The product offer is fresh coffees, pastries baked on the premises, fresh orange juice and other hot and cold drinks. The units can be either kiosks or fixed sites that allow seating. Appr. €70,000 upwards.

Deli Bars: Unit sizes vary from very small 20 seaters to 50 seater cafés serving fresh pastries and sandwiches prepared fresh on the premises daily. Appr. €120,000 upwards.

Café Bars: This is a fully licensed restaurant and coffee bar with a continental feel. We offer speciality coffees for those who just want a coffee and a full breakfast all day. The menu is very diverse including tapas and alcohol. The relaxed atmosphere includes sofas and soft lighting. Appr. €170,000 upwards.