How a simple makeover has transformed a Melbourne institution

Jack Ali grew up in his family business – literally. His father Ergun Ali (aka “Papa Ali”), started his St Kilda vegetarian pizza business Mr Natural in 1985, and Jack would stand on a chair and serve customers before growing up and taking the reins although, he adds, “Dad’s always going to be the big boss man, no matter what!” Fast forward to today and his niece and nephew have joined the business as the third generation of Ali’s to run Mr Natural. “You have to do in life what you love – this is what we love,” he says.

While Mr Natural’s vegan and vegetarian menu options developed and changed over the years, the business’ tired interior, signage, flyers, banners and marketing collateral did not. Enter the Officeworks team– who worked with the family to create a complete transformation for the business, a much-needed update which matches the quality of the food, and the spirit of the Ali family.

While Jack and his Dad knew that the shop layout and marketing materials were crucial to the success of the business, they’re the first to admit it simply wasn’t their key priorities lay. “We’ve always sacrificed the look of the business to invest more time into developing product rather than investing the time and money into the look of the place,” he says.

“Food anywhere in Melbourne is very competitive. Being in the hub of St Kilda, we’ve seen businesses come and we’ve seen businesses go. Our business has stuck through the waves but it [hasn’t] changed too much on the inside.”

Prior to the makeover, the menus were a simple black and white print out, created by Papa Ali himself. “And Dad only learned how to turn a computer on five years ago!” says Jack.

Eager to surprise his hardworking father, Jack worked with Officeworks’ team of graphic designers in secret to plan the changes. He says before any work started the designers’ immediate priority was to understand the business.

“They really got a feel for who we are and what we stand for,” he says, adding he was confident the integrity of the company would be at the forefront of all the designs. “We had a joint vision of what the place should look like, based on the story of Mr Natural.”

For Jack, the process was emotional, exciting and somewhat of a relief. “Managing a business is so hard,” he admits. “You’re the garbage man, the cleaner, the chef, the accountant and the designer – you’re everything.” Having someone else take charge – and deliver – was an empowering boost.

He says that in retrospect, some of the updates the Officeworks team pointed out were simple and obvious. “But they’re hard to see when you’re in the thick of the daily pressures of a running small business,” he admits.

Together, the team finalised the business vision and agreed upon the different types of materials to deliver maximum impact. Officeworks’ graphic design services meant the process was simple and stress-free for Jack, who was surprised to learn that Officeworks provides design services and business fit-outs in addition to printing and promotion solutions.

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An emotional Papa Ali when he first saw the transformation.

The big reveal

Papa Ali burst into tears when he first saw the new look – and thankfully, they were happy ones. “He was so proud,” says Jack.

The restaurant was given a whole new look, including personalised coasters and aprons, loyalty cards,  window signage, wallpaper and a shopfront update. Jack says he is still noticing all new things. “I’d seen the design mock-ups but the way it was applied, actually seeing things on the wall, it was so different to what I expected,” he says. “Seeing it in real life was amazing.”

One of the most impressive changes was the custom wallpaper, Officeworks designed for the walls of the shop, which created the perfect finishing touch for the visual transformation. “The wallpaper is phenomenal,” says Jack, “It’s commercial grade so we can just sponge it down, which is important for a restaurant.”

But it’s the bright exterior that has made the biggest impact to the business. “It totally transformed the shop,” says Jack.

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The Mr Natural store, before and after the transformation.

The vibrant colours have seen new customers literally stop in their tracks and enter the restaurant. “Our shop was one where you might walk past it and not notice it,” says Jack. “You had to know what product came out of there to walk back in. Now, the signage gravitates people towards us and the rest is up to us. We do what we do, and as long as we make sure people love what they’re receiving, it’s a winning formula.”

He laughs as he admits that not only has the revamped look appealed to diners, but they’re also asking if Mr Natural is a new business. To which he replies, “We’ve been here 33 years!”

While the fresh new look has made the restaurant seem like newcomer to the St Kilda food scene, the bright yellow the designers used throughout is actually a nod to its heritage, echoing the original yellow Papa Ali used when creating business all those years ago.

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Mr Natural's updated menu, loyalty cards and store signage.

The new design changes and updated interior has also attracted a broader clientele – with their new, younger demographic allowing Jack to expand the menu for the first time in a long time. He says the new signage options inside the store have allowed him to easily and immediately convey what’s available. “Dad [was comfortable doing what he knew] but I said, “Let’s mix it up! Let’s do something different. We’re going to get new customers now, let’s give them some new options!”

Helping him push ahead with his new ideas is the range of marketing materials Officeworks has been able to provide, including loyalty cards and stamps. “They are something we didn’t have before,” Jack says. “Such a simple thing implemented into the business. Those kinds of tools are priceless.”

The makeover delivered far more to the Ali family than they could have expected. Jack says that for his father, it was an injection of hope and energy that he more than deserved.

“I see my Dad and he’s not tired anymore. He’s full of energy. He’s happy. He rocks up to work and he’s glowing, he’s ready to go!”

Who’s for pizza? 

 

How to create your own business makeover

1. Create a bespoke wallpaper – it changes the whole look and feel. Officeworks have a simple click and create option that makes the process simple.
2. Get personalised advertising materials and stationery created with a uniform look and feel. Once you have attracted a customer into your business, you can give them further information required to sell your product or service
3. Consider promotional items that add a real sense of professionalism to your business. Little touches like glassware or bespoke aprons or even magnets make a huge impact in terms of branding.

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