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It’s half a century since the founders of The Pancake Parlour first wowed Aussie diners with fresh, delicious pancakes but age has not wearied the Melbourne dining institution whose charm and innovative strategies continue to drive its success.
If you’re from Melbourne the name The Pancake Parlour and its Lovely! lady logo will be very familiar. And it’s likely you’ll have fond memories of good times had in its restaurants surrounded by its whimsical décor.
Still family-owned and operated, the Melbourne institution is this year celebrating its 50th Anniversary – at the same time as experiencing record turnover and growth in customer numbers, and continuing to expand.
The business started in 1965 in Adelaide by three friends – Roger Meadmore, and Helen and Allen Trachsel – before they later brought it to Melbourne. Now led by Simon Meadmore (Roger’s son), the restaurant chain built on the universal appeal of the simple pancake delivered with friendly service has achieved a longevity that’s a feat for any business but even more so in the competitive food service industry.
The company’s family values combined with the owners’ keen ability to connect with customers and continue to innovate to meet their changing needs and behaviour is at the heart of The Pancake Parlour’s long-running success, according to Managing Director Mandy David.
Herself a 29-year veteran at the company, having joined as a university student and with her own fond memories including a first date as a teenager at one of The Pancake Parlours, David believes being a family business has contributed to the company’s strength.
“Even as the business continued to grow so large I think family-owned businesses have a connection and real focus on communication with their staff,” she says. “It’s really important to concentrate on your people. In our industry especially, if your people aren’t happy then your customers are not going to be happy.
“There’s a real passion in our team. We love the business we’re in and we like to see people walking out the door with a smile on their face and a lolly in their hand.”
Today, The Pancake Parlour employs about 800 people, with a turnover of $40 million and 12 sites. All are in Melbourne, in the CBD and suburbs, apart from two licensee-run operations in Ballarat and Canberra. Two new restaurants are poised to open in July in Melbourne shopping centres at Werribee and Knox, and sights are on another opening this year.
“The opening of two new sites within two weeks of each other is a real achievement for us,” says David. “It’s something we’ve never attempted before, but it’s very exciting for the company. We’re always looking for new opportunities.”
David adds that the transition to the second generation with Simon Meadmore becoming CEO in 2003 was a key milestone in the company’s evolution. Meadmore’s strategy of “gentle reinvigoration” has included a re-design of its branding and architectural look and upgrades to restaurants, as well as the rollout of new showcase restaurants built on the classic décors associated with The Pancake Parlour.
Other touches include cocktail bars that helped broaden the business to new customers and expanded menus.
“He moved us into a period of growth and sustainability, but at the same time treasuring all the things that made it an institution. The Pancake Parlour has always been very whimsical, a bit Victoriana, and Simon brought that whimsical look into the current century. He’s retained our legacy but moved it into a different updated arena, so it’s continued to appeal and stay relevant.”
The Pancake Parlour’s commitment to innovation is also evident in its strategic use of social media, which it’s embraced as an invaluable tool to connect with customers. David says social media, particularly Facebook where it has more than 300,000 fans, has been key to its ongoing success.
“Social media has helped us dramatically; it’s absolutely part of our success,” says David. “It’s the way to reach your customers. We ask their opinions all the time on Facebook – what they think of new dishes, where they would like to see a new restaurant. And they certainly tell you what they think.”
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