Nikos Moutsouroufis: The wonderful story of Mailo's and how they became one of the most successful food businesses

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Who is the 28-year-old who made fresh pasta street food - The recipe for success that already has 35 stores and by the end of March there will be 41 - The plans for Greece and abroad

Nikos Moutsouroufis may be only 28 years old, but he is behind one of the most successful businesses field of fast food in Greece. "Mailo's", the shops that have put pasta on the street food menu, have primarily won over the young audience. This, as usual, creates a dynamic, with the result that today, this specific concept is one of the fastest-growing trends overall in focus.

The concept is simple and smart at the same time since it puts handmade pasta in the fast-ready food options with specific recipes. He says several of them collect thousands of orders daily in the 35 stores, which "by the end of March will have become 41".

How did he come up with the name?

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Nikos Moutsouroufis

"Having the fish and chips of England as a model, I wanted to make a 'one-of-a-kind' shop, and I had been working on the idea since 2014," he says. "I've been working on it steadily, calling it 'The Pasta Project' ever since."

Later, "Mailo" was added, the name of his dog... He himself was in the spotlight from a young age.

"At the age of 12, I worked for the first time in a tavern in my village, Kamena Vourla. I liked cooking; I always thought it was nice. Especially for people to enjoy something you prepare."

He himself will follow this route – in fact, he will claim a place in the field and eventually pass through the kitchens of haute cuisine restaurants such as "Spondi". Nevertheless, he wanted to make his own mark and set his own terms – and he found this opportunity in pasta!

"At 21, I opened the first shop in Kolonaki. For three years, I was looking for a property to turn into reality what I had thought of doing. Difficult though. First of all, I could not convince the property owners. Everyone rejected me because I was too young, and many of them didn't even believe that the store concept could succeed. Finally, a friend of my dad's, a realtor in Kolonaki, called me. A pizzeria had just closed, and the property was vacant. Of course, it was also financial. I had calculated that I needed about 120,000 euros. I put in whatever small savings I had, sold my car, my dad put in half the money... and I still had about 80,000 euros. Fortunately, we made special arrangements with the manufacturers and suppliers at the beginning so that the payments would go back. So it was all or nothing," he explains.

And it was actually "all or nothing" for the family since resources were limited. His father is retired from OTE telecommunications, and his mother is an English teacher.

The first steps

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"We opened with the logo, the concept and a pasta machine," he says. “And it was a one-person show for about two years! I did everything in there, worked nights and was happy selling 40 macaroni a day. In comparison, today, only in Kolonaki, we sell 1,000! And the house I was renting on Deinokratous Street functioned as a warehouse. I was flying with a Vespa when something spilled, mainly the bowls where the pasta was put, which had the mark like a sticker at the time. I won't hide from you that I almost gave up at one point because I had no life. Work, sleep a few hours and work again...".

In the middle of this anxious effort came the COVID!

"We are closed. But I had to do something. It was a one-way street. Otherwise, everything would be lost," he notes. "I thought and proposed to Wolt (the electronic delivery platform), then newly entering the Greek market, exclusivity. I thought we could climb together. And finally, it happened! They helped us first of all with marketing. But we also helped them. Imagine if they called us for an order, and we sent them to Wolt's digital platform. Somehow, a strategic agreement with Coca-Cola came about, which also helped with marketing and promotion."

The first financial breath, as he says, came in 2021.

“This happened when we set up the mother company, and now I give weight to the franchise. Even then, the shop in Kolonaki had acquired its momentum and the audience that allowed the first hires. The rationale since then is to sell the idea of ​​the concept by including partners who will help in its expansion. At first, he wanted to chase. With proper help, however, the water entered the groove. The first franchise agreement was made in Cyprus. In Greece, the first franchise store was opened in Peristeri. Then things started to get easier," he notes.

The shops and plans for the outside

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Today, there are 35 Mailo's brand stores, while by the end of the year's first quarter, six more are expected to open, as Nikos Moutsouroufis says. The three types of pasta offered in each store are prepared daily.

"The turnover of the stores now exceeds 30 million euros and is growing at a great rate as the network expands," he says.

Around 450 people are estimated to be employed in the stores, while 12 people are Mailo's staff.

"In Greece, we will open up to 55 stores, mainly in urban centres where we may not have a presence today, but also in popular tourist islands, such as Mykonos and Santorini. From then on, however, the goal will be to expand abroad. I believe that this particular concept can succeed outside as well", he notes.

Any industrialisation of the company's products, however, is excluded.

"I think everything is going to break down. The concept wants us to make fresh pasta in the store. If we are going to do them centrally, the taste will be spoiled first of all. It will not be the product itself. At some point, we may consider a central unit that will produce sauces if there is pressure to provide a central solution. But we are not at that point yet," he explains.

After all, a crucial part of Mailo's success is the food itself.

"There was a gap in the market. That's why people loved what I envisioned. And sorry if that sounds a bit over the top, but I think today, Mailo's is a bit like Starbucks in their early days. People don't go to eat spaghetti at Mailo's, they go to 'eat Mailo's'!"

As for the lessons he himself learned from this fast track? "First of all, don't take advice from an unrelated person. Many people told me that I would lose my money, brokers said where I opened the shop was 'cursed', and my friends said, 'Put in a sandwich'. No! If I listened to all of them, I simply wouldn't have gotten here. So believing in yourself and your idea is fundamental!"

Finally, he cites his father as a driving force for him.

"I wanted to make my dad proud. Especially the last few years, which, due to the crisis, have not been easy for our family. However, as they say, hardship builds character. I also wanted to succeed at any cost."

Stelios Morfidis is a columnist for New Money

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This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor

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