The offering at Zeus Street Greek is much more complicated than that of the franchise Peter Augoustis co-founded some 15 years ago. But it’s a labour of love and one that responds to diner demands. By Danielle Bowling.
Peter Augoustis knows a thing or two about growing successful fast casual food concepts. He’s one of the founders of Crust Pizza, which launched in 2001 and was sold to the Retail Food Group in 2012, garnering $24 million for 119 outlets.
In 2014 Augoustis’ focus shifted closer to home. Together with fellow Crust founder Costa Anastasiadis and the Pony Dining Group, he created Zeus Street Greek, which now boasts six outlets: four in Sydney, one in Newcastle and another in Brisbane.
A whole new ball game
Named after the Greek god for hospitality, Zeus offers Greek street food in a casual, welcoming environment. Menu items include pitas, slow cooked lamb, pork or chicken from the souvla, salads, a range of dips and side dishes as well as desserts like the much loved salted caramel loukoumades.
The menu is much more time consuming and laborious than that of Crust, but Augoustis and his team were well aware of this before they opened the first Zeus store in Sydney’s Drummoyne.
“We came from a scenario where you made a product, you ran it through this fancy conveyor belt oven, and voila – there’s $20. Today, we do slow cooked lamb shoulder on the chargrill, we have various starters and all of these other menu items that we want to give to our customer base. It’s a whole different dynamic,” he told Hospitality.
“We’ve done that because [at the time of Zeus’ inception] we were noticing what mums like to eat, what dads like, what families like, and we decided to try to meet up with where the market was going. So Zeus is about working with proteins, clean salads, an easy to order offering, interesting flavour combinations, and using good quality food. Those are the boxes that we’re ticking, and then obviously bringing out the life of our Greek background and the story of Zeus.”
One of the biggest challenges of launching the new concept has been educating the market on exactly what Zeus is offering, Augoustis said.
“The name ‘Crust’ and pizza – people could put two and two together. But now I’ve got this story about Zeus. Where does Greek street food sit in the marketplace? These are unchartered water. Who is Zeus? What do we do? How can we explain that to our customers with just a logo? That was a big learning experience …We’ve spent so much time, effort and money in creating a beautiful experience, but sometimes you find that – especially with new customers – they’re asking what it is.”
The public’s understanding of the Greek street food concept will improve as more Zeus outlets open around the country, Augoustis said.
The brand is looking at further expansion interstate, and is preparing to launch a new express model at Sydney’s Pitt St Mall and also in Broadway.
“It’s more of a fast paced Zeus, that’s operator friendly and caters to that fast, in-and-out lunch market that we feel people need from Zeus,” Augoustis said.
“We’re only working with a few square metres, so our brains are ticking over now. How are we going to lay out our menu? How will we meet customer demand? But it’s so exciting to be able to offer a Zeus pita, something that’s just quick to bundle, while also having a lower carb offering in that 10 minute, $15 lunch market.”
Similar to the way in which Crust was operated, Augoustis predicts that Zeus will be predominantly a franchised system in the next 12 to 18 months. There are already two franchisees running stores in Sydney, and another two going through the induction process.
“They are our business partners, and part of the Zeus family. We have people that live and breathe their store, which is important to us. Being a remote operator, it’s hard for us (the founders) to put the layers of who we are throughout the stores. That’s why we’re quite strong on having franchisees. From our experience, watching these operators be part of the store, part of the local community, fulfilling what Zeus stands for and having a face to the store is very important. I’m strong on believing that a franchisee can offer that.”
At a glance
- Business name: Zeus Street Greek
- When was the business established? June 2014
- Number of locations? Six: four in Sydney, one in Newcastle and one in Brisbane
- Number of staff members? 180 – approximately 25 – 30 staff per store and 10 in head office
- Most valuable asset in the business? Our extended Zeus family – staff, customers, suppliers and community
- Plans for 2016? An additional six stores – a mix of high street locations and express concept stores