Sayed goes it alone to launch all-new Italian in the heart of Knutsford
The former Zizzi branch on King Street has now changed its name to Primavera and is serving up a new range of pizza, pasta and grill food.
A fresh variety of blackboard specials is also on the menu, along with live music in the evenings from Tuesday through till Saturday.
The switch to Primavera came about when ex-Zizzi manager Sayed Khalifa used his own savings to buy out the restaurant, which, as many Knutsfordians will know, he has presided over for half a decade.
In theory of course, Mr Khalifa has taken a significant personal risk by acquiring and launching his own restaurant in the middle of a recession.
However, he is confident that his 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry, coupled with polite, attentive staff and lively atmosphere, will make Primavera a huge success. Mr Khalifa is also hoping that a shift towards an extensive grill menu, including a comprehensive range of steaks, will compliment the classic Italian cuisine already on offer.
Primavera’s pizzas will continue to benefit from an authentic Mediterranean-style wood-fired oven, which boosts their flavour and texture. However, the changes include a new children’s menu, which will give parents more choice and make Primavera an even better destination for families.
Mr Khalifa has also committed the business to buying high-quality, locally-sourced produce wherever possible, with Woods the Butchers on Knutsford’s Princess Street supplying most of its meat. The reason for this is obvious, according to Mr Khalifa, who believes he would be foolish not to use a supplier virtually on his doorstep offering exceptional, restaurant-quality produce.
Mr Khalifa also guarantees that he has employed only the best staff at Primavera. He jokingly describes the self-funded enterprise as his “baby” and said he would not trust anyone he suspected was lacking in experience or commitment to serve his customers.
Noted for his warmth and sense of humour, Mr Khalifa’s extensive career has seen him work for top hotel groups like Sheraton and Hilton. He also managed a string of 15 Pizzaland restaurants across the North West, before moving into training and service management.
He worked in these areas for the Ask group and the Zizzi chain, before settling as the manager at Knutsford Zizzi in 2004.
Mr Khalifa told the Knutsford Times that the takings at Primavera are already up on what they were under the eatery’s previous incarnation. He believes that, while Zizzi was a perfectly good brand, trading as an independent restaurant has given him the flexibility to improve standards, make changes to the dishes on offer, and bespoke tailor everything Primavera does to the local market.
He said: “The food, quality and service triangle is the key to success, along with a commitment to reasonable prices.
“We will also be making sure we have plenty of special offers as they are to important to maintaining a value-added promise with existing customers – and hopefully attracting some new ones.”
Mr Khalifa added: “At the moment, we’re currently offering two for one on all our main courses, on every single day of the week apart from Saturday. It’s a fantastic deal and it means people can come down and see all the improvements we’ve made for themselves, while spending very little for a wonderful meal!”
Looking ahead to the future, Mr Khalifa is planning opening up the second floor of Primavera to diners in the evening and also using the area as a conference facility during the day, drawing larger numbers of corporate diners and shoppers – and their much-needed spending power – into Knutsford.
His longer-term plans are of a grander scale, however. Mr Khalifa plans to open a Primavera in Dubai or perhaps Qatar in a few years’ time, taking the combination of Italian food and his own passion for quality, service and presentation to the Middle East.
It may seem an ambitious proposal but with Mr Khalifa’s charisma, warmth and hospitality know-how, it may be an entirely achievable one too.