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Toronto restaurant 7Numbers still thriving after fifteen years


Summary

Industry: Restaurant Customer: 7Numbers

  • In business since 2002
  • Run by mother-and-son team of Rosa and Vito Marinuzzi
  • Uses no formal advertising – word of mouth, news and magazine stories only

Challenge:

  • To launch a new restaurant that will stand out in a crowded Toronto Italian restaurant market, on a limited budget
  • To gain skills and expertise to launch and run a restaurant
  • To find a financial institution willing to support a fledgling small business

Solution:

  • Provide best traditional home-made Italian meals with freshest ingredients
  • Used savings and “made-do” until cash was available for additional purchases
  • Accepted help and advice from skilled family members and friends
  • Switched to Meridian Credit Union

Result:

  • Original restaurant grew steadily, second restaurant opened
  • Thriving and surviving in a busy market for 15 years

It’s true - Torontonians love their restaurants! In fact, the Yellow Pages directory has listings for 9,791 Toronto restaurants - and it’s a safe bet that that doesn’t include every restaurant in Toronto. So when Vito Marinuzzi and his mother Rosa open the doors to the first  7Numbers restaurant  in 2002 (7Numbers Eglinton at 715 Eglinton Avenue West between Avenue Road and Chaplin), they faced stiff competition. Yet they were a success from the beginning, and fifteen years later, they’ve become a landmark in the neighbourhood. They’ve even opened a busy second location - 7Numbers Danforth, on the Danforth between Chester and Broadview.
Here’s what Vito has to say about the importance of family, community, and customer service when you run your own business.


Good food is in the family

Thanks to a family member, Vito and his mother learned about working in the restaurant business prior to launching 7Numbers. “We had been working in our cousin’s restaurant (Gio’s) for 10 years when my mother and I decided to venture out on our own,” says Vito. “We wanted to start our own restaurant; a place where we would like to eat that was casual and affordable, where our family and friends would love to be.”

Vito says he gained invaluable experience working for his cousin for many years, in three different restaurants “ranging from a burger shop to the infamous Nose and Five Doors North.” “I learned as much as I could from him and his team,” he says. “I still run my businesses with many of the things I learned from him.”

Vito says his and his mother’s skills combine well for business success. He loves the “front of house” and business side of it. “I’m quite social and had completed a business admin program, and my mother is ALL back of house. She loves to cook and cook HER way.” So while Vito takes care of the business and social angle, Rosa oversees everything in the kitchen.

Lots of local ingredients

Fresh ingredients and top quality food is a hallmark of 7Numbers. Vito says that they do all they can to best balance supporting other local businesses with their own pricing structure. However, it all depends on the season.

“It can be hard at certain times of the year and easier in others,” he says. “Almost our entire staff walks to work. This makes them very local.”

Vito explains that in the summer months, everything from Norfolk County trout to Ontario wines of Ontario are locally sourced. “I think the public has become very keen on locally sourced food, and with all the farmers markets around town people are very savvy with what’s in season -- and it helps us sell those items.”

Community support is key

When asked about how the community has helped 7Numbers, Vito mentions “word of mouth” advertising. “Both of our restaurants are in very strong communities -- Riverdale and Forest Hill are very involved communities,” he says, adding “the majority of our customers walk to each location and support us and tell their friends.”

Vito says that 7Numbers became successful in a “very organic way.”

Vito and Rosa have found different ways to thank their communities for their continued support, such as through couponing or events. Other than that, Vito says their only advertising has been “a little social media.”

On budgeting, financing and banking

While opening a new restaurant can come with hefty expenses, Vito and Rosa managed to launch 7Numbers without any financing from a financial institution - they stuck with their savings.

“Between us we had $21,000,” Vito recalls. He says they used approximately $10,000 on rent and legal fees. “That left us with $11,000 to open the doors.”

Vito says that since they had no other option -- “no plan B”, they simply had to “make it happen.” And with the help of their family and friend, they did.

“We had a lot of friends and family help with the build, one person worked in stainless steel, another was an electrician and between everyone we were able to put it together,” says Vito. “I scoured auctions for the cheapest appliances I could get; we made everything out of scrap wood and since we couldn’t afford fridges we didn’t have them, it was a lot of ice, ice, baby!”

While Vito and Rosa worked hard in their business to make 7Numbers a success, Vito admits that dealing with small business banking and financing issues can be annoying. “If there is one frustration after all the hard work, it’s often the bank,” he says. “Small business is as hard as it’s ever been and there is not much done to make it easier on us.” However when the mother-and-son team discovered Meridian Credit Union, dealing with business finance became easier.

“Meridian was able to make us feel “real” and not just like another number,” Vito says. “We have been lucky to receive very personalized service. Our branch manager and investment advisor both held our hand through the whole process.”

Vito says that between lowered banking fees and some great service, he no longer stresses about banking. “It didn’t stop there either, they have continued to make us feel that way and that’s really the special part.” He says that the biggest surprise with Meridian has been the incredible customer service. “Service, service, service. That’s the big one.”

Lessons learned and advice for new business owners

Over the past fifteen years, Vito says he’s learned a great deal about running a business.
Being your own boss is not what it’s cracked up to be,” he says. “I truly learned that nothing comes easy. What you get out is absolutely tied to what you put in and hard work pays off.”

Vito is also quick to give his staff credit for 7Numbers’ success, saying that if you lead by example, “your team becomes the real reason for continued success.” They’ve allowed us to continue to operate with success.

I would tell anyone starting out that exact thing. Work hard. And if you are just counting pennies you are losing dollars.

If you’re ready to learn more about how we can help with your own small business banking needs, contact your Meridian branch today to meet with a business advisor.
 

 

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