Anthony Ferraro is a local legend in my area. He moved to Canberra, Australia, in 2009. As a local passionate business owner, however, it feels like he grew up here. He is well and truly part of the community.
Anthony set about reviving a legendary take-away shop which used to be called Theo’s; in a suburb his wife grew up in. A few takeaway businesses have come and gone from the space, over the years, yet none have been very successful. Now, with Anthony at the helm, it is once again a thriving business known as Little Theo’s.
When you listen to Anthony speak, it becomes very clear, very quickly, as to why he has been so successful. In fact, he’s done such a good job that Little Theo’s is the only takeaway in Australia to be listed in the Good Food Guide, the number one destination for credible, independent restaurant, bar, and cafe reviews.
Below are some of the cool Facebook videos Anthony chat’s about in the show.
As part of the service, I have had this episode transcribed. Transcribing, proofing, and editing a podcast episode is A LOT of work. That’s why I use a service called REV who provide professional freelance transcriptionists who are vetted for quality. While they offer a 99% accuracy guarantee, I do not proof-read their work extensively. Instead, I simply copy and paste below and, as such, please note that this is not a verbatim transcript of the episode and I have trimmed things like the intro, close, and mid-show ad.
Daniel: What unique elements of Little Theo’s, or the take-away industry as a whole, really need to be taken into account when executing your marketing?
Anthony: It’s what the punter actually wants. It’s not about what I want to give them. It’s not about what I think that they want to hear or what they want to see. It’s about trying to understand and perceive what their needs actually are, and what is current and relevant to them at that moment when I’m doing my marketing.
Daniel: In the ’80s and ’90s, Thea’s had a reputation for being the best takeaway in the local area, if not the city of Canberra. There’ve been some takeaway shops come and go in that exact space since the original Thea’s closed, but none have lasted. None have done well and been successful. What was your thinking behind resurrecting the Thea’s brand instead of just purely running with one that is your own?
Anthony: Anxiety and stress. No, I think it’s exactly what you just said. It’s resurrecting an institution, so I knew going into this business, basically because my wife had drummed it into me and her brother as well. You’re not buying a business here. You’re buying a legacy. You’re buying a piece of Canberra history. You need to treat it carefully. You know, this is going to become something amazing again. So that was how we approached the whole situation and that’s really been the key driving factor. It’s don’t become the guy who kills Thea’s.
Daniel: That’s a lot of pressure. What did you know about the Thea’s brand before taking it on?
Anthony: I knew that it was family owned. I knew that it was community-based and I knew that it was really busy and the people were lovely. And now I knew of my wife’s experiences, and good close friends in Canberra that lived in Canberra that had those experiences as well. So, that was my main driving going into it. It’s how do we resurrect it and do it justice? You go back to its roots, you go back to the origin and you try and do it justice from there.
Daniel: So there’s equity in the name Thea’s, especially with the locals. So how do you pay respect to a local legend, a true local legend, yet carve your own path and offerings? And what do you have to keep in mind by naming your business Little Thea’s, after the original Thea’s?
Anthony: I think the first thing you have to do is understand where it comes from. So I went and I met with John, who was probably one of the most successful owners of that business, and I kind of understood his story and where he came from, and it resonated with me being Italian and he’s Greek. It’s that whole family orientation, that family lifestyle. So that was the big key driver, is understand where it’s come from and understand where you want to take it. But at the same time, you can make slight changes to make it your own, as long as it still falls within that line of where it originally started.
Daniel: And how supportive was he of you owning the Thea’s name, so to speak, and pushing forward with it?
Anthony: He loved it. He loved it. See the whole thing is, the reason why I wanted to keep Thea’s to a certain degree, is because of the equity. Now, whether it’s good or bad, in marketing you can appreciate that as long as people are talking about you, it doesn’t really matter how bad it is unless you’ve done something catastrophic. So, having that equity was great to get us kick-started. But then the story behind it was, I am the youngest and the skinniest owner of that shop, and at the same time that we settled on the business, my sister had a child, and of her uncles, I’m the youngest, so Theo in Greek means uncle, her husband’s half Greek.
Anthony: Little Theo was just born.
Daniel: Wow. It’s like it was meant to be.
Anthony: It was meant to be. It really was.
Daniel: I know your business is all about local ownership and employing local people, so you’re very much about the community. It’s come up in your answers a couple of times already. Small business owners, they often blur the lines between their personal lives and their business lives, and you’re no exception. It might range from a simple Father’s Day shout-out with your kids in bed with you, or a post about the local football team, the Raiders, or even an important message like, “It isn’t weak to speak,” that is all about men speaking up if they’re struggling with life, and you yourself, say in a Facebook video on your page that you suffer from anxiety. Do you think it’s important for businesses like yours, small businesses, to not just post business-related social media posts?
Anthony: Yes. I think if that’s going to be the core of your business, and you are trying to reach out and be a pillar of the community, I think, yes you have to, to a certain degree, and you’re right, it is difficult to keep that line not blurred, but the good thing is I’ve got an amazing partner, and my wife, she helps me not blur that line. I mean there are some things that I want to do and she’s like, “No, let’s not put the kids through that.” But I think it is important. So if we were trying to be more corporate or trying to be more, I guess professional, but a different style of business, I don’t think this style of marketing and approach would have appealed. But I think because we are all about the community and showing them a little bit of vulnerability within ourselves, and we do run an open kitchen, I think it’s important. That’s been part of the key to our success.
Daniel: And when you share some of those posts, do people come in and talk to you about them face-to-face? Like obviously social media is an online, it’s a digital platform, but it is social. It is ultimately trying to connect people and share experiences. Do people come in and talk about some of those posts offline with you?
Anthony: Yeah, they do. They do. And it’s quite funny because I get stopped in the street sometimes, and they’ll see me and they go, “Hey Theo.” And I’m like, “Oh, hello, how are you?” “I was watching your post the other night. Oh my God, it was so good. Like I had to come in, you know my, I sent my daughter in and she got some scallops for us,” or I’ve been stopped before and people saying, “Oh mate, thank you for sharing that post on anxiety and it’s not week to speak.” Or, “That Father’s Day message was so cute. Your kids are lovely,” blah di blah. So it does happen.
Daniel: And that must make you feel really connected to the community?
Anthony: It does. It feels strange because I’m still not really used to it. But yeah, it does. It really … it’s almost as if they’ve embraced me and I’ve become part of their family. So it’s wonderful.
Daniel: I looked at your last 20 videos posted, and you average 1,230 views per video. I know a lot of businesses will be very jealous of those numbers, because they see a lot of videos or social media posts in general get posted by businesses and it’s like crickets, right? So you don’t post many text or text and image posts. So clearly video is the strategy. Why do you focus on video, and what is your thought process when you’re thinking about starting a video? Okay, I want to put a video up. Where’s your head?
Anthony: I don’t actually think about it. So, I do documentary videos, so I kind of document what I’m doing in that moment. And I think that’s what resonates with people, because I don’t put a lot of thought behind it. It’s not contrived. I don’t try and set it up. I mean, and sometimes as it’s kind of going, you know, we naturally just, you know, we’ll tweak something and it’ll give value. But I don’t usually think about my posts. And I used to, when we were doing snap photos, and print, and a lot of text stuff, I was like, “What do I say? Who’s this going to appeal to?” But now I’m just like, “No, I’m not thinking, this is what I’m doing today. I’m going to document it.” And once I actually watch the video, I go, “You know what, I think people actually like that.” And then I’ll post it.
Daniel: And do you aim for, say a certain number of videos a week, or did you just get the phone and the camera and just roll it when the urge comes?
Anthony: Look, I just roll it when the urge comes, and while that’s happening, I’ve noticed that the only way to sustain that kind of level, you’ve got to be consistent with your message, because at first I thought I was annoying people, but when you’re getting a thousand views, you’re not annoying people. People are actually finding it interesting. So, it’s about delivering on the promise, and my commitment to myself and to my business is that I will allow my customers to come in on the journey with me, for short periods of digestible content that they can kind of snack through on the day.
Nugget: Attention, attention, marketing nugget.
Daniel: Look, I get it. For some of you, this social media stuff is hard. Don’t feel bad. Some people are great at writing, some at speaking, some at design, and some are great at social media. However, it is for most businesses, too big, and too important to just ignore. So you do need to engage with it and not just dismiss the huge opportunities that it can provide you. Some people’s approach is to just run ads or push out overly sales-orientated posts. That is not what social media is about. Yes, it’s a part of it, but it has social in the title for a reason. Now you’ve probably googled social media looking for some magic plan, or calendar, or list of advice and post suggestions that will make it all work for you. Sorry, it doesn’t exist. Social media is about you and your business and engaging with your target audience.
Daniel: Some of the resources you can find can be very, very helpful, but social media isn’t a one size fits all. Instead you have to consider those tools and advice in the context of your business, your audience, and your own use of social media, because you certainly don’t want it to come across as being forced, because that’ll do your brain more harm than good. Now, Anthony is super comfortable with taking us behind the scenes with video, yet he doesn’t stick to a schedule of X posts at Y times throughout the week. Instead, he has his mind switched on for those little opportunities, as he goes around his work to take us inside and share with us. So he just grabs his camera and just goes for it. Now that works for him. Maybe or maybe it won’t work for you.
Daniel: You need to find your own groove and sustainable sources of content, and it doesn’t have to be super complicated or high-end production, Anthony just grabs his phone and turns the camera on and goes for it. It is that authenticity that people like. However, the most important thing about social media is being consistent. That doesn’t mean a number of posts at the same time each week, but more about there being a constant flow, so not on-off. You don’t want to be putting up a post one week and then waiting six weeks until your next post, because if you don’t care enough about engaging with your audience on social media, to commit to creating regular and valuable content, then why should they suddenly pay attention to you, just because you decide it’s time, and you have something to say?
Daniel: You are a severely passionate business owner. I was going to ask you how important that is to creating a successful business, but I get the feeling it just permeates everything you do at Little Thea’s. But I read an article where you said, “When you bring a love of cooking into a takeaway, you can really turn that takeaway into something special. When you ask me, isn’t a takeaway the lowest common denominator for a chef? I say, no, it’s what you make it. You have to love what you do, and I love this.” However, passion isn’t a guarantee, and a business can be successful without it. So my question is, to highlight how really living your passion and taking pride in your work can impact a business, I want you to paint a picture of what Little Thea’s would look and feel like if selling takeaway food was just a job and a transactional interaction for you with the customers.
Anthony: Wow. I don’t know if I can. It’s really hard because I do what makes me happy. I mean I’ve worked in a lot of places, I’ve worked at a lot of kitchens, and even other industries where I haven’t been happy in, it’s just not worked. It’s almost felt, like a sickly feeling. It felt like a disease. I don’t feel that when I do things that I love. So, I don’t know if I can honestly answer that question to be honest.
Daniel: No, that’s cool. Has there been a piece of marketing, digital or offline that you’ve tried that just doesn’t work for your business?
Anthony: I think at this point, and I don’t want this to sound as a negative, I just don’t think it’s worked for our business, radio hasn’t worked, and I don’t know if it’s, we got in at the wrong time or whatever. We got a fair bit of traffic. But to the radio ads, there wasn’t really a call to action. So I think it could have been the wrong type of media that we tried through radio, and probably at the wrong times. But at this stage I’d have to say radio.
Daniel: You’re a chef by trade, so not massively experienced in marketing or trained in its dark art. So what is something about marketing that you’ve learned along the way since owning Little Thea’s, that you think others should know or keep top of mind?
Anthony: Honesty and integrity. So, if you can kind of keep that at the forefront of your marketing, I think you’ll be successful. Try to remove your emotion out of it, because at the end of the day, it’s like you said, I am passionate about my business and my stuff, but it’s about what other people are passionate about. It’s about trying to connect with the masses. I’m not trying to appeal to five or six people. I’m trying to appeal to, you know, 55,000 people. So, that’s what I want to do. I want to kind of understand my market. I want to remove any emotion out of it and I want to be as neutral as possible and deliver a message that is honest, and I guess integral, to my core beliefs in what my business is.
Daniel: Personal question, you’re open about suffering from anxiety, and you share that on social media posts. Is it hard to show honesty and integrity and put yourself out there on social media and in a business when you’ve got to manage that anxiety?
Daniel: How do you get through it?
Anthony: At the moment I breathe, and I’ve got a thing that I say to myself. I literally say to myself out loud, I say, “I can hear you. I know what you’re trying to do. You are not me. I am not playing this game anymore.” And then I say, “Thank you.” And it’s really important because as debilitating and as life changing, anxiety, depression, mental health is, at least for me, I’ve started to realize that until we become conscious of it, it helps us to get to where we are. And for me, anxiety has been the thing that has been my protector. It kind of helps me with fight or flight. It helps me to get certain feelings and back away. So I thank it and I say, “I don’t need you anymore. I’m now conscious of what I need to do. You are no longer a part of my life and I’m going to keep moving on.”
Daniel: That’s amazing. Anthony Ferraro, owner of Little Thea’s, the best takeaway in Canberra, maybe even the world. Thanks for coming on the show and sharing your business’s marketing experiences.
Anthony: Thank you so much. It’s been a real pleasure.