The co-owner and founder of GoodLife Modern Organic Pizza on working with the media, with the family, and growing organically
I was actually studying winemaking at Roseworthy Agricultural College in South Australia. To pay my way through my degree I started working at a restaurant called 1918, which was half-owned by the owners of Rochford Wines and half by a group of young chefs who had just come back from overseas. Basically, they started it because Robert O’Callahan from Rochford wanted somewhere to eat in the Barossa.
I’ve always loved good food. Mum’s Chinese, and Dad’s English, so we always had different things on the kitchen table. We’d shop at Central markets in Adelaide, and always had an interest and passion for food in our house. So I started working at the restaurant and became interested in restaurants. After six months they offered me an apprenticeship, but then decided they wanted me out the front. I did three years at 1918, then went to hotel school at the Regency.
Robert O’Callahan and Pam O’Donnell from Rochford Wines were a big influence on me, Then Ian Bickford bought into 1918, and he was well-known in Adelaide. Ian’s been a mentor over the years. He’s infamous for his style, which is very laid-back. I’m fairly easy-going, so that’s why we got along. I just think, well, that’s what’s in front of you and in one evening you can get a lot of things thrown at you, and you need to adapt as you’re going. We once did a big Barossa Vintage dinner with Maggie Beer and Cheong Liew and others, and Ian called and asked if I wanted to do it. I said sure. He said, show up at 5pm on Friday. You know what to do—just get on with it.
I worked in a few different places from quick service to fine dining. Then I went into advertising—I worked in an ad agency and on The Advertiser [newspaper] for four years. It was an attempt to do nine to five hours. That lasted until my brothers had set up GoodLife. I was the safety net in case our idea didn’t work. Luckily things got busy enough that it went the other way.
The benefit of my time on the newspaper was I could get our press release on to the food editor’s desk when we opened, then harass him about it in the lift. You get an understanding of the way the media works. So the publicity side is something we pursue. We still enjoy working with media.
“Being organic, there’s a point of difference in marketing and I think it’s been enhanced over the last eight years.” Jake Greenrod, Co-owner and Founder, GoodLife Modern Organic Pizza
Originally it was me and two brothers (Mike and Martin) but Mike sold out. We wanted to work for ourselves and follow that passion for food and wine. None of us are chefs, so we wanted to work with something simple. The space we took over was a former fine dining restaurant, so we wanted to do something efficient and we decided to do pizzas. We had worked at Pizza Hut so we knew there could be good margins in it, and you didn’t need qualified chefs to drive it.
Being organic, there’s a point of difference in marketing and I think it’s been enhanced over the last eight years. People are interested in the ethics of their food, and what they put in their mouth. So it was good timing, and in exploring our suppliers, a lot of organic stuff came up. The best quality ingredients happened to be organic, so by default it became organic.
I think it has fantastic upsides working with family. Like any partnership, you have to trust the other partners and have faith and understanding. It’s great if your partners can do that. But it has presented times where you’ll talk to each other in a way you wouldn’t talk to staff. Also, we have multiple venues now, which makes it easier—everyone can have their own venue if necessary.
Growing it was a natural challenge. We operate all the businesses the same way, even while each of us concentrates on one venue. The personal differences come in on things like the music and the ambience in that venue.
Mike selling out was pretty smoothly done. He always wanted to get into filmmaking, and to work the hours we
did, it wasn’t possible. Ironically, he still works for us one day a week. And we can’t sack him or he’ll tell Mum and Dad.