Salt Meats Cheese is an Italian restaurant group co-founded by Italian cousins Stefano Di Blasi and Edoardo Perla, with 10 locations across South East Queensland and New South Wales. They were one of 10 companies selected to join Creative Enterprise Australia’s (CEA) Global Markets and Investor Readiness Program in 2019.
Sitting in the elegant 130-seater restaurant inside the Mantra Hotel on Grey Street, South Brisbane, co-founder Stefano Di Blasi reflects on the inevitability of his journey from San Remo, a small town in the Liguria region of Italy, to running a restaurant group: “All Italians love their food — and my family own a produce distribution company — how could I have done anything else?!”
Stefano and Edoardo studied Business and Languages at University and were given the option to complete their final degree of study in either America or Australia — clearly, they chose the latter: “It was the furthest I could get from my Italian mother — you know what they’re like!” Stefano quips, as he leans back in one of the sage green leather and light oak lined dining booths in the new restaurant.
After four years in Australia and their degrees complete, Stefano and Edoardo opened their first Salt Meats Cheese in partnership with Ramzey Choker, owner of the Grounds of Alexandria in 2012. Serving simple and delightful meals from thoughtfully sourced produce, accompanied by beautiful architecture and furnishings; Salt Meats Cheese has become well-known for its ambience and experience. So well in fact, that a renowned international hotel group soon came calling, providing the catalyst for the cousins’ next phase of growth: “They want us to transform the restaurant space in 100 of their locations across the World, so you’ll hopefully be seeing more locations like this one opening soon.”
CEA’s Global Markets and Investor Readiness Program played a key role in the development of this growth strategy: “The level of the mentors and facilitators was outstanding. I personally gained a lot of information and priceless contacts for my business, which I would have never met otherwise in my career” he enthused, “I would do it again next year if I had the chance!”
Stefano explained that he also gained invaluable connections with the other participants and learned just as much from their past successes and failures. He also underlined the importance of meeting potential investors.
As Stefano talks us through his new menu, which remains focussed on the rustic, Italian-style dishes the brand has become known for, we asked him what the future holds: “I’m fascinated by the sharing economy” he mused, “Lime Scooters has done really well here in Brisbane since they launched last year, but getting around the city quickly and cheaply isn’t the only area that has been influenced by the sharing economy. I’m cooking up an idea to help relieve people’s anxiety over running out of power on their devices.”
If it’s as good as Salt Meats Cheese’s crab tagliolini, with blue swimmer crab, zucchini and chilli, we can’t wait to find out more!
CEA’s Global Markets and Investor Readiness Program is a six-day intensive experience for the leadership teams of scaling food and drink businesses in South East Queensland. Similarly, CEA’s Market Entry Accelerator Program is a seven week intensive experience for FMCG businesses seeking connections and advice to enter the UK market — including an exclusive opportunity to pitch to Sainsbury’s. Both scaleup programs are designed to challenge a business’ readiness to pursue a next funding round/position for an exit, successfully approach buyers/strategic partners and investigate the commercial potential of international markets.
Applications are currently open for FMCG businesses that wish to join the 2020 cohort of CEA’s Market Entry Accelerator. Head over to find out more https://www.market-entry.com.