A pasta business with a difference

Nathan Baws, owner of family-run business Tommy Sugo, grins as he outlines how the takeaway pasta business began. “It started out around the dinner table at the in-laws,” he reveals. “Tommy Sugo is definitely an extension of my in-law's, Sam and Mary’s, table. Their food is exquisite – ridiculously wonderful.” Nathan and his brother-in-law Joel developed the idea of creating pasta products that were healthy, but retained Sam’s traditional Italian flavours.

“My background is as a naturopath,” Nathan explains. “So, I introduced low-carb spaghettis which are 100% veggie-based and grain-free – they’re fresh and taste delicious with our sauces on top. You almost forget it’s not real pasta!”

Nathan continued his theme into different pasta styles, such as gluten-free gnocchi and pasta, as well as spelt pastas. “They’re off the Richter scale as far as flavour goes,” Nathan declares, adding that they’re not stopping there. “We’re working with a university to develop an exciting new range of pastas as well.”

The success of their current stores indicates that demand for this fresh and healthy pasta is high. Nathan puts it down to a few simple factors. “Our food is really tasty, with products as high quality as we can make them,” he says. “And our pricing is really decent too. Customers are getting a restaurant-quality meal at takeaway prices.”

Nathan also credits the combination of traditional styles with their modern, healthy twist. “We have products that are relevant to today’s demands and people’s different dietary requirements,” he explains. “Customers these days are very aware when it comes to the quality of ingredients, so can differentiate between decent, well-cared-for products and the cheap and questionably ‘cheerful’ items many fast food establishments serve up. I believe this is a significant factor for getting repeat business.”

It wasn’t just an affinity for Sam and Mary’s food that helped launch Tommy Sugo. “I also have a passion for business,” Nathan explains. “The goal was to create a business that was infinitely scalable, with healthy pasta that tastes amazing. Since Sam and Mary prepare almost 100% of our product, Tommy Sugo is like eating at his place every night!”

Nathan's ambition is to continue opening new stores, eventually franchising the business. With two stores open and another on the way, they’re continuing to expand with what Nathan calls, “blind optimism – the goal is 100 stores in 5 years!”

So what advice would Nathan pass on to anyone thinking of starting, or franchising, a restaurant/takeaway business?

  • Track everything – “document your in-house expertise,” he advises. “The simpler you can make it, the easier life will be. Have everything written down, step-by-step, so even if you don’t franchise the business, it will make you way more efficient and effective.”
  • Get help – “use people with experience to fast-track your progress. Don’t try and do it all on your own, as franchise experts can help with short cuts and prevent mistakes.”
  • Have a passion for your business – “motivation and love for your business will give you a great start. A fantastic team is essential. Take calculated risks based on educated knowledge. Move out of your comfort level or you’ll never move forward.”
  • Build something unique – “find something that only you can do. We have Sam and Mary’s recipes, which are unique to us.”

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