The Rise of Doppio Zero: From A Single Bakery Café In Joburg To A National Brand

Doppio Zero was launched in 2002 as a bakery and al fresco cafe in Greenside by Paul Christie & Miki Milovanovic.

Doppio Zero co-founders, Miki Milovanovic (left) and Paul Christie.

The brand became popular by its freshly made artisan ciabatta, meeting place and exclusive bakery — the aroma of baking kept South Africans coming in daily, that’s when the partners knew they had something special.

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Over time, the Doppio Zero brand has evolved into a full service restaurant with a wide variety of traditional Italian fare, and Mediterranean specialties.

After the success of the first Greenside restaurant, Doppio Zero has expanded and currently has restaurants in Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Alexandria in Egypt with a complimentary blend of franchise, joint venture partnerships, and corporate.

Doppio Zero

Each of Doppio Zero’s restaurants has a unique personality that sets it apart, but they all share the common embodiment of European café culture and the same passion for quality food & service.

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Paul Christie grew up in a family that “always had some sort of store”, be it a convenience store, coffee shop or takeaway outlet.

After studying business at UCT, Paul went on to embark on a working tour of Europe, before returning to South Africa in 1992. He spent the following years launching a couple of new businesses across Joburg, including a fast food outlet, convenience store, three coffee shops and a mineral water bottling company.

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In 2002, alongside his business partner & friend, Miki Milovanovic – a Serbian born former policeman, baker and serial entrepreneur – identified a location in the trendy suburb of Greenside.

Initially they wanted to open a restaurant but after realizing the location didn’t have the correct zoning, they were left with 3 options: deli, bakery or butchery.

In the end, they went with the bakery option because of Miki’s experience, and also due to the fact that the place already had a day-trading licence, which was gonna allow them a few tables & chairs to sell and serve.

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They financed 50% of the required funding from the commercial banks, Miki then reached out to a private Kroonstad-based businessman he had previously done business dealings with, who financed the remaining capital.

Despite the private funding being subjected to a higher interest rate than that of the banks, the capital came in much quicker, and they were able to start their venture.

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Doppio Zero

The partners then purchased bakery equipment at about 10% of its real value from a recently failed bakery business in a nearby suburb, this greatly reduced the setup costs.

As for the name, they scanned through an Italian cookbook, and decided on the name “Doppio Zero,” which denotes the grading of a very fine milled flour used in pizza, pasta, and bread.

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The vision they had for Doppio Zero was to establish a Mediterranean-inspired sit-down bakery with an innovative, down to earth and generous café culture.

Things got off to a rocky start but after making adjustments, the brand became profitable. The partners then successfully lobbied to have the zoning changed to a restaurant premises, this afforded them a liquor licence, and allowed the business to start trading at night.

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Recognising the replicability of the restaurant in Greenside, they began looking for new locations at which to establish additional brand stores about a year after opening the first Doppio Zero.

Doppio Zero in Sandton

They finally found a location in Bedfordview, and opened a new Doppio Zero outlet. This was followed by another outlet in Fourways, a suburb in northern Johannesburg. To manage the restaurants, they established the Doppio Group.

In the 20 years since launching the first Doppio Zero, the expansion of the brand has been achieved through a blend of corporate partnerships, franchises and joint venture partnerships — there’s now 30 Doppio Zeros across the 9 Provinces in the country.

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Piza ē Vino

Piza ē Vino

In 2009, after signing a lease in Melrose Arch for a new Doppio Zero, they quickly realised that the location wasn’t right for a bakery-style restaurant. That’s when the idea for a Piza ē Vino was born, a pizzeria-based restaurant.

The Doppio Group have since opened a total of 10 Piza ē Vino outlets nationwide, including in the Western Cape and Pretoria, via the joint venture & franchise model.

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Modern Tailors & Doodles

This year, the group opened 2 new establishments in Rosebank: a standalone Indian restaurant and gin bar called Modern Tailors, and also their first fast-food offering called Doodles, which is inspired by Dutch and Belgian street food.


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