400 Gradi: Trading Not as Normal

Jul 7, 2020

An acclaimed Italian restaurant with 13 locations across the globe, 400 Gradi – which won “worlds best pizza” in 2014 – wasn’t able to fit patrons in their restaurants amid COVID-19 restrictions.

This article originally featured on Hospitality Unites website, a Fine Food Australia Initiative.

Founder Johnny Di Franscesco was sitting up one Wednesday morning and, at 2am, he thought about starting a supermarket style outdoor venue, which serves high-quality Italian products and staples that they normally serve in their restaurant, for people to take home and cook themselves.

From there, they applied for a permit on Lygon St, Melbourne, used the marquees, portable ovens and coffee cart from their supplier and started selling dishes including ready made pizzas, fresh pasta, sauces, lamb shanks with potatoes, beef cheeks with silverbeet, osso buco, a variety of desserts including biscuits and tiramisu, flour, cheeses, salami and fresh bread from their wood-fire ovens.

Mr Di Fransesco says it evolved into a great opportunity to provide quick takeaway options.

“The support from the community, and people outside the local area, has been extraordinary,” Di Fransesco says.

“It’s been a great way to keep the majority of our staff on … and keep people – including myself – busy.

“I’ve had lots of fun interacting with locals, making coffees and pizza, setting up the market and communicating with customers every day.

“It has kept us motivated and allowed us to grow.”

Already in the process of expanding to Mornington before COVID-19 hit, Di Franscesco says the positive feedback has driven 400 Gradi to keep the pop-up grocery store going after the pandemic ends.

He adds that they are looking at adapting the concept as part of the Mornington restaurant moving forward.

“Everyone in business needs to be forward and future thinking… and always prepare for the worst,” he says.

“We were set up for a rainy day, and were able to think on our feet, which really helped during this period.”

An initiative of Fine Food, Hospitality Unites is the voice of the foodservice industry, dedicated to sharing the collective experiences and solutions to thrive in a post-COVID economy.

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