George Calombaris is determined to start this year better than he finished the last. To that end, Calombaris’s restaurant group, Made Establishment has announced the acquisition of Yo-Chi, the Melbourne-born frozen-yoghurt brand.
With store fit-out by gold-standard interior designers Projects of Imagination (Yardmill, Rare Hare, Ike Jime, Harley & Rose), Yo-Chi’s hook is locally-sourced toppings sold by weight. Since launching in 2013, Yo-Chi has grown into a solid operation with four stores in Carlton, Balaclava, Hawthorn and Malvern.
“All credit to the previous owners for creating an incredible brand that’s stood up to the test of time,” says Calombaris during a break in shooting the latest season of MasterChef. The business’s use of quality ingredients appealed to Calombaris, who feels the yoghurt operation shares the same philosophy as Made. “It’s real produce at Yo-Chi, and there’s a care-factor there.”
As part of the buyout, all four stores and their staff will fold into Made’s portfolio, which includes Jimmy Grants, Gazi, Hellenic Republic and the flagship Press Club restaurant. “From my point of view, this is a first. Never have we acquired a business – we’ve created brands, that’s what we do,” says Calombaris. “With four stores that we’ll take over immediately, we’ll be able to bring to the Made family another 30–40 staff. They’re the types of legacies I want to be leaving.”
As well as the standalone stores, Yo-Chi products are coming to Jimmy Grants, where they’ll sit alongside souvas. In select locations, Jimmy Grants is set to install standalone yoghurt bars, while in others Yo-Chi will be available on the dessert menu. “For me, the purchase was about the incredible synergy between Yo-Chi and Jimmy Grants,” Calombaris explains. “People are going to be able to come, grab a Mr Papadopoulos and go over to a little bit of frozen yoghurt. For me, yoghurt is synonymous with all things Greek. So it makes a lot of sense.”
While Calombaris is committed to retaining existing recipes, he’ll also look to expand Yo-Chi’s offering, rolling it into his bi-weekly menu-development sessions. “I won’t be changing anything, but what I will be doing is developing,” he says. “Our menu development meetings happen fortnightly for every brand, and that’ll be happening with Yo-Chi as well.”
The dessert brand will not only bolster Jimmy Grants locally but will also set the table for expansion abroad. With around 450 staff at present, Made expects to expand to over 700 by the middle of 2018. In the next five years, the group plans to operate over 50 venues, both domestically and internationally. The focus is currently on Australia, “but no doubt about it, there are lots of opportunities,” he says.
“We want to be a global powerhouse of Greek-Aussie hospitality.”