Mama’s Meatball, a family-run restaurant and caterer serving Italian dishes in San Luis Obispo the past 11 years, could soon have another owner — whoever wins an essay contest sponsored by the current owners.
Individuals are being asked to answer, in 250 words or less, “Why am I the best person(s) to own and operate Mama’s Meatball Restaurant in San Luis Obispo?” Participants must pay a $200 entry fee and postmark their entry on or before Dec. 20. Three judges, industry professionals who aren’t related to owners Nicola Allegretta and his wife, Jackeline Ortiz De Zevallos Allegretta, will select the winner.
We want to dedicate more time to our children and taking care of our family. And we feel we should give an opportunity (to operate the business) to somebody else.
Nicola Allegretta, Mama’s Meatball co-owner
“A good essay will be from somebody who loves hospitality, food and people,” Nicola Allegretta said.
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The contest seeks 7,500 entries, and the Allegrettas reserve the right to cancel it if they don’t get enough entries. The entry fee will be returned if the contest is called off. If they don’t get enough entries, they’ll continue operating and then review options.
“We don’t really have a minimum, but I’d want at least 5,000 entries,” Allegretta said. “I don’t think it will be a problem because it’s open to anyone in the country, not just the San Luis Obispo area.”
If they get the minimum 5,000 entries at $200 each, that would generate $1 million toward covering the costs of organizing the contest and compensation for assets.
Nicola Allegretta, a native of Italy, said that he and his wife want to spend more time with their three young children and focus on their other businesses — Mistura, a Peruvian restaurant in Paso Robles located near their home, and Haute Catering & Events. Jackeline is a native Peruvian.
Much of their time now is consumed with work, he said. “And we feel we should give an opportunity (to operate the business) to somebody else.”
Mama’s Meatball would be transferred “as is” and the new owner would need to agree contractually to keep the core menu, name and branding. The new owner also would need to retain the current employees, including many who have been there for years, at their current rate of pay. Special dishes and minor changes would be allowed.
The business has been valued at about $500,000, including all inventory, equipment, furnishings, recipes and its brand, according to Nicola Allegretta.
Allegretta said they haven’t tried to sell the business before, but did receive an offer to buy it; however the offer wasn’t satisfactory. The restaurant makes a profit of about 8 to 12 percent a year, he said, which could be increased with catering jobs.
The Allegrettas filed for personal bankruptcy reorganization in 2015 to consolidate their debts into one payment with a lower interest rate; Mama’s Meatball was among the businesses then listed as assets. Allegretta said that debt would not be a factor for the new owner who wins the contest.
A good essay will be from somebody who loves hospitality, food and people.
Nicola Allegretta, Mama’s Meatball co-owner
Nine-and-a-half years remain on the 2,000-square-foot restaurant’s 10-year lease, Allegretta said. He declined to disclose terms of the lease, but said it’s in line with the average cost for downtown San Luis Obispo.
The new owner would also be responsible for all taxes associated with the transfer of ownership, including business transfer taxes, lawyer’s fees and any other fees arising from the essay contest.
Allegretta said that he started the business with little money, receiving a bank loan, and built it up over the years. The menu includes a variety of antipasti, pastas, soups, salads, panini and meat and fish dishes.
“Everything we do is homemade,” Allegretta said. “The name of the restaurant comes from the idea that your mother’s cooking always tastes the best. I had a customer tell me ‘Nobody can cook like my mother. You make me remember mama’s cooking.’ This is for all of the mothers.”
Allegretta said that he has prided himself on knowing customers’ names and building a personal relationship with them.
For more information: The contest details are available at http://www.mamasmeatball.com/contest.html.