Tutti pazzi per la piada

“… Did you give any more thought about that project to export the “piadina romagnola”? Sang Samuele Bersani, Italian singer, in his song “Freak”, talking about projects “extravagant”, “unusual”. As is the story of Daniele, Giovanni, and Andrea, that one day decided to start Piada NYC. Prologue: Boston, 2001. I share my apartment with Daniele, from Modena, my colleague in a tech-startup. We become friends and we plan to start a business together in the US. Then, in 2002, my company moves me back to Italy, while Daniele moves to New York. Meanwhile Giovanni, from a town near Ancona, decides to get married. It’s 2003: Daniele, MBA classmate, goes to Italy at his wedding, and Giovanni goes on honeymoon to NY to visit Daniele. And this is when the enlightenment arrives. «Let’s open a piadineria». It’s a crazy idea. Only in Manhattan there are nearly 20,000 restaurants. Four out of five new businesses started into the food, fail within the second year. It sounds crazy enough, so Daniele is down. Then joins Andrea, from Maranello, friend of the other two, at that time in Africa with a non-profit organization. The project becomes more ambitious: a chain of piadinerie! After all, McDonald’s and Starbucks have started from a single store… At the end of 2004, the business plan is ready and we start raising money from friends, relatives and girlfriends. In January 2005, a dinner in Maranello, where co-founders and investors meet for the first time. The project is presented with honesty and transparency. The risks are many. None of the three has ever made a piadina, getting visas to America is extremely tough, the market is saturated, the Italian flatbread is completely unknown. We all confirm the commitment, invest our money and become owners of a dream. In February, Giovanni and Andrea reach Daniele in New York City and, in less than two months, they find the right place on the Lower East Side. The ADG group is founded by using the initials of their three names. Piada will be the name of the restaurant. We get the Visas, the room is renovated “in house” by the three co-founders, with the help of some friends – lawyers, architects – that soon will be the first customers of Piada. In September 2005, the opening! The people of New York City fall in love with piadina – sandwiches in the menu are named by the Fellini movies – the number of customers keeps increasing and the store gets an article in Time Out NY! 2006 and 2007 revenues fly, so we decide to open a second Piada and to look for other investors. In Italy I talk about it to Alessandro, a dear friend, looking for new investments. Alessandro flies straightaway to NY, sees Piada and is in! And so we start again… In spring 2009, we find the second location on Lexington Avenue, and in November 2009 we open in the Citigroup Center. Beginning of 2010 is very tough: Andrea has to return to Italy and Piada 1 revenues start going down due to the economic crisis beginning at the end of 2008, so we decide to sell it and focus on Piada 2. Then things start to change. Customers adore our excellent products, our efficient processes and Italian atmosphere, and become the true ambassadors of Piada: through word-of-mouth our sales take off in 2011 and 2012 and, in January 2013, a gentlemen shows up at Piada one day and says: «Hi, we are from the “Plaza Hotel”, we would like you to open Piada in our new Food Hall». Incredible! Of course we are in. We think big and take the space dedicated to 2 restaurants, and in the summer of 2013 Daniele and Giovanni call me: «Come on, come here and help us out!». What would you have done? When friends ask for help… So I leave Italy and move to New York City. We sign the paperwork in October and in twelve weeks we open Piada Plaza! What an honor! And what a great satisfaction. Piada Plaza does very well from the beginning, Piada Lexington continues to grow… And now? To learn more, come and visit us or follow us on PiadaNyc.com!

 Sebastiano Peluso (@sebypeluso)

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