Alajmo, “cuisine” worth 12 million
In the world of fine dining, there is an empire that has established itself by focusing on bringing together food and finance. This empire belongs to the Alajmo family, which is considered an institution in Italy and represents gastronomic excellence around the world.
The three-starred restaurant group has a variety of properties. The Le Calandre restaurant, the Il Calandrino bistro, and the gourmet food shop In.Gredienti are located in Sarmeola di Rubano (near Padua). Then there are the La Montecchia restaurant and the ABC Montecchia bistro in Selvazzano (also near Padua) as well as the Quadri restaurant, ABC Quadri bistro, Gran Caffè Quadri and the very recent Amo in Venice. The group also has the Caffè Stern in Paris.
There are ten properties with a total of about 200 employees, with sales of 12 million euros in 2016 in Italy and 1.5 million euros in Paris (with the 2017 balance sheet expected to see growth of 10%). Since 2010, the Alajmo company has been involved with the Venice private equity fund controlled by Palladio Finanziaria, which has a 25% stake in the company. “Business grew significantly after this operation took place,” explains Raffaele Alajmo, CEO of the family-run business, to MAG. His brother Massimiliano is in charge of the kitchens.
“When Palladio Finanziaria came in, we were invoicing 4.8 million. Today, we are at 12 million. With the fund and an influx of capital, we acquired Quadri in Venice, followed by the opening of the French company with a French partner who has a 25% stake. And we recently inaugurated Amo in Venice.”
The relationship between food and finance therefore led to tangible results. “The influx of capital is positive in many ways because it helps develop the company’s corporate culture and entrepreneurial spirit, with a different perspective from that of the restaurant business,” says Alajmo. “You need to be careful though. Palladio is not an aggressive or speculative fund, but there are many funds that want to get out as soon as possible and leave with a mark-up. That can be dangerous, if not deadly, for a company.”
The world of food, especially in terms of fine dining, can’t offer immediate results. It takes a certain amount of time to see results. “If you look at a company only in terms of revenues or EBITDA, that’s an incredibly limited, sequential and industrial perspective,” says Alajmo.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BRAND
For a company that has a brand, often that and the reputation (intangible goods) are more important than the financial results, but this is lost on most of those who work in finance. “A fund that sees the big picture, however, knows the value of the brand can have a long-term impact on increasing the value of a company,” says Alajmo. “And we believe this is the case with Palladio.”
The restaurant business makes up about 70% of the company’s affairs (Le Calandre alone invoices almost 2 million). Over the years, three main businesses have been developed with the Alajmo name, including publishing, design, catering for events and the sale of food products.
“This diversification is in our DNA,” and has allowed the company to increase its visibility. Its partners also include the Gruppo Ligabue with more than a 2% stake. The company gets its legal assistance from the lawyer Dante De Benedetti from the Mdba law firm in Milan.
FROM SMALL TOWNS TO THE CITY
The business strategy is different for restaurants in cities as opposed to those in small towns.
“It is more complicated in small towns because you need to try to make the restaurant a destination spot, which is more important than the place where it is located. This is due to the fact that one has to travel to get there,” says Alajmo.
However, in the city, the restaurant is “located in a destination so people who travel to Venice or Paris seek out the food options that interest them most in the city.”
In terms of the business, Raffaele, who, along with his brother Massimiliano, teachers Master’s level courses in Italian cuisine, recommends that aspiring restaurateurs “frequent many different restaurants. Put yourself in the client’s shoes, study, look at the numbers and open your mind.”
Finally, another new project that Alajmo has in the works (in addition to the “Tavoli trasparenti nell’ambito” charity initiative with the Il Gusto per la Ricerca non-profit organization) is to go international yet again with a new opening abroad. “We are constantly getting requests, but there has to be something that truly piques our interest so we wait for the right opportunities.”
Where? “I’d better not say…for superstitious reasons.”