John, CEO of the Pizza Boys group of 65 food stores.
Pizza. Chicken. Chinese. Coffee. Cheesecake. Throw into that
mix, Captain Ds Seafood. Thats the latest addition
to the Pizza Boys group of companies of 65 restaurants.
The American fast-casual seafood restaurant will open at Pointe-a-Pierre
on January 9, 2006. The Pizza Boys group has options for 17
Captain Ds restaurants in T&T.
Pizza Boys groups CEO, Jearlean John, said it wanted
to be the first seafood franchise restaurant to open in Trinidad,
but a competitor got the better of its plans.
one who got in a little ahead of us, but we think we are better,
said John, in an interview at Pizza Boys head office
at Boundary Road, San Juan, on Tuesday.
Though not identifying the restaurant by name, John was referring
to Long John Silvers opening at Gulf City, La Romaine,
earlier this month. Long John Silver is a franchise of Prestige
Marketing manager Maria Manmohan sat in on the interview.
Sitting in one of the 22 black leather high-back chairs in
the glass-enclosed boardroom on the third floor, John said,
Were always strategising, always trying to see
what else the market needs, and that was an obvious adjunct
to what we now have.
Asked why the group has not chosen to develop local cuisine,
John said Rituals and Donut Boys are both local concepts,
and Captain Ds was chosen to add to that overall
family experience the group wants to promote.
Why choose Pointe-a-Pierre to open Captain Ds?
the north stores, you have a concentrated market, youre
locked into one or two areas, whereas in Pointe-a-Pierre,
it gives you a spread that you dont enjoy in Port-of-Spain,
John said. And our location kind of gives us a competitive
advantage because were the only restaurant in that location.
John said the time had come to refurbish Pizza Boys in Tropical
Plaza at Pointe-Pierre, but then management thought of promoting
its food mall concept where a family can have as many as eight
choices when dining out.
felt that with the whole development of the country, youre
seeing now balanced development, you want to ensure youre
a part of that, even in terms of how people socialise and
are entertained, John said.
are trying to satisfy that family experience. We dont
want to be arrogant and think they only want one thing, either
chicken or pizza.
Lets see, what do I feel like eating this evening: a
vegetarian pizza or blackened chicken salad?
She calls it multi-branding: several food stores owned by
the same company in one floor space.
They have done it in Chaguanas, Sangre Grande, Maraval, Glencoe,
Tobago, Grand Bazaar and Pt Fortin. Four more are planned
Regarding Rituals Coffee House in particular, John said, Sometimes
Trinidadians are a little too raucous and loud and Rituals
creates that ambiance, and tones it down.
The group is growing, but John said she does not believe in
spending a great deal of money on marketing. She prefers to
spend money on training, cleanliness and improving workers
salaries and benefits.
Entry-level employees at Rituals Coffee House are paid 50
per cent above minimum wage, putting them in the $15 an hour
category, while those at Vie de France earn about 20 per cent
above minimum wage, putting them in the $11 an hour category,
Explaining the disparity, John said the group wants its Rituals
customers, in particular, to be treated more like friends
and offers a more attractive renumeration package to encourage
its employees to go that extra mile.
John is wary of customers bad experiences spreading
by word-of-mouth like wild firewhich she called a very
effective communication system in T&T.
always focusing on what the customer sees, what the customer
wants to see. People must believe in what they are eating.
We must never break that contract with the customer. So, Im
always on their backs in terms of raising that bar,
Cleanliness of all the food stores accounts for about ten
per cent of the groups expenses, she said.
She led her guests to a huge training roompale gray
desks, black, high-back chairs, a writing boardbig enough
for about 60 people.
have an effective appraisal system where every three months,
we appraise 1,000 employees, said John, checking her
cellphone as it rang without missing a beat. For the rest
of the interview, she put the phone on vibrate.
are appraised on attitude, aptitude, the possibility for fast-tracking.
We have a spot-the-star programme.
John said Pizza Boys policy regarding customers is that
everyone who walks into a food store is managed. The Pizza
Boys group calls it, Did we get you at hello programme:
Hello, how can I help you? Are you being served?
John evaded all talk of figures, preferring to say only that
the group makes plenty money, that the groups flagship
is Pizza Boys, and that she prefers the chairman,
as she calls owner Mario Sabga-Aboud, be the one to say how
much the group paid for the Captain Ds franchise.
Speaking on Tuesday from the the Pointe-a-Pierre outlet, Sabga-Aboud
said hes signed a three-store agreement with Captain
Ds management: the next two stores will open at Grand
Bazaar in May and at Glencoe in June.
It costs the group about $3 million to open each store.
As far as John is concerned, the group is growing as are its
sales have been improving. It is really exciting for me to
see a sort of maturing brand, John said.
food mall opened in November 2004. We opened in Store Bay,
Tobago. That was a multi-branding, Churchs and Pizza
Boys. We opened a number of Rituals, lots of Rituals, maybe
ten, of which West Mall does the best, followed by Piarco
She declined to say how much the group spent on expansion
in 2005, citing kidnappers and the competitive business shes
are a significant company in T&T. We can always make more
money, but I must say our stores are performing well,
She said the group has managed to shave about ten per cent
off its food costs through controls, having an
audit team daily account for their stock.
on our system of check out, we can track anything to do with
food and sales. So we look at these things like a hawk. We
look at cash management. We are very involved in cash management,
Through its 24-hour, state-of-the-art monitoring system at
all its food outlets, John said Pizza Boys management
can tell which outlet has long lines, if a cashier is stealing
from the till or if a customer loses a purse. They can tell,
too, if an employee has taken a donut or a piece of chicken
and hid it in the washroom or in the garbage can.
Employees are allowed discounted meals, she said, but a manager
must use his or her swipe card and the transaction must be
done over the counter.
John did mention, though, the War Room, in which she and Sabga-Aboud
trash out their differences, sometimes very loudly, on Tuesdays.
Asked why Pizza Boys was expanding now having gone through
a similar experience in the 1980s and then being forced to
contract when the economy declined, John said, Mario
Sabga-Aboud is an entrepreneur, who, without being sacriligous,
Id say if he was born in America, would have been as
celebrated as Jack Welch (management guru). He is extraordinary.
his brother, is the financial whiz and IT person. Mario is
the visionary. He goes out there. He sees. And he builds.
We make a great team. What I do is finesse it. What I bring
is the discipline.