Hard yakka and a strong focus on best value for money has opened up a path of expansion for a Dubbo food business.
Pizza Cravings added to its offering and its employee numbers when it opened at a larger premises in April.
Owner Steve Bicket reports the business's staff has grown from 12 to 20 people at the new home of 45 Whylandra Street.
The restaurant is about 3.5 times the size of Pizza Cravings' old outlet up the road, he said.
The one-time truck roadhouse has been transformed to create what he calls a "family restaurant atmosphere" with space for customers to "come and sit down and chill out".
Under the same roof Mr Bicket and wife Donna have incorporated a cafe and a dedicated place for OMG! Decadent Donuts, for which they are a licensee.
The project required spending, but Mr Bicket's approach was also to put himself to work on the tools seven days a week, for eight weeks, and he said he was "lucky" some good friends helped.
"Yes it was [quite a capital investment], but not as much as most people would think, because the basic structure was here," he said.
"I did the majority of work myself, I painted it, obviously I got an electrician in to fix this, and a plasterer to fix that.
"...But we just got in and scrubbed the floors, and scrubbed the floors, and scrubbed the floors, and cleaned up out the back.
"And I got the council in to check, the health department to check that everything was legit.
The majority of our equipment came from the other shop ...it's been a six-figure sum, but not much over sort of thing, just to get it all how we like it.Pizza Cravings owner Steve Bicket
"The majority of our equipment came from the other shop ...it's been a six-figure sum, but not much over sort of thing, just to get it all how we like it."
Drawing on experience in business, they had carefully planned what they were going to do and how, and what was best value for money, Mr Bicket said.
"It's not what you spend, it's what you spend it on," he said.
Most of the furniture in the dining and lounge area was second-hand, producing significant savings, but also a "relaxed feeling", Mr Bicket said.
The goal had been to recreate the "family restaurant atmosphere that every over-40s person will remember growing up".
"You remember all the old Pizza Huts and Sizzlers, you used to be able to go in with the family and sit down and eat - ok, there's never going to be an open buffet again, not with COVID or ever," Mr Bicket said.
"But we wanted somewhere where people could come and sit down, and chill out.
"People say there's a cafe for that, and there's cafes everywhere, but we wanted somewhere where you could eat pizza or whatever, pastas, salads, have somewhere for the kids...
It's an escape, and that's what we want.Steve Bicket
"It's an escape, and that's what we want."
The flow-on effects of COVID was making some difficulties for trading.
"For instance last school holidays we were a bit like motels and things in that we really do a lot of business during school holidays, whether it's Queensland school holidays, or whatnot," Mr Bicket said.
"And then we quieten down a bit for six to eight weeks, and then away we go again.
"We're not getting that at the moment, it's just quiet straight through."
But with the move they were better positioned to meet the challenge, he said.
Mr Bicket said they had a licence to use the building until 2028, which gave them certainty.
"It's a long-term project, we're hoping to be able to renew it then, so we'll see how we go.
"If Dubbo wants us, we'll stay.
"So far, so good."
The businessman and dad who tried retirement in 2016 but, "bored", returned to working, finds his days fulfilling.
Mr Bicket said he enjoyed seeing customers coming in and enjoying themselves, and also seeing his team members flourish.
"I get to employ and meet a lot of people, I've got some fabulous people who work for me," he said.
There was also always something new to try and develop for the menu, and that was "half the fun of it".
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