Opened two restaurants and established a new sales channel during the corona crisis

Scaling a successful restaurant concept into a chain is a demanding feat. All the more so when a "black swan" like the coronavirus hits your industry. When Villa Paradiso needed an interim CEO to restructure the company, the choice fell on Christine Schie. Neither party has regretted it.

The flame is lit in Naples

The story of Villa Paradiso began in 2003 when wooden boat builder and amateur chef Jan Vardøen and furniture carpenter Trond Haug travelled to Naples to find holiday homes they could restore.

What met them every late night when they drove into a new Italian village to eat and sleep were the cosy family restaurants that served delicious Neapolitan pizza baked in a wood-fired oven with an opening on top.

There the flame was lit, and with them in the luggage home to Norway, they had a business idea that would take Norwegian palates and hearts by storm.

From popular neighbourhood restaurant to pizza chain

In 2017, the investment company Credo Partners bought 60 per cent of the company with the goal of scaling the restaurant concept. At that time, they had two restaurants and an import company, which by 2020 grew to six restaurants.

Then came Covid-19. Credo Partners' managing partner, Gudmund Killi, says:

– When the lockdown hit us, we had an urgent need to make changes quickly. We had a group superstructure that was too distant from the underlying operations and needed more nimble management with greater implementation capacity. In addition, we had to be ready to quickly upsize or downsize as the restrictions came and went while continuing the work of professionalizing the company.

As a long-standing customer of Interimleder AS, Killi knew where to find the right person for the assignment:

– When we invest in "unpolished gems", we always need to make changes on the management side. In those scenarios, we often use Interimleder AS. They understand our need and are extremely quick at providing great candidates, Killi says.

Partnering with the home delivery service Oda (Kolonial.no)

The choice fell on Christine Schie, who started as interim CEO in late June 2020. She had extensive leadership experience in tech and IT, but also retail and grocery.

– When I got the phone call if I was interested in the assignment, I was immediately triggered. I already had a strong relationship with Villa Paradiso and felt I could identify with the culture and their values, which are genuine, passionate and familiar, says Schie.

Then followed an intensive period where the focus was on securing cash flow, controlling costs, recruiting a new management team and professionalizing the company. Despite Covid-19, Villa Paradiso has over the past year opened two restaurants and established an entirely new sales channel through Oda, formerly known as Kolonial.no:

– In November 2020, when we were standing in a demanding split, I recommended to the board to become a partner with the home delivery service Oda, which was looking for a pizza supplier. We did not really have time, but it was "now or never", and we took action. After a few weeks, we passed the market giant Grandiosa in sales volume and became the largest in the pizza segment with a repurchase rate that is now 1.7.

Gudmund Killi in Credo Partners says that they are pleased to have found Christine:

– Christine has guided us safely through history's most demanding year for the dining industry. She put optimism, self-confidence and unity back into the company, meanwhile carrying out major and tough changes. All with a clear love for Villa Paradiso.

Christine Schie is scheduled to end her assignment in August. She will then hand over the batons to two experienced managers who will take over responsibility for the restaurant chain and the import business.

About Villa Paradiso:

  • Norwegian restaurant chain that specializes in Neapolitan pizza
  • Wholesaler of Italian food ingredients to restaurants
  • Seven restaurants in Oslo, Bergen and Fredrikstad
  • Founded by Jan Vardøen and Trond Haug in 2004 (they own 20 per cent each)
  • Credo Partners obtained 60 per cent ownership in 2017

Situation and challenge:

  • The company was in a transition phase from the entrepreneurial stage to a scalable organization. Still, the distance from the group management to the restaurant floor was too great, and the implementation ability too poor.
  • When the Covid-19 situation hit the company and the industry, the need for change became acute.
  • They needed an experienced manager quickly to restructure the management team, manage costs and liquidity, and use the downtime to standardize processes and routines (i.e. fix the basics).

Solution and results:

  • Credo Partners contacted Interimleder AS and quickly got hold of an experienced interim manager with a relevant background, who also shared the company's values.
  • Established a more cost-effective structure for the organization and management
  • Entered into a strategic collaboration with Oda (formerly Kolonial.no), established a new production line and after two weeks became the largest vendor in the pizza segment in this sales channel.
  • Opened two new restaurants, in Bergen and at Munch Brygge in Oslo.
  • Retained skilled employees and maintained the corporate culture.
  • Kept open during most of the pandemic and strengthened the brand and customer loyalty.
  • Developed an operations manual to ensure great guest experiences and standardization of processes and routines in the restaurants.

 

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